Dear Decaturish – Speaking up for Miles JennessMiles Jenness. Photo provided to Decautrish
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I am writing about your article from 3/7 regarding Ms. Mull’s comments about my son’s death. The article came on the heels of Miles’s birthday weekend. He would have been 6 on March 1. He was our only child. Living far from family and friends, I always went a bit overboard for his birthdays. Trying to compensate for the house full of people I remember from my and my sister’s birthdays when we were growing up, I would buy too many balloons and try to cram them into our car as people in the Party City parking lot would laugh and try to help me. The night before his birthday was the hardest for me this year: I should have been up until 2 a.m., trying to bake a cake from scratch with my limited baking skills, filling little party bags for his classmates, chopping strawberries into Star Wars cups for the “healthy snack” party at school. This year, I sat numbly, watching TV with dear family and friends who flew in from around the country because they didn’t want us to be alone.
Ms. Mull calls my son’s death “unfortunate.” I call it a tragedy. She says it’s “just like a situation where somebody has a heart attack behind the wheel…swerves, hits somebody, kills somebody.” While the police and DA’s office work to determine the facts of the case, I walk often to the site of the crash, two doors down from our house, to put flowers at the exact spot where I think my baby died. I scan the grass for Hot Wheels toys among the scraps of plastic and metal that exploded everywhere in the collision, because I found one there once, a toy, three days after our car came to rest on the opposite side of Candler from where Miles and Sam were stopped at a stoplight. The toy was mangled and bent, but I keep it in a jar with Miles’s hospital bracelet and some flowers from the funeral. I scanned the street often those first days, and realized there were no skid marks on the road where someone might have swerved or braked. I let out a cry. Nearly six months later, I still go, scanning the site for debris of our old life that might have been unearthed by the rain, wind, and elements.
Ms. Mull has said more than once that Ms. Wierson was worried her daughter was in danger. It occurred to me the weekend after the funeral that her worry became my reality, Sam’s reality, every day for the rest of our lives. Ms. Mull says Ms. Wierson’s “pain is tremendous” and that she’s “pretty much in the throes of depression” because of it. I am sorry for Ms. Wierson; my heart goes out to her and her family. We can relate. The depths of depression we’ve reached these past few months seem to have no bottom. But even then, as I try to will myself out of bed every morning feeling sad, I think of my baby, Miles. Was he scared when the cars collided? Did it hurt when his body broke? I get up, kiss his urn three times, and try to do something good with the day.
Ms. Mull says Ms. Wierson is a mother and she knows what it’s like to want to have a child. I miss being a mom. It was my favorite version of me I ever was. Miles made me that, and I will forever be grateful. I worked hard to be a good mom; I tried to be patient, loving, and thoughtful. My reward was watching Miles grow and learn to navigate the world. He was funny. He was sweet, blew people a million kisses a day. He was a really good dancer. He was so excited about kindergarten and was working hard to read. I was so excited for him.
I was away at a work retreat when the crash happened. I flew home on a red eye, weeping and repeating to myself over and over “Miles, I am so lucky to be your Mama.” I landed and a colleague of Sam’s met me at the airport and drove me to Eggleston. Those days in the hospital were hard, but I was comforted that Miles’s body was there even though it was clear to me he wasn’t. My hand was on his heart when it stopped beating. It was my mother’s 66th birthday.
Miles’s 6th birthday weekend was bittersweet. It was beautiful and full of kindness from our community. I watched Miles’s school friends play in our front yard with his neighborhood friends. I stopped by the service projects arranged by the wonderful kindergarten parents and watched the kids read to cats in a shelter, fill more than one hundred bags with food for a homeless shelter, and deliver cards they’d colored to senior residents. I filled little party bags for his classmates, chopped strawberries into a big bowl, and set the Star Wars cups out. I smiled at the kids through tears, hummed along as they sang “Make New Friends”: a circle’s round, it has no end—that’s how long I’m going to be your friend.
I was processing this bittersweet beauty when this story came out. We try to be private with our pain for the sake of others, in the name of carrying on. But as Miles’s mom, I felt a duty to respond to Ms. Mull’s comments, to also give voice to Miles in this narrative. Your article is a reminder for me that there is a long road still to go, and of who is not here with us.
— Leah Tracosas Jenness