Carry Me


Mark has been back at home, taking care of things around the house, for the last five days. I’ve been on my own at the hospital, aside from the occasional break from family members to run back to our room for a quick shower. I miss him and I’m feeling a bit burnt out but I realize how lucky I am that I’m not alone.

When I walk the halls in this pediatric unit, I see the familiar worn-out faces of parents and grandparents who have been here for at least as long as we have, some without relief.  In the quiet of the night, I see the same single parents in their slippers and pajamas who face another night of this journey alone.

I recently read that married parents who have lost a child or have a chronically ill child have an exponentially higher divorce rate. And, when we returned to Timmins, our pediatrician and social worker warned us that in situations such as ours, they’ve seen the dissolve of marriages with some of the strongest couples. It’s not surprising that marriages are tested during times like these.  It’s easy to see how most relationships fail, some exist and even fewer excel.

This is mostly attributed to different grieving and coping methods between partners and differing opinions on medical treatments and interventions for the child. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that we’ve had and will continue to have some difficult moments.  Mark and I are different people and not surprisingly, we grieve in different ways. And, we’ve had and will continue to make challenging decisions about Theodore’s care – decisions no parent should have to make. Thankfully, we are always in agreement but that doesn’t necessarily make things any easier.

I’ve been told of the strength that I’ve demonstrated over the last two months but it’s Mark’s strength that humbly carries me when I can no longer stand.

It is Mark who sleeps in the pullout chair at the hospital, insisting that I return to the room each night so I get some rest. It was Mark who first returned to our home in Timmins and tearfully packed away Theo’s toys because he knew it would be painful for me to see when I returned. It was Mark who sat in on rounds each morning and would meet with one of the many specialists bombarding us with more disappointing news, when I couldn’t bear another conversation. It was Mark who made the flight from Timmins to Hamilton alone (while I flew with Theo who was in critical condition at the time), not knowing if his son would still be alive when he landed. It is Mark who lies next to our son when he cries out in pain each night, rubbing his head until he falls asleep.

I’m thankful for the strong husband and father with whom I face each day. We are not naïve, we know this journey will test us but I have to believe that our vows are indissoluble and our strength will carry us.


  1. This is just lovely! Both of you are amazing parents, and I am proud to call you my friends. You are doing the best you can in an awful situation.

  2. Both you and Mark are an amazingly strong team. Mark, you are an amazing father and husband, Ashlee is lucky to have you and so is Theodore. Keep up the strength, continue to be eachother’s rock. And never, never, never give up even when it seems impossible. The word itself says “I’m possible”!!

  3. You a very strong couple who have to face things , that most of us a parents only read about. When frustrated or scared by the unknown, you have been unbelievably strong and mature! We tend to blame when we are scared, but I can’t believe how each of you have helped to ease and share the pain! As parents we can only hope to be present and supportive of each other’s feelings, which at times can be very difficult! Continue to pray as we all have been doing, Take the days as they come…sometimes the sun is going to shine and give you hope & when its grey and gloomy your going to feel down. Bottle the sun and carry it in your heart, smile and touch. Theo is very lucky to be loved so uncontrollably by his wonderful parents!
    Your always in our prayers & hearts!
    Jennifer & Frank Fernandes

  4. I continue to be amazed by your honesty and willingness to share such a deeply personal journey with us all. And I continue to keep you BOTH in prayers for strength, togetherness and peace during this tumultuous time. Likewise I keep wee Theo in prayers for healing, strength and comfort.

    And… building on what Courtney said above I would like to share the words of my dear friend Alex who battled Leukemia in ways noone imagined he could:
    “The difference between difficult and impossible is that impossible just takes longer.”

  5. What a testimony of courage, commitment and love, that’s what life and marriage is all about, choice and commitment. I pray that God continues to bless you, to give you grace and continued encouragement from those around you!

  6. I have written and erased my “comment” multiple times. I can’t seem to find the words to express what my heart is trying to say. I guess I just really want you to know that even as a stranger, I think of your family and Theo often and have kept you in my prayers. I hope that in some tiny way you feel the love being sent your way from family, friends, and strangers alike.

  7. Hi Ashlee, I heard about Theodore from your Aunt Sandi who is a work colleague. I just want to let you know that I am in awe at your strength and courage with all the trials that you and your husband are going through. God bless little Theodore and keep him safe in the palm of His hand. You are all in our prayers.

  8. Theodore has beat the odds and I know he inherited his strength from his beautiful Mommy and Daddy! I remember when you two first started dating, the love between you was something very special. You three keep amazing me! Sending love xxoo

  9. Ashlee, Your beautiful writing conveys so much honesty and openness. I’ve been catching up on your news of Theo after being away from my computer for a while. Though my story is different than yours, I have also faced terrifying times of grief, losses, and uncertainty with two of my children, and you’re right — it is so very difficult for both parents. You described the stressors so well. I can only encourage you and wonderful Mark to keep loving and helping one another and allow for the differences in each of your ways of coping. Give each other space as well as comfort and practical help. Couples can and do stay together and heal together after such huge struggles. This I know from my own life. I wish you, Mark, Theodore, and all your big, loving family peace for each day.

  10. Your strength and courage, that you have shown everyone, is what keeps your beautiful family together. I pray for little Theo and your strenght as husband and wife to continue on. Keeping you All in my prayers.

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