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‘My heart is gutted,’ Minn. mother writes after 7-year-old son died in sledding accident

Simon Caquelin, 7, of St. Paul (Courtesy of Matthew Caquelin)

Before 7-year-old Simon Caquelin died, his family hugged him, kissed him and tucked him into bed. They sang together and said a bedtime prayer. They said goodnight.

Then he was gone.

A sledding accident a week before had left the 7-year-old in critical condition. Simon had been in the pediatric intensive care unit at Gillette Children’s hospital in St. Paul trying to recover. The St. Paul boy died Monday morning.

“Simon … your toys are at the bottom of my purse, your games are still laid out from your play,” Caquelin’s mother wrote in a GoFundMe post. “Your reminders are still on my calendar, and your notes written on the whiteboard. Your laundry is still unfolded and your room is a mess. Your artwork is still on the fridge and your profile is still on Netflix.”

He is survived by both parents, a 13-year-old brother and an 11-year-old sister.

“Simon has always just been one of those elite kids. He is one of the most popular, funny, outgoing, personal kids you’ve ever known,” his father Matthew Caquelin said. “Just an amazing, inspiring, generous little boy who enjoyed life.”

He was a sports fan — always challenging his older siblings in basketball and soccer — who loved the outdoors and getting dirty in the woods.

Last summer, for instance, his family went up north and got caught in a torrential rainpour while fishing on the last day. Rather than complaining, as his father expected, Simon began singing at the top of his lungs.

“It reminded me that your point of view can dictate the level of joy or misery in any situation,” Matthew Caquelin said.

Now, the Caquelins have taken that attitude in responding to Simon’s death.

“There’s been an amazing support network around us,” Matthew Caquelin said. “There have been moments where your soul empties out and you can’t function, and then you find a little strength in something and you pull it out and get through the next stage and wait for the next wave of grief to take you over.”

One wave of strength came from Simon’s ability to donate organs, helping several other people receive a second chance at life. A flag was flown outside Region’s Hospital in St. Paul in his honor.

His family did not know the exact details of the sledding incident.

Simon had left for Wisconsin for his first overnight Boy Scout camp on Jan. 27.

He and his best friend Simeon Thompson prepared to go sledding in the dark for the first time. Simon wore a headlamp over his hat.

No one witnessed the crash, but Simon’s friend heard cries for help at the bottom of a hill. He found Simon at the base of a tree and called for help, the family later learned.

Simon’s forehead was swollen. Blood was coming from his mouth, nose, and ears. He was vomiting and floating in and out of consciousness.

Paramedics took him to the Gillette trauma center. 

His family knew right away that the damage was serious, but they held onto hope that he would make it for about a week. On Monday, they told him goodbye. 

“My heart is gutted,” his mother posted. “Your brother wants to play ball with you and your sister wants to read books. Your dad just wants to snuggle and your mommy just wants to see you smile. You are all around us Simon, here and not here.”

CaringBridge page has been started for Simon’s family. His visitation is set for 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Stephanus Lutheran Church, 739 Lafond Ave., St. Paul. A funeral will follow immediately.

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