BOSTON (CBS) – “Through this experience, I’ve learned that having grief and such pain—you can also have joy and such hope.” – Alissa Silva
Sometimes the only way to find meaning in a terrible loss is reach out—to use that pain to try to help other people. That is exactly how Alissa and Kevin Silva channeled their grief. Their baby boy, Mason, came into the world on April 5, 2013. He was their first child and the center of their life. He was an easy baby. He slept through the night not long after he was born, he smiled a lot and he had a big laugh for a little guy.
When Mason got sick six months later, Alissa initially assumed it was just a bug. But tests confirmed it was something far worse. Mason had a syndrome that would almost surely lead to leukemia…and it did. The family was in for the battle of their lives.
Alissa began sharing their experiences—the highs and the lows—on Facebook. Each day, more people followed until more than 21,000 people were reading the “Baby Mason Updates.”
The page helped create a huge support system for a family spending almost all its time in isolation at Boston Children’s Hospital. Through it all, Alissa says, Mason kept smiling. He would have a particularly uncomfortable treatment and then, within minutes, would crawl into her arms or Kevin’s arms for hugs and laughter.
Mason had chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. He was even, far too briefly, declared “cancer free” and was able to go home from the hospital.
But that good health did not last. Mason died on April 28, 2014, just 23 days after his first birthday.
Alissa considered giving up the Facebook page. But she decided to keep it going in Mason’s memory. Her followers responded with messages, prayers and, in some cases, a vow to do good things in Mason’s name. One woman, in New York, wrote that she and her children would honor Mason’s birthday by performing a random act of kindness on the 5th of every month in Mason’s birthday.
“It felt good to have people still care and remember him, “Alissa says.
“Your biggest fear, as a parent, is that people will forget.” Kevin adds, “Or that they’ll stop talking about your child.”
Now, the Silvas are ready to launch their own effort in Mason’s name. In honor of what would be his second birthday, they are launching a drive for new books for kids at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Kids undergoing cancer treatment cannot be exposed to germs. So it is imperative that all donated books be brand new. Alissa says it gives their grief some meaning to know that other kids will smile because of Mason.
The couple is also getting ready to celebrate a new arrival. Later this month, Alissa will give birth to a baby girl. The couple says they had mixed emotions when they found out they were pregnant. But they always knew that, someday, they would want to give Mason a brother or a sister. And they knew that having a sibling would have made him happy. They spent some of New England’s now-infamous “snow days” setting up the baby’s nursery. What does Alissa want her daughter to know about her big brother? “He is always watching over her.”
Even though he’s not with them physically, Mason is still a huge part of their lives. “You can always have a piece of a broken heart. But you can mend it in other ways and find balance,” Alissa says, through tears. “We want him to be proud of who we are and how we honored him.”
To donate books in memory of Mason Silva, send new (not used) books to:
Baby Mason’s Book Drive
Attn: GPS Inc.
12 New Rd
Newfields, NH 03856