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Mom adds sandbox to late child's grave so older son can 'play' with brother

Mother Puts A Sandbox At Son's Grave So Other Son Can Play with Him

A mother's tribute to her late infant son has been going viral. Ashlee Hammac, 24, added a sandbox to her son's grave so that his older brother could play with him.


All photos courtesy Ashlee Hammac

The infant, Ryan Jolley, died five days after his birth in October due to HIE, a brain dysfunction that occurs when there is a lack of blood to the brain. Though he was mostly confined to his NICU bed, Ryan's mother was able to introduce him to his three-year old brother Tucker.

Ashlee originally planned to decorate Ryan's gravesite with glass pebbles but then she thought that Tucker may need his own space to mourn. She told PEOPLE, "The more I thought about it, the more I wanted something my other son Tucker could be incorporated in. He always goes out there with me, and sits out there, and sings lullabies, and talks to him just like he was there. So I wanted it to be special for him too. His favorite thing right now is trucks."

Since the story was posted on the Facebook page Sawyers Heart, the picture of Tucker playing in Ryan's sandbox has gained nearly 175,000 likes and has been shared almost 50,000 times. But other people feel that this may not be the healthiest form of healing for the family.

One PEOPLE commenter wrote, "As a mother, I am very sad for her loss. But as a mother, I am also very sad for her toddler and how she is projecting her grief onto him. I hope this family gets some grief counseling to learn healthy ways to cope with their loss." That being said, most comments have been positive.

Ryan's healthy heart was donated to save another baby, and Ashlee hopes to meet the infant's mother one day.

Join the discussion

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Bettye March 14 2014 at 6:32 PM

different strokes for different folks!!--leave the mother and toddler alone to do their thing!!!

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1 reply
Anne Boleyns Crown Bettye March 14 2014 at 6:37 PM

Part of that problem is that the toddler has no say in what is being done to him right now. I think his mother means well but at 24, she may not really understand how to deal with grief herself and she may be doing more harm than good. Her kid should be playing with other kids in a sandbox at the park, not the graveyard.

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1 reply
jmlm1010 Anne Boleyns Crown March 14 2014 at 6:58 PM

Anne, how do you know he doesn't play with other kids in a different sandbox. That correct, you don't. There is NOTHING wrong with the way this mother is grieving.

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PAULINE March 14 2014 at 8:13 PM

You have to Sign In first to leave a comment.What a wonderful idea, so sorry to the family for their loss it must be devastating, but the Mom had a great idea

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jguss69 March 14 2014 at 5:38 PM

totally sux....poor mother..seeing that baby in her arms makes you really feel her greif

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Sharon March 14 2014 at 8:31 PM

can't even begin to imagine what this poor family is going through. my God watch over and protect them all

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whdlsn March 14 2014 at 9:34 PM

We have always kept our son Wyatt alive in the hearts and minds of his sisters. He would have been 24 on 3/23

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2 replies
Lisa whdlsn March 14 2014 at 10:29 PM

So sorry for your loss.

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I LOVE YOU MOM! whdlsn March 14 2014 at 11:01 PM

Good for you and I'm sorry for your loss.

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Paula March 14 2014 at 9:32 PM

It's not our place to judge how a person grieves or how children are taught to grieve. If this gives the family some comfort then by all means carry on. I am so sorry for the loss this family has had to endure. Peace be with you each and everyone.

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Paul Castle March 14 2014 at 8:41 PM

WE must all grieve in our own way. If this is what the mother and her family want then they should go for it and have. The loss of a child (a baby) has to be terrible. RIP bless the family.

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Grandma March 14 2014 at 8:41 PM

What a Wonderful Mother' '

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brandonourhero March 15 2014 at 8:31 AM

my heart goes out to Ashlee, Tucker and Ryan. As a mom who also lost a son I am so sickend and tired of hearing people judge the family (especially moms of a lost child)!! Every family needs to grieve in their OWN WAY!!!! There is no right or wrong way for a mother to grieve over the loss of a child!!! So to all those who have anything negative to write about this womans very brave fight to honor and remember her precious little Ryan with Tucker should back off and be grateful that its not them that were left with the burden this family will carry in their hearts forever!!! Rest In Peace sweet Ryan, until you are once again in the arms of your mom!!!

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sm.58.ms March 14 2014 at 8:00 PM

I applaud this mother, it leaves room for the older brother to have a safe place to ask questions, having had a loss at a such young age, not understanding loss and grief he can learn and heal. When I was a child my family would go to the cemetery (50 yrs ago,) and bring a picnic basket, we were dressed in Sunday best had more than one family member in the same cemetery, paid our respects, shared stories, I was able to get to really know the grandfather who passed before my 5th birthday and how he thought I was the sun and moon rolled into one just for him, his sense of humor, how he loved and cared for his family. I talk to my son who lost his life 7yrs ago and that grandfather I lost so many years ago all the time.
In every culture you see this kind of healing and sharing, drive by any cemetery on a Sat or Sun and you'll see entire families with easy-ups, lunch, flowers, balloons, even portable grills. I find it hard to believe all the harsh words and opinions of this mother and sad for those who has been so harsh on her.

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