Happy Birthday, Nora

In the darkness of our bedroom the red glow of the digital clock changed over to 12:00 AM. The moment when yesterday transitioned into tomorrow, a new day, your birthday. The stilled silence of our sleeping house has gradually lost its raw sting. It still hurts sometimes, but buffered by time, the unnatural silence is no longer directly contrasted against the vivacity and sparkle that your life brought to our home. I whispered, “Happy Birthday,” to you and drifted off to sleep with memories of you and your impending arrival. I recalled the sensation of your sweet little skinny arms and leggies poking out from beneath my skin on the night before you were born, and how I wished you could just stay protected there forever.

It was a beautiful day, just as it was three years ago, the day you were born. I cried over your pictures, amazed by the sheer miracle of your life. The texts, emails and messages that periodically streamed through to me were such a comfort.

I was afraid to plan anything “outrageous” on your birthday. What if I was an emotional trainwreck? It was so hard to know how I’d actually feel until I was there in the day. As it just so happened we had the opportunity to go to a Natalie Grant concert ON the evening of your birthday. One thing I did know for certain is that I would definitely be giving thanks and praise to God for you. What a perfect venue to do that! Before the concert we visited the cemetery for a little dinner picnic and chased some “fuzz” around.

At the concert together as a family, we remembered you, missed you and loved you. The tears were on autoflow when Natalie sang “Held” ~

Two months is too little
They let him go
They had no sudden healing
To Think That Providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling


Who told us we’d be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We’re asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live, it’s unfair


This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and know
That the promise was when everything fell
We’d be held

This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow

If hope is born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait, for one hour
Watching for our Savior

Greta and I were so thankful for the Kleenexes that were handed to us during that one!!! We were so very blessed and comforted to be in the company of people who knew about you, and who have followed along with us on this journey. We needed all of those hugs and words of encouragement.

The celebration of your sweet life continued on into the next day. Your Nana & Papa, aunts, uncles, cousins and Kellkell had planned to meet us at the cemetery. Your Kellkell got there first and as she was waiting there at your grave, a family was walking by with kids on bikes. What in the world are the odds that one of the children in that family would be named Kelly and the other Nora — and that the mom would yell out, “Kelly! Look at Nora!” Nora… who was popping wheelies on her trike. Is that what YOU’RE doing in heaven too?? Meanwhile back on earth – your Kellkell was beside herself! What a sweet “wink” from heaven!

As our car pulled up to the cemetery, my eyes welled up with tears. A giant bouquet of balloons that your Aunt Sarah had procured was shimmying with the wind. The tears continued when I caught sight of your Aunt Em. She had snuck in town undetected from Cleveland! Nana, Papa, Oma, Uncle Joe, Uncle Dustin, Uncle Dan and your cousins Gracie, Keira and Parker were all there. We all hugged hello and gathered around your little grave where we sang you your favorite song. Your Uncle Dan remembered how you would get upset when the song was over, so of course we had to sing it to you again just like we did while you were here. Even the birds joined in and LOUDLY sang to you!!

We released the beautiful bunch of balloons with messages attached and sprinkled pink sparkles on your grave.

Gathering back at our house where you once reigned supreme seemed only appropriate. A slideshow of pictures from when you were teeny tiny played on the TV throughout the evening. It’s crazy to think you started out so small. It was nice to be together, collectively missing your squeals and your silly little antics. We sang Happy Birthday to you again and blew out your candles for you.

Your cake was your favorite color and had LADY bugs and butterflies and baby bees all over it. It didn’t taste like milkies – so you probably wouldn’t have liked it, but It sure was pretty and we all thought it was delicious!

Nana & Papa and your aunts, uncles and cousins had this gorgeous shadow box made from some of your funeral flowers and your prayer cards. The petals and the flowers preserved beautifully. What a treasured way to memorialize you!  

