A letter written by Don Cherry's brother-in-law helps him to put the importance of family and memories in perspective.
“He said the letter just came to him. He gave it to us right before my son's funeral,” recalled Mr. Cherry in the Fremont home he shares with his wife, Christin, and their surviving twin son, Caleb Joseph, who is 9 months old. Baby Caleb's twin, Dylan Jacob, died a week after he and his brother were born prematurely last Aug. 20 in Toledo Hospital.
The twins weighed just over two pounds each at birth. At a mere 26 weeks of gestation (a full-term pregnancy is about 39 weeks), baby Dylan's lungs were too underdeveloped to survive.
“The letter was written as if it were from Dylan, like, in his own words. It talked about how Dylan was a guardian angel over Caleb, and that I build skyscrapers, and that Christin is the heart of the family,” Mr. Cherry, a Local 55 ironworker, said of the letter from his wife's brother, Rick Lindenberger.
Mr. Lindenberger was a perfect blood-donor match for the late baby, added Mr. Cherry.
The 31-year-old dad said this Father's Day will be bittersweet because his son did not survive. Still, even after all the pain of the past year, Mr. Cherry said he is overwhelmed with joy whenever he is with his wife, 27, who is a homemaker, and son Caleb, who he likes to call Junior.
“It's always going to be hard, but I know that Dylan is sitting there watching over us,” said Mr. Cherry. “I couldn't have made it without my wife. When you go through something like this, you can't do it by yourself, you have to have your best friend with you.”
Before their twins were born, the Cherrys, married six years, had tried unsuccessfully to conceive. Mrs. Cherry had a miscarriage and tubal pregnancy before finally conceiving twins naturally. The babies were discovered by doctors at 16 weeks' gestation. Before the news, “We were just at the point where we were talking about adoption, and [fertility] drugs,” Mr. Cherry recalled.
After baby Dylan's death, Mr. Cherry said he and his wife had to be strong for their son Caleb, but admitted that it was often difficult emotionally. “You just wanted to cry [and curl] in a little ball,” he said. Still, little Caleb triumphed and came home, after several months of hospitalization, on oxygen and a heart monitor, which now are no longer needed.
Mr. Cherry recalls that the couple's spare room, now used for Caleb's nursery, once had pink walls and carpet. “We thought we would just keep it like that in case we had a girl, but I had to get that room ready for Caleb. It's now painted blue,” he laughed. This Father's Day, Mr. Cherry said, he wants to simply enjoy his family - perhaps taking a ride on the couple's new bikes with a baby seat on the rear of dad's bike for Caleb, and maybe a cook-out in the backyard. As for Caleb, who seems to be very near crawling, Mr. Cherry said that having him in his life is the greatest gift of all.
“I enjoy every minute I can with him,” said Mr. Cherry. “He's the cutest guy around. Some people say he looks like the Gerber baby, but he's cuter than the Gerber baby. I'm blessed to be his father.”
Baby Dylan is forever remembered by his family, said Mr. Cherry.
“He was buried with a little stuffed red dog that we bought for him, and now we all have one to remember him by. Caleb plays with his [stuffed dog], and my wife and I keep ours on the [auto] dashboard. It has a rattle, and whenever it rattles, it lets us know that Dylan is always around us.”