April 10th, 2012 was a day much anticipated by both the Shelton and Bebow families. Wes and Ella were opening another chapter in their lives with the birth of their first son, Taylor McKeen Shelton.
After many hours of labor, the time arrived and Taylor entered the world a healthy, beautiful baby.
From the very beginning, it was obvious to everyone who saw him; Taylor had a special spark – a touch of magic only God could give. He was quick to smile and found humor in almost everything. His laughter was infectious, just being around him had the ability to make a day brighter.
As he grew, not only did his body grow but so did his personality. Taylor had style, and style he had in abundance. Unlike most toddlers, Taylor loved wearing his hats and getting dressed up. Whether it was a fedora, a beanie or a newsboy – he looked great, and he knew it.
Changes were witnessed from not only Taylor but from both Wes and Ella. With the birth of Taylor, a part of their God-determined destiny was fulfilled. From the second Taylor was conceived, both Wes and Ella became singularly focused on what they could do to best provide for him. Their lives took on new meaning and they embraced those changes with vigor like none other. Things that once seemed so important no longer held the same importance. Their lives had new meaning and it could be summed up in being the best parents they could be to Taylor – and they worked every day to achieve that goal. Those who knew them watched with awe at the amazing parents they both were transforming into.
Whether it was researching and feeding him only the best organic foods, taking him to the kid’s gym or toddler music classes or planning for his bright future, they did everything they could think of to provide him the very best they could – and they did every day.
As Taylor grew, Wes and Ella became more and more secure in knowing that all of their plans were coming together to make their life as a family as close to perfect as they could possibly make it for all three of them.
As Robert Burn’s wrote in 1785, “The best laid plans o’ mice and men often go awry.”
On Saturday, June 15th, 2013, all of their plans came to a sudden crossroads that no one could have ever predicted. Taylor had been struggling with what presented as another ear infection, of which he had had several in the previous months. Ella took him to his pediatrician’s office the day before where he acted as if he felt fine, playing all the while in the waiting room.
He was prescribed another round of antibiotics and Ella was told to monitor his temperature, appetite and behavior. They returned home and had a relaxing night as a family. He ate well, had a bath and went to bed. His fever had dropped to near normal.
At 3:00 am Ella awoke and watched Taylor through the video monitor playing in his crib which he often did at that time of the morning. He had turned on his mobile and was just entertaining himself.
In the morning, when Wes went to get Taylor up he immediately knew something was terribly wrong. He was not breathing. The unimaginable was happening. They worked together to perform CPR and called the paramedics.
The paramedics arrived, assessed the situation and determined there was nothing more they could do.
In the blink of an eye, their dreams seemed to transform into nightmares. The center of their world was taken, only to be replaced with an empty pit filled with sorrow.
The following days became a blur of activity. Friends and family came from near and far to be close to them and support them in any way that was possible.
The memorial service was held on Friday, June 21st at Central United Methodist Church in Rogers, AR.
The next weeks brought incredible grief and pain as the reality of Taylor being gone began to set in – disbelief, confusion, anger.
We each struggled to find anything that we could hold on to that might comfort, that would ease the overwhelming pain that had settled into our souls.
In that process we reflected on Wes and Ella’s good friends, Patrick and Meredith Woodruff and how they had taken the tragedy of the death of their son Miller and made something wonderful in the “I’m With Miller Foundation.” Miller McNeil Woodruff, Patrick and Meredith’s son, was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, often a fatal disease that destroys the nerves controlling voluntary muscle movement, which affects crawling, walking, head and neck control and even swallowing. Miller lived for 87 days, but through Patrick, Meredith and the “I’m With Miller Foundation” his life continues to touch and help others, in ways that he could never have imagined. Patrick and Meredith are wonderful friends and great examples of one way to turn the worst of tragedies into something positive.
It was from that perspective the Taylor McKeen Shelton Foundation was born.