Before the night was over we passed around a gold marker and we all wrote messages to you on a personalized Chinese lantern. We stood there under the quietude of the twilight sky and watched the lantern lift off into the heavens. We strained and squinted our eyes until you “caught” it and we couldn’t see it anymore.

You are the magnificent sweeping interlude that God unexpectedly conducted into the symphony of our lives. An unforgettable part of the melody that will resonate throughout the measures of time. We hope you had a beautiful birthday in heaven, little girl — with lots of baffs and trike wheelies! Happy birthday to you!


I have to give a shout out to Laurelbox — the company who sent a box of very thoughtful handmade gifts to us. They helped us to make Nora’s first birthday in heaven a special one down here on earth. We received a little bag of sparkly glitter (which was inspired by Nora) to sprinkle at her grave site, a delicious cake-scented candle, and the Chinese lantern with a gold marker to write on it. That was such a wonderful surprise, Denise!!! Thank you so so much!

Fuzzy

She had only been gone a few days. I took the big kids to the zoo in a desperate and hurried attempt to do something. Anything. It seemed like something “normal people” and “regular families” would do? The corner of Children’s Hospital suddenly jarred into my line of vision as we crossed the pedestrian bridge to the main entrance. I wanted to curl up in a fetal position, ball up in a heap against the fencing and just CRY. But instead I clenched my jaw together, quickened my pace to match the racing of my heart and looked the other way. The big kids, oblivious, walked beside me trying to decide which exhibit to visit first. It’s not that I’m in the habit of concealing my sadness from them – but there’s a time and a place nor did I want to project my negative connotations of the hospital on them.

It turned out to be a nice day, all things considered. We ebbed back and forth from spells of laughter to walking along in the new and indelible sadness that was now a part of us. As we sat eating lunch my thoughts drifted off to Shouldawouldacoulda Land. I had such dreams to bring Nora to the zoo. I reminded myself that my starry-eyed expectations undoubtedly were a far cry from the likely reality of it. Nornor was very much a “homebaby”. She tolerated her trips out here and there, but she was always happiest and most content in her “nest” in her familiar living room. Meanwhile, back in reality, a little piece of milkweed fluff drifted down in front of my face and landed right in the middle of my pizza. I really didn’t think anything of it at first, but it was definitely odd that it landed THERE — and so obviously. “It’s FUZZ!!!!!!!!!” Greta exclaimed. “Fuzz” was also the endearing term we used for Nora’s fuzzy hair.

IMG_6480

20140403-114347.jpg

20140403-114354.jpg

We loved to sniff her fuzz and rub our cheeks in it. It was so so soft and smelled absolutely delicious. I smiled through the tears that welled up in my eyes, and that’s how it began. From thereafter we began seeing the fuzz in obvious and sometimes unlikely places, but always with perfect timing. It’s not just limited to milkiesweed. It can also be thistle down and dandelion fluff. One of my favorite instances was in a park. I saw the “fuzz” first, and then 2 small children saw it and started laughing and chasing it. Our Kelly even had a piece hover in front of her IN the house right as a song came on that reminded her of Norns.

This piece drifted into my car window while at the cemetery ~
IMG_6481

A tickling of the silky filaments across my nose and lips can evoke the sweetest of memories… what it was like to love her, to breathe her in, her precious smell, her soft perfect babyness, the beloved texture of her own sweet fuzz!

2014.07.017 008a 2014.07.017 009b

And then the more I thought of it, these little fuzzy reminders are analogous to that fuzzy little baby in more ways than just their fuzziness. Each encounter, story, video, picture, etc. of Lady Baby had a metaphoric little seed attached to it. Little seeds that took root in so many hearts. I look out across the field, my cheeks sparkling with tears at all of the beautiful flowers that Nora has left behind. Renewed faith in God, new friendships, heightened friendships, inspired pregnancies, and the heartfelt prayers that sustain us — THOSE flowers.

