Mama and Papa. Blueberries. Bananas. Avocado toast. Big, yellow Tonka truck. Hockey. Being chased up and down the hallway. Sesame Street. Cuddling. Nana and Pappy. Grandma and Grandpa Beck. Uncle Jess. His cousin, P. His Uncle T.J. and Aunt Blair. His “Unca” Brandon. Aunt Lauren and Uncle Roger. Auntie Dawn. Our neighbors. Maggie Rogers. Miles and his new puppy, Archie.
These are just a few things my son loved.
His son. Me. Miles and Archie. Our entire family. Friends. Mushroom foraging. Wildflowers. Bees. Bats. The outdoors. Neil Young. Serenading me. Outter space. Work. Chess. The Pens. Howard Stern. Learning. Teaching. Letting me know when I was “causing a scene” or “doing it wrong”. Too much time spent making Coco Wheats.
These are just a few things my husband loved.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you to know who Anderson and Aaron Beck were when we were all so blessed to have them here, not just the tragic way their lives ended. I want you to know that our home was filled with constant love, endless laughter, and belting out all of the songs on Sesame Street and every toy that played music along with the most awful dance moves we could possibly teach our toddler. We were pretty ordinary people but how we loved each other was massively profound. I regularly thought about whether other families were this in love with their children and partners. If not, I felt bad for them. I was so lucky. I was so happy. I finally found my reason. My purpose. After an entire life of constant loneliness, abandonment, and not feeling worthy, I finally found who I was and what I was great at, what I was born to do. That was being Anderson’s Mama and Aaron’s wife.
What seemed like such an ordinary morning now shows all of the signs that everything can change within hours with the slightest off routine actions.
Anderson had developed a temperature on Sunday afternoon, June 26th. Monday morning, I notified his teachers at childcare that he would be absent due to that fever, in which I was adhering to their 24 hour fever-free policy but also let them know he was already on the mend. They responded almost immediately at 8:50 am sending him wishes to feel better and thanked me for letting them know. Aaron and I split both of our work days in half, teaming up to care for our baby while still trying to get work done. Aaron stayed with him in the morning and I took over around lunch time. I sent my husband pictures that afternoon of Anderson sitting at the table, eating lunch, with his foot propped up near his plate, letting him know he no longer had a temperature and felt better.
That night, like so many others, Anderson woke up and wanted to be cuddled. I loved when he slept in bed with us, so I, of course, obliged. He had woken up early Tuesday morning wanting water. He felt warm to me but did not have a fever. I immediately requested the day off in case I had to keep him home again but realized afterwards it was just due to wearing a long sleeve sleeper in between Aaron and myself under a heavy duvet. It was a little after 6 am when he woke up, bright eyed and bushy tailed. I brought him downstairs, turned-on TV for him, and made him avocado toast and sliced a banana for him since he kept pointing to the fruit basket. I’ll never forget sitting next to him on the couch watching him be so interested in Handy Manny, a show we had never watched before. The way he and I would slowly look at each other and quickly turn our heads away and laugh together that morning is something I’ll never forget.
I told Aaron that I didn’t think there was any reason to keep him home since he felt fine since yesterday and was negative for covid. I asked if he would take him to daycare and let the girls know that if he does start not feeling well, I would come get him but was going to text my manager to put me back on the schedule. They walked out the door that morning a little earlier than usual.
It was 8:10 am now and I was waiting for my manager to let me know it was okay to log in and work. I went upstairs to grab Anderson’s laundry and heard the downstairs door open. I’m not sure why I panicked at that very moment, but I immediately asked “what’s wrong?”. My husband responded with, “Nothing. I just forgot my phone.” I told Aaron I put it on the coffee table for him, in which he thanked me. I told him to be safe and I loved him. That was the last time I saw my husband and my son alive.
I started my morning at work in my office, scrolling through personal emails in between calls. I noticed I forgot to sign up for 4th of July decorations in Anderson’s classroom for that Friday. Confirmation email received at 9:06 am. Shortly after, I realized I had not received any notifications about breakfast, diaper changes, nothing, so I sent a message via the childcare app asking how Anderson was doing today.
I’ll never forget looking at my phone showing his school calling while I was on a work call. I immediately called back and heard “Anderson isn’t here today”. I felt as if I was going to vomit, arguing that he was there and Aaron had dropped him off. Staff double checked by walking into his classroom that morning. I could hear his classmates in the background. I could hear her ask his teachers if he was there. I can still hear them reply, “no”. I didn’t even say goodbye. I just hung up and called my husband.
