The Live Like Jake Foundation exists to raise awareness for childhood drowning prevention, to provide financial and emotional support for families who have experienced a drowning accident and to provide scholarships for self-rescue swim lessons for families that cannot afford them.
A parent’s worse nightmare…
It was supposed to be a fun Thanksgiving weekend trip that started on Thursday, November 28, 2013 at Keri’s father’s house in Orlando where we ate lots of turkey and stuffing then stayed the night at a hotel on International Drive. We woke up and had a big breakfast at Denny’s with my dad and step mom. We were going to go play some mini golf but got stuck in serious traffic on I-drive so we decided to skip it. We then headed over to New Smyrna Beach where Roarke’s sister Robin and her husband Jim live to finish off our Thanksgiving weekend. We woke up Saturday morning November 30, 2013 and had a great day. Robin and Jim went and got their beautiful Christmas tree and we just played with all of the kids. Then just after 6 pm the last words ANY parent ever wants to hear “Where is Jake?” Keri was in the other room nursing our precious little daughter Julia who was 12 weeks old at the time when we heard those words that have forever changed our lives. Jake slipped out the back door in the pitch dark and fell off the dock into the intracoastal. There was so much screaming going on because we knew he was in there but it was so dark we couldn’t see anything. We have never felt so helpless in our entire life knowing that our baby needed us more than ever and we couldn’t save him. Roarke and Jim were going up and down the docks on the Jet Ski until finally Jim found Jake and the ambulance quickly took him to the hospital but they were not able to revive him. Roarke and I were in the room with him while they tried so hard to bring him back to us. We still can remember EVERY second so clearly and screaming for our baby to come back all the while knowing that he had gone straight to Heaven.
I hope that no parent EVER has to go through what we have gone through and that is why we are so passionate about drowning prevention and also helping other families who have either lost a child or have a child that has had a near drowning and is in hospital care. We wanted to share our story because we know a lot of you only know that Jake drowned but didn’t know how and where. We do not own a pool and do not live on the water so we weren’t in a real hurry with the swim lessons although he did take lessons over the summer. He wasn’t really taking to it and we were just going to try again next year when he was a little older and more cooperative. Our situation is different than most drowning cases because it was not a pool so whether his life would have been spared if he had done ISR lessons we will never know and that still makes us so sad every day thinking of it. We beg of you if you have a child that does not know how to self-rescue and is over 6 months old please please please get them in lessons. Also when you are on vacation in a different environment please be aware of your surroundings at ALL times because it only takes a few seconds for them to sneak away. We have gone to Robin and Jim’s home countless times with Jake and although we were always nervous of the water and made him wear a life jacket while on the dock, we NEVER imagined he would go out there by himself especially at night.
Thank you everyone for all of your prayers, love and support during this time. Please share this story with as many people as you can because if it saves just ONE life then we will know this is our purpose in life and why God chose us to carry out this mission and save other babies.
Love you all!
Keri and Roarke Morrison
We were getting ready and packing for our family trip to Orlando and New Smyrna to spend Thanksgiving with our families. I was looking for our waterproof camera and was unusually upset that I couldn’t find it for the trip. It was a camera that we used quite often for outdoor events and boating adventures to capture moments and memories of Jake growing up. I had been looking for it for the past few weeks prior to thanksgiving and was perplexed as to where it might be.
After Jake’s accident, we left New Smyrna and headed back home. One of the most painful experiences of his passing was having to drive home without him. Keri had never spent more than a day without him, and we always missed him if he wasn’t around so we always took him with us. He was part of us, and we never felt whole without him.
As soon as we got home, we had the unbearable task to plan his funeral a few days later…All we wanted was to share his memory and provide a funeral that he would be proud of us for. The main component to achieving that was to go through the thousands of pictures and videos we had of him. We were trying to find the best ones that captured the special boy that he was and the love and laughter we had all shared together.
After a late night of mourning and working on all the emotionally taxing arrangements that go along with burying a loved one, I needed to get out of the house and take a drive. It was the first time I had driven my truck since the accident. As I was driving something told me to look back into the back seat. As I looked back the first thing I saw was Jake’s car seat…I was immediately overwhelmed with grief and my stomach felt like it had been kicked…I Remembered then how much Jake loved riding in my truck and how proud and happy I was as a father when I installed the seat for him…I remembered how I use to take him on drives on nights that he had trouble getting to sleep, or if he was ever unhappy. There was a towel on his seat and I removed it hoping to find a favorite toy of his or something that reminded me of him. Under the towel was the camera that I had been looking for…I was little bit shocked since I looked everywhere for that camera, including my truck several times before. He was at that age where he loved iPad, phones, and cameras. He loved seeing pictures and watching videos, especially the ones he was in…He must have taken it out of the house and left it there without me knowing it.
