This has been a difficult season for my family in many ways. In the first six months of the year I almost lost my husband to cancer, my mom died suddenly of a stroke as she was shopping for a dress to wear to my daughter Madison’s wedding and Madison was married and is expecting our first grandchild in February. So much despair and so much joy all at once. That is what I think about when I think about Will and this season of life. Despair and Joy and finding that joy and having gratitude in the darkest days, knowing we are never alone.
Courtney’s writing is BEAUTIFUL. The most beautiful part about it to me is how her consistent faith in God’s WILL shines through every word. God’s baby Will and God’s will for Courtney’s family and so many touched by their story. I know she has many hard days but her faith has not wavered from the time before her babies were born until now. My mom works at SMEDS. The Hughes and the Corrs live within a couple of blocks of my parents. One of my best friend’s mother’s is best friends with Candy. Courtney is the top seller on my Beautycounter team which is spread out throughout the South. Through so many different vantage points, I saw the hope and faith of whole communities grow as miracle after miracle occurred and people clung to her perspective and confidence in God’s Will.
I lost our first baby boy on October 28th. He was born early in the morning and never took a breath on this Earth. Will’s story, and your strength, Courtney, have carried me through some of my darkest days. Sharing his story is one of the most selfless gifts you could ever give another woman who finds herself here with us. Will is perfect in every way. I like to think that as much as we wanted our precious babies here with us, God needed our sweet boys with Him more. They’re our guardian angels, waiting for us on the other side. Love to you, Courtney.
My story begins with Will’s older brother Joshua. Sweet Joshua was in my class while Courtney was pregnant and gave birth to Will and Caroline. We were excited and celebrated with Joshua each day as their birth date approached. The twins were born and Joshua was beaming with pride! (It’s always so special to watch students gain family members and come back to school and tell us all about their new brothers and sisters.) After the twins became sick and were in the hospital we prayed at every circle time with Joshua and the class. He would give us updates in his four year old way and we would continue to to pray for them. In March during circle time we were praying for all those who are sick or sad like we usually did and Joshua spoke up to correct us that Will wasn’t sick anymore. We asked him again, and he said so angelically, “Will is not sick anymore, he is not in pain, he is with God in heaven” our eyes teared up as we now understood but I couldn’t help but push back my tears and the sadness because I was in total awe of sweet, loving Joshua. I didn’t cry, I smiled and asked Joshua if I could give him a big hug. He came over so sweetly and I just felt his childlike innocence touch me so deeply. An incredible moment in my life, and it was created by a now five year old’s wisdom. Joshua’s parents’ unwavering faith had traveled through him to me. Will Hughes and his amazing family have inspired me in so many ways, but mostly in how they have taken such tragedy and turned it into charity and how they have raised such beautiful children that spread the Lord’s word with their childlike faith. Matthew 18:3 says “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” After that day with Joshua telling us about Will I am forever changed and encouraged to stop trying to ask God why but to trust his plan with childlike faith.
What Will taught me, was to pray. REALLY pray, REALLY hard. I'm so thankful that i decided to buy Beautycounter from Courtney because I prayed so hard every morning because I was reminded of you and your sweet babies, fighting for their lives. Will also taught me that social media is such a powerful tool to mobilize an army of prayer warriors. It has its downsides, but I prayed for the specific things you asked with each update and knew that I was doing something important in joining the fight. The last thing Will taught me was that God redeems pain. Which is different than making it go away - I know you will experience deep pain for the rest of your lives because of Will's passing, but the ways you are allowed God to use your pain will have more impact that you will ever know.
Will King will forever be remembered by me and my family. Although we have never met, and I never got to meet Will, we lived next door to you for 2 weeks. We were in the PICU with our then-two month old (Betsy) in what I have now learned was Caroline’s room. We were next door to you on March 6, 2018.
The PICU was a universe that I, like you, never really knew about. On arrival, I was scared and felt completely optionless. On one of our first days I remember passing you in the hall. (I am fairly certain you were coming back from that little room with a breast pump and I was on my way there.) And you smiled. I hadn’t even made eye contact with another parent. But in the midst of your fighting - which I knew nothing about - you smiled. This obviously impacted me and I wanted to thank you for that.
