Jeremih Michael Phillips, son of Desiree M. Phillips and Journey Brigham, died Aug. 19. He was 4.
Born with gastroschisis, or with his intestines outside of the body, Jeremih had undergone more than 100 surgeries and procedures over his short life. And his beloved mother died by suicide when he was 10 months old.
But this story is not only about Jeremih’s struggles and death. It is about his amazing love that he bestowed upon others and received from his family and friends. It’s about the love our community conferred upon this family.
When he was 15 months old, Jeremih went into liver failure at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and was flown by air ambulance to the Nebraska Medical Center. There, he received his first multivisceral transplant of a liver, small bowel and pancreas.
After multiple complications, Jeremih and family relocated for 14 months from San Tan Valley, Arizona, to the Ronald McDonald House in Omaha. The Ronald McDonald House provides living arrangements where families of sick children can stay when in Omaha for treatment.
His grandmother, “Nana” Michaela Jones, said, “Omaha has etched a special space in my heart. Omahans have been awesome!”
The family made friends and garnered support at the Ronald McDonald House and at the medical center.
As those who met him saw, this little fella was a real charmer — he was gentle and kind, wise, feisty, funny and happy. He was an affectionate child who instinctively showed his love and warmth toward others.
He was the apple of his nana’s eye.
“This beautiful child had silky black hair, dark brown eyes, long eyelashes, cocoa chocolate skin, and a strong, barreled-shaped chest,” she said.
But she stressed that Jeremih not only had physical beauty, but also had a beautiful soul. During his many surgeries and health trials, he remained upbeat and positive.
His uncles and other relatives and friends adored him. During his short life, he received many hugs, kisses and toys, and endless adoration.
He enjoyed playing with cars, reading books, and throwing balls. He also loved Lightning McQueen (the Pixar “Cars” character), and worshiped Jesus, his nana said.
Jeremih was a patient on the seventh floor of the Nebraska Medical Center.
“He had been in almost every room on that floor in his revolving-door hospitalizations,” Jones said. “The staff there is awesome. I think of them as a part of my family. Hands down and point blank, I love them dearly.”
Jones said Jeremih passed away peacefully in her arms with his uncles on each side of him.
His body was flown back to Arizona. At the exact time the plane took off from Omaha, Jones and some staff members gathered at the medical center’s rooftop garden for a massive balloon release.
Jones is a strong Christian woman who gets her strength from the Lord. Even after losing her only daughter and beloved grandson, and divorce from her husband because of the strain of her relocation, she moves forward and provides strength to others.
Jeremih was laid to rest in his casket and vault directly on top of his mother on Sept. 7. As she did for her daughter, Jones performed Jeremih’s eulogy.
When Jones feels she needs to be uplifted, one of the Christian songs she listens to is “Remember” sung by Lauren Daigle. “I can’t stop thinking about your goodness. I remember, I remember, you have always been faithful to me, even when my eyes couldn’t see. …”
Little Jeremih obviously had a lot of his “nana” in him, as he journeyed to the arms of Jesus with a steadfast spirit.
The details aren’t set yet, but the family is planning a celebration of life in Omaha later this month before returning to Arizona.
An earlier version had an incorrect surname for Jeremih.