Dad Of Triplets That Lost His Wife Shares The Four Words That Keep Him Going

Those that say children are the future often forget to mention that raising “our future” is a boatload of work. It’s not necessarily for the faint of heart. Still, most of the time, people put in the effort, and the lucky ones usually have a partner to embark on the parenting journey alongside. Sadly, not everyone is so lucky.

When Charlie Whitmer was blessed with gorgeous, red-headed “gifts,” he should have been on top on the world. But then, tragedy struck. And while he soon found himself treading unknown parental waters, Charlie would stop at nothing to be the best father possible — no matter what it cost.

Ironically, 33-year-old Charlie Whitmer of West Town, Chicago, didn’t believe in bad luck; but when disaster struck during what appeared to be the happiest time of his life, he had to rethink that theory.

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In 2013, Charlie, a partner at a trading firm, was whisked away by the sight of Kathryn when the two first met at a Wrigleyville bar. They didn’t have one ounce of knowledge of what was to come of their romantic run-in.

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Charlie and Kathryn, who was an operations manager at an association management company, hit it off immediately. They built a marvelous, blissful relationship, and eventually went on to plan their August 2016 wedding. But something interrupted the joy.

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When mysterious bruises started appearing on Charlie’s body, along with regular activities causing him great fatigue, he knew something was off. But, surprisingly, he found these strange ailments oddly familiar.

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Charlie was diagnosed with aplastic anemia when he was just 15 years old. He had gotten a bone marrow transplant at the time, which had treated the condition for a period, but symptoms had sadly returned to haunt the lovebird in 2016.

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After visiting several doctors, Charlie decided to treat his condition with medication. After their glorious wedding, the gleaming newlyweds aimed to get a jump-start on making a family; but due to the drug he was prescribed, the Whitmers had to undergo fertility treatments to accomplish that goal.

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Incredibly, in December of 2017, Kathryn learned that she was, in fact, with child… or more so with children. She’d had two embryos implanted in her uterus, which could have led to a slew of various results. But the Whitmers’ were miraculous.

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When an ecstatic Charlie asked his glowing wife how many babies she was pregnant with (he assumed it would either be one, or a set of twins), she gleefully announced, “It’s three.” Since one of the eggs had split in two, and they were all successfully fertilized, the mama had three buns cooking in the oven.

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The pregnancy seemed to be going swimmingly towards the beginning, that is until Kathryn hit the 27-week mark. On memorial day of 2018, she awoke with a headache so severe that the couple promptly rushed to the hospital, only to be given dismal news.

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“I was in the waiting room … and someone came out and said, ‘Your wife has a big bleed in her brain,’ ” Charlie disclosed. “At that time, I didn’t know anything about what a brain bleed meant.” But Charlie insisted on staying optimistic, considering he had made a swell recovery after being ill, so why couldn’t Kathryn?

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Charlie and his golden-maned, blue-eyed wife were going to try to do whatever they could to have the healthy family they’d always dreamed of. While June of that year was the month that their sweet triplets were born, it was also a month full of grief and misery.

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The triplets, adorably named J.P., Bobby, and Arden, were born on June 4th, and, unfortunately, all in need of immediate medical attention. They were underweight, required CPR, and were rapidly taken to the NICU. Thankfully, the babies would be just fine. Kathryn, on the other hand, was a different story.

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Two days after Kathryn’s cesarean section, the ugly, life-threatening headache returned to wreak havoc on her fragile brain yet again. Kathryn was taken to undergo immediate brain surgery to rid the tissue of harmful pressure.

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Tragically, Kathryn never woke up. She never got to know her three perfect darlings. However, before she was officially affirmed “brain dead,” Charlie, who spent countless hours crying, his brother consoling him, wished for his babies to be caressed by their mother one last time.

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The triplets were gently placed in their mother’s unconscious arms, which led to a medical marvel unlike anything Kathryn’s neurologist, Dr. Kim, had ever seen. Tears flowed down Kathryn’s fading face, while unconsciousness still consumed her body.

Dr. Kim, in amazement, said: “I can’t explain that medically.” However, Dr. Kim did elaborate, having said that being close to brain death did not necessarily mean Kathryn couldn’t feel the warm presence of her beautiful children. It was heartwarming, to say the least.

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On June 8th, when the doctors officially disclosed to Charlie “Your wife has passed,” he knew this was a turning point that would be extremely arduous to overcome. But his babies needed him. With death came life, and he had to be thankful for the three gifts Kathryn had given him.

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Not only did she birth three new lives, but she also saved six others due to her organ donation, which only further proved Kathryn’s angelic character. Charlie would have to go on without her blessing of a presence.

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The new father and widower spent his very first Father’s Day in the neonatal intensive care unit, glued to the sides of his premature little ones. To make things even more heart-wrenching, this was the day after his wife’s funeral, which several doctors attended. Nothing would be the same for Charlie from that moment on.

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Although Charlie loved his job, he left it to focus on raising his little ones with full focus. He admitted that his dreams had to change once Kathryn passed. “You have to find hope, and you have to find some kind of joy,” Charlie explained. “All of this happened for a reason. It’s my job to find that.” His search for reasoning was beginning.