This is a cute and seemingly random shot of little Greta from the maternity photo session back in April 2012 shortly before our own fuzzy little dandelion graced this world with her presence, scattering sweet seeds all over the place ~

0066

We had fun with some milkiesweed pods in the backyard that we discovered in early November on a warm afternoon.

IMG_6483

FUZZ!!!! EVERYWHERE!!!!!

IMG_6485

IMG_6482

IMG_6486

IMG_6484

For just as the ground produces its crops and a garden yields its produce, so the sovereign LORD will cause deliverance to grow, and give his people reason to praise him in the sight of all the nations.
(Isaiah 61:11 NET)

Reachout Banquet

Just in case you haven’t already see it on the Praying for Nora Rose Yusko Facebook page

This coming May I am honored to have been invited to be the guest speaker at the 2015 Reachout Banquet. Public speaking is certainly not one of my favorite things to do and goes against the grain of my introverted nature, but I know my accounts of LIFE and love trump my abiding social awkwardness. So… I’ve agreed to get up there and tell it!

If you are in or going to be in the Greater Cincinnati area, I would love to see you / meet you! :)

Banquet-Image1

Tuesday, May 12, 2015, 6:45 pm Dinner and Program

To make reservations: contact@reachoutpregnancy.com

Please share!

Merry Influenza!

As the months creep by it seems to be increasingly harder to come up with anything spiritual or inspiring to write. It’s not that I’m in the pits of despair, but obviously things are very different than they once were. I have not lost my faith or trust in God. I believe there is so much more to all of this than I have sight of right now, but that doesn’t make it any easier to walk through. The little girl who drew everyone to this blog in the first place is not available to be the subject of my photos and videos anymore. I feel like a sad substitute for the abundant hope and joy that she projected. That was her job, her purpose, and we all fell madly in love with her! It’s as if the Grand Show is over… for now. A few beloved stragglers have stuck around in the stands to watch me sweep and mop up the dark, empty stage, sometimes helping me along the way, picking up stale popcorn and damp confetti. I am mindful not to get muddled into the trap of self-pity nor am I sharing this to elicit external pity. I’m incredibly blessed and encouraged by those of you who have stuck around. Thank you for bearing with me through my extended interludes of silence, my lighthearted attempts to make fun of myself, and through my bouts of mournful heartbreak.

Now that we are midway through February it seems sort of irrelevant and past the point of mentioning Christmas – but perhaps worth sharing none the less. Yes, the holidays were difficult, but that’s not why I didn’t post about them. For the entire week of Christmas I was curled up under the electric blanket shivering with the aches and pains of good old Influenza Type A. Fortunately I had the good sense to have done most of my shopping, decorating, card writing, wassailing, etc. well in advance – JUST INCASE I were to fall victim to any wicked virus selections currently on the public menu. There seemed to be SO much going around — foreboding clock ticking in the background, “It’s only a matter of tiiiiime…”

Here is this year’s Christmas card:

IMG_6454

Close up of the stinky little Baff Angel during the “photo shoot”:

IMG_6463

* Sidenote: Fisher-Price Little People (and the like) are way more cooperative than actual family members!!

One of the suggestions in grief counseling to get through the holidays is to start new traditions to commemorate your loved one. We did little things to remember Norns around the house (as if we could ever possibly possibly forget her!!). It’s just the sweet reminder that she’s still with us. I plan on making (or buying) a Nornor ornament — a “Nornament” each Christmas for our tree. We also have a very sweet angel tree topper!

IMG_6459

IMG_6456

IMG_6458

Another suggestion to get through the holidays during painful times of loss is to do something different. I would have to say that being in bed for 6 days with the flu for the entire week of Christmas hit the nail on the head there. I wasn’t up for writing any new blog posts, let alone getting out of bed for any reason, Christmas included. Every square inch of my body hurt. Now that the terrible discomfort of it has passed, I will say that I am actually grateful for that forced time of rest when ordinarily I would have been running full steam ahead trying to get everything “just so”. There was no place I wanted to be but in bed. There was no feeling sorry for myself at the sound of the garage door closing and the car driving up the street, my kids and hubzbind off to my parents’ house. There were no expectations of anything beyond Tylenol and sleep.