I know that March 6, 2018 was filled with unimaginable sadness for you and your family, and I am sure every moment is sealed in your memory. However, I wanted to offer my very small observations from the room next door (with our hospital-mandated open door during a particularly quiet period of our hospital stay): I remember there was a lot of activity in Will's room in the days leading up to the 6th. I didn’t know anything about his story or his diagnosis, but I was worried about the uptick. On the 6th, I saw people coming and going all day. Honestly, it seemed like every doctor at the hospital stopped by. Some people greeted each other with hugs and handshakes. At one point, I heard your husband's voice telling a story (not the specifics of the story, I could tell from his cadence that it was a “family story” type tale), and I heard cheer coming from the room. I heard a baby’s cry and then the room immediately erupt with laughter. From a complete outsider’s perspective, there was joy in the room that day. Again, I am in no way underestimating that day for you (and my observations were, of course, very limited), I guess I wanted to share this to underline my admiration of you, Will and the rest of your family. In reading your posts, I am also in awe of everything that you and your family internalized and took such great care to analyze while the twins were in the hospital. Will is lucky to have you as a mom, as are your other children. You provided Will with joy and comfort until his last moment here.
While we were in the PICU, we had a priest, who is a family friend, come to baptize Betsy. After he blessed her and said a few prayers, he talked to us for a little bit. He told us that we did what we needed to do as her parents, and that we were so blessed to have a facility like Wolfson’s in our community. Then, with a smile, he exclaimed that is incredible to KNOW that whatever happens in the coming days is already done. It is God’s will. He indicated that we should take comfort in knowing that Betsy’s life will unfold in accordance with God’s perfect plan.
I got (quietly) furious. How dare he suggest that my child in this state was AT ALL part of His will. The rest of the day I stewed over his words. Eventually I calmed and accepted it (to a degree). And it led me to my constant mantra for the remainder of my time at Wolfson’s: be still. I needed to be still and know - that we are blessed to have this facility, this trained medical staff and the insurance to afford it. Ultimately, I needed to be still and know that God’s will will be done. Later in the day, I saw Will’s name tag taped on the window to his room. And I immediately read it as “God’s Will.” I know this sounds a little reaching. However, the rest of our stay whenever I passed by his room, I thought of him as that - God’s Will.
In a very self-centered way, Will has impacted my life by reminding me of just that. While we were in the PICU, I had one simply prayer screaming through my body. Months later, it is very easy to get caught up in the small and the seemingly annoying, and to get bogged down in the unimportant. But I am reminded to be still and know. Will’s life one earth was 96 days long, but filled with such a fight and such a purpose. He lived and he fought every single day in a way I cannot comprehend. He showed you what a miracle — breathing when science suggested that he shouldn't. When God’s plan revealed itself, Will went where he was called. I am inspired by God’s Will, and I am honored to have lived next door to him.
Sweet Will, I want you to know that you matter and that your story has not only impacted my life, but also the lives of the children and families with whom I work. I’m a child psychologist, and one of the hardest parts of my job is telling parents that their kids have a learning or neurodevelopmental disability that will likely impact the trajectory of their lives. I spend a lot of time working with families to devise plans to support their kids. While I think about how I approach these situations with families often, your story has made me think about this part of my job much more deeply. Your mom has been incredibly brave and has shared many personal details about your story. Even though you and I never met, Will, and even though much of your story takes place in a hospital with doctors and nurses and not in an office with a psychologist, it has made me more self-aware and conscious of the way the families with whom I work are experiencing and interpreting our time together. Because of your family’s story, Will, I always think twice about the language that I use and the message that I convey with my words and my body. I try extra hard to be a professional who is compassionate, empathetic, and available for my clients, and thinking about you often helps me to achieve those things. You will always be remembered and loved, sweet Will.
In true Corr family fashion, Will King has a nickname. Had it during his brief time on earth. Had it during his fight to live. Still has it. God’s Will. If that doesn’t beat all.
I never got to meet Will personally. I did meet him through the tears of his
grandmother, through unceasing conversations with his Maker, and through the words from his mother’s broken heart. With determination and tenderness he persevered. He left his imprint on everyone he encountered. It takes a special guy to make putty out of a know-it-all doctor. He was a warrior to the end. Oh, that we should all have that tenacity, because this life can be quite stormy. He inspired his parents to help other babies like they helped him. They accepted the challenge and set up the Will King Foundation (get your shirt and sticker). They love him well.
I don’t think Will would want his mommy to be sad because he was a tough kind of guy. He tickled her with his twinkling eyes, though. He nuzzled close to her just before he left. He knew his mommy loved him, and he loved her back. My own William told me just yesterday to “chill” when I was a bit overworked about a trial he’s going through. Mothers just can’t help it. Our children are part of our hearts. When they hurt, we hurt. To lose one is to amputate part of the heart, and who can take that without some serious scar tissue?