When Aaron picked up the phone, I started yelling “Where is Anderson?” His response to me was “What do you mean?”. He had no idea. No recollection. When I told him Anderson wasn’t at daycare, I heard the panic in his voice and the call dropped.
Now I’m panicking, trying to get my shoes on while calling Aaron over and over again. He answered and all I could hear was him crying, saying “No, no, no. I have to go, let me go. This isn’t good. Please, no.” I don’t even think I said anything else at that point. I hung up, jumped in my car and dialed 911.
By the time I got to his work, the parking lot was filled with police but no sign of Aaron, Anderson, or the car.
I received a text from Aaron saying “go to hospital”. “Now”. I replied with “What hospital?” but got no response. No answer to the numerous calls I made to him. And then one of the police asked if we had our locations turned on. There he was. At our home. Not work. Not the hospital. At our home. My nextdoor neighbor, Ronda, was called by police and asked to come to his work to be with me while we waited for the police to get to our house.
I remember laying in the grass, crying, wondering if I was having a nightmare. There was no way all of this was happening. Where was my baby? Where was my husband?
I’ll never forget Aaron’s voice and what he said to me. My last conversation with Aaron was him telling me that he killed our son. He was sorry. He loved me. And that he has to do this. I didn’t know what “this” was. All I could hear was “I killed our son”. There was nothing else to process. My world had crumbled. I broke.
One of the officers took my phone and I could hear Aaron screaming, “please make sure my wife can hear me. Please tell her I love her and I’m sorry”. From there I have no idea what was happening other than I heard the officers turn their radio volumes down and someone say that Aaron told them they’d find his body in the woods behind our house. To this day, I don’t think I actually acknowledged what was said. I was still stuck in the moment I learned my son was gone. I kept asking where he was, but all I I was given was they weren’t sure yet.
Here comes an officer, kneeling down in front of me, “Anderson and Aaron are no longer with us”.
What the hell does that even mean? I think I lost my entire mind in that moment. I don’t think I could say anything but “no”. I was put on a stretcher, shoved into the back of an ambulance, questioned by a detective, and being taken to the hospital. Why am I going to the hospital? I’m not hurt. I need to be with them.
Why didn’t I just keep him home? Why did I change my schedule back to working? Why did I not realize that no phone calls or messages from his school was odd all morning? I blamed myself for all of it. How did Aaron make a left at the end of our road instead of going right? How did he get all the way to where he was going without hearing a peep from Anderson? I learned from his co-workers that someone even asked him that morning how Anderson was feeling and he responded to them stating he was doing fine, just a little fever. It’s like Aaron was stuck on Monday. I will never know if it was him forgetting his phone that morning that threw him off track, or maybe the stress of work, maybe lack of sleep that night. I will never know. What I do now know is that his text telling me to go to the hospital was his way of getting me out of the house before he got there so I did not see our son laying lifeless on our couch where he laid him and him scrambling to get the shotgun out of the gun safe. Aaron was not suicidal. But he panicked in that moment. He knew he could never forgive himself. Imagine yourself in his shoes. Opening the car door to see your child laying there buckled in his car seat. Dead. The emotions he felt. Being in his final moments, blaming himself.
Aaron isn’t here to talk to me about it. He’s not here to grieve with me. Instead, he laid in a coffin holding our son in his arms, while I looked for just an ounce of strength to stand at that podium beside them and speak at their funeral.
Would a phone call from school have changed this outcome? Possibly. Would it had been helpful to know there were devices out there that connect to car seats to detect when a child is left in the car? Absolutely. Is it helpful to be naive and think “how could someone forget their child?” Definitely not. Ignorance is not always bliss. Just because newer cars have alerts to check the backseat, just because there are devices that can be purchased, just because there is an entire community of families that have lost their children due to these kinds of tragedies, does NOT make us less of an amazing parent. It does not mean that you should be too proud to educate yourself on such a horrific topic. Please do not be the person that passes judgment on someone’s parenting when this happens. I strongly urge you to consider my nightmare as a way to prevent this from happening to your child and avoid the heartache. It is 100% preventable.
I promise you that I will spend the rest of my days on this Earth, bringing awareness and advocating in my husband and son’s honor. Even though this community has been so supportive, I can assure you it’s not one that you want to become a part of due to loss.
Voice for both.