I did manage to get out of bed to watch the kids open their presents on Christmas morning.

IMG_6461

Gavin had asked for a really sweet pair of gym shoes that he designed on Nike’s website. They were not able to be delivered by Christmas, but they arrived a couple weeks later. What a completely sweet tribute that he made to his baby sister, totally unprompted.

IMG_6453

IMG_6452

So there you have Christmas — better late than never, I suppose.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
(Psalm 107:1)

January 9th

I squeezed my husband’s hand, as he prayed out loud over my round belly. Moments later, the warm yellowish fluid accumulated into the sterile syringe. Shallow breaths, and the fears of “what if” pulsing through my mind. “These things only happen to OTHER people!!?” I frantically reassured myself. We left and we waited and we waited. Five never-ending days later, January 9th at 1:30 pm, the phone rang. We hadn’t thought to be together on the expected day of the call, because certainly “everything was completely fine.”

2012.01.26 001

My eager optimism was shattered into a million pieces as the geneticist sorrowfully explained to me that our baby’s amnio results showed a triplicate of the 18th chromosome. Trisomy 18. I don’t remember anything else she said as I crawled screaming out of the bathtub into a hysterical heap in the middle of the bathroom floor. I laid there numb, with my heart ripped out of my body. Why. Why. Why, oh, God, WHY. In those fresh, horrible moments we suddenly became trapped in a world of horrible and vague uncertainty. There would have been no way of knowing what a precious gift lay curled up, snug inside me. That I regarded her as some terrible genetic disaster makes me weep sad and bitter tears. I won’t beat myself up over those illogical apprehensions. How could I have known otherwise? As the agonizing layers of days, weeks and months were peeled away, our gift was revealed.

PACE1756

Not a diagnosis. Not some horrible anomaly. A beautiful, precious, angelic, amazing, wonderful and perfect little girl. She might not have been perfect according to medical standards, but she was beyond perfect in our eyes. As I look back at today, 2012, my eyes well up with tears. Yes, I’m sad to have said goodbye to my own hopes and dreams of a “typical baby”, but once I held Nora in my arms, there was no other baby I would have traded her for. God had a much greater plan for me – for all of us.

I love this quote by Pope Francis that my friend Maggie shared with me this morning:

“Health is certainly an important value, but it does not determine the value of a person. Furthermore, health in and of itself is no guarantee of happiness: for this may occur even in the presence of poor health. The fullness towards which every human life tends is not in contradiction with a condition of illness and suffering. Therefore, poor health and disability are never a good reason for excluding or, worse, for eliminating a person… A society truly welcomes life when it recognizes that it is also precious in old age, in disability, in serious illness and even when it is fading; when it teaches that the call to human fulfillment does not exclude suffering; indeed, when it teaches its members to see in the sick and suffering a gift for the entire community, a presence that summons them to solidarity and responsibility.”

How blessed I am to KNOW this firsthand. Thank you, God. Thank you, Nora.

Happy Thanksgiving

I was asked to contribute a green bean dish for this year’s Thanksgiving feast. Ordinarily my green bean recipes involve a can opener, a pot and a stove… salt to taste. Voile! I did, however, have the good sense to realize that a little more effort and creativity was expected on my behalf.

I did my last minute Pinterest research and discovered several preparation methods involving an array of ingredients. Unable to settle on one particular recipe, I decided I would mix and match to engineer my own culinary masterpiece. Four pounds of fresh green beans, lots of pats of butter, olive oil, an onion, some mushrooms, 3 garlic cloves, topped with some fresh shredded Parmesan cheese, and GO! Let’s do this!

