NRL News

A dad’s unimaginably poignant farewell lullaby to his dying baby boy

by | May 30, 2023

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. This incredible, beautiful story first appeared in NRL News Today eight years ago. It is so inspirational I felt the obligation to run it again.

How could it not have been? How could a YouTube video of a dad tenderly singing to his dying newborn baby son not go viral?  It has been viewed over 18,000,000 times!

If those two minutes and 29 seconds weren’t enough to tug on the heartstrings of every human being on the face of Planet Earth, Chris Picco’s son, Lennon, died four days after his mom, Ashley, unexpectedly passed away in her sleep a few hours after giving birth. It is just too much tragedy for one human being to endure.

There was a lot of confusion in the early stories, which has subsequently been cleared up. What was never in doubt was the beauty and sincerity of Chris’s voice as he sang Paul McCarthy’s “Blackbird” over the hum of the intensive care unit machinery.

But there was so much more to Chris and Ashley and Lennon that you wouldn’t know if you hadn’t read a story that appeared in the Adventist Review.

Ashley, 30, died several hours after “an emergency Caesarean section to deliver the baby, who was born 16 weeks early, at the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital,” according to Andrew McChesney. 

Lennon, who weighed 2 lb., 4 oz, was in trouble from the beginning.

“Lennon’s lack of movement and brain activity was a constant concern for the doctors and nurses at Loma Linda University Hospital, where he received the absolute best care available,” K.C. Hohnensee, Campus Ministries coordinator at Loma Linda University, said in a statement under the video, which was taken by Hohensee, a family friend, and posted November 12.

Chris kept his Facebook continually updated. On the memorial page to his wife, he wrote, “Ashley would often feel Lennon moving to music so I brought my guitar today and gave him a little concert,” adding, “Continue to pray for a miracle for my precious, perfect little guy!”

When Lennon James Picco died, Chris posted the following:

“Dear friends, family, and supporters; it is with an unbelievably heavy heart that I write this. My little fighter, Lennon James Picco went to sleep in his daddy’s arms late last night. He was surrounded by family, friends, and the best doctors, nurses and hospital staff in the world. He was dressed in an outfit that Ashley bought for him, with little guitars on it, and wrapped in a blanket made by a dear friend. I am so thankful for the four unforgettable days I got to spend with him. His mommy would have been so beyond joy to see him and to hold him, touch him, bathe him, sing to him – as I have had the privilege of doing. I have been so blessed and honored to love him before he was formed, to cherish him while mommy carried him, meet him face to precious face, and hold his perfect little body while we said “goodbye for now”. There are no words, but I wanted to keep you updated, as your love and support has meant more than anything in the world. All you need is love.”

Chris and Ashley married in 2007, six years after they met. “Shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, she traveled to New York to volunteer at Ladder 10 Fire Station at Ground Zero, where she met her future husband, Chris, who was also volunteering there,” wrote Hohensee in an online tribute to Ashley and Lennon James.

Since it was the McCarthy song that was heard on the video, the focus is naturally on “Blackbird,” a very simple song that few people likely know was an allusion to the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. People also wouldn’t have known that Chris is a professional musician in his own right, who leads university chapel song services at Loma Linda University.

Nor would they know, unless they stuck around for a bit, that after the Beatles song we hear Chris singing “This is My Father’s World.” [Alas, I can no longer find the YouTube clip that has both.] Here are the lyrics which speak so powerfully to his faith.

This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres. 

This is my Father’s world: 
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker’s praise. 

This is my Father’s world: 
he shines in all that’s fair;
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. 
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet. 
This is my Father’s world: 
why should my heart be sad? 
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! 
God reigns; let the earth be glad!

Categories: Life