The most amazing thing to me about this grievous event is how the Hughes are making it beautiful. Refusing to ignore or hide their pain, they’ve embraced it in a how-could-you sort of way. They are letting the light of God’s glory do its thing. They talk of His goodness. They’re giving thanks! They’re showing us their confidence that Will’s absence here points to his presence with Jesus. Isn’t that where we want to be? I do.
C.S. Lewis lost his wife to cancer. In A Grief Observed, he said, “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” I see this feeling in Courtney as she writes. I wish I could put up an umbrella to give her a small reprieve from that vastness, but an umbrella only helps in the rain. I don’t think it would help at all in the storm. I also think she needs, maybe even likes, to stand with her face to the wind of that storm. Just like God’s Will.
I thought about you last night when I put Merriweather to bed in her crib. The stars were out outside her window and I wondered what you might be doing in Heaven? I think about you a lot of nights, and also during a lot of days. Your mommy had this wonderful idea for us to share how your life has impacted ours, so I wanted to share a few of the ways…
When you and your sister were in the hospital together, and then you by yourself for two months, I watched in awe how your family worked together to ensure neither one of you were ever left alone. Your mom planned out a schedule, because she never leaves a detail undone. She is thoughtful and she is driven - just like you. You were both always cared for medically, of course, but above that, you were nurtured and loved on by your mother, father, Lala and Grandaddy.
I was reminded of the power of parents, whether we are a child or the adult. Your parents are some of the very finest and your grandparents are too. I was reminded that the role of a parent isn’t over when a child turns 18, or when they go off to college or get married or even start a family of their own. Your Lala told me how much she loved to read to you. Your dad spent every night at the hospital with you. Your mom passionately sought the best care for you, while she too was recovering and healing from childbirth. Your Granddaddy journaled so affectionately about your days. I was inspired and touched by their teamwork and selfless dedication. They have now worked together to create The Will King Foundation to honor you.
I want to be the same type of parent to my daughters, Eloise and Merriweather, and also the same type of grandparent, should they be so lucky to become mothers themselves. I have promised them I will be there to help them, at a moment’s notice. Sometimes that’s when things happen. Your experience taught me the power of parents and family and the impact you can have when working together. I was inspired by them and I am inspired by you. Each of you is incredibly special.
I enclosed a few pictures of Eloise and Merriweather with two of their favorite dolls. They are twin babies, “Will and Caroline”; named fondly after you and your sister. Eloise chose their names before you were born as we were all so eagerly and excitedly awaiting your arrival. We so wish you could be with us today and every day, but we take our sweet Will doll on many adventures and to many fun places. We are reminded of your beautiful life. Eloise likes to bring her Will doll to do fun things like ride on the swing at Boone Park. Our Caroline doll even went to Cashiers, NC this summer!
You’ve made an impact on us all. We won’t forget you, Will, and we promise to check on and love your parents and siblings. Joshua, Emma Grace and Caroline are some of our very best friends. In fact, Joshua was one of Eloise’s first friends. They met when Eloise was 6 months old. What a blessing your family has been to our family.
So tonight, I’ll look at the stars outside again when I put Merriweather to bed in her crib. I’ll think about you and the tremendous journey you went through here on earth and the unexpected journey of joy and sorrow your mother, especially, is braving through. She chooses joy and we love and admire that about her.
There are a few other special friends who have joined you in Heaven this year. A wonderful mother, Stephanie, and a fun little boy, Owens. Look for them if you can. They are among some of the brightest stars shining in Heaven – just like you, Will.
And The Markley Family
Honestly not a day goes by that I haven't thought of Will. Right there is a way he has impacted my life. He is a constant reminder to me how precious our children are to us. How in the midst of all the things spinning around us each day, where we need to be, what needs to be done, the chaos and the exhaustion, that how we are sharing with them God's love, through our words and actions is our most important task. That their lives are my greatest blessing. My children ask me big questions about God, questions I don't have great answers for. I think about Will everyday..as a mother and a friend to Will's mommy, how could I not think about him everyday. I don't have great answers to my own big questions about why his time on earth had to be so short. But the one thing I know is how clear it is that God had a huge purpose through him to change the lives of so many in so many ways. The impact that has taken place in such a short time is undoubtedly the work of the Lord. It was a plan for something great. The faithfulness of his parents to take something so heartbreaking and devastating and use it to bring hope to others for the glory of God is so inspiring, how could it not leave an impact on hearts and lives EVERYWHERE.
Will was on this earth for 96 day..and through his life, lives have been changed and saved and the impact of his life will go on for generations. Our days are important especially when we have the responsibility of raising a child in this world. Make the days count. This is what I am reminded of when I think of sweet Will.