Happy? Birthday

If someone would have told me that for my birthday I’d be in a limo with my sisters and family and there would be lots of friends in from out of town, I’d have thought, “Rock on!!!!” However, put that imagery into its actual context: in a limo with my sisters and friends… and my big kids… following a hearse to a cemetery… to bury my 2-year-old daughter… their baby sister… everything changes. That’s NOT how I ever hoped and wished to be spending my birthday.

No, we didn’t have to have the funeral service that day, but it just seemed to work best. It’s not like I’d have been out whooping it up somewhere else otherwise.

Was there some horrible glitch in the universe that snatched my baby girl from me just 4 days before my birthday? I mean, REALLY GOD??? Of all possible times? If ever there was an invitation to be angry and bitter with God, I’d have to say THIS was it. How do I keep my faith in the face of such extreme adversity? How do I carry on? How do I keep breathing?

Over and over and over again we see them–the little and sometimes HUGE reminders of God’s undying love, His tender presence ~







This was no terrible cosmic accident. I cling to my faith, carry on and breathe in the intimate knowledge that God is a LOVING God. I know that God’s ways are not our ways. I can even be so bold as to surmise that this collision of birth and death is a gift.

I initially didn’t want to have my birthday acknowledged. What are people even supposed to say?! “Happy(?) birthday” seems silly. Maybe we should come up with a song for such occasions? “Sad Birthday to you…”

We met up with a couple of friends, my family and a few of the out of town family members from William’s side at a restaurant that evening. William’s sweet Aunt Jane even brought a beautiful birthday cake for me! I reluctantly agreed for “Happy Birthday” to be sung to me. After all, that was one of Nora’s favorite songs. She had listened to that song on her little music box hundreds of times a day. We had even brought the music box to the hospital for her.

Greta sat on my lap and tears streamed down my cheeks as they sang it. My friend Tonya snapped some pictures for me on her phone as the sweetness of icing and melting wax lingered in the air.

These are the photos in their raw and untouched form ~






If you look closely you can see the angel orbs around our heads, around my face and between Greta and I.

As beliefnet.com explains them:

What are orbs? Chances are, you’ve probably seen them before–they are the curious translucent or solid circles (usually white) that appear unexpectedly in your photos. Orbs may appear in different sizes, as a single spot or as a multitude of spots grouped together.

Some people believe that orbs are more than dust particles or drops of moisture on the lens–they are proof of guardian angels, captured on camera. When these “spirit orbs” or “angel orbs” appear near a single person or a group of people in a photo, it’s a sign that they are blessed with the goodness, positive energy, and protection of angels. When orbs appear in a particular location, it’s also a sign that angels are hovering nearby and the location is particularly blessed.


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isaiah 55:8, 9 NIV)

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16 NIV)

The Cemetery

On June 5th, a beautiful sunny day, we set out to pick out a final resting spot for our sweet Lady Baby. We were already very familiar with Highland Cemetery, as that is where our little bird Ava is buried.


She is buried in the pet section and I can say with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that Ava is the only house sparrow buried there.

We pulled up to a part of the cemetery that we had passed many times before and had even walked through on occasion. Before my eyes even scanned the area, I was drawn to one particular headstone. It wasn’t anything ostentatious or showy. It was classically simple and blended well with the surrounding markers. But something about it couldn’t have DEMANDED my attention more if it had flashing neon signs and sirens on it. Our Kelly even said the name out loud, “Nunery!” The gears in my head began turning and I suddenly made the connection. I pursed my lips together, unbuckled my seatbelt and thought to myself, “No way.” Closer, with the fine print now visible. Yes way, “Allison Brooke.”


Once I caught my breath and picked my jaw up off this sacred ground I snapped the above picture — my flustered thumb in the way and everything. Perhaps you remember this beautiful love story that was featured in just about every news media outlet around the world. {Yes, please take a minute to click on the above hyperlink}. The exquisitely beautiful Ali Nunery, who is now famous largely in part because of her sister Melanie’s incredible photo shoot and blog!! She was RIGHT THERE before my very eyes!! Even if I had only just seen this story on the news and that was the ONLY connection I had, I would have been star struck. But the connection stretches down to a much, much deeper level.