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In the spring of 2019, Charlie, along with a bountiful group of loving friends, family, and medical professionals who helped care for Kathryn, walked for the March of Dimes March for Babies walk in Grant Park, which focused on raising money for maternal, fetal and neonatal health. “Team Kathryn” incredibly raised $80,000.

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Prior to Kathryn’s tragic passing, Charlie was a chronic introvert, as Kathryn was the “people person” of the relationship. But since the loss of his wife, Charlie worked hard to let people in his life, “saying yes” to gracious help from others. Charlie was growing as a person, partially for his children.

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Charlie Whitmer often thinks of how his late wife invested time, energy, and love into her relationships, and she inspired him to do the same. “She had figured out the important things in life,” Charlie interpreted. “There’s still more for me to figure out.”

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He will figure out that the road to a mended heart is not easy, just as Chris Martin from Melbourne, Australia, discovered. When Chris was in his early twenties, his good friend introduced him to a cousin named Renee. The two did not click.

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Years after the introduction, however, after more than a handful of casual meetings, Chris and Renee ended up at the same party. It was there, hidden away from the thrum of music and the chattering of friends, that the two kissed for the first time.

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Soon, the two were in love, and fully in the beautiful honeymoon phase. Every moment was exciting, every touch, beautiful. But for them, the phase never ended, and in just a few years, they made the ultimate commitment.

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The two wed in a beautiful ceremony, and within years, they were raising a baby girl named Grace. In 2011, the couple delighted in the news that Renee was pregnant once more, this time with a boy. The honeymoon continued…

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…until doctors delivered the bad news. Renee had kidney cancer and in the span of a doctor’s sentence, the couple went from planning their family to planning how to tell their six-year-old daughter that mom was very sick.

“I remember the day telling Grace that we didn’t know whether we were going to be able to beat the germs in mum’s belly,” Chris said. “If we couldn’t that meant that mummy’s body wouldn’t be able to live anymore and she’d die.”

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The conversation was impossible both in its weight and its complexity, yet it paled in comparison to the 2013 conversation Chris had with his now-two children (Albi was born in 2011): at just 39 years old, their mother was dead.

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Devastated and single again, Chris pulled himself together for his kids. But trying to be both a mother and a father for them — while processing his own confusion and grief — nearly drove the dad to insanity.

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“I miss the companionship, the shared load, the daily debrief,” he recalled. “Those little moments in life are the things you tend not to think about, but they’re the things you miss the most.” He knew he needed a way to heal.

The kids helped. They gave him a purpose beyond himself, and more importantly, kept him focused on the present — not that hopeless, Renee-sized void staring at him from the future. But he needed something else. He needed a place to bear his soul.

So three years after Renee’s death, the Australian native started a blog — “Just a Dad.” One part self-therapy, one-part explanation to his family and friends. The blog helped single dads everywhere cope with loss and grief.

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Chris wrote and raised his kids, trying to build a functioning home with a crucial piece missing. He never forgot Renee, but as the years passed, perhaps the exact sound of her voice faded to a fragment of a memory.

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Time and writing ever-so-weakly stitched the wound of Renee’s passing, and slowly, Chris found happiness in raising his kids — he could smile again. That was, until 2018, when he faced yet another impossible moment in the grieving process.

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Chris chronicled that moment in a 2018 blog post titled Mourning Guilt. “I was logged into Renee’s email trying to find some information,” the dad wrote. “I was simply skimming the contents when I found something…”

In this particular email chain, Renee had been conspiring with Chris’s family about a surprise 40th birthday party she planned to throw for him in 2014. Even dying of cancer, she had still been thinking of celebrating her husband.

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What, exactly, Renee wrote about her husband, Chris kept to himself. Those were personal words he would cherish forever. But he shared that she’d so beautifully written about how much he meant to her.

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“It was as if I could hear her voice,” Chris wrote. “Something I haven’t heard for so long, in the words printed on the screen before me.” As he read, every emotion Chris had held back and suppressed over five years returned.

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“I was overcome by the same desperate sadness I remember so vividly after she passed,” he wrote. “I immediately felt the dreadful hollowness of being alone, of never being able to have exactly what I once did, again.” He continued…

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“The tears flowed and I felt terrible guilt,” he wrote. “Guilt that I hadn’t thought or felt these things for some time. Guilt that I had seemingly forgone these feelings in the pursuit of normality and, dare I say it, happiness…Guilt that I’m here and not her.”

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For his readers, Chris confronted that guilt. “Like everything else in life, it too passes,” he wrote. “But it serves as a reminder – like a hammer to my kneecap type reminder, that there is more to losing a loved one than the anticipated sadness, loneliness and longing.”

“There are no answers,” he added. “No solutions or no ways to manipulate the grief journey. It just has to happen. However it pans out, I just have to trust that I’ll be okay…It’s comforting to know I still care.”

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Before Chris posted his blog, he gave one last thank you to the woman he so dearly loved. “Even writing this all down has been cathartic and I feel lighter already,” he wrote. “So I guess I should say thanks, Renee, for still helping me out after all these years.”

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Chris’s dance with grief connected so many other suffering single fathers who were lost without their passed-on partners. By sharing his story, he hoped to show men that it’s okay to be vulnerable after a loss. “It’s cleansing. Healing. Normal.”

Just a Dad / Facebook

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