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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.

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Pattyc2738 March 14 2014 at 5:26 PM

I think what Ashley did was wonderful. Tucker can "visit" baby Ryan and hopefully it will help him deal with the loss of his baby brother. A mother never gets over a loss of a child, but must learn to move forward. What a great thing she did by donating Ryan's heart. He will live on in someone else. Maybe that will bring Ashley some peace.

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tina March 14 2014 at 4:36 PM

I was 3 when my cousin died I still remember it . I am 49 no one made to remind me of any thing but where the grave site was.

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ShabbySherry March 14 2014 at 4:36 PM

Oh such a sweet gesture RIP little one. Nothing unhealthy here. Just a great memory.

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ohioh111b111y March 14 2014 at 4:29 PM

I'm leaning more toward this mom is trying to heal her family.... as long as they don't visit every single day for hours on end and sit crying at the sandbox.

Part of me thinks what a wonderful mom to have made the sandbox for her living son. The gravesite isn't a place of just death, its a place of life and healing. Time will soon make it impossible to be there too often.

Maybe mom will have another son or daughter one day. Ashlee was so kind to give her baby's heart to a child that needed one.

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Debbie March 14 2014 at 4:28 PM

I think it's sweet. and I can't imagine why some of you think this will have lasting trauma. The older brother will move on, but will someday remember that his mom made the effort to include him in the mourning process.

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mmcdona484 March 14 2014 at 4:26 PM

Unless you have lost a child you will never understand the pain this mother is going through. I lost my son at 24 years of age. His friends showed up at the funeral and we took his matchbox cars and told all of the people there that they were welcome to take one of the trucks he had played with. Every person there took one and you would have thought they were a bunch of kids themselves. Some were going to put the cars on their dash and others wanted to give the cars to their kids when they had them. My son worked for KDOT and was killed by a driver not paying attention. These "kids" put together a 6' cross at the site of his death, put a stone at the bottom of the cross and a KDOT vest and hat on the cross. It has been 9 years and the kids still call us mom and dad and hugs us when they see us. Who says what is good or bad for a child? My daughter misses her brother and has a large support of friends who help her. To me involving the child in the grieving process and helping him to understand where the baby is that they were excited to have is truly amazing. To be able to play with, sing and love the passing of this precious gift now in God's hands. My son's organs helped 58 peoples lives to be easier. My heartfelt love and tears go out to this family.

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2 replies
jfl0 mmcdona484 March 14 2014 at 4:57 PM

God Bless you! I have 6 grown children and I can't imagine how sad it would be to lose any one of them. I had a miscarriage at 3 months gestation and still grieve that loss of my child I never met. My heart pours out to all families that have lost a child.
May your son's soul be living on with all those people you helped.

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gina0318 mmcdona484 March 14 2014 at 5:02 PM

and mine to your family..

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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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Linda March 14 2014 at 5:40 PM

I cannot imagine......I am thankful to never have been in this womans position. I just feel for anyone who loses a child. I wish this family peace.

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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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JoAnne March 14 2014 at 6:09 PM

And , oh yes, my grandson Joshua's tiny casket sits on top of that of his Great Grandfather. The farmhouse where eight generations of my husband's family grew up and where my 3 kids grew up stands guard overlooking the graveyard.

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