There are several features that little Cody and David have that remind their mothers of the little ones’ daddies, but there’s something about those ears of both.
“Sloan would love it that he and Cody have the same wrinkly ears,” Liesl Everett said. “He would be so proud of him.”
David, almost 2 months old, reminds Sierra Koch, his mother, of his dad most when he’s happy.
“When he smiles,” she said, “it’s his dad’s smile.”
The two women lost their husbands to the March 6 wildfires that scorched the Texas Panhandle.
Cade Koch, 25, left his job at a lumber store in Canadian, hurrying the 26 miles to home and Sierra when he was overcome by the smoke and the fire five miles from his destination on Highway 305.
Sloan Everett — along with Cody Crockett and his girlfriend, Sydney Wallace — were attempting to rescue cattle on the Gething Ranch near McLean that night when a sudden shift of wind turned the fire’s fury onto the three of them. All three died.
That day, in the tiny town of Lipscomb, Sierra Koch was waiting, six weeks pregnant.
Only a month before, the newlyweds got the news and had a cake made with the words, “I’m Pregnant!”
In Amarillo, Liesl was with her parents and her two children, Scarlett, now 4, and Samuel, 2½. She was 3½ months pregnant with their third child.
Two women with young sons their fathers never saw, but also daily reminders of the men they loved, the fathers they were and could have been. It is both sweet and sad — the innocence of infants who carry their fathers’ likeness and the emptiness of a daddy not there.
“The first few days after Sloan died, I was almost sick at the thought that I was pregnant and widowed,” Liesl said. “It was a painful reality. But after finding out Cody was a boy, God again gave me so much peace. I realized how grateful I was to still have my children. They give me joy and purpose.”
Sierra moved from the northeast part of the Texas Panhandle to Hobbs, N.M., where her parents live, about a week after the funeral in March. Each day has brought its own challenges. David was born Oct. 28 at Lea County Hospital in Hobbs, weighing 7 pounds, 13 ounces.
“He has been the light at the end of a very dark tunnel,” Sierra said of her son. “He saved me because I don’t know if I could have gone at it alone without him. It helped me a great deal. I felt like I would have sunk to a very dark place without him.”
Cade always liked the name David because of King David’s Old Testament strength. Alan was Cade’s middle name.
“He thought David was a very strong name,” she said.
Liesl said she and Sloan had only discussed girls names in the early months of her pregnancy. When she found she was having a boy, all previous name discussions no longer mattered. On Aug. 22, Liesl gave birth to 7-pound, 2-ounce Cody James Everett.
Like Sierra did, Liesl took one of the names of her husband, James, but as for her son’s first name, that went to Sloan’s friend, the young McLean cowboy he was with at the desperate and courageous end of their lives.
“Knowing Cody Crockett died before having children of his own, I thought naming my son Cody would give Cody Crockett a legacy of his own,” Liesl said. “I know Sloan would approve and be happy with the name.”
When she told Kristie, Cody’s mother, of her son’s name, they both cried together.
There have been tears for both women in the more than nine months since that awful March Monday. It has been an emotional wave that only they and they alone know — torn by the loss of a husband, tethered by a newborn. Liesl especially has found strength in knowing those who have unexpectedly lost spouses as well as her strong Christian faith.
“God has supernaturally comforted me and calmed my heart and mind to allow me to make the countless decisions that had to be made those first few days,” she said. “And he has continued to give me peace. This doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t ache or that I’m not incredibly sad and lonely. I hurt deeply, but I hurt with hope.”
Christmas can bring its own hurt — often a reminder of whose names are no longer on presents and the specialness of a holiday no longer to share. At least Sierra and Liesl knew and loved the fathers of their infant sons. It will be up to them to convey that to David and Cody as they get older.
Sierra has already prepared a “Daddy Book” — the story of how she and Cade met, how Cade came into her life after an abusive relationship, how they ate frozen pickles and watched “The Hunger Games” on their first date. She will have the cards and letters many wrote about his daddy for David to read.
Liesl will one day tell Cody of the humility of his daddy, that he loved the Lord with all his heart.
“He put Christ first, others second and himself third,” she said. “He knew our lives were just a vapor and we had to make the most of each day that God has given us.”
Like the David whom Sierra’s son is named after, Liesl wants her son to know that his daddy, too, was a man after God’s own heart.
These two mothers have never met, but are tied together from a terrible tragedy. They will one day convey the same message but maybe in a different manner:
“I just want my son to know what a great man his daddy was,” Sierra said.
Jon Mark Beilue is an AGN Media columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 806-345-3318. Twitter: @jonmarkbeilue.