Back when I was pregnant with Nora, we were told we might not have long with her. There was a big chance she might not survive delivery, if she even made it through the rest of the pregnancy. We wanted to optimize every possible second with our baby, which is where Melanie comes in. Melanie had gone to high school with my youngest sister Emily which is how she heard about our story. On February 6, 2012 Melanie sent me an email. She was no stranger to grief having just lost her sister Ali 3 months prior to writing to me. In Melanie’s words, “People have continuously told me that through my blogging (I’ve continued to blog since she’s passed) that I’m spreading her legacy and inspiring thousands. So I think sometimes, maybe that was our purpose. To grow up and play out God’s plan. And now hundreds are finding their way back to Him through hearing about the life she led. Did he put me here to do that?? Did he put YOU here to do the same?” (Chills) With this e-mail came the extremely generous offer to photograph Nora’s birth. I had already contacted another popular organization that specializes in these types of photos, and also had a couple of offers from other people. However, after seeing the images she shared of her friend Luci’s precious angels, there was absolutely no question. Just as I had expected Nora’s birth photos were out of this world. Melanie’s flawless ability to somehow capture EMOTION in her camera lens produces images that are so much more than “photographs”. She did it again with the images she shot of her niece and brother in law, reminiscent of his fairy tail wedding day with his stunning bride–the beautiful Ali Nunery who was sooooooo much more than just a pretty face.

Only a day before this unexplainable encounter in the cemetery William had called Melanie to ask her if she could take photos at Nora’s funeral service. Yes, maybe that sounds weird at first, but if you’ve seen the slideshow of the photos that she and Kate C. took – you will see just how PERFECT they are. If you haven’t: PLEASE DO!

Meanwhile, back in the cemetery I stood there staring at Ali’s headstone. “WHAT ARE THE ODDS????” I laugh-cried over and over as I tried to type a text to Melanie in warp speed.


I have no idea what the actual odds are, but adding up the approximate acreage of seven major cemeteries in the Tri-State area, I’ve come up with about 1600 acres. Just in Highland Cemetery alone there are around 47,000 existing graves. The odds of us pulling up to Allison Brooke Nunery’s special plot of land is next to impossible – EVEN IF I KNEW SHE WAS BURIED SOMEWHERE IN THAT CEMETERY, WHICH I CAN ASSURE YOU I DID NOT!!!!! Ali is from Cincinnati. This is just across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky! (???)

I can’t explain this. I have no idea what this all means other than God reminding me, reminding ALL OF US that He has every bit of this under control. From the HUGE God winks to the little whispery God winks: His ways are PERFECT.

Two of the many God Winks associated with Ali are the color PINK, and feathers. {!!! Hearts are typically pink / Three Birds have feathers !!!} By this point it should have come as no surprise to look down and see a perfectly placed feather there in the grass at the burial. I held it up crying and laughing at the same time.

When I start to feel myself getting really upset and sad I simply think about this incredible God Wink of Ali’s headstone. Nora and Ali’s final resting sites are practically right next to each other, or as Melanie put it, “Can I borrow a cup of sugar out the window close!” This is such a sweet soothing balm.

Soooo… Incase you were there at the burial or you were wondering what the significance of the NUNERY headstone is in the slideshow – that is it. An amazing, unexplainable, right there in your face, can’t even try to explain it GOD WINK.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
(John 14:27)

Open Arms

During baff time with Nora back at home I used to play the Heavenly Lullaby station on Pandora. It was relaxing for both of us and seemed only appropriate to play it for her again from my phone one last time here on this earth. The first song that came on was a lullaby rendition of a Journey song called “Open Arms”.

I have been such a huge fan of these “big people songs” adorably played out on tinkering little glockenspiels and xylophones. With this version of “Open Arms” there were no words – just the soothing and familiar melody. I could only recall the main refrain in Steve Perry’s version, “So now I come to you, with oooooopen aaaarms….”

SOMETHING told me to Google the lyrics the following day. They darn near took my breath away:

Lying beside you
Here in the dark
Feeling your heartbeat with mine
Softly you whisper
You’re so sincere
How could our love be so blind
We sailed on together
We drifted apart
And here you are
By my side

So now I come to you
With open arms
Nothing to hide
Believe what I say
So here I am
With open arms
Hoping you’ll see
What your love means to me
Open arms

Living without you
Living alone
This empty house seems so cold
Wanting to hold you
Wanting you near
How much I wanted you home

But now that you’ve come back
Turned night into day
I need you to stay

So now I come to you
With open arms
Nothing to hide
Believe what I say
So here I am
With open arms
Hoping you’ll see
What your love means to me
Open arms

Sometimes there are just no other words other than, “Wow.”

“Coincidence?” Methinks not.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27 NIV)

Nora’s Slideshow

This is the slideshow of Nora’s beautiful two years that was shown at her funeral visitation and at the service.It was incredibly hard to narrow down the thousands and thousands of adorable pictures into a reasonable amount of time. The five songs were carefully chosen for their significance in Nora’s and our lives. It starts out in silence – a reflection of the eager anticipation leading up to her statistic-defying birth. This little miracle made her way into our open arms, leaving an indelible mark on our hearts ~




Kim’s Sermon

And now the inspiring words of wisdom spoken by our dear friend and pastor, Kim Botto:


Welcome. I’m Kim Botto and I’m a pastor here at Crossroads. I’m also a friend of Aleisa and William and my life, like yours, has been impacted by Nora Rose Yusko. On behalf of Aleisa and William and Nora’s big brother Gavin and big sister Greta, thank you for being here. Today we honor and celebrate Nora while we support her family. In evaluating a life based on years, Nora’s life was short – way too short, but that little bitty life made a huge impact on those of us here today as well as people across the nation and literally across the world.

