Saylor Strong: Family carries on toddler’s memory through butterfly carts for other grieving parents

By Jessica Brodie

NORTH—When Stephanie Robinson lost her young daughter, Saylor, this summer, she received an unexpected gift—something she never could have imagined, but something that made her child’s passing a bit more bearable.

Thanks to what is called a “butterfly cart” wheeled into their hospital room, the Robinson family was provided with what the young mother called “everything that a parent would need to send their child to meet Jesus.”

Instead of the hospital blankets and hospital gown, Saylor was dressed in a simple smocked white dress with little crosses around the neck, plus tiny white church socks on her feet. She was nestled in a soft pink baby blanket, and they’d bathed her and washed her hair with Johnson’s baby shampoo instead of the hospital’s generic brand. Around her head, she wore a white headband with a delicate bow.

“As a Christian, I know none of those things are ‘needed’—children don’t ‘need’ to be clean or dressed a certain way—but everyone wants to be their best for their meeting with Jesus,” said Robinson, a member of North United Methodist Church, North. “We want to meet God in our Sunday best.”

While Robinson was grateful for the special touches, she didn’t think about where the items came from at the time, for she was entirely focused on her daughter, Saylor, who passed away at age 16 months from complications because of congenital nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder.

“But all those things had to come from somewhere,” Robinson said. “We didn’t pack for that. We went into the hospital thinking we’d be home in a few days, and now those things are my prized possessions. I have that blanket, that dress, all the way down to the socks that were on her feet. She literally, physically died in that dress.”

The Robinsons—Stephanie, her husband, William, and their older daughter, Lakelyn—also received other small keepsakes courtesy of the butterfly cart, including small and large canvases with Saylor’s foot, hand and thumbprints.

Saylor had been in the pediatric intensive care unit at The Medical University of South Carolina Charleston at the time. Robinson learned the cart had actually come from the neonatal ICU because Saylor was so tiny; the PICU did not have a cart of its own.

“It broke my heart knowing if she would’ve been bigger we wouldn’t have had all those things,” Robinson said.

Inspired both by a desire to help other grieving parents, and by a way to honor the beautiful impact of Saylor’s short life, Robinson decided to change that.

Making a butterfly cart in Saylor’s honor

In Saylor’s honor, Robinson has spent the last several months purchasing all the items needed to supply the PICU at MUSC with a butterfly cart of its own. The cart is now complete, and she will present it to the hospital very soon, when MUSC officially opens its new hospital, the Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.

“The nurses and doctors at MUSC were absolutely God sent to us. They dressed Saylor in those clothes and picked out the clothes and blankets, washed her,” Robinson said. “They are just beautiful people.”

Her family wants to give back in honor of all they received.

The Robinson family purchased a cart on wheels from a medical website, complete with spacious drawers, a lock, a top shelf and handles, then got to work stocking it with all the special items a family would need as they prepare to send their child to Jesus.

“The first thing I bought was little white dresses, as Saylor was stuck in my mind, and I got 0-3 month sizes all the way up to 5T,” Robinson said. “Then I started on little boys—white collared shirts and onesies with little bowties, 0-3 to 5T, and for the older ones, khakis with a stretchy waist.”

They also provided soft baby washcloths and towels, dress socks, loveys, receiving blankets and larger cozy blankets, combs and brushes, individual packs of super-soft tissue, sibling care packages—and, of course, a bunch of bottles of Johnson’s baby wash and shampoo. They also provided photo albums, canvases and ink, crafts to make Christmas ornament keepsakes, and other craft items, plus a big craft box in which to store it all.

Robinson found the experience healing, therapeutic and beautiful.

“It should be depressing to think about, but to me it’s like that’s going to happen regardless—that little boy or little girl, their destiny is already planned, they will meet Jesus one way or another whether or not the cart is there—so why not give their parents a little joy in a moment that is so difficult?”

She also found Bible verses to go with everything, which she paired with the items.

“I could literally open a Bible, skim though and the verse would just jump out at me!” Robinson said.

She also handmade a miniature, simple devotional for the parents—six cards hole-punched and tied off with a ribbon made into a flip book with six handwritten, hand-selected Bible verses to bring a small measure of comfort or strength to the parents.

On the front of the cart is a sign that reads, “In loving memory of Saylor Ann Robinson,” and tucked into the cart is an itemized list of everything and where it is located so hospital staff can find what they need easily.

The plan is that the hospital will keep the Robinsons updated on their supply so the items can be replenished as needed. The family, as well as their church in North, hopes to do what they can to keep it fully stocked so other families can experience the comfort they did in such a painful time.

How you can help

Robinson said the cart and its items cost roughly $2,000, excluding the labor. In addition to church support, other community members and United Methodists across the state are starting to pitch in to help, and more assistance is welcome.

In addition to restocking and replenishing items at MUSC, the Robinson family is also focusing on making a cart for other hospitals in South Carolina. She has just learned Lexington Medical Center needs one for their special care nursery and NICU, and she is actively doing what she can to get a cart started there.

For those who live out of state, she encourages people to reach out to their local hospital and find out if they have a butterfly cart or if they could use one—or help restocking it.

Saylor’s grandfather, Billy Robinson, is the Early Response Team coordinator for the South Carolina Conference of the UMC, and he said he is so touched by not only the way his son and daughter-in-law have carried on their daughter’s memory, but by the outpouring of support their family has received from people all over the state who want to do what they can to help.

“As I think back on it, it is truly amazing the impact this beautiful child of God had on so many people in such positive ways in her short 1½ years of life on earth,” he said. “We are all so much better people and so much more wonderfully blessed by having known her and having her in our lives.”

Donations are being collected in the form of monetary gifts. The check can be made out to Stephanie Robinson, but be sure to put “butterfly cart” or “Saylor” in the memo line. Send to P.O. Box 905, North, SC 29112.

If you have items you would like to donate for the cart, contact Robinson at 803-747-6436 or [email protected].

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