CHICKASHA, Okla. (KFOR) – You’ve heard the saying, “There is no greater pain than the loss of a child.”
The crushing weight of a child’s death leaves many parents in despair with an irreplaceable void.
But one Oklahoma woman is giving some of those parents something to hold and to hug again, as her Hug Books are turning tears into smiles.
“He was the love of our life, just such a joy,” Beth Ann Meyer said of her son, Craig. “He was so proud to be a daddy, and he was such a good daddy.”
Craig’s daughter, Izzie, was just seven months old when she lost her adoring dad. He was a private pilot whose small plane never made it to its destination in January of 2007.
Craig Meyer was 26, and was happily married to his high school sweetheart. The best years of his life were just beginning.
“They found the plane on Friday,” his mother said.
And the call that no parent ever wants to receive came from Craig’s own father, Capt. Stewart Meyer, a now-retired OHP Highway Patrolman.
“In my career, I gave many, many, many death notifications, and it was always difficult, but to call her and give her that notification, I think that’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Stewart said, looking at his wife.
“It’s just the hardest loss ever. You never get over it. It’s been 15 years, there’s no timeline for grief,” Beth Ann added.
They can’t see Craig anymore, but they can still hold him with a scrapbook called a Hug Book, graciously made by Tammi Bailey for Craig’s parents and others who’ve lost a child.
Ronda Walker has one too.
“He loved fishing, from the time he was tiny,” Ronda said of her son, Denton, as she flipped through her Hug Book.
“Every time I do hold it, my heart starts pounding and I just feel like that Denton’s with me, every time I look at it, every time I hold it, every time I look through it.”
Denton was 18 when, in June of 2015, he drowned while swimming with friends.
“To have it all right here in this book, from the time he was born to the time he passed, is very special,” Ronda said.
Tammi pours long hours and love into every Hug Book she makes at Wagon Wheel Ranch Retreat in Chickasha, where scrapbookers across Oklahoma crop, cut and capture life’s memories.
“Tammi doesn’t let them pay in any way, everything is a donation, and her time and everything is a donation,” fellow scrapbooker Jelantha Elliott said.
And that’s why Jelantha nominated Tammi for a $400 Pay It 4Ward award from First Fidelity Bank’s Lynne Cross.
“On behalf of First Fidelity, I would like to present this money to Tammi, the recipient, for all the good she’s doing in the community for grieving parents,” Lynne said.
Jelantha planned the big surprise, asking Tammi to come to Wagon Wheel Ranch Retreat to help her teach a scrapbooking class. Instead, Tammi walked into a room full of people there to watch her well-deserved recognition.
“On behalf of First Fidelity Bank from Oklahoma City, we have a Pay It 4Ward so that you can continue to make Hug Books for all the people that you share your passion with,” Jelantha said to Tammi. “$400 worth of scrapbook supplies!” Jelantha said to a teary-eyed Tammi.
After a long hug, Tammi looked around the room and said, “I wondered why there so many cars here! Hi, guys! Wow!”
Tammi’s priceless treasures started when she nearly lost her own son, Rusty, to cancer.
“God graced us and healed him,” she said. “The families that have lost a child, they don’t have that child to hug anymore. So, I want to give them something that they can actually physically hug. Once I get their pictures, it’s like an 8 to 5 job. I work continuously only on that book until I get it finished,” Tammi said.
“She’ll never know how much it means to everybody that she does these for,” Ronda said, smiling.
Including Izzie, who is now old enough to drive, and only remembers her dad through Tammi’s irreplaceable gift.
“You know, she didn’t really know her dad, but through this book she knows her dad,” Stewart said. “There’s a lot of love in this book.”
As you can imagine, Tammi has many books in the making ahead, so we ask that you please do not ask for a book of your own. However, if you’re interested in doing your own scrapbooking, you can find Wagon Wheel Ranch Retreat in Chickasha on Facebook.
Pay It 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.