RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There is no role in life Dan Courtine cherishes more than being a dad.
“I absolutely love being a father. It’s an honor; it’s a privilege,” said Courtine.
He fell in love with fatherhood even before the birth of his son, Jameson.
“Before he was born, I bought every book I could that said ‘Daddy,'” recalled Courtine. ” ‘Daddy Hug’ was our favorite.”
They bonded over the book – Dan, Jameson, and eventually little brother Rhys.
Even when Jameson grew a little too old for the words and pictures, he never outgrew the fun of reading with his dad.
“We acted it out and were all silly with it,” remembers Courtine. “We still read it, not as often, but even up until his death we would still pull it out once in a while and read it and still have a blast doing it.”
“Up until his death” — It’s not a phrase Courtine ever expected to say, not as he cheered Jameson on in baseball, praised his schoolwork, or beamed with pride at the simple acts of kindness that came naturally to his 9-year-old.
But in February of 2019, Jameson suddenly got sick.
“It was 10 hours,” said Courtine, with tears in his eyes. “He went from totally healthy to dead in 10 hours.”
What they at first suspected was the flu turned out to be undiagnosed birth defect affecting his intestines.
Through his grief, Courtine takes comfort in the time he spent with Jameson, the bond they shared, and the compassion his son showed to everyone he met. That inspired “Jameson’s Joy,” a foundation created in his son’s memory.
This Father’s Day, Jameson’s Joy gave copies of Jameson’s favorite book to dads with children in UNC’s Newborn Critical Care Center as an act of kindness Courtine knows Jameson would’ve loved.
“I can picture it, and I can hear him giggling,” Courtine smiled. “It just was a great father-child moment and, yeah, just to give other dads and kids that opportunity is a wonderful thing.”
Over the next year, the foundation will donate 5,000 copies of “Daddy Hug” to UNC Rex Hospital, where Jameson and Rhys were born.
The boys spent most of their childhood in Fuquay-Varina, but the family now lives in the North Carolina mountains. Jameson’s Joy donated books to a pediatrician’s office in Brevard as well.
Courtine hopes they’ll serve as reminders to new parents to cherish every moment.
“We go home from work. We’re tired, we’re mad – we’re whatever – and as hard as it is, we can’t give our kids the leftovers. We need to put our work away, put our phones down,” he said. “Because you never know. You truly never know, so take advantage of the moments you have now and be involved in your kids’ lives.”
Courtine prays no other parent will feel the heartbreak of losing a child and hopes every new father will feel the joy of being a dad.
“It’s absolutely, without question, the best part of my life,” he said.
If you’d like to find out more about Jameson’s Joy and its goal of spreading kindness, click here.