A mom’s sandbox on her son’s grave is getting attention this week as a story that is equal parts touching and peculiar. The grieving Florida mom’s tribute to her deceased 5-day-old son – adding a sandbox on top of his grave – was done so that her older son could continue to be with his brother.
According to people.com on March 13, 24-year-old mom Ashlee Hammac “says she originally planned to decorate the gravesite of her son Ryan with glass pebbles, but then realized her older son, Tucker, needed his own place to mourn.”
The Lake City, Fla. mom was left devastated when Ryan Michael Jolley died just five days after being born.
The photo of “Baby Ryan’s sandbox” has quickly gone viral on Facebook, with more than 220,000 users sharing her photo.
“It was a simple picture on Facebook,” she said. “I never would have thought it would have went around the world like that.”
Hammac says the sandbox plot has helped her 3-year-old brother Tucker to grieve.
“The more I thought about it, the more I wanted something my other son Tucker could be incorporated in,” Hammac said. “He always goes out there with me, and sits out there, and sings lullabies, and talks to him just like he was there. So I wanted it to be special for him too. His favorite thing right now is trucks.”
People picks up the story:
Ryan died five days after birth in October 2013 due to Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephlopathy, or HIE, a brain dysfunction that occurs when there is a lack of blood flow to the brain. Hammac and her family have now committed themselves to raising awareness of HIE through their new nonprofit Pages to Memories, an organization that donates supplies to neonatal intensive care units and provides emotional support to struggling families.
“I wanted to help. I wanted other people, because I know it wasn't just me, to have someone to talk to… to have a place they could depend on,” Hammac explained. “And I wanted to feel like Ryan was helping still, because in those five days he changed our family so much.”
Hammac also responded to a host of commenters and viral ranters who say that her actions could be psychologically damaging to her 3-year-old son.
“I'm assuming most of them have never lost a child of their own,” she said. “If you never lost a child you don't know what you would do in that situation or how you would handle it.”