In New Wine Wednesday

By Kathleen Billings

 

 

August 9, 2000 – a day deeply etched in my heart forever.  It was a warm summer evening.  After a hearty spaghetti dinner, I took my 2 boys, Joseph and Dominic, ages 3 and 4 ½ months at the time, outside to play. My husband cut the grass while we meandered around the yard.  Around 7:00 pm we came inside.  I bathed my boys and delighted in their bath time giggles.  Dominic’s little personality was just beginning to develop, and Joseph was slowly learning the art of entertaining his little brother!  7:30 pm -I nursed my precious Dominic and laid him down for bed, thinking he would be up in a few hours to nurse again.  He never woke up.

Little did I know when I laid him down on that warm summer evening in our little country home in central Illinois, that it would be the last time I would hold him, so alive, in my arms, – the last time my breasts would nurse him, and the last time I would feel the warmth of his body nestled against mine.  Oh – if I had known! I would have let him nurse until his little heart was content and I would have never put him down!  

 

Being forewarned was not part of God’s plan, though.  Dominic’s death was sudden, like a thief in the night, no warning.  

 

After an excruciating investigation and autopsy, the death certificate said, SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – no explanation for Dominic’s death, just overwhelming grief from such an unexpected loss.

It was around 8:00 pm and I was chatting on the phone with my father who lived in California at the time.  Joseph was sitting on the couch eating a bedtime snack.  My husband went in our bedroom to check on Dominic and he found him face down in his portable crib. Since we had recently purchased our first home and were scheduled to move in few days, our regular crib was already taken down.  Dominic had just learned how to roll over, so my husband, thinking he had just rolled over, gently moved him from his stomach to his back.  As he did this, he felt his limp body and saw a froth like blood coming out of Dominic’s mouth and nostrils.  He screamed for me.  I will never forget the terror I heard in his voice when he cried for me that night. Ever. I ran to the bedroom hallway and there I saw my husband holding our unresponsive son in his arms. He looked at me with fear in his eyes as he blurted out, “He’s not breathing!”  I screamed, “Oh my God, oh my God, call 911!”  My poor dad – that is all he heard because I hung up on him to make that awful call.

While we waited for the ambulance to arrive, the kind man on the other end of our 911 call, talked my husband through CPR.  Although we were both infant CPR trained, we could not remember how to perform it on our own son in that frightful moment. In between attempts to get Dominic breathing again, I remember picking him up and holding him over my shoulder as if I was trying to quiet a restless baby, instead this time, in my agony, I was begging Dominic to wake up! “Please, Dominic, wake up, God please wake him up!” 

The ambulance arrived.  Dominic was carried out on a stretcher.  I remember grabbing his car seat and diaper bag out of habit, and then – having the sudden realization – that I probably would not need it for him again – ever.  I rode in the ambulance with my son and after settling Joseph with family friends, my husband followed us to the hospital in his car.  The ride to the hospital from our home in the country seemed like forever.  As the cold air from the vents in the front seat of the ambulance blew on me and chilled me to my bones, I repeatedly prayed the Hail Mary, interspersed with cries of “please Lord, don’t take my baby!”

When we arrived at the hospital, I jumped out of the ambulance, hoping to catch a glimpse of my son as they carried him into the ER.  I was escorted to a “special” room to await the dreaded news. Shortly after my husband joined me, a very warm-hearted doctor came in, put her hand on my arm, and said the words that I feared, “I am so sorry. We did everything we could.  Would you like to hold Dominic one last time?”  Of course!

 

A few minutes later, my lifeless son was laid in my arms.  In that agonizing moment, I thought of the Pieta, the holy image of Our Blessed Mother, at the foot of the cross, holding Our Savior, lifeless in her arms.  She knew the pain and the anguish I was feeling.  

 

I recall thinking, as I held Dominic in my arms, that his body felt virtually weightless, but the weight of his loss felt completely unbearable.  So – there I was, tears pouring down my face, in my Calvary, looking to Mary to model for me how to carry the weight of this excruciating loss.  She did – and through it all, God had a plan. He always does.  In our darkest moments, as we carry our crosses or find ourselves at the foot of a cross, He is there waiting to hold us and lead the way. I held my child that night, but my Father in heaven held me.  I knew it.  I felt it.  

Dominic was officially pronounced dead at 9:03 pm.  My mom would always say, “Every Good Friday is followed by an Easter Sunday.”  She was right.  Dominic was a happy, healthy baby and his sudden loss, carved a deep wound in my heart that only God could fill with His grace, and, in His time, use for His glory.  

