Keaton McCoy "Bubba" Huebner
May 20, 2008 - December 18, 2008
Blue. That's what Keaton's family most remembers about him, from the brilliant blue of his eyes to the soft blue of baby blanket.
"Everyone would comment on his eyes," Keaton's mother, Vanessa, says. "They were such a unique blue that we couldn't even capture them in photos."
As much as his family loved him, Keaton also loved his family and wanted to be close to them. He and his daddy would sit together on the loveseat and watch baseball or football together. Dave, Keaton's father, would put his baseball hat on backwards on Keaton as the two cheered on their favorite teams.
Keaton also treasured his time with his mommy. "He always wanted Mommy to hold him. He was a momma's boy," Vanessa recalls. "We even had to stop during a roadtrip because he was screaming and just wanted mommy to hold him."
Keaton's parents treasure the milestones he was reaching and remember how he would do the "on all fours rock" as he learned to crawl. And they laugh about how baby Keaton would always stick his tongue out when he smiled.
"I've always wanted to be a mom," Vanessa says.
Keaton's death hit his parents and two sisters, Maddie and Ashlyn, hard. The road to healing is long for this tight-knit family, but they hold each other up, encouraging one another along the way.
"My kids keep me happy and positive," Vanessa says.
Vanessa has also found healing in holding other babies, because that fills her empty arms. She remembers how just two days after Keaton had died, her family took her to the nail salon to get out of the house and provide some much-needed distraction. A woman walked into the salon holding a baby boy, and Vanessa says she just stared at him and cried.
The mother looked at her and gave her the baby to hold. "She didn't even know why I was crying, but I told her about Keaton as I held her son."
Journaling and counseling have also helped the family heal, and Vanessa takes comfort in writing letters to her son. "I'm not at the hope part -- yet," Vanessa says. But she tries not to dwell on Keaton's death.
"I want my girls to enjoy their childhood and not have this as their focus for the rest of their lives," Vanessa says.
Vanessa encourages other families who experience the death of a child to SIDS to "take it one day at a time" and "get all your grief out... allow yourself to cry, to get your feelings out," she says.
"Keaton's death made me appreciate what I have and everything I had," Vanessa says. "My two kids make me happy and I'm going to live life to is fullest from this point on... I try to have as much fun as possible now."