In November we were approached by Carolyn, who was looking for donations to gift to her local hospital and maternity ward. We were thrilled to be able to contribute and when she shared her reason behind the random acts of kindness our hearts were filled with both sadness and inspiration. Through the pain of the passing of her little boy Willem, she and her family were able to find hope and strength through giving to others. We hope that after reading her story you will be inspired to share a little bit of love and kindness in honor of Willem.
Q: We would love if you could share a little bit about your story with us and about the life of your little boy Willem?
A: We felt so blessed and proud to have five healthy and perfect children. Our sweet Willem came into this world on January 10, 2017, with one fast push; a healthy 6lbs 5oz boy. His three sisters and one brother loved him dearly. Often, I would see them carrying him around wherever they were playing. He was a happy, easy baby who always smiled and was content wherever he was.
Our precious baby boy was taken from us way too soon at six months of age. My husband found him not breathing in his crib during his afternoon nap. I remember that day so clearly and it still makes me sick to my stomach and I get numb when I think about it. After we called 911 my husband was on the floor performing CPR with the help of the operator. The firemen and paramedics came so quickly it felt like a dozen burst through our front door and surrounded our little baby. They were able to get his heart going while traveling to the hospital.
Looking back, we were thankful for three more days we got to spend at the Stollery Children’s Hospital with Willem, though it was hard not knowing if he would survive or if he would even be healthy or normal again. We wanted our little son back so badly. My husband and I did not leave Willem’s bedside. Together we shed so many tears we felt we could not cry anymore. We talked and made decisions that we thought we would never have had to make. We became closer to each other then most couples become in a lifetime. Our families joined together, and our friends became much more real. I was able to hold Willem one last time even though we knew his spirit was already gone; I got to say goodbye to his perfect little body. I will be forever grateful for the time we spent with Willem. I was honored to be called his mom.
Willem was able to donate his heart and liver to two other babies in desperate need. We did receive news that both babies are doing well and thriving. I pray every day that they heal and live the life they deserve. There was a reason we had such a perfectly healthy boy we believe that was God's plan for him. We will always be thankful that Willem was a part of our lives. He has changed the way I view life. I now truly appreciate the life I was given, the family the Lord has blessed me with, even though we lost our sweet Willem.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is going through what you and your family did?
A: Grief comes in waves, one day your up and the next your down. It is ok to cry because everything is not ok. There are going to be to a lot of things that will remind you of that pain. It is a long journey, and it will take you a long time to heal, probably forever, but it does get better. Talk freely about your loss do not keep anything inside. Even though it seems impossible try to look for some good in all of it. Doing kind things for others has helped us with our healing. Over the last few months, once or twice a week I go out of my way to do something for someone else.
Q: What was your main source of strength and hope through this difficult time?
A: The overwhelming support and prayers from our friends and church community. Friends and family kept on checking in on us to see how we were doing. A meal train was organized and almost every day for 6 months a meal was delivered to our house. We were able to talk to people in our community who experienced death of a child. I also found a support network out of Calgary because there was not one in our city.
Q: How were you able to express to your children the loss of your son Willem?
A: Our children were with us throughout the whole experience, it was incredibly difficult for them especially for my oldest who is seven. We told them that this was God’s plan and Willem was able to save two babies. At the funeral we gave out birch trees to everyone present. After the funeral we planted together the remaining trees and also purchased a bigger tree for our front yard. We made a beautiful book about Willem’s life and have a wall with pictures of all of us together. Throughout the whole house there are little pictures of Willem and the kids together. We also talk alot about Willem and how much we miss him and our memories. We also tell them they do not have to be sad because we know Willem is in Heaven.
Q: We are absolutely amazed at how your family was able to turn a heartbreaking event into something hopeful and beautiful in Willems honor. Can you tell us about how and why you decided to turn his birthday into a day of giving with your random acts of kindness?
A: Birthdays at our house are a big deal! After Willem past away, I was determined to think of the perfect way to honor him. I wanted to give back to the community since the community gave us so much love and support over the last six months. I was inspired by another mother, who has for many years remembered her son’s birthday by doing random acts of kindness and encouraging people to pay it forward. I loved the idea and decided to expand on it. I tried to collect products that I had found helpful will all my kids. I contacted these companies and they were all very kind and generous. As a family we put 20 bags together which was a lot of fun. We delivered them to the maternity ward where all five of my children were born. Next, we headed to the Stollery Children’s Hospital where Willem spent his last three days, again we gave out only the best toys that we found useful for our kids. We also made toiletry bags for parents who did not expect to stay the night at the hospital. During that day we asked our friends/family to do something kind for someone else that day. Throughout the day I got messages from friends of their random acts of kindness. From paying for someone's groceries, donating to the Stollery Hospital, sponsoring a child with the same birthday as Willems and the list goes on. I also worked with the local bakery and I purchased 100 bags of raisin buns. I asked them to give one bag to every customer on that day. On the bag it said “Life is a gift. Enjoy it, share it, and spread love to the people around you. Please do so today by sharing this gift in honor of Willem Kees Huig Aarnoutse." Birthdays are supposed to be celebrated and full of fun and laughter. Willem’s birthday was an emotional day and meant to spoil others and make them smile. I would not change the way we celebrated Willem’s birthday and will continue to do it every year.
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