IMG_5472.JPG

I had everything all washed up, chopped up, ready to cook while I set to work on menial task of peeling the three garlic cloves. It took me like 45 minutes, one little segment after another, (Those of you cheffy-kitchen people probably see where this is headed.) … picking and peeling, peeling and picking. I was suddenly excited and grateful to have recalled and then actually located the “handy”, “can’t-live-without” (and never used) garlic press that I acquired at a Pampered Chef party back in ’97. We’re not big garlic people. In general, if a recipe calls for garlic, I might give it a dusting of uncomplicated garlic powder. But today? I was going to do this RIGHT and go all out with authentic, 24 carat FRESH GARLIC. After a lot of effort I eventually accumulated a small BOWL full of very, very fragrant, pressed / minced garlic. At long last I was able to merge all of the ingredients with the melted butter and olive oil. I stood there in front of the skillet, fluffing it around a little bit with the spatula, wondering to myself if possibly it was too garlicky. The smell was overpowering! “Maybe because I just spent all that time so up close and personal with it,” I reasoned. My sinuses were all but on fire and my eyes were watering. I put the lid on the skillet to let it simmer to itself when Greta, drawing pictures at the kitchen table angrily exclaimed, “WHAT IS THAT TERRIBLE SMELL?????” A few moments later my dear husband left the upstairs bedroom to come down and was unexpectedly met with an assault on his olfactory receptors, “Wooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!” These were some of my first external indicators that something might not be right. I went back and double checked one of the recipes to make sure it had indeed called for THREE entire garlic cloves. Yes, there it was, unmistakeable, plain as day: 3 cloves. I squinted my eyes to protect my corneas as I lifted the skillet lid and skuttled stuff around a little more. Woooooo, is right!!! It suddenly dawned on me — in that garlic-infused moment — that perhaps my interpretation of a “clove” was altogether inaccurate!

NOooooo!

“(Typing) What. constitutes. a. clove. of. garlic,” quickly gave me the answer to my question. At first I was relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one with this question, as illustrated in Yahoo Answers. “Bulb” / “Clove” = not synonymous. The reality of this atrocious situation suddenly became very apparent. I had spent too much money on it to throw it all away, nor did I have the time to make another trip to the grocery and start all over. We were supposed to walk out the door in 30 minutes. I turned off the skillet and frantically began relocating the green beans to a colander, hoping no one would notice that I was now attempting to rid them of this garlic scourge. As if on cue, “WHAT are you DOING??!” William curiously inquired. William is no Chef Boyardee either, but he knows enough about cooking to know that people don’t generally remove foods from their cooking vessels to then wash them off under running water, sinuses stinging.

The beans were rinsed and the skillet decontaminated. New butter and olive oil coalesced for Round Two. I lit a delicious cinnamon candle to mask the garlic struggles, but it was no match for the grand scale of this unwholesome cooking disaster.

Fingers crossed, corning ware dishes loaded up, I blew out the candle and we headed out the door for Thanksgiving dinner with my beloved extended family.

I didn’t want to devote too much of the day reminiscing about, “This time last year….” That has its time and its purpose, but I can’t and I won’t set up camp there. I recalled how Channel 9 came to our house and interviewed me about Nora, specifically on the topic of being so thankful for her. I remembered how she sat at the dining room table in her Bumbo with her little white pumpkin and her Thanksgiving music box, and how we LOVED her, just part of our family.

IMG_5545.JPG

While Nora’s physical presence is gone, the LOVE and the memories remain. How treasured and blessed to have known her and to now be surrounded by this awesome family as we give thanks for SO MUCH.

Sarah’s Thanksgiving prayer:

Lord,

We sit together in Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for, the things we take for granted, our families, our homes, our jobs, our schools, our health.

None of this is coincidence! It is Your favor shining down on us and we owe all the glory to You. May we be aware of Your love for us, not just today, but every day, as we strive to be who You want us to be. May we focus more on You and less on ourselves.

