Three little redheaded superheroes climbed on their dad. They tussled over which one got to wear the Hulk Hands. When their turns came, they put on the oversized green gloves to punch and knock over a pile of cardboard boxes.
In their playroom Thursday, the children wore superhero capes made by their mother. There were laughs, toddler antics and sibling squabbles.
Amid a hubbub of toys and tots, Alex Clawson watched over his children with love, patience and the gentlest hint of authority. It was a sweet morning at their Everett home. But things are not what they were.
“My mom died,” 4-year-old Willem Clawson confided quietly, looking up at his visitors.
Amy Clawson and the couple’s newborn daughter, Elayda Tess Clawson, died May 21, the day after Amy’s 33rd birthday.
About a month before the baby was due, the family was out for a Sunday walk near their Pinehurst area home. Amy dropped to the ground, suffering heart failure. An elementary school teacher before motherhood, she died that day. Baby Elayda died, in her father’s arms, shortly after she was delivered.
Along with her husband, Amy leaves their two sons, Willem and 3-year-old Atley, and daughter Seirsha, 20 months old.
“Amy was honestly the best mother I’ve ever seen, so laser-focused on those kids,” said Alberta Jones, Amy’s aunt, who lives in Snohomish. “I’d meet her at the library for story time. She has read to them their entire life. She got in more mothering than a lot of people in their whole life.”
The Clawsons, devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, met in 2010 and married the following year. Amy, the youngest of five children, was born in California and lived later in Utah, where her parents still reside.
Alex, an engineer, graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. They lived in Peoria, Arizona, before moving here in early 2016. He works for Astronics Ballard Technology. The company in south Everett sells aerospace testing and simulation equipment. Since his wife’s death, he has been home with his children.
Soon, he’ll return to work. Through the summer, Jones will care for the children one day a week, rotating with women from Clawson’s church, the View Ridge Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Everett. Permanent child-care arrangements will come later.
Women from a group at his church stopped by the Clawson house recently to help out. “They folded my laundry — I still haven’t managed to fold my own laundry,” he said, adding “I did the garbage, Amy did the laundry.”
Amy’s heart issues weren’t a surprise. Her husband said she was born with a heart murmur, which was repaired in infancy. She was a “strep carrier,” he said, meaning her body didn’t react normally to the bacteria. In her early 20s, a strep infection destroyed one of her heart valves.
The valve had been replaced, with a pig valve, but tests after she became pregnant with their last child showed blockage. One doctor recommended terminating the pregnancy, Clawson said. They sought a second opinion and she was being closely monitored, he said.
Clawson and Jones both said she was doing well during the pregnancy. The plan was to replace her heart valve after Elayda’s birth, or even after Amy had finished breast-feeding in about a year.
Now, Clawson goes on as a single father, caring for three young children, strengthened by faith.
“In my religion, we have this phrase, tender mercies of the Lord,” he said. “We use it to describe when there’s just a tiny detail, we feel the Lord has stepped in. And that tiny detail makes all the difference.”
Among those mercies, he believes a higher power had a hand in the moment his wife blacked out on the lawn during their walk. A neighbor they hadn’t met was having a birthday party, and had a bounce house in their back yard. They took care of Willem, Atley and Seirsha during the emergency.
“My children didn’t have to deal with any of it. They were safe, and I was able to go to the hospital and be there when everything happened,” Clawson said.
Photos of their wedding at a Mormon temple in San Diego, and of Amy and their children fill their home. Along with snapshots and scriptures, there’s a little sign posted in the kitchen: “Come what may and love it.”
Clawson laughs about good times. A redhead himself, he said his brunette wife often heard comments while out with their kids, “Your husband must have red hair.”
“He is really stepping up, he’s such a great father,” Jones said. “He was this amazing dad even before, maybe preparing for this.”
Clawson plans to spend this Father’s Day with his little ones and his wife’s aunt. “And at church, like every Sunday,” he said.
It was raining lightly when Clawson strapped those three beautiful children into car seats Thursday. A grown-up superhero, he was off to a play group at Lions Park. Everett is home now, and he plans to stay.
“The whole reason we ended up here, we felt kind of inspired by God,” he said. “This is where we’re supposed to be.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to help
“Amy Clawson’s Family Support Fund” has been set up on the fundraising website GoFundMe. Money raised will help Alex Clawson with expenses for the funeral of his wife and newborn daughter, and with child-care costs and educational needs for his three children. By Saturday, $34,518 had been raised. Donations may be made at www.gofundme.com/AmyandElayda.