A Georgia couple is pleading for the return of a silver box stolen from the bedroom of their Cobb County home, as the box holds the ashes of their stillborn son.
Jody and Haley Hughey lost their only child, Caleb, when he was stillborn in 2008.
"We spent some time with him before we let him go, and then had him cremated," said Jody Hughey, describing through tears the silver "memento box" with an angel and "Caleb Ean Hughey, October 16, 2008," engraved on the lid. "I realize there are people in Oklahoma going through more than us right now, but for us, it's a personal hell."
Since Caleb's death, Haley Hughey has struggled to become pregnant again.
"He is only our only son," said her husband, choking up at the thought of his son's stolen ashes. "It's devastating for both of us. But for my wife, this is everything. She can't have the future she wants, and now she doesn't have a way to hold on to the past."
The Hughey home was robbed Monday while the couple was at work. The thief – or thieves – entered through a second-floor window at the back of the house, standing atop an air-conditioning unit to smash the glass and climb in. They then went straight for the bedroom, Jody Hughey said.
"They were looking for small, valuable stuff," he said, listing a handgun, an iPod and some inexpensive jewelry among the missing possessions. And then there's the silver box, which sat on the couple's bedroom dresser.
"What they took from us has absolutely no value whatsoever to them," said Hughey. "If someone happens across it, I would ask that they just simply call the police and turn it in. And if the person who actually stole it wants to give it back, they can drive by my house at 3 a.m. and throw it in a garbage bag in my front yard. Whatever it takes for them to feel comfortable giving us our son back."
Joanne Cacciatore, a grief counselor and founder of Phoenix-based Miss Foundation for grieving families, said parents mourn stillborn babies as they would any child.
"The death of a baby is just as devastating," said Cacciatore, who lost her daughter Cheyenne about 15 minutes before she was born. "And this couple doesn't have their child's baseball glove or hair comb. When a baby dies during or shortly after birth, you have very few tangible mementos. So while, of course, this would be horrid for anyone, for this family, this is one of the very few things they have that belongs to their baby."
While mementos are important, Cacciatore said couples can also find comfort in honoring their children through rituals and random acts of kindness, like leaving a teddy bear on the doorstep of a family in need.
"That way their love continues on in the world because of their parents," she said. "Even though that baby didn't live long, its life mattered."
But for the Hugheys, the box brings a sense of comfort that can't be replaced.
"My wife said, 'I wanted to be buried with him so I could be with him forever,'" Jody Hughey said, sobbing, and pleading for help in finding the precious box. "I just hope that somehow word gets out and that someone is willing to do something about it."
Anyone with information about the stolen ashes is urged to call (770) 499-4184 and reference the case number 13-052156.