BY MELANIE BUCK –
As many of us prepare to spend the holidays with our family and friends, shopping and cooking, some families are discovering what the season will be like without a precious loved one. Such is the case for Jessica Martin and husband, Jonathan. Jessica is mother to two boys, Jesse Perales, a boisterous 8 year old, and Damion Evans Perales, now a forever 6 year old, running with his Papa in Heaven.
Jessica said, “He was a very outgoing boy. He liked to ride dirt bikes and four-wheelers. He was like a 37 year old trapped in a 6 year old body. He was very mature for his age. He wanted to be a police officer.” Damion’s grandmother, Kathryn Howard added, “He didn’t talk a whole lot, but when he did, it meant something.” Jessica also stated Damion had a love for Wrangler jeans and maple donuts. “He ate two maple donuts for breakfast almost everyday. “Damion used to say ‘a man can’t go longer than three days without a donut,’” Jessica said.
On September 23 of this year, an accident occurred that would forever change the lives of those who loved Damion. Damion, who loved to be outside, was with his step-father, Jonathan, cutting trees. “He was out cutting firewood with his step-dad and the tree fell and hit him on the head,” explained Jessica. Damion’s mother shared that he fought hard. He would squeeze their hands… It was soon apparent that the brain trauma he had suffered was just too much. Damion gained his angle’s wings. Jonathan said, “I wake up every day and ask myself, ‘is this really real, did this really happen.”
“He loved is Pawpaw, and now they’re together. We take some comfort in that,” explained Jessica. She said they loved to go fishing together. He also loved spending time with his grandmother, Kathryn. Kathryn told how Damion loved to fix things and even had his own toolbox at her house.
“Everyone he met, he made an impact on their lives. Now he’s making an impact on some other peoples lives,” said Jessica referring to Damion being an organ donor. His organs saved the lives of 5 people and the eyesight of another. She added, “He’ll live on through them.”
In the months since, Jessica is still ‘in shock.’ “It’s still pretty raw. We’re still trying to figure out how to deal with it,” said Kathryn. “My mind hasn’t quite realized that he’s gone,” said Jessica. Jessica has recognized that she needs help coping with such a tragedy. Enter, Diane Mathis. Mathis is the organizer of a group called Remembering Hearts Forever. After learning of Damion’s passing, Mathis reached out to Jessica, inviting her to join their group. Remembering Hearts Forever is a group of parents, grandparents and siblings supporting each other after the death of a child of any age and by any cause. Remembering Hearts Forever aspires to provide a space for healing, help, and hope for families. Mathis lost a child and knows the grieving process well. She and her group meet monthly and hold events to help with coping and to keep the spirit of the child fresh.
Although she hasn’t yet attended a Remembering Hearts Forever meeting or event, Jessica’s hope is that the group will help her come to the realization of her loss and to help her cope with each day, especially days like birthdays and holidays. She said, “The memories right now are just so hurtful and I’m hoping that meeting and talking with these people will help with that.”
Members have expressed how much help it has been to join with others that know the same sort of pain. In 2012, Tim and Lisa Masters shared their experience with the Pulse. Lisa said, “People say they understand, but they don’t. They try. It’s not from lack of trying or compassion, you just can’t grasp it until it hits you but then when you look into the eyes of another parent who has lost a child…you don’t have to say a word. They know.”
Jessica will always remember Damion as a “momma’s boy” and that he thought she was the best cook in the world and could do no wrong. “He loved me. I would look in the mirror in the car and Damion would be watching me and just smile.”
Each year, just before Christmas, Remembering Hearts Forever holds a Candle Lighting Ceremony in memory of their lost loved ones. This year, the event will be held on Sunday, December 14, at 5:30 p.m. in the Union Bank Community Room. For more information on the event, contact Diane Mathis at 479-243-0191.