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Posted on Sun, May 13, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

A year of loss: Saline's Missy Caulk marks first Mother's Day after deaths of son, granddaughter

By Janet Miller

When Missy Caulk was raising her five children, she was a self-described helicopter parent: She was a member of a network of parents in Saline who kept tabs on each other's kids and she didn’t miss a single football game, violin recital or school concert.

So it’s no surprise, she says now, that she wants to know what middle child Jamie is doing in heaven.


Missy Caulk shows a painting of her late son and late granddaughter that a friend did for her after their deaths. Caulk lost her 27-year-old son Jamie in a car accident last October, and weeks later her newborn granddaughter, Lillian, died suddenly.

Janet Miller | For

“Being a helicopter mom, I want to know what he’s doing. What he’s up to. Is he writing music? Is he working? What’s it like?” Caulk said.

By any measure, the past year has been a difficult one for Caulk, an Ann Arbor area Realtor, and her family.

She lost her 27-year-old son Jamie in a car accident near Nashville, Tenn., last October, and weeks later her newborn granddaughter, Lillian, died suddenly.

Friends and neighbors hadn’t stopped bringing over nightly meals after Jamie’s accident when 11-week-old Lillian died in her crib.

On this Mother’s Day, as Caulk continues to sort through the double heartbreak, she knows what could have broken a family of faith has instead made it stronger. And through the pain and struggle, Caulk manages a sense of humor.

“We all have had bad days,” she said. “The problem with having a big family is that someone is always having a bad day.”

Caulk’s four other children say that artistic, athletic, sensitive Jamie was their mother’s favorite. While Caulk says that’s untrue -- you love each child differently, she says -- she was close to Jamie, keeping connected with four of five daily text messages. “Jamie and I could always really talk,” she said.

His death has changed her, Caulk said.

“I’ve always been entrepreneurial, a starter, goal-oriented. But losing Jamie has caused me to slow down, to focus on what’s important. I’m more compassionate. I have an eye on eternity now.”

Caulk rises each morning and listens to recordings of Jamie playing music he composed. She makes sure she finds time for solitude. Each day, she reads something new about heaven, looking for a way to understand Jamie’s death and what’s ahead.

“I’m a digger so I’ve been doing a lot of research,” Caulk said. “I know he’s not alive, but death is an interruption. It’s not final. I’m still mourning, but it’s not hopeless,” Caulk said.

“You don’t get over something like this,” Caulk said. “Someone said that when you lose a child, it’s like having your arm cut off. You survive, but you’re never the same. That’s the place I am right now.”


The late Jamie Caulk holds his niece Lillian Elizabeth Caulk.

Courtesy of Allyssa Caulk

There have been a number of what Caulk calls “God nods,” ways that Jamie is showing himself, she said. When she came home to an empty house, she heard him call her, she said. “No one can take that away from me.” When oldest daughter Christa was sitting outside one day feeling the sadness of the loss of her brother, a butterfly landed on a nearby rosebush she had planted with Jamie, Caulk said. “He’s looking after us.”

Still, the days can be difficult and Mother’s Day won’t be easy.

“I loved being a mother,” Caulk said. “That was the most important thing. I went into real estate so I could have a flexible schedule, so I could be with them when they needed me.”

When Caulk married her husband, Mike, they knew they wanted four children. They were lucky enough to have five, in rapid fire, over 10 years, she said.

The Caulks moved to the Ann Arbor area in 1981, when Mike took a job with a University of Michigan Christian organization and became known as “Preacher Mike,” for his open air preaching on the Diag. Nowadays, he teaches at Belleville High School.

“We had a blast raising our kids,” Caulk said. When the couple would have a rare couple’s night out, they would end up talking about the kids, hurrying home after a couple of hours.

But she was also happy to see them launch. “When Christa graduated from Saline High School, she asked me if I was going to cry. I said ‘Are you crazy? I’m saying Halleluiah,’” Caulk said. The joy came, she said, from watching them grow up.

But this Mother’s Day will be far removed from two years ago, when Jamie and his brother, Matthew, drove through the night to surprise their mother. Her family will be nearby, but it will be low-key, perhaps working on the family’s cottage in the Irish Hills, a place that holds happy memories.

