JACKSON, Mich, (WLNS) – Finding the strength to keep going after suffering an unimaginable loss is a journey that started more than a decade ago for husband and wife Robert and Yvette Wilke.
Around 11 years ago, the couple’s newborn son RJ started to show signs he couldn’t breathe, a moment that would take a turn for the worst.
“He lost oxygen and he ended up passing away. He went to U of M for nine days and passed away,” said RJ’s mom Yvette Wilkie.
In the days and weeks that followed both struggled to understand why.
“How could we make it though this you know to walk home to an empty crib you know our son’s room was completely done with custom names RJ’s all over the wall,” said Vbette.
The process to grieve is one of ups and downs, but months later Yvette discovered healing in an unexpected place by baking sweets for her family.
“It just became like therapy for me.”
It’s healing that took them on a new journey to open up this ice cream shop called RJ’s Metropolitan Ice Cream Co. Open in downtown Jackson, it’s a place that was recently awarded as one of the best small businesses in Michigan.
“My wife has always said that I want everybody to know RJ’S name and so it just means the world to us. You know to do it for him, do it for my daughter and just do it for our family, our community,” said Co-Owner, and RJ’s dad, Robert Wilkie.
A community that’s proud of this family.
“A family that has really come through the trials but has shown and revealed their character and their heart throughout the whole process,” said friend and customer, Chris Heydenburg.
So every day when they come to work RJ’s name is never far away. With his arms raised high he’s close by, looking over the shoulders of mom and dad.
“In a lot of ways I feel like this is my connection to my son. I feel like he’s my baby angel. I feel like you are not here but mommy’s going to make you proud,” said Yvette.
It’s a story they hope inspires others to keep going.
“You can turn you pain into purpose you know you don’t have to you know turn to this or that you can turn and put your hope into something positive and encouraging,” said Yvette.
It’s a purpose they say is just getting started.