For 22 months and eight days I feared that my little girl would somehow not see this day. From the moment that our daughter, Melina Arya Specht, was born the date of 8/24/16 immediately stood out as a milestone that I would rather not think about. Yet, much like an onlooker to an accident scene, it was something I could never fully remove my gaze from. The reason that particular date held such significance is because it marked the moment that my baby girl would be in our lives as long as her older brother, Rees. Twenty two months, eight days. My little boy’s entire lifetime…
They say having a child changes everything – and, to be honest, no truer words have ever been spoken. Sadly, if having a child changes your world, then losing one only shatters it. Our world was shattered on October 27th, 2012 when my 22 month and eight day old son, Richard Edwin-Ehmer Specht (Rees), drowned in our backyard pond. Like all of the bereaved parents before us, we have faced the painful challenge of trying to piece that world back together as best we can. Try as though we might, no matter how well we pick up those pieces there simply remains pieces that are just not recoverable. The result is that our reassembled world remains forever fractured and incomplete.
From the moment you lose a child you go about this reconstruction process. Sometimes the pieces go back together so well that you can afford yourself the chance to smile at how well they fit. Other times, most of the times, the pieces seem to not quite fit back together the way they did; leaving you frustrated and angry. This is the life of a bereaved parent. Some days are good. Many are not – and ALL of them are forever changed. The future, once so bright and full of hopes and dreams, becomes a reminder of what you have lost. The past, on the other hand, becomes a painful reminder of a promise lost.
When I try to explain the long-term feelings of bereaved parents the best description I have is that future becomes intrinsically linked to the past. Parents who lose a child are constantly reconciling and comparing the future to the past. Our relationship with time changes completely. The point at which they lost their child becomes a nexus that differentiates between the life they have now and the one they want back, more than anything. It is the genesis of what I like to call the “will be’s” and “would be’s”.
Every bereaved parent becomes well versed in the “will/would be’s”. We constantly find ourselves looking at dates such as birthdays, holidays, life milestones and think about how things “would be” if our deceased child were still here. It never, ever stops. We are almost four years out from when our son passed and I never stop thinking about what would have been. What’s worse, is that when I am not thinking about what “would be”, I find myself constantly fixated on the “It will be’s”. Bereaved parents constantly look at the future and see dates in this manner. On October 27th of this year it will be four since we lost Rees. On December 19th it will be five birthdays we have spent without him. For parents who have lost a child, the pain is omnipresent, existing simultaneously in the past, present and future…
I vividly recall that on October 17th of 2014, after all the euphoria of Melina’s entry into the world had subsided, how betrayed I felt by my thoughts when I did the math to figure out when she would be older than Rees ever was. From that moment on, August 25th 2016 became a “will be”. As the date drew nearer and nearer I found myself obsessing over it more and more. I found myself depressed as I realized just how short the time I had with her, and by extension Rees, was. These twenty two months went by in what feels like an instant. The past few weeks saw me trying to savor each hug, laugh and kiss goodnight just a little more than usual. It was almost as if it was my chance to do what I never did with my little boy. When yesterday arrived I found myself counting down the hours – again trying to savor every moment with her. Before I knew it, the time had passed. As of last night, Melina officially grew older than her big brother. There are no more comparisons to make. No more dates to look to in fear or apprehension. The course ahead is uncharted, with clearing skies above…
It is often stated that children born to bereaved parents are called a rainbow babies. What better way to describe everything me and my family have been through. Rees was taken from us in the shadow of Hurricane Sandy. His passing was the figurative storm that I found myself navigating through until this day. The thing about storms is that they don’t remain stationary. They are constantly in motion. What I realized this morning is that I haven’t been navigating past the storm – I have been navigating with it. Focusing on the “will/would be’s” keeps me in the same position relative to it. They say rainbows come after the storm. It turns out the rainbow has been there for twenty two months and eight days; I just didn’t see it because I was trying too hard to keep up with the storm. It’s time to chase my rainbow and let the storm move on…
RICH SPECHT is a father of four who holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Mary Washington and a master’s degree in liberal studies from Stony Brook University. Prior to embarking on his career as a public speaker and advocate for kindness, Rich was a science teacher for 15 years at Great Hollow Middle School, in Nesconset, New York. In addition to his speaking, Rich is also the published author of the award winning children’s book A Little Rees Specht Cultivates Kindness. Rich and his wife, Samantha, are the co-founders of the ReesSpecht Life Foundation which they formed in the wake of the loss of their only son, Richard Edwin-Ehmer (Rees) Specht at 22 months old. The acts of kindness that the family received after Rees’ passing inspired them to “pay forward” that kindness; which the foundation does in the form of scholarships for High School seniors who demonstrate a commitment to their community, compassion and respect, as well as the distribution of almost four hundred thousand ReesSpecht Life “pay it forward” cards. The themes and characters from Rich’s book(s) are currently slated to become an animated children’s television series produced by Safier Entertainment. The book and television adaptations of A Little Rees Specht Cultivates Kindness represents the culmination of Rich’s goal to help make this world a little better, one Rees’ piece at a time. Rich currently resides in Sound Beach, New York with his wife, Samantha, daughters, Abigail, Lorilei and Melina as well as his angel above, Rees.
that was the sweetest,saddest story I have ever read in my life, you are an amazing family to share your story and to help others go through the tough times they face with losing a child. the pain will always be their but it’s growing, and teaching others as well as yourself to make that day a memorable one for your family and others. my son was suffocated on news Years by the babysitters boyfriend who was not to be in my house, i was a single mother at the time and worked two jobs at the age of 18 when i came home i checked on my son and he had a pillow over his face and marks all over his check. i hated myself for leaving him. it hurts a lot. but now i have four amazing children yes i struggle a lot with raising them i am a single mother working hard everyday. my children pushed me to be an amazing, strong mother.
You guys are so strong, your little boy is so proud of you. And you staid strong as a couple thru all this. Keep doing great. And love the last name.
Love you so much!
I am so hopeful for you! Rainbows are truly signs from the Universe. You, Sam and Lori have stood firm and honored Rees and dealt with the hell of his passing. He is an integral part of your family and Miss Melina will grow hearing all about how loving her parents are. She and her sisters experience it firsthand on a daily basis, but your love and loyalty to her brother and the movement that love has started cannot help but show her, Lori and Abby how much family matters.
Hooray for rainbows!!!
Rich, you and Sam continue to be my inspiration to keep moving forward every day.
There are many days I catch myself doing the “what ifs” too, as I navigate through the world without my darling husband Al.
Continue seeking rainbows and I wish you luck in all your endeavors to help people see the gratification they get in paying it forward.
My friend, you are a true inspiration!