Nora overcame so many obstacles during her two-years here on earth. So it seems surprising that she is gone. We believed that this was another challenge where once again God would miraculously intervene and she’d bounce back and be back at home enjoying her baths, milkies and her family.

But that’s not the way it played out. The Bible refers to our bodies as an earthly tent. Here’s what scripture says:

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down — when we die and leave these bodies — we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.

These verses call our bodies earthly tents. Just imagine living in at tent instead of your house or apartment. Tents can be really fun. But would you really want to live in a tent every day? Tents often leak when it rains. At night they get very dark and cold. And there are no bathrooms in tents. Tent living would definitely have some problems.

So even though we like our tent, we know that there is a better place to live. And that’s what God says it’s like living on earth in these bodies, our earthly tents. I like living in this body, but I know there is something better. Our bodies have limits. They can get hurt. They need food. They get sick. And they die.

But one day we’ll trade these earthly tents, for a new and amazing body. It will be a body that will never die, never get sick and never hurt.

Early Tuesday morning, as her mom and dad stroked her precious little head, kissed her chubby cheeks, rubbed the creases in her adorable little wrists and whispered & whistled in her ear, Nora left her earthly tent, and God gave Nora her heavenly body, one that will last forever. Nora’s new body doesn’t need tubes to supply oxygen. No tests are needed to evaluate her heart function or oxygen levels. Nora is pain free. And while we miss her physical presence immensely, we’re celebrating that Nora is home and in the presence of Jesus.

God thank you for the precious gift of Elanora Rose Yusko. Her life blessed us. Her hats made us laugh. Her squeals delighted us. We grew in our faith as we prayed for her.

Today we celebrate the richness of her life. We don’t understand why she had to be taken so soon. There are a wide range of emotions in this room – confusion, anger, disbelief and unbelief. My prayer is that the time we spend together this morning is a comfort to everyone gathered, and in our grief that we are drawn closer to you.

As we reflect on Nora’s life and the legacy she leaves, may we be encouraged and reminded that we too have the opportunity to positively impact those around us. God we ask that you comfort Nora’s family, who love her deeply and miss her greatly. We ask that they feel a peace and a hope that is only possible through your son Jesus. Amen.

This morning, we’ll remember Nora and celebrate her life by hearing from those who were closest to her.

{Tribute – Sarah ward}

{Tribute – Kelly}

{Parents’ Tributes}

{Eulogy – Kate Rewwer}


While we have heard beautiful tributes today, there are two people who were very special to Nora that we have not yet heard from. Nora’s brother and sister, Gavin and Greta have written some of their favorite memories of Nora that I’ll read.

Gavin wrote: I used to smell her fuzz, giver her kisses, say silly voices to her, played with her xylophone or piano with her. I sometimes fed her milks. I’d go on walks with her, carried her upstairs to the “baff, squeeze her knee muffins, played some of Nora’s games on the Ipad with her, and before bed she used to come up and say goodnight and cuddles with me in my bed.

Greta’s letter is titled “Nora’s Project” What I like to do with Nora is read her books and sniff her fuzz. I like to talk to her and play with her toys and with her! I like to hold her and squeeze her “litter” arms! She is so pretty and sweet. I also liked to play the piano with her and she would always smile. I liked to carry her up to the bath. I liked letting her fall asleep on my lap. I liked to rock her in her little chair.

Greta and Gavin, you loved your little sister well. And we know that there is now an empty place in your life where Nora used to squeal and laugh and splash in the bath.

Aleisa and William, thanks for being so generous and for sharing her with us.

In the midst of our grief and uncertainty, scripture says: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Faith to take the next step. While we’re broken hearted and not sure how to go on – it’s taking just one step forward in faith.

And hope. Hope beyond the world that we live in now. We have hope because we trust in Jesus and know that one day, you will experience an amazing reunion with Nora.

And love. We experienced love through Nora’s life. And as we leave here we have the opportunity to continue to love the Yuskos.

We can love them by sharing our memories of Nora and how she impacted our lives. We can send them cards, cook casseroles and let them know that we remember Nora.

Lives were changed because of the life of Elanora Rose Yusko. People came to know Jesus as they read about how your family praised Him in this storm. People who were losing hope, found hope again, their faith fortified. Some talked to God for the very first time, thanking him when Nora once again defied all odds and experienced another miracle. People who didn’t even know each other came together to pray for healing. And our prayers of healing have been answered. Nora is now fully healed. And we thank God for that.

