My name is Jenny Stanley, and I want to share my story: a parent’s worst nightmare, the loss of our heavenly angel, Sydney.
The day that changed our lives forever started as a regular Sunday in August 2010. My husband, Mike, and I were having our usual battles with our three kids before church. “Find your shoes,” “comb your hair,” “tuck in your shirts,” “yes, you have to wear something nice.” But, like every other Sunday, we managed to get there right on time.
After church service, as we gathered the kids to head home, Sydney, our beautiful daughter, who was 6 at the time, asked if she could bring home her Sunday school craft project. She didn’t get a chance to finish it in school and wanted to complete it at home. Of course, I said yes.
When we got home, we had lunch and went about our day – just as we always do.
Sydney asked if she could go next door and play with her best friend, Anaya. Sydney and Anaya were always running back and forth between our two houses. Anaya’s mother and I had an unspoken understanding that we would “share” responsibilities for watching the girls.
Our oldest child, Logan, who was 12 at the time, and I took off to run some errands. After we left the first store, I called Mike and asked him to have Mason, who was 10, go next store and tell Sydney to come home. I figured it was just about time for the girls to come back to our house.
A few minutes later, Mike called back. “Sydney is not there,” he said.
You see, we lived in a great neighborhood – kind of like the ones we used to grow up in. All the kids played together outside. They rode bikes. Wrote on the sidewalk with chalk. And there was always a group of kids playing the sport of the season.
You could even stand on your front porch and yell for the kids to come home for dinner. The only thing you had to worry about was how many kids you would end up feeding at the end of the day. It was a great neighborhood.
I gave Mike a list of the homes where Sydney might be so he could track her down. A few minutes later, Mike called back again. “She’s not at any of those homes,” he said.
I asked him to drive around the neighborhood to look for her, and I was going to come right home to help.
Logan and I were about halfway home when I received a call from an unrecognized number. When I picked it up, I couldn’t understand what the person on the other end was saying. I hung up and called back.
I recognized Mason’s voice, but I could only make out a handfull of hysterical words: “We found Sydney in the car,” he yelled. “She is very blue.”
By the time I got home, a sheriff’s car and an ambulance were already in front of our house.
As I ran inside, our neighbor stopped me and said, “You need to know that she is very, very blue.”
I continued to race into the house. I found Mike sitting on the stairs. He was holding his knees and saying, “it’s too late, it’s just too late.”
Then I turned, and that’s when I saw her. The police and paramedics were working to resuscitate her.
I heard myself scream at the paramedics, “Please don’t stop, please don’t stop!”
After what seemed to be forever in some ways, but seconds in others, we were told that they were taking her to the hospital.
We were about to follow behind the ambulance when the head EMT came back into the house and told us that they had done all they could. Our beautiful little girl was gone.
Mike and I walked to the ambulance, sat down, and held Sydney’s hands for the last time. That moment was a feeling I cannot describe; there was so much pain. There still is.
I had always heard the term “died of a broken heart,” but I thought it was just a saying. I now know what it’s like to feel heartbreak.
We’ve asked ourselves over and over how this could’ve happened to our beautiful angel. We don’t have a definite answer, but as a mother who knew her child, I believe I know what happened.
When we returned home from church, I gathered all of the items from Mike’s car and took them into the house, including Sydney’s unfinished craft project. When Anaya was not home to play, Sydney must have checked in the car to find the craft that she wanted to finish, and that’s when she became trapped inside.
This might seem like a sad story, but it’s really a hopeful one. I’m sharing my story with you because I’m hoping that something good can come out of our tragedy. I don’t want any other families to have to go through the pain that my family has endured.
Unfortunately, heatstroke happens more than you would think, and it can happen to anyone. But I want everyone reading this story to know that these tragedies are preventable.
So please, look before you lock your car, and once all of the children are out of the car, make sure the car is locked so they cannot get back in. And please, never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a second. Here are a few more tips.
Sydney loved butterflies, and we loved to listen to Bon Jovi in the car together. She also loved her art and crafts. Who would ever have imagined that Sydney would take her last craft project to heaven herself?