Moving Forward, While Looking Back… 19 Years Closer to Maddux

Moving Forward, While Looking Back… 19 Years Closer to Maddux

Maddux died on February 10th, 2005. He was 6 days old.

From day one of his death, I never considered time as being ‘one day without him.’ Instead, I always looked at the length of time as being one day closer to him.

Early in my grief journey, I found the book titled “In a Heartbeat” by Dawn Siegrist Waltman. There is one profound quote she writes: “In a heartbeat, a life is stilled, a dream dies and Heaven becomes amazingly real.” That quote in and of itself can be the whole story.

I will admit, I have many regrets during the deepest, heaviest parts of my grief. I lost a lot of who I was. As a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend. I don’t really know if the word “regret” is the right word to use, so bear with me on this…

I was broken. For so many years. I poured my heart and soul into the creation of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I wanted other families to have the breathtaking images of their babies that I had of Maddux. I wanted them to feel the healing, hope and honor that I felt when looking at his images. With all of that amazing work, it didn’t make sense to me that I could still feel so broken.

Maddux Achilles Haggard by founding photographer Sandy Puć

Grief is a lonely place. The only people I felt connected to were parents who had experienced a similar loss as me…and when I say experienced, I really mean suffered. But I don’t like that term.

So why did I title this piece ‘Moving Forward, While Looking Back’? In the beginning, I didn’t look forward to my future at all. I couldn’t see past my pain or my grief to a future. I was always looking back. To the “what ifs'' and the “what should have beens.” Many years ago, I wrote about the topic “What Should Have Been” and it really hit hard that, had Maddux lived, he would not have been a healthy child. He would have always been bed-ridden and on breathing and feeding tubes. He would not have been the star baseball player that his father and I had always imagined. I can only imagine what that life would have been like for him and for ‘us’ as a family.

And that, my friends, was kind of a turning point for me. Reality vs Reality. Moving forward, while looking back. We all have a future after our loss. It might not be what we imagined or planned, but there is always hope.

the Haggard family

This past Christmas might be one of the best I have had since Maddux died. My brother Kevin and I had been estranged since 2008. We had a brief reunion when our step father passed away in 2021, and have talked on and off since then…but this past Christmas? WOW! We all came together, BOTH of my brothers and our entire families. It was truly magical to see all the cousins together as if no time had passed at all. To see the love we all had for one another, and just the feeling of knowing we all belong together was incredibly healing, and a lost part of myself was found. And for one day, I didn’t feel like Maddux was missing, I felt him deep in my soul in the spirit of my happiness.

I can’t give advice on grieving or the length of grief. I believe that grief lasts forever. I hated it when people would tell me how “strong” I was after losing Maddux. I was anything but strong. Grief is heavy and I believe that I will carry my grief with me until the day I die. And knowing that gives me a strength that I never knew I had.

This is my year for moving forward. I will only look back as a reminder of mistakes I have made and a reminder of dark places I don’t want to be in anymore. I will continue to radiate healing, hope, and honor through my work with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I will remind newly bereaved parents to make friends with their grief. I will remind newly bereaved parents that sorrow doesn’t have to last forever, but thankfully love always will.

Maddux Achilles Haggard by Sandy Puć

Maddux Achilles Haggard by founding photographer Sandy Puć

John 16:22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.