Aleisa, William, Gavin and Greta your life will never be the same without Nora here on earth. But also, your life will never be the same because of Nora’s time here on earth. Take a look at the people sitting in this room. And know you are loved. And Nora is remembered.

God thank you for the gift of Nora Rose. Thank you for her family who openly shared their hopes and dreams for Nora as well as their fears and challenges. Through Nora’s family, we’ve seen faith in action. Real faith. A faith that isn’t always pretty, is sometimes shaky, but is built on your promises.

Your promise that this is not our home. That one day, we’ll leave these earthly tents and enter into a place that we can not even imagine. A place that no man can comprehend. A place where Nora now resides with you. Give her family the strength to carry own. Help us, their community, to be your hands and feet. Hands that comfort and feet that serve and ears that listen. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for giving us a hope that never fades. Bless and comfort Aleisa, William, Greta and Gavin. Give them peace. Be their refuge and strength. Amen.

Kate’s Eulogy

This is the eloquently delivered eulogy that was given by our dear friend Kate, who was also one of Nora’s caregivers. I believe I can speak for all of us there by saying that we were captivated by every word. If you don’t have time to read it all in one sitting, it is definitely worth coming back to. And now Kate:


When William asked me if I would do the eulogy at Nora’s funeral, I was first and foremost, humbled. And then I panicked. What in the world could I possibly say that would display the life of Nora as it really was? How could I talk about this baby’s impact on the world? Though we are all seeing it clearly, there are no words to describe it. And so I did what I’ve learned to do in times that I have a job to complete and no clue how or where to begin. I went to God. In the quiet corner of my living room with a cup of coffee in the early hours of the morning, I asked God to give me the words I needed to let His glory shine through this tiny life.

Before my prayer ended, I knew where I was going to start. I knew that I needed to go back nearly two thousand years ago, when a young peasant girl, named Mary, was approached by an angel. Mary was probably only about 12 or 13 years old when the angel Gabriel came to her. She had recently become engaged to a carpenter named Joseph. Mary was an ordinary Jewish girl, looking forward to marriage. Suddenly her life would forever be changed.

Mary was fearful and troubled in the presence of the angel. She could never have expected what the angel would say— that she would have a child, and her son would be the Messiah. And He would change the world and He would save humanity. Though terribly frightened, she responded to God with belief and obedience… “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your word.”

Although Mary’s life held great honor, her calling would demand great suffering as well. Just as there is pain in childbirth and motherhood, there would be much pain in the privilege of being the mother of the Messiah.

Fast forward to nearly two thousand years later. A young couple sits in a room with their obstetrician. This couple had recently received the devastating news that their child in utero had a genetic disorder known as trisomy 18. With this diagnosis, comes the knowledge that the disorder is, “incompatible with life.” What does this mean? It means that the extra 18th chromosome causes life ending biologic conditions with the heart, brain, lungs and/or other organs. It meant a death sentence.

The couple was presented two options, neither of which would be easy. They could choose to end the pregnancy, sparing themselves and possibly their unborn baby from the pain and devastation of this condition. Or they could carry this baby until God decided it was time to call His child home. They would suffer loss and heartache, but they would have no clue when or how it would happen. They were terribly frightened, but responded to God with belief and obedience…”We would like to continue the pregnancy.” At that moment, the young woman made a promise to her unborn child, “I will carry you.” I have often thought of how Aleisa reminded me of the mother of God. Her faith in God, her obedience and her willingness to suffer at all costs to carry out His will for her parallels that of our Blessed Mother. In fact, on the mantle of their living room sits a small figure of Mary holding Jesus as a baby. On the nights I would care for Nora, that never failed to catch my eye and I never failed to recognize the similarities between these two women.

It is nearly impossible to tell the story of Nora without first beginning with her parents. When William and Aleisa committed to choosing life for Nora, they committed to a terrifying road of uncertainty. They knew that to travel this road, they would absolutely need to cling to God. They did not know how long Nora would live or if she would even be born alive. Almost every day, Aleisa kept an account of this scary road, and every single day she wrote, she displayed the love and tenderness of God as He carried she and William through the pregnancy. She solicited prayers from her blog followers, which were growing in numbers as a result of Aleisa’s incredible gift to capture attention through the written word. Aleisa fell in love with her unborn baby and had one wish… to hold her alive, if only for just a short time. “I just want to hold her alive.” She began to document visible signs from God that this would happen. One of the first ones that I can recall was her entry about Greta’s Dream. Before they knew that Nora was a girl, when the news was still quite fresh, William walked past Greta’s room one morning and heard her laughing. Intrigued because it was too early for her to be awake, he walked in to discover his daughter was still asleep. He woke her up and asked her what she was dreaming about. Greta told William that she had a dream that mommy had a baby girl and that he and mommy were feeding the baby while she and Gavin played on the floor. Aleisa felt comforted by Greta’s dream, wondering if perhaps God was sending her a message. Over and over again, Aleisa documented these accounts, which she began to firmly believe were tangible signs from God. Within the depths of her soul, she KNEW He was telling her to trust him. That he would not fail her and that He had control of everything.

