If you've made it this far into the paper, I don't know whether to offer you a moment or a tissue.
I hope you didn't skip by the front page because it contained the hardest story I've ever had to edit. It was also one of the greatest privileges of my editing career.
Daniel Gonzalez and Jaime DeVries graciously and gracefully allowed us to witness what was both a parent's worst fear and yet an unbelievable story of family strength.
While most people get ready planning for the arrival of a baby and all the stuff that goes along with little ones, they were planning for the funeral of their unborn son, Alejandro.
In what was a tremendously difficult time, they agreed to let The Billings Gazette and photographer Hannah Potes document this experience — of knowing their unborn son would survive just minutes after being born.
I cannot muster sufficient words, though I work in the medium every day, to say thank you to the entire family for letting us tell this story, and letting us witness the love and strength of family. I am also deeply touched by the power of one brief life and its ability to touch many.
I'll never forget reading the story for the first time, looking through the photos, trying to focus the critical editing eye on copy and images that were blurred by tears.
I am inspired by their bravery and the courage it took to face such dire news with such grace. The story of Alejandro is about how a family stays strong and copes with loss and sadness. By his story, I am reminded of the value and beauty of my own family.
And to those who might read today's front page and wonder what business The Gazette had intruding on something that was so darn personal, I would reply that demonstrating the value and beauty of life is part of newspaper's mission. And showing the resiliency of humans, the ways families can uplift one another, and how even the smallest and weakest among us can become symbols of bravery are stories worth telling.
The questions I cannot answer as easily are how did Jaime and Daniel find the courage to face such a situation with such resolve, and why they, even when they could have turned us away, did not. I am not sure where photographer Hannah Potes found the strength to keep shooting photos. I am not sure why reporter Zach Benoit didn't break down at the funeral. But I am proud of Hannah and Zach for the straightforward storytelling they did without reaching for cliches or becoming maudlin.
One of the beautiful things about being a newspaper editor is also one of the most frustrating: What we tell, as reporters, photographers and editors is our choice. How readers receive those stories and images, well, that's up to the readers.
Brief, inspiring life
The lessons or the ideas I took from the story of the brief, 96-minute life of Alejandro Gonzalez may not be the same messages or lesson that you did.
So, in the life of Alejandro, I found a story that spoke to an expecting parent's darkest fear, coupled with how strong a family can be, even with nearly unbearable tragedy.
I hope whatever message you took from today (and Monday's story), that you share my appreciation for the Gonzalez family, who not only were brave enough to face this devastating news head-on, but also allowed us to help document it. And, no matter what passages of Alejandro's story touched you, I hope you act on those feelings, letting his brief life be an inspiration.