Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ava Elliot Thornton

I first learned about Ava from her maternal grandmother, Ann Breedlove. If you have ever conducted family history research in the Kosciusko Library, it is likely that you have met Ann. She works in the library's great Genealogy Room. Ann and I communciate by emailing each other fairly often, and it was in one of her emails that I learned about Ava. She told me about Julie and Mark, her daughter and son-in-law, who had recently found out about a possible problem with Julie's pregnancy. Ann shared her concerns for her daughter and son-in-law and asked that I remember them in my prayers, and I promised to do so.

As Julie's pregnancy progressed, the doctor continued to monitor the baby's development very carefully, and in early Spring, Julie's doctor ran some more tests, and the couple's families continued to pray for a good report. In an email from Ann, she described how worried she was about Julie, her husband, and their extended families. Also awaiting the new baby's birth was four-year old Annelise. The results of those tests, Ann told me in a later email, that Julie and Mark had been told the baby girl Julie was carrying could possibly have Down Syndrome and a condition known as Cystic Hygroma. As a mother and a grandmother, I felt Ann's pain and shared her concerns.

In late Spring, Ann told me that her granddaughter, now named "Ava," would be delivered by C-Section on June 30, 2009. She also told me that Julie was scheduled to have a sonogram a few weeks before the scheduled birth.

On Thursday before Father's Day, Julie had a sonogram. The test showed that although Ava was a Down Syndrome baby, her overall health was good, and her heart was functioning in all chambers. At the time of the sonogram, Ava was said to have weighed slightly over over 7 lbs. Mark and Julie and their respective families were encouraged by the results that Ava was healthy.

On Saturday, June 20, 2009, Julie accompanied Mark, who writes for The Review, a newspaper in Laurel, Mississippi to the Mississippi Press Conference. The conference went well for Mark, who received 7 awards for his writing, and the newspaper received 17 awards, including one for "best small town newspaper." Julie and Mark were very happy. Late that afternoon, Julie realized she had not felt the baby move for several hours. Worried, she and Mark called the doctor, who told them to go to the hospital. At the hospital, she underwent testing, and the medical staff told Julie and Mark there was no heartbeat. It was just a few minutes before midnight when Julie called her mother to tell her about the baby.

Shortly after midnight, on Father's Day, Ava Eliot Thornton was delivered by C-Section, stillborn.

Ava was buried the following Thursday in Ann's family plot at the Kosciusko City Cemetery, beside the infant's maternal great-great-grandparents. Mark's best friend, Jim Truesdale, assisted by Rev. Marty Fields, Julie's and Mark's pastor at home, officiated at the gravesite service. Ava's funeral must have been truly heartfelt for Jim, since he and his wife had also suffered the loss of a stillborn child. Ann and Lane Townsend, her brother, sang "Farther Along," a song that Julie had requested.

Sometime during the week after Ava's funeral, I talked to Ann about writing this post about her granddaughter. Her response was that she would be honored if I did so. But it has taken me this long to write the post, primarily because it was a sad and painful task. When Ann told me that Mark had written Ava's obituary, it was beyond impossible for me to even imagine how he must have felt as he wrote the words that memorialized his own baby daughter's death.

Ava's obituary appeared in The Clarion Ledger, published on June 27, 2009, in Jackson, Mississippi, and in The Star Herald, Kosciusko's newspaper, on June 25th. A reprint of that obituary can be read below:

"Ava Eliot Thornton died Sunday, June 21, 2009, at South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel, MS.
She was a stillborn infant.
Though she never drew a breath, she had a tremendous impact on the lives of those who loved her and eagerly anticipated her arrival.

There was a graveside service Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 10 am at Kosciusko City Cemetery. Rev. Marty Fields, Jim Truesdell and Lane Townsend officiated the service. Jordan Funeral Home was in charge of the arrangements. Ava is survived by her parents, Mark and Julie Thornton, and sister, Annelise, all of Laurel; grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Wiley C. (Chuck) Thornton of Madison, Mr. and Mrs. Dwayne Breedlove of Conehatta and Ann Townsend Breedlove of Kosciusko; great-grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Townsend of Kosciusko; numerous aunts, uncles and other relatives.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Central Mississippi Down Syndrome Society, P.O. Box 2189 Brandon, MS 39043-2189; Ellisville State School, 1101 Highway 11 South Ellisville, MS 39437; St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105."

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