As we carry sadness this year in missing the earthly presence of little Nornor, Lord, we ARE thankful for the time she DID spend with us. We are thankful for the impact she made on this earth to bring so many people closer to You, and that she is now in Your loving care.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (‭Psalm‬ ‭100‬:‭4-5‬ NIV)

Post-post: After all was said and done – the green beans turned out fine and no one was admitted for garlic poisoning. Phwew!

November

In my previous post, I wasn’t admonishing myself for thinking about Nora and wondering what we might have dressed her up as this year for Halloween. There I was wondering what are we going to dress her as this year. I get frustrated with myself when my brain begins to think of her in the context that she’s still alive in the physical world. Those thoughts span only a couple of milliseconds, but dispense just enough time for the knife of reality to rise up and gain momentum on its way into my heart. It’s the same concept of reaching for the phone to call that special person who has recently passed away. That’s just what you’ve always done. Those neural pathways are rutted deep.

It’s so hard to believe that November is here and nearly over. This month that represents a time of thanksgiving is also National Adoption month. November 22, specifically is National Adoption Day. I suppose I can tie the two together into a beautiful bow and state that I am so very thankful for the option of adoption. Over the past 21 years – that one decision has been the source of countless friendships and bonds, not to mention the positive effect of it by those (myself included) who are directly affected.

Long, long ago in the land of 2005 there lived two women. One of them was me and the other was a young lady hundreds of miles away in Pennsylvania, named Shannon. Shannon was amidst the crisis of her own unplanned pregnancy and had stumbled across an old blog I had floating around on the interwebz. This other blog told my adoption story — the pain, the heartache, the beauty, and the love of it. In her quest for advice and direction, she reached out to me. We exchanged emails for few days before eventually talking on the phone. In addition to offering her my post-adoption birthmother’s perspective, we were also able to share in the joys, aches and pains of pregnancy with each other as I was also pregnant (with Greta). We became fast friends. That March, Shannon successfully made it through the adoption placement of her birth daughter and Greta made her debut into my world five months later. Over the next 9 years, my friendship with Shannon withstood the tests of time and distance. We kept in touch by email and shared our secret online blog journals with each other — the occasional phone call tossed in for good measure. Over all this time, we had never met in person! Shannon intrigued me not only with her wit and sarcastic sense of humor, but also with her tales of life as a female mechanic. She was the epitome of the tomboy I had always aspired to be, yet adorably girly at the same time. Truly, only Shannon could pull that off!

This past August I had the opportunity to FINALLY meet Shannon in person! She graciously did the 9 hour drive from Delaware to Kentucky — against all better judgement… Essentially “going to meet some AXE MURDERER she met on the internet,” as her son David warned!! 😂

IMG_5402.JPG

Strangely, the moment we stood before each other in a hug, it was as if we’d always known each other, that we’d done this very thing a million times before. “Are you SURE we haven’t met in person before?” I wanted to ask her, knowing we hadn’t.

We had the best of time together, despite nearly running out of gas in the middle of an intersection and having to go back to the house at least three times any time we tried to go somewhere because I kept forgetting everything. I’m waiting for a sarcastic skid of ginkgo biloba to show up on my doorstep any minute now.

The weekend came and went all too quickly. I was only slightly surprised by the lump that formed in my throat as I packed up some goodies for her on her extensive journey back to DelaDelaWarewareware. Of course I was going to miss her!! Lots!! We’d been through so much together over the past 10 years. We finally met and now here we are being separated again. There’s no point of reference for this kind of thing!? I stood on the front porch and watched her drive away through a blur of tears. Tears of sadness, but also tears of gratitude. Your “stumbling” across my adoption blog all those years ago was no accident, Shannon. I’m so thankful for you and so thankful to God who connected our lives, simply because He loves us.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1‬:‭3-7‬ ESV)

IMG_5424.JPG