Parents

Parents stage touching photo in tribute to late son: 'I see our entire family'

After Steven and Gloria Kimmel's son, Isaac, died a few months after his first birthday, the couple wanted a constant reminder that their son was still present with them every day.

So the Indiana parents each got an angel wing tattooed across their backs.

"We wanted to have a beautiful, physical reminder of his life and the promise of being with him in the afterlife," Gloria Kimmel told TODAY Parents. "He was half of each of us, so we each had one of his wings to hold us."

Gloria Kimmel
Isaac Kimmel died of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) shortly after his first birthday.

Isaac died in July 2015, after being diagnosed as an infant with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA,) a genetic disease that affects the nervous system and leads to debilitating and often fatal loss of muscle function.

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"To be living in 2014 and have medical professionals tell you to take your son home and love him as there was nothing they could do is just beyond comprehension," said Kimmel, adding that she and her husband spent Isaac's short life trying to make as many happy memories as possible by going to the beach, going camping and spending time together.

Gloria Kimmel
Gloria Kimmel with her son, Isaac.

"Knowing you have only a limited amount of time to make a lifetime's worth of memories, every moment becomes so precious," said Kimmel. "We never took anything for granted, and our lives with our baby boy were filled with as much happiness as we could fit in."

But Kimmel found a new hope when she became pregnant again.

The couple welcomed their second child, a daughter named Claire, in June 2017, and during her newborn photo shoot, they found a sweet way to remember their son.

Megan Miles Photography
The Kimmels welcomed their second child, a healthy baby girl named Claire, in June 2017.

"I just thought it would be so wonderful to have our memorial for our son be a part of Claire's photo shoot welcoming her into the world," said Kimmel, who thought of the idea for the photo — an image of baby Claire laying on her parents' wing tattoos — while trying to come up with a way to incorporate Isaac into the shoot.

"When I look at the photo, I see our entire family, with Isaac there with us," Kimmel continued. "It's a beautiful keepsake that we'll treasure for our whole lives."

Megan Miles Photography
Claire Kimmel rests on the backs of her parents, close to their angel wing tattoos intended to memorialize her older brother, Isaac.

Kimmel says the loss of Isaac has led her to appreciate every second she has with Claire.

"There are so many bittersweet moments when she reminds me of my son that I no longer get to hold in my arms," said Kimmel. "But I can feel Isaac's love as I look at her sweet face — he must have picked out her beautiful soul and sent her to us."

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