I immediately drove home and uploaded the pictures onto the computer, hoping to find a great picture or video we had missed that we would want to use for the service slideshow. Browsing through the pictures and videos I was a little disappointed realizing that most of the files were already uploaded prior and that nothing new would be found…I then came across a file that we had taken at Keri’s sister’s pool a year ago. I remember looking at the photos a while back but never uploaded them. There were around 10 photos of that day and a video or two but one immediately caught my attention…It was the picture of Jake in the light… I knew immediately that it was a gift from up above and from that point forward it has given us so much comfort knowing that Jake is in “Good Hands”. Our Boy is “OK”!
On the surface, it is a picture of Jake wearing Keri’s shoes which we always found humorous, although I did have issues when he would put on her high heels and walk around in them :}
Underneath the surface we know exactly what the picture means and how amazing it really is…Jake loved shapes. His favorite shape which he called “kocko” was the triangle. The shape of the light around Jake. Colors of blue and scarlet can be seen in the light. Colors widely mentioned and significant in the bible… In the picture Jake has his head down like in prayer with his hands out and in large sandals, not of his own but of Jesus’… To have captured the light in the lens, in perfect placement around Jake and to have him in that pose is truly remarkable. If anyone were to try to re-create the photograph without Photoshop it would be near impossible… People with strong faith see the light as the Holy Spirit, or they say the rays of light around Jake are angel wings. Then there are the people who miss it completely and think it’s just a great photo of Jake…Usually they are the ones who are lacking in their Faith or do not have a direct relationship with Jesus Christ. Hopefully those who have faith can use this photo to strengthen their faith even more and spread it to others, and for those who are skeptical, maybe Jake’s story and picture can help guide them to finding the right path. We are surrounded by numerous miracles both past and present, gifts from God reminding us that he is with us and this world is not our final destination. Being human in this day and age, it’s easy to miss or discount these types of blessings. Keri and I hope and pray that in some way Jake’s story will inspire you to make positive changes in your life and see things in a different light and LIVE LIKE JAKE!
Every child is special and Jake was no exception. He almost always had a smile on his face, especially when he met people. He understood humor and had the ability to create his own happiness from all the good and wonderful things this life has to offer. He loved the simple things like lights, fans, frogs, spiders, lizards, shapes, the moon and his favorite thing, pushing his baby stroller around. Most of all he loved Keri and me, and he meant everything to us! Many times Jake would be playing with a toy and another child would come up and take it from him. He would look puzzled for a few seconds, wondering why the toy was so important to the other child, and then walk off like nothing ever happened. He would then turn around with a smile on his face and find something else that would entertain or fascinate him. He loved giving hugs and receiving them as well…We always wanted him with us because life felt so incomplete without him around. Even if he was sitting quietly in his car seat, his presence filled us with joy. In the 993 days he was with us, there were only 5 days he didn’t spend with us. He glowed with goodness, and his kind heart warmed everyone who met him. We never had to scold him. He knew no anger, lies, deceit, hurt or any of the negative emotions or circumstances we all encounter each day. He was a perfect soul in an imperfect world when he left us. Maybe that is the reason he is in heaven and not with us down here. What keeps us going and staying on the right path is knowing that our family will be reunited with Jake in the end. In 2 Samuel 12:23 David speaks about losing his infant son, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
What does it mean to Live Like Jake? Many people can remember how it was to be a child, full of life, fascinated with nature and the world around them…For Keri and I to “Live Like Jake” means living with no prejudgments, needing very little to be happy, not getting bogged down with petty things or inconsequential circumstances. Also, for us it means to try and be a positive spark to people we meet and to greet everyone with a smile. Many people have chimed in to let us know what “Live Like Jake” means to them. There are no wrong answers if it involves some kind of positive change in your life or the lives of others! You never get over losing a child; you only are only able to get through it and the only way to get through it is by faith. In honor of Jake, we try our best to keep a smile on our face, laugh when we can, and do our best to live everyday like our son Jake would have!
If Jake were asked what “Live Like Jake” means to him, I believe he would sum it up in these 7 points:
- See life through the eyes and heart of a child
- Have the ability to see the good in people
- Find happiness in the simplest of things, especially in nature
- Know the importance of a smile
- Be able to create your own happiness
- Be grateful for what you have and not bitter for what you don’t
- Realize that happiness is most valuable when it is shared