I will never forget the day my sister, Maggie, told me Aleisa wanted me present for Nora’s delivery. As her best friend’s sister and someone who had 12 years of experience as a Labor and Delivery nurse, Aleisa felt comfortable having me there. I was extremely honored to have been asked. I adored Aleisa, who provided so much for our family when my brother-in-law, Mitch passed away suddenly.

On April 17th, 2012, Maggie and I drove to Bethesda North Hospital. We prayed the rosary on the way, taking comfort in knowing that God heard us. The day was filled with bright sunshine and was gloriously beautiful.

After an uneventful labor (in Labor and Delivery, an uneventful labor is truly a wonderful thing), at 5:12 in the evening, Miss Nora Rose made her grand entrance into the world with a hearty cry. The room was filled with joy that she had made it safely into the world and that her mother’s one wish had indeed come true. She would hold her baby alive!

From Nora’s first days on earth, Aleisa blogged daily. Initially, in that hospital room, there was joy, the next day, there was despair over the thought of losing her precious girl. In the first few days at home, the feeling turned to anxiety over when the hourglass of sand of Nora’s life would be emptying. Unknown to them, this pattern of emotions would be what they experienced for two years. But day after day, Aleisa and William clung to God in this time of uncertainty. And day after day, more and more people from around the world logged on to their computers to check in on Nora and her family and to gain a bit of footing and perspective as Aleisa documented their journey so openly, honestly, joyfully, painfully and with un-wavering faith in God.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with Nora every once in while. There were nights I would go over to the Yuskos and take over her nighttime care. Little did I know just how much these precious hours with her would change my perspective, my mothering and my life. Most nights, both William and Aleisa were awake when I got there. As William went up to bed, he always said, “Thank you, Kate.” And I always said, “No. Thank YOU!” He never quite understood that and thought it was so backwards for me to be thanking him. As Nora got older and he was seeing her impact on so many others, I believe he began to understand. Aleisa would usually stay up a bit later, finishing up her to-do list and chatting with me. I treasured these moments, as most of them I recall to be filled with laughter, as this is one hilarious lady! Sometimes I was there for an hour before she would go up to bed! She found it too tempting to see Nora sitting or lying there and not give her one last kiss, hug or sniff for the day.

Nora took to the role of the house baby princess quite well. This baby visibly LOVED her family. And how could you not love people who showered you with 24/7 love, kisses, playtime, cuddling, music and silly noises? I don’t know if I ever visibly recognized the love a child has for a parent until Nora. One night, when Aleisa was taking her sweet time handing over Nora before heading to bed, I happened to catch an exchange between Nora and her mother that I will never forget. Aleisa was talking to her in one of her many “Nora” voices and Nora was listening intently. I happened to be watching her eyes and I swear, I saw something incredible. If Nora could have talked, she would have said, “Mommy, I love you so, so much. Thank you, mommy. Thank you.” The eyes say so much. They can display incredible love. They can display hatred. They can dance with joy or be filled with sorrow. Nora’s were indescribably radiant… almost sparkling. That moment is imprinted on my brain forever. I never told Aleisa this and perhaps innately, I knew there would come a time when she needed to hear it most. I got up from the couch and walked to my purse as tears welled up in my eyes… I may have muttered something about “allergies”, which I actually don’t suffer from… who knows. What a gift to have witnessed that brief, but life altering moment between mother and child. I am certain Nora looked at her parents and at Greta and Gavin like that quite often. I am so lucky to have witnessed it one of those times.

I once told my sister Maggie that I read somewhere that you can gauge how much a child is loved by the number of nicknames he or she has. I prided myself on the fact that my own children had a few, hence proving that I loved them a lot. Well if that is the case, William and Aleisa put John and me to shame. Nora had a very long list, some of which included: Fuzzy Lady, Lady, Lady Baby, Big Lady, Happy Baby, Sad Baby, Dis, Dassy, Dis Das, Dasser, Norns, Nornor, Norsicle, Norsies and the ever infamous high octave prolonged “E” sound that I will not even attempt to do, but heard Aleisa do a million times. Nora LOVED it when her mom made that sound because she knew that was just for her! Even Gavin had a special name for Nora and often told her how much he loved her “smelly fuzzy head”.

