Lois Bineshtarigh, a delivery room nurse, sews outfits for stillborns. After a head-on wreck Saturday, she must put together one for a 16-year-old.
By MOLLY MOORHEAD
Published November 10, 2003
CRYSTAL SPRINGS - Between the phone calls of condolence and the tearful hugs, Lois Bineshtarigh decided on the charcoal gray suit.
Cameron, when he is buried Thursday, will wear his sharpest outfit, probably with a gray and white striped shirt and a black tie.
"It's what he liked to wear," his mother said Sunday. "He liked to dress up and look nice."
Bineshtarigh, 41, has fashioned enough burial outfits. The delivery room nurse who day after day escorts new lives into the world also keeps outfits ready for the lives that last only moments or never begin at all.
She stitches the tiny gowns by hand, complete with lace and ribbons. When they are used, the circumstances are always tragic.
Tragedy found its way to Bineshtarigh's family Saturday. Her 16-year-old son, who played the drums and lifted weights and kept the same girlfriend for two years, died in a head-on car accident about a mile from their home on Central Avenue in a rural corner of east Pasco County.
All of Bineshtarigh's experience with stillborn babies and their heartbroken parents, she said, did not prepare her.
"Nothing could prepare you for this," she said.
People streamed in and out of her house all day Sunday. Some sobbed as soon as the door opened. It was a natural reaction to the death of a boy everyone loved.
His mother, who smiled as often as she cried, wrapped herself in the comfort of it. She comforted others.
"How are you?" were Bineshtarigh's words to someone on the phone.
"Thank you for coming," she told every visitor.
A sense of assurance was slowing replacing the shock that washed over her when the phone call came Saturday night.
"I know where Cammie is. Cammie's in heaven," she said over and over of her 6-foot-2 son who had outgrown his childhood nickname long ago.
She sat on his bed, pointing out the Bibles and inspirational books on his bedside table. A sticker on his wall reads: "Live so the preacher won't have to lie at your funeral."
His mother laughed.
"(God) radiated from Cameron," Bineshtarigh said. "That's the greatest comfort any mom could have."
Comforting others is part of Bineshtarigh's purpose. Only a month ago, a child delivered at East Pasco Medical Center left in one of Bineshtarigh's gowns.
"We tried so hard to save that baby. We tried so hard," Bineshtarigh said.
But the girl, delivered by Caesarean section, was dead inside her mother. The memory of her perfect porcelain face makes Bineshtarigh's eyes tear up.
She thought Sunday about the day Cameron was born, his slow and steady birth. She thought about the jokes he played when he was little.
"He was such a tease," she said.
Blank-faced teenagers hung out at Bineshtarigh's house for hours Sunday.
Cameron's girlfriend, Holly Jones, clung to the woman she was sure would become her mother-in-law.
His sister, Sheryl, 20, buried her face in her mother's shoulder as she wept.
"He was my little brother, but I looked up to him," Sheryl sobbed. "I don't know what I'm going to do."
Bineshtarigh (been-ESH-tar-eeg) didn't see Cameron at all the day he died. She didn't talk to him. Her shift at the hospital started at 7 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m.
Cameron had gone to the First Church of the Nazarene that evening for youth activities. The kids played gross-out games with raw eggs and red-hot candy. He left with dried yolk on his shirt.
As they drove to Cameron's house in separate cars, Holly said she saw him at the light at State Road 39 and Chancey Road. She beeped her horn; he beeped back.
When Holly reached his house, Bineshtarigh was home from work. Minutes went by, but Cameron never arrived. Holly and Sheryl went looking for him.
When they reached the accident scene, ambulances and patrol cars already were there.
Cameron, who got his driver's license Wednesday, was gone. Sheryl called her mother.
A Florida Highway Patrol report says Tommy McClelland, 23, of Dade City, was heading north on SR 39 as Cameron was coming south. McClelland's Ford pickup crossed over the center line. Cameron, in the family's Buick, couldn't avoid a head-on crash, the report says.
Rescue workers took McClelland to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, where he remained in critical condition Sunday.
No one slept Saturday night at Bineshtarigh's house.
Bineshtarigh tried, but she kept seeing Cameron's face. At 8 a.m. Sunday, she had to go into his room to shut off his alarm.
Bineshtarigh has a prayer she recites for families who lose their babies. Strength and comfort, she asks of God.
Now, she's praying for herself.
"That's what will get me through now," she said. "And I'm also very thankful."
Bineshtarigh will continue working as a labor and delivery nurse. She loves what she does, even if she can't think about going back now.
She'll keep stitching gowns for the babies who need them, but the task - and the tiny garments - suddenly have added significance: "I have 16 years of stuff from Cameron. And they only have a moment."