Imagine this. Your child – the one you carried inside you for nine months, the one whose very existence lights your world – dies in a car accident. And now the world wants you to pay.
This is the story of Ashley Grimm, a mum who has suffered what no parent should ever be put through – the death of a child. But losing her boy isn’t enough torment for Ashley, it seems. You see, four-year-old Titus wasn’t strapped in to his seat when a falling rock set off the terrible chain of events that would end with a little boy dead and a family shattered forever.
The devastated US mum has bared her soul on Facebook, setting the record straight on why her superhero-obsessed son Titus was not buckled in his seat at the time of the crash and pleading with mums all over to, “hold your babies tight”.
“Go hug your babies right now. Soak in their smell, look at the innocent sparkle in their eyes that is lost somewhere between childhood and adulthood,” she writes.
“Really feel how they squeeze you. Set down your phone and see them through the lens of your eyes not only the lens of your camera.
“Remember the feeling of their head on your shoulder, their hand in yours, their sloppy kisses on your cheeks. Nurse them one more time. Sleep is overrated. Listen five minutes longer about Star Wars, Minecraft and Disney princesses.”
These are the heartbreaking words from a mum who recounts how she rocked her son’s lifeless body in the middle of a highway, screaming for God to give him back.
They are the words of a mum consumed by grief, a mum who spent $200 on a superhero costume for her son to wear beneath the ground and a mum who has slept in a cemetery just to try and take one more nap with her baby boy.
On June 2, 2016 Titus’s dangerous game of unbuckling his car seat straps took a devastating turn when a large rock fell in the path of the family’s van.
“My son was notorious for doing everything he could to unbuckle in the car (‘the Flash doesn’t wear a seatbelt, and I’m the Flash, mama’),” Ashley recalls.
“We tried five-point harness seats, boosters, I believe even zip ties at one point (probably not safe either) but he always viewed it as a superhero challenge.”
Ashley says five of her children, including Titus, were in the van when she had to make a split second decision on whether to try and straddle the cliff on her side of the road, hit the fallen rock or move to the oncoming lane on a dangerous curve.
“I chose the rock. I chose wrong,” Ashley says.
At this point, Ashley didn’t know Titus was in the middle of switching seats with his older brother.
“The rock hit my axle, and sent us plummeting into the side of a cliff,” she says.
“Our 13 passenger van rolled and my son was instantly gone. Our lives were instantly ripped apart.
“The little boy who had been my pride and joy was cruelly taken from me in a matter of seconds.”
Ashley recalls the nightmare moments that followed the collision as she fought to free each of her children from the wreckage.
“When I came to Titus, I worked with all my might to lift the heavy van off his tiny body,” she says.
“My eight-year-old son was trying to help me. I could only see the lower half of his body.
“I rubbed his tummy and tried gentle compressions. But he was already gone.”
When paramedics arrived, Ashley refused to be treated until they let her hold Titus.
It was two days after the crash when Ashley first saw news reports on the crash on Facebook
She says the reports may have set the record straight that drugs and alcohol were not a factor in the crash, but the comments on the story were a cruel blow to her already broken heart.
“The readers commented the cruelest things about how horrible of a mother I was. How I deserved it. How my children should be taken from me,” she recalls.
“I wanted to punch them, shake them. Tell them how close we were, how hard I fought to keep him safe. How we had a special good night kiss and a designated McDonald’s date each week.
“I wanted to scream that he always told me he wanted to marry me, that I was the best mama ever. That he built me Lego ships, took naps in my bed while holding my hand with his dimpled little fingers. But no one would have listened anyway.”
Ashley says she is forever changed by the tragedy and she felt compelled to write the post because she wanted to look every mum in the eye and shout to the world, “hold your babies tight”.
“Maybe finishing broccoli at dinner isn’t as important as we might think,” she says.
“Watch how your children eat, soak in their hatred for corn (oh how Titus hated corn).
“Maybe they can still have ice cream – even just sometimes – while those veggies still sit on their plate.
“…take every hug and kiss they bring you – even the twenty fifth one they use just to get out of bed at night. And really squeeze them.
“…Mamas, hold your children tight. How blessed you are to have been entrusted with such unique, beautiful, tiny humans.”