The world knew through Aleisa’s blog that there were two things Nora especially loved… one was her “milkies”, the other were her “baffs”. Aleisa joked once that she wondered if Nora were really a mermaid as often times a nice bath was the ONLY thing that comforted her on a bad day when all else was failing. Nora also loved to play and really enjoyed the cause and effect toys she had. She was so proud of herself when she would hit a toy a certain way and music would play or it would light up. She would do it again and again and was quite the showoff. Nora also loved to sit in her little chair and play with this container of dried beans. Seems simple, but she enjoyed the fact that she could push them around and make them go wherever she wanted. Nora clearly loved to be in control and enjoyed flaunting her authority to her toys and playthings. To Greta and Gavin, Nora was their treasured baby sister. They showered her with love and attention, made camps with blankets and invited her in and played with her all the time. Greta often drew pictures and wrote notes for Nora and hung them up in the kitchen. Aleisa noticed how much Nora missed her brother and sister when they were not home. Nora also loved her nanny, and the Yuskos adopted family member, Kelly. Or as the world knows her, “Our Kelly.” And Kelly reciprocated that love for Nora. Nora also captured the hearts of her the nurses that helped with her care… Amy, who was Aleisa’s nurse when Nora was born and has been caring for her from the beginning, Kristy and Tracy. She captivated her grandparents, aunts and uncles, all who showered her with love. What an incredibly lucky baby!

Nora also loved music, particularly lullabies. The Mission Main theme, by Ennio Marricone was introduced to her by one of her nurses, Tracy and was often used to sooth her in the car on the way to appointments or other places. There was one other song that Nora loved and which notably soothed her, particularly in the hospital. It was the Happy Birthday song. As she lays her precious baby to rest on her birthday, Aleisa can feel comforted by knowing that her daughter is joyfully singing this song to her mother from heaven above. I imagine her eyes sparkling as she uses her newfound words and her legs to carry her around and around as she dances. Though some may think, “How horribly sad for Aleisa, on her birthday, to have to say her final goodbye to Nora,” I see this is as one of God’s many gifts to Aleisa as every year when that song is sung to her, she can know how loudly one joyous little toddler is singing one of her favorite songs from heaven above.

Nora brought so much joy to that house that I completely understood the anxiety and fear that gripped William and Aleisa with the knowledge that Nora’s life on earth would likely be short. We all have our crosses to bear in life and his has to be one of the heaviest. Their cross was NOT in the day to day duties required to care for a special needs child. In fact, they LOVED taking care of Nora. They loved watching her grow and thrive as the weeks and months flew by. She was their daughter and loved every single thing about being her parents.

My sister, Ruth, once told me that in life we all have crosses. At times, our cross is heavy and at other times it is light. In those moments when ours are light, we are called to be Simon. We are called to help those with heavy crosses carry theirs and help lighten their load just like Simon did for Jesus. Aleisa and William bore the very heavy cross of fear and anxiety. They reached for God over and over for His calm reassurance and they found it in the many Simons that God sent to minister to them during this time. From the beginning, they found Simon in their obstetrician, Dr. Sullivan, who lovingly encouraged their decision to continue the pregnancy. They found him in their pediatrician, Dr. Bolling, in their cardiologist, Dr. Hirsch, and in all the doctors that were part of her care. Meanwhile, Nora impressed and sometimes baffled them with her health, progress and growth. One Simon that is fresh in my memory is Andre. Andre is the UPS driver that delivers to William’s downtown office. Every day, Andre would stop in, have a kind and uplifting word or phrase about the Lord for William, and move on with his workday. This exchange went on for a long time. One day, after a particularly trying and difficult morning, William pulled into the parking lot of his office building. Andre simultaneously pulled up and looked over at William and they locked eyes. Again, the eyes reveal so much. Andre got out of his truck, walked over to William and said, “William, the Lord just told me to give you a hug.” As William explained it, “So there we were, two dudes, one in a UPS uniform, hugging in a parking lot, in the middle of downtown.” Andre was also at the hospital on Monday evening when things were going very badly with Nora. I remember all of us there, standing around her bed, as Andre, fresh from work and still in his uniform, boldly and beautifully prayed over her. The entire time he had the most radiant smile on his face as he exhibited pure love for and trust in God’s mercy and compassion. If real angels in the flesh roam the earth, I am certain Andre is one of them.

In the midst of carrying their cross, Aleisa and William were also being Simon to many others who were finding comfort, perspective and ultimately, God, through Aleisa’s willingness to document and share their journey. They carried a heavy cross, yet were such a comfort to others while doing so. It is impossible for me to put that kind of service to the Lord into words. So I won’t try. I just ask that we all let that sink in.