 

Pain goes as deep as our love.  My pain was unfathomable, because my love was deep, but the profound pain from Dominic’s loss truly transformed my life. I don’t take life for granted.  I strive to live each moment as if it were my last or the last moment, I might have with another.   Each moment counts.  My family knows how much I love them.  I have a deep respect for the gift of life and try not to let the sun set on my anger.  

 

Do I struggle with the fear of loss?  Yes – but in those moments, my heart echoes – “JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU,” – and I do – trust in Jesus, because I have seen him create beauty from the ashes and turn trials into spiritual triumphs! 

 

Pain has the power to change us for good or destroy us – the decision of what path we allow the pain to take us on, lies in our hands.  I am grateful for the gift of my faith and God’s grace that allowed me to see clearly amidst the agony and tears, to surrender to His will and choose the life-giving path. In my sudden loss, I was saved by God’s grace.

Dominic lives on in me and how I daily choose to live my life for Christ.  He also lives on in all those who knew and loved him.  His short life touched countless hearts and his now spiritual presence is evident to those who call upon his intercession.

I have a son in Heaven interceding for myself and my family -an unbelievable gift – Saint Dominic Fulton, pray for us!

About the author:

Kathleen Billings is married to her best friend, a mother of five beautiful blessings and three more souls in Heaven. She has a BA in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Together with her husband, Troy, they began and direct a vibrant parish based Marriage Ministry called BAM – Building Amazing Marriages. Kathleen has a personal blog entitled seasonsoftheheartandhome.com where she writes about living her faith, in every season, as a wife and mother amidst the ordinary moments each day that God wants to make extraordinary. She is a regular blogger on marriage for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Website and is also a contributing author to the book “Amazing Grace for Mothers.” Kathleen has been an active Catholic speaker for the past 20 years – speaking at days of recollection, retreats for women, retreats for married couples, evenings of reflection and women’s groups.

Showing 16 comments
  • Judy Valento
    Reply

    Outstanding……strong woman

    • Kathleen Billings
      Reply

      Judy, thank you for your kind words! I am grateful for my faith – I don’t know how people without it survive such a tragedy!

  • Mary
    Reply

    I can not imagine your pain, but also your strength and faith in God. I have tears streaming down my face as I read this…every mother’s nightmare. Thank you for your courage to share Dominic’s story.

    • Kathleen Billings
      Reply

      Mary, it was my worst nightmare – but I am so grateful for all the beautiful things God has allowed to be born from one of the most tragic times of my life. Thank you for taking time to comment -it touched my heart deeply.

  • tutt4
    Reply

    May God Bless you and your family. Thank you for sharing.

  • Gwen
    Reply

    My second child is also named Dominic and reading your beautiful yet heart-wrenching article, brought me right back to the house we lived in when he was four months old. I pictured everything you wrote (in my home as if it were me and my husband and my oldest child, who is a girl, is the only difference). I am so sad about what happened and my heart bursts with love for your strength and thank you for this as you will help other poor mothers who go through the same experience of losing a little child. Your faith in our Lord and the help and comfort you received from our Blessed Mother (who shared in the same sorrow) are so important! Others will relish in leaning on them for help as well in any of their sadness or despair. God bless you!!!

    • Kathleen Billings
      Reply

      Wow! Thank you for sharing and for your kind and thoughtful words! My prayer is that God can use my suffering to help others and be inspired by the power of faith! God bless you ❤️

  • Alyssa Bomres
    Reply

    And even now – Saint Dominic Fulton is an evangelist – what a gift this article is in my life! Thank you.

    • Kathleen Billings
      Reply

      Alyssa, your words being such joy to my heart! Thank you for sharing! ❤️

  • Ruth
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing. Yes, one day at a time. Always being ready.

  • Donna
    Reply

    Your loss, your strength and God’s love for all of us has me in a puddle of tears. I cannot thank you enough for the sharing of this life moment, and how it has helped you to grow and to bring God’s love, strength and mercy to all who read your beautiful testimony!

    • Kathleen Billings
      Reply

      Donna, thank you for taking time to comment – your words truly touched my heart! I am so grateful that Dominic’s short life is still touching lives – brings joy to my heart! ❤️

  • Laura
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are an amazing inspiration as a strong faith filled woman. My heart goes out to you. May God bless you and your family!

  • Kim Padan
    Reply

    This touched my heart so much! As a mom of a little saint (my Gabriel was stillborn) I can relate to so any things. Most especially, the need to look to the Blessed Mother as a role model of faith in times of struggle.

Leave a Comment

0