“Jamie never let a Mother’s Day go by without flowers or a card,” Caulk said.

While Jamie’s death was a mother’s nightmare, watching her youngest child, Allyssa, struggle with the loss of baby Lillian has been even harder, Caulk said. Lillian was the light, even on the heels of Jamie’s death. Her loss caused a huge hole, Caulk said.

“She was the joy, and then to lose her was awful,” Caulk said. “When Jamie died, I didn’t ask God why. God is sovereign. But when Lillian died, I wanted to know why. I still want to know why.”

Still, her family is intact, strong and faithful.

“This is where the rubber hits the road,” Caulk said. “Something like this either makes your faith stronger or it shows that you really didn’t believe. This has made us stronger. We absolutely couldn’t have gone through this without personal faith. If you don’t have God to hold onto, you can bury yourself in your own sadness.”


car wreck

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 9:30 a.m.

Well it really very heart touching story. Glad things weren't worse & I Pray for better life..God Bless... Injuries from car accidents represent some of the most serious injuries we've seen . These accidents cause injuries ranging from the less severe but long-term, like soft tissue injuries and whiplash, to the very serious, like brain trauma, lacerations, disfigurement, and even wrongful death. We should contact car wreck lawyer as soon as possible.

Terry Star21

Sun, May 13, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

I think that this is a great story, a tribute to the love and strength of the Caulk family. It shows what love a mother has for her son and family and that is what this day, Mothers Day is all about.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. - Washington Irving


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.

Not for me. My mother thought singing was more important than her children.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

I am sorry for the loss, but this is the way acknowledges Mother's day? I am sure many Mothers have similar stories of grief, but is bringing up those memeries your intention? The medias fascination with death and bad news is astounding.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 11:07 p.m.

Adopted daughter is grateful for birth mother's sacrifice Mom's cooking inspires top kitchens - and yours Mother's Day is really about the memories that Moms create Take Mom to tea or a concert ... or gross her out at an eyeball ...


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

The Ann Arbor News had covered both of these when they occurred last fall and have been very gracious to my family through it. This story isn't about the loss but; about how my mother's strength has held us together THROUGH the tragedy. That's what it means to be a mother with unconditional love. God Bless You


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

"There are several articles to choose from to read about mothers today." Really? On Show me another... No disrespect, but this story is more suited for a personal blog headline, than as front page mothers day material for a city news website.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

There are several articles to choose from to read about mothers today. You didn't have to read this one if the topic turned you off.

Cathy Shukait

Sun, May 13, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

I am so sorry for you and for your family. I know your pain as I also lost a granddaughter. MIssing your son is awful but watching your daughters pain is the worse thing . Your son is with our God and once again he is holding beautiful Lily. You and Allysa have my thoughts and prayers as I spend the day being thankful for my five children and thirteen grandchildren. God Bless you !


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

Have you ever lost a child? If not, how can you say one is worse than the other? I would have to imagine that seeing a child die is worse then seeing them in emotional pain. People can and do surmount intense emotional pain. A mother can still hug and caress her pained child. She cannot do so with one that is dead. So how in God's name can you say the latter is worse than the former? Your statement is simply boggles the mind in terms of its absurdity I hope you never have to experience the loss of a child to realize how off base your statement is.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

I am the oldest child of the Caulk family, and what my beautiful mother would never mention because of her grace, strength and most importantly her love for us, is that she is the rock that holds us together. We take each day at a time, and when you wake up it's so uncertain how the grief will feel that day. Through that uncertainty though; we have had my mother. She has constantly prayed for us, challenged us and never let us fall even through this tragedy. My brother Jamie was always so proud that she was his mom. He would often tell me how blessed we were and that he truly believed we had the greatest mom in the world. I know that even and especially today; he's looking at her from Heaven with Lillian (our Lilly Bear) and saying the same thing. Thank you for who you are mom, you are an incredible gift from God to our family. I don't know what I would do without you!

Terry Star21

Sun, May 13, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

This is a very nice story about the love your mother had for you and your siblings, and so very appropriate for this day.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

Missy, Hang in there... Your an inspiration that we all need...


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 10:47 a.m.

Prayers & thoughts to you on this Mothers Day:)