Nora’s purpose for being here is evident. God and His ways are often a mystery, but I believe when we fulfill what He is asking of us and carry out His will for us, He becomes amazingly transparent. God’s message is clear, or at least it is for me. God showed the world through Nora and through her parents that EVERY SINGLE HUMAN LIFE HAS IMMEASUABLE VALUE. He took an ordinary couple, who did not realize the potential He had gifted them with at their birth, gave them a child, who in the eyes of the some in the world did not have much value, and asked them to give her life. This child would not walk and she would not talk. She would not feed herself. She would be completely dependent on them. She would require constant care. She would be healthy, yet medically fragile and every illness would ignite incredible fear within their hearts. And God’s plan, if they said yes, was to ignite passion from the depths of His daughter, Aleisa’s, soul with the gift of writing that He gave her. God’s plan was to use her to show the world how much she and William loved this child, her adorable and fun personality, and the joy she brought to them day after day after day. God’s plan was to use her to show the world how much He loved Aleisa and William, took care of them, sent angels for them. God’s plan was to show us the power of prayer and to show each of us He loves us and that we matter so much. God’s plan was to use this family to bring thousands of people, from all over the world, to Him. God’s plan was to show that He is imprinted in every human life.

Years ago, my father attended a conference in Moscow, Russia. Speaking at the conference was French pediatrician and geneticist, Dr. Jerome Legeune. Dr. Legeune was best known for his discovery that Down syndrome was the result of an extra 21st chromosome. At this conference, were a group of Russian doctors. Dr. Legeune began to describe the science of cell division. He went on to say that at conception, the single cell formed from the sperm and egg, called a zygote, divided into two cells. The two cells became four, the four divided and became eight and the eight divided and became sixteen. At the sixteen -cell stage of division, the cells broke apart and formed two groups of cells… one a group of thirteen and the other a group of three. The group of thirteen became supporting structures for the new life and the group of three became the recognizable child. He then said: “Right from the beginning, there is the imprint of the trinity on the human person.”

“This was more than just a statement”, my father said. “It was a proclamation made to an audience made up of entirely non-believers.”

We are masterpieces of God… each and every one of us.

Last weekend, I convinced Aleisa to let me come to the hospital and spend the night with Nora on Sunday. Nora seemed to be having some good days, and besides, I missed her and knew that the Yuskos could use some sleep. I had no idea when I left that Monday morning that Nora was approaching the finish line of life on earth. I had no idea that we I would be back later that evening under much different circumstances. But when I left, I did know something was different. Aleisa and William had a very difficult time sleeping in the parent room throughout their two -week stay. It was very loud and doors were always opening and closing (loudly) all night long. On Sunday night, Aleisa taped a homemade sign reminding other guests (parents of sick children) of the need for quiet. When she came to Nora’s room on Monday morning, I asked her how she slept. Her response was, “Good!” I had not heard once that she had slept well during Nora’s hospitalization. My immediate feeling was, “Something is coming. She needed that sleep last night for something big.”

I have thought so much about Nora’s last few hours on earth and am overwhelmed with the evidence of God’s presence during that difficult, but miraculously beautiful time. From the family and friends that rushed to the Yusko’s side, to the incredibly compassionate and loving Dr. Hirsch, Nora’s cardiologist, and the beautiful way he spoke to them about their precious girl’s prognosis, God tended to their every need right then. Whatever they seemed to need, He provided on the spot. He tended to us all, listening to our prayers and comforting us continuously.

If I live to be two hundred years old, I don’t think I will ever witness a moment like the one when Jesus came to bring Nora to Heaven. The room was dimly lit and there was soft and beautiful music playing. Aleisa lay next to Nora, talking softly to her and singing, her hand over Nora’s heart. As I stood at the bedside behind Aleisa, one hand reached over onto Nora’s forehead and one arm linked together with Amy’s, I heard William praying through his heartache. In between sobs of sorrow, he was thanking God for the two years he gave them with Nora. He thanked Him over and over and in an instant, my mind went to the last supper, “On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, broke it and gave thanks…” On the night Jesus was betrayed, knowing that He was to be horrifically beaten and then crucified, he thanked His father. During the most painful, soul crushing moment of William’s life, He was thankful. I have never witnessed a more Christ like display of emotions.

We all have our visions of what it will be like when we go to Heaven. I know I have mine and I have imagined over and over this week about the beautiful reunion with Nora that William and Aleisa will experience when they arrive. I imagine an overly excited toddler knowing the time is near. I imagine her running to the huge, beautiful gate at the entrance of Heaven and her cheeks pressing through the gate’s gold and pearl bars, like a child awaiting a parent returning home and running to the window. I imagine her squeals and her delight as she sees them approaching, each one at different times, but with the same reaction from Nora. As the Gates begin to open, they see her jumping, laughing and clapping with the sheer joy of a two year old. Nora will run toward them, arms outstretched and jump into their arms, wrapping her sweet chubby arms around their necks. Before Nora can pull them to the best place to be after returning home from a long journey (a relaxing bubble baff), they will be welcomed into the arms of Jesus, who will lovingly whisper:

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Aleisa and William, THANK YOU, for allowing me to be part of Nora’s life. I will carry her sweet smell, soft skin, sparkling eyes and beautiful smile in my heart forever.

