MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

February 4, 2013

Woman copes with loss of infant son by collecting prom dresses for his "dates"

Her charity supplies prom dresses for girls in need

— CHECOTAH — Sherrill Garrett sits in her home, cradling a picture frame containing a photo of her deceased son.

About an hour west in Dustin, a teenage mother attends her high school prom. And almost 500 miles away, in Lincoln, Neb., a 14-year-old girl clicks on a Facebook page with the curious title of “Dresses for Jake’s Dates.”

Tying them all together is a story of life, death, grief, and how one family turned its darkest day into a powerful message of love.

Garrett and her husband, Joe Garrett, met in 2010 and fell in love. Jacob Dillon Garrett was born in 2011. Although the couple had six children from earlier relationships, Jacob was their first together.

“He was our love,” Sherrill Garrett said. “He was beautiful and perfect.”

On May 16, 2012, at just 7 1/2 months old, Jacob died. He was a victim, like thousands of infants each year, of Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Syndrome.

“How do you even begin to cope with that?” his mother asked. “He was here, and then he was gone and there’s no reason. None at all. Our world just evaporated.”

Suddenly, things that had been part of the couple’s daily routine became obscene. Joe Garrett, who drives a route each day as part of his job, asked for a new route because it was too painful to drive to the place where he had been when he learned that Jacob had died.

“I just couldn’t,” he said. “All those emotions would come back.”

Sherrill Garrett said she hated every time the clock would strike 4:15 p.m. on a Wednesday — the time and day Jacob died.

“I could still hate that time and day every week if I wanted to,” she said. “My life was just absent. Every day had been go, go, go with a baby around, and all of a sudden he was gone and everything was different. I couldn’t cope.”

The death of an infant is almost a paradox — a loss so unfathomable that it becomes understandable. If Sherrill Garrett needed time off work or needed a moment to herself, who could argue?

 “I was sitting around, and I was going to make myself crazy,” she said. “The sadness was so ... overwhelming that it became really dark, a really dark, sad place.”

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