(UPDATE 11:11 a.m.): Forty-eight hours.
That’s all Natalie and Shawn Massecar had with baby Paisley before she succumbed to the congenital heart defect she was born with in June of this year at two days old.
Now all they have of their first and only daughter are memories of SickKids Hospital in Toronto and mementos, including a few photos and fragile clay moulds of her feet that stay on the mantle over the fireplace and never ever leave the house.
“The other night at 2 a.m. I heard a bang or something probably from outside,” Shawn said at his London office Thursday morning (Sept. 25). “But I jumped out of bed because my first thought was one of the moulds fell off the mantle. I hold them like someone would hold a baby. When they’re gone, they’re gone.”
Married three years ago this month, the St. Thomas couple can’t imagine losing them the way a family ripped apart by the Sept. 14 collision in Wingham that took the life of a newborn did last weekend in London.
“Losing Paisley in the first place is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but to lose the only things we have left … it’s not like the family had years’ worth of stuff or a room filled with memories. Those things are all they would have had.”
Natalie added it was “devastating” to hear of the theft.
“We don’t know what we would do without them,” she said. “It doesn’t make up for the loss but it helps.”
The now infamous crime played out on Homecoming weekend. The father of the deceased infant had parked his car at the Wellington Road hotel he and his son were staying at on Sept. 21, his wife still in critical condition at a London hospital.
According to police when he returned to it the next morning, the ornate oaken case containing a CD of photos and card memorializing the date of the baby’s death, a sleeper, knit hat and moulds of his feet, even a lock of his hair, had been stolen.
The crime became part of an uptrend in vehicle break-ins in London. According to London Police Const. Ken Steeves, 2,730 thefts from vehicles (under $5,000) have been reported to police already this year. There were 2,717 thefts from vehicles in all of 2013. Speaking just before noon Thursday, Steeves said seven others were reported Sept. 24 and two more had registered since midnight that very day.
The items taken Sept. 21 were valueless to anyone but the family until Thursday, when the Massecars announced they’re offering a $500 reward for the safe return of the mementos. Later in the day, Natalie confirmed an anonymous donor had offered to top up the reward to $750.
The Massecar money is from their daughter’s foundation, Camo For Paisley.
For months they’ve been giving families cash and gift cards for Shoppers Drug Mart, Subway and Tim Hortons, all businesses with locations within Sick Kids in Toronto, where they spent thousands on food and lodging in just weeks earlier this year.
“Life didn’t get put on hold for three weeks while we were there,” Shawn said. “The mortgage was still due, the car still needed to be insured.”
Natalie added she had to stay in a hotel near the hospital in case she went into labour, and that alone ran more than $2,000 even at the discounted rate.
They said their hometown blew them away when friends and family set up the trust fund within two weeks of Paisley’s death, centered around a golf tournament and other smaller events, and St. Thomas residents they’d never met in 35 years living there came out to donate.
Paying some of that cash and goodwill forward with the baby box bounty was a no-brainer.
“It was incredible,” Shawn said. “It’s the whole reason initially we wanted to pay it forward. I couldn’t believe what people were doing for us.”
If you have information about the whereabouts of the stolen mementos, phone London police at 519-661-5670. They’re still investigating the theft and are helping the Massecars administer the reward.