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Mom Has Sandbox Placed at Son's Grave for the Sweetest Reason

Parents help son mourn brother by placing sandbox at grave

Like most big brothers, 3-year-old Tucker Jolley was pretty eager to play with his new little brother. But as soon as little Ryan Michael was born on October 11, 2013, it was clear to doctors that he wasn't going to make it. The newborn suffered from Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy, or HIE, which occurs when the oxygen flow to the brain simply stops. And though the brave little boy fought hard for five long days, he sadly passed away on October 16.

For the entire Jolley family, the loss was unbearable. But for the boy's 3-year-old brother Tucker, it was harder to grasp. That's why his mom, Ashlee Hammac, decided to do something a little special for both her sons—to help Ryan's memory live on, and to help Tucker mourn. She arranged for a customized grave to be constructed for Ryan—complete with a sandbox in front, so little Tucker could "play" with his brother when he comes to visit.

"The more I thought about it, the more I wanted something my other son Tucker could be incorporated in," Hammac told People. "He always goes out there with me, and sits out there, and sings lullabies, and talks to him just like he was there. So I wanted it to be special for him, too. His favorite thing right now is trucks."

A photo of the grave was shared on Facebook by his grandmother, Cindy, and shows the toddler happily driving his toy trucks through the blue sand. The touching snapshot was shared on the page for Sawyer's Heart Project, a group that helps parents grieving the loss of a child.

As Hammac told People.com, the response since the image has gone viral has been pretty overwhelming, to say the least. The family has since started its own nonprofit, Pages to Memories, which helps raise awareness about Ryan's condition, HIE, and fund research. On its Facebook page, the family often posts photos from Ryan's short time on Earth. Here is one of them, featuring Ryan and Tucker, which was also posted to the Facebook page:

And just to get you even more emotional, here's a photo montage Ryan's grandmother made of his photos:

If you were crying 10 seconds into this video, we're right there with you. But here's one spot of good news to lift your spirits: Ryan's heart was used to save the life of another baby, not long after he passed.

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