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Losing a Child: Always Andy's Mom

As a pediatrician, married mom of three biological children and one foster son, my life was busy, rushing off to my office four days a week, seeing patients for three and working as a medical director of a local physician organization for one. I balanced this with rushing off to shuttle my kids to after sports and other after school activities. All of this changed one day in August of 2018 when my 14 year old son, Andy, was killed in a car accident. I felt like my life was over, and in some ways it was over, and a new life was forced to begin in its place. 

Grief is seldom discussed openly in our culture, and the death of a child makes people feel even more uncomfortable. On this blog and podcast, ‘Losing a Child: Always Andy’s Mom’, the topic is approached openly and honestly, speaking to people who have lost loved ones and experts who help care for them. Whether you are a parent experiencing loss or someone who wants to support another going through this tragedy, this blog and podcast strives to offer hope and help.

Sep 9, 2021

Live in the moment.

When Joni's son, Martin, was dying from cancer at the age of 18, the family asked him if he had any words of advice for his newborn baby sister. His answer, "Live in the moment." Those four simple words pack a lot of punch when you really think about them. They remind us to appreciate each and every day. Don't worry about what might happen or what you might be missing. Just enjoy what you have.

Martin's medical history is about as complex as any I have had on the show. He was born in kidney failure and had to start dialysis as a newborn. He survived and even thrived after getting a kidney transplant. As a child, he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease and finally died after getting lymphoma as a teen. Throughout these years, Joni suffered with infertility and loss. She finally became pregnant with a healthy little girl and only gave birth a few short weeks before Martin died. 

If any family had a right to complain about their lot in life, it would have been this family. This is probably why they are so inspiring to me. They didn't grumble. They lived in the moment. When Martin's favorite NFL team, the Denver Broncos, made it to the Super Bowl, they went to the game. Was that a smart financial decision for them? Absolutely not, but they went anyway, enjoying the moment.

Right as Joni was giving birth to Marlee, the family was told the Martin was dying and could be discharged from the hospital to go into hospice care. They did not just make the decision to move him home, however. They decided to move their entire family from Oregon to Denver, Colorado where Martin had dreamed of living someday. There, with the support of a hospice team, this new family of four had a precious two weeks together before Martin died surrounded by his loving family. They, undoubtedly lived in the moment.

Today, 2 1/2 years later, Martin's family still lives in the moment and works to spread that message far and wide. They formed The NittyStrong Foundation (, to provide scholarships for teens as well as support children's athletics. Joni has even spent time working as a nurse in the very hospice that helped her own family get those precious last days with Martin. This is her gift to others so they can make their own special family moments in the last days of their own loved ones. What an amazing inspiration to us all to live in the moment each and every day.