In a matter of seconds, Ashely Grimm, of Emmett, Idaho, saw her world turn upside down.
The devoted mother was driving her five children in her 13-passenger van when a large rock suddenly, out of the blue, fell into her lane on the highway. She had two options. She could swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid the rock — knowing a river raged on the other side of her vehicle — or try to straddle the obstruction with her vehicle.
“Never judge another mama. We don’t know the whole story.”
Both moves were risky and dangerous. But her choices were so limited.
Grimm — forced to choose in a split second — chose the latter. Her attempt to straddle the rock led to a dramatic rollover crash.
Her four-year-old son, Titus, did not survive the accident.
Grimm herself was airlifted out of the accident scene. Not until two days after the crash did she finally see news stories about her son’s tragic death, according to Self magazine.
It turns out that Titus Grimm and his eight-year-old brother had removed their seat belts in the van right before the accident.
Perhaps the only thing on a par with the loss of a beloved child is the harsh judgment and blame from others. Mothers who took to the internet to excoriate Grimm for not belting her sons in prior to the crash threw a spotlight on the harsh, unforgiving — and anonymous — side of those who populate social media.
The comments hit Grimm so hard as she grieved for her son that she took to Facebook this week to share her side of the story — and send a message to other mothers about valuing the precious life of their children.
In Grimm’s post, she detailed how the horrible tragedy unfolded, including how her young son would often remove his seat belt in the car as they drove along, viewing the move as a “superhero challenge.” She explained how they had tried many types of restraints to keep him secure — and said it was common to have to pull over four or five times during a ride to re-buckle the precocious Titus.
She described the moment when the rock fell in front of her van, and how terrible it was to wake up after the accident and discover Titus was “already gone.” She mentioned the anger she felt toward the commenters who chastised her about seat belts.
But her main message was simple: “I feel led to write this to all you mamas because I have a longing to look each of you in the eyes and tell you this: ‘Hold your babies tight.’ That’s all I want to shout to the world.”
It was a message from the heart from one who has experienced the pain of losing a child.
“I have chosen a funeral plot for my four-year-old boy as I contemplated jumping off the cliff the cemetery overlooks just so I could be where he is,” she wrote. “I have kissed a corpse over and over as I traced over every feature of his ice-cold face and held his still-dimpled but lifeless hands. I have slept in a cemetery just to take one more nap with him.”
Grimm also urged moms to revel in the commonplace moments that are part of everyday parenting — even though they can be frustrating. “Take every hug and kiss they bring you — even if it’s the 25th one they use just to get out of bed at night. And really squeeze them.”
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She told readers to stop condemning other mothers. “Never judge another mama,” she wrote. “We don’t know the whole story, we don’t know. We just don’t know.”
“I have slept in a cemetery just to take one more nap with him,” said this mother.
“People should take this woman’s message to heart,” said one Boston-area husband and father of three who almost lost his family in a car crash. “I was traveling for work when I received the call that my family was in a terrible car accident. I remember sitting on the motel bed with the phone in my hand, stunned.”
He added, “Everything I cared about was hanging in the balance, and I wasn’t there. I was so fortunate they weren’t taken from me — I can’t imagine life without them. I am going to hug them today, and take a moment to be truly grateful for their lives. I will also say a prayer for little Titus, and for strength for this family. The siblings and dad will be impacted for a very long time, too — as I well know.”
“This is a hard story but one we all should know about,” said a New York mom of four boys. “Wherever we are in our lives, no matter who we are, we should take some keen insight and understanding from this woman’s pain — to lift up our own lives and our own relationship with our kids.”
Grimm’s Facebook post has now gone viral, with almost 400,000 shares. Grimm followed up with another post on July 16, thanking everyone for their support — and for spreading her message.
“I never dreamed my little post would touch so many lives, but my immediate prayer after losing my baby boy was that somehow, some way, beauty might come from my ugliest heap of ashes,” she wrote. “I am so thankful that my loss has inspired parents to hold their children close.”
Her understanding of the truly important things in life has come at a dear price.
“Stop and look at the bugs, the rocks, the sticks, and the sunset,” she said in her initial message. “Slow down, Mama. Slow down.”