Kelly’s Tribute

The second of these moving tributes was given by Our Kelly. We have been so blessed to have her as a part of our family.


Sometime in November of two thousand twelve, I needed a job. I created a profile on a babysitters’ website, hoping to find a few new families to babysit while I attended school full time. After several weeks went by, things were going well. I was considering taking my care profile off of the website, assuming I couldn’t possibly fit any more new sitting commitments in my schedule.
Around that time, I had a new message from another user on the website, a user named “William Y.” The subject line read simply, “A Little Help.” I opened it, and learned that William Y. needed some care for his three children, especially their baby named Nora. After setting up and completing an interview with William Y., who I now knew as William Yusko, I learned more about his family, and about this sweet baby named Nora, who had a genetic disorder called Trisomy 18, or Edward’s Syndrome. We planned on my stopping by their home that Friday night so I could meet his wife Aleisa, and their children Gavin, Greta, and baby Nora. That evening finally arrived, and I was nervous to meet Nora, and to be responsible for her and her siblings while their parents went out to dinner. Since everyone knows the end of this story, you probably think that that first night that I babysat Gavin, Greta, and Nora went perfectly. I wish I could tell you that; but it wasn’t. It was basically a babysitting fail.

For starters, a terrible thunderstorm raged all night and the house shook with every crack of lightening. Gavin and Greta were understandable shy and didn’t really feel comfortable talking to, or even coming near this strange new person in their home. I accidentally froze their TV screen and didn’t know how to fix it, so the kids couldn’t watch their movie. Worst of all, this tiny, seemingly fragile and oh-so-breakable baby named Nora would not stop crying, no matter WHAT I did to try and appease her. From the moment her parents left, the house was filled with her wailing, as Gavin and Greta looked on nervously. At one point, even sweet little Greta began to cry. By the time William and Aleisa returned, paid me, and I left, I had already chalked that night up to “a learning experience,” knowing that this poor family would never be calling me to babysit again.

Less than a week went by, and to my great surprise, the phone rang. It was William Yusko, asking me to come by the next weeknight to spend some time with Nora. I was shocked, to say the least. I remembered thinking, “Wow, they must have either really liked me, or they are SO desperate!”
That weeknight came and went, and a few more weeks went by. By then, sitting for the Yuskos had become a regular gig. However, I still felt pretty discouraged.

If you had the privilege to know Nora while she was here on this earth, then you know she’s a VERY “particular” little lady. She knows what she likes and knows what she wants, and she has NO problem letting you know “you’re doing it wrong.” So every time my phone rang and the Yuskos wanted me to babysit or provide respite with Nora, I was surprised. I felt like I did nothing right with Nora. On top of it all, I hardly knew how to interact with Gavin and Greta because I was always so stressed about getting it right with Nora.

But, as you may have surmised, things began to change. One afternoon I was standing in the Yuskos’ kitchen and making a bottle, when a breathless and red-faced Greta burst through the front door, home from school. “I ran all the way home from the bus stop!” she cheerfully explained. I asked her why. “Because I saw your car in our driveway!” , she smiled. Soon after, Gavin and I discovered that our sense of humor and maturity level were about the same.

And best of all, on a snowy December night, sometime around 3 AM, I rocked a certain fussy baby. Her sweet blue eyes looked into mine, her tiny mouth gave a content smile, her little body drifted off to sleep, and her little baby finger now had a nanny named Kelly wrapped tightly around it.
As the months went on and 2012 became 2013, my love for Nora and for the Yuskos grew. I started staying later and later after my scheduled time, just to play with the kids or have dinner with the family. My cell phone soon became filled with nothing but pictures of the kids. My friends and family commented how all I talked about anymore were those Yusko kids. In June of 2013, I moved into the lower level of their home. I started going to nearly all family functions, feeling not just at home with the Yuskos, but with their extended family as well. These three children began to consume my heart.

By now, I knew this miracle baby inside and out. Her likes and dislikes, her moods, her different cries, her sleeping patterns, and her sweet and oh so sassy disposition. Before my eyes, that fussy little baby became a big, chubby toddler, and my very best friend. And like a true best friend, Nora began to change my life for the better, in ways I’d never imagined. I began listening to almost nothing but Christian radio, since that’s what Nora loved. I discovered my love for Crossroads church and a renewed relationship with Christ, and got baptized on April 30th, 2014.
I know I’m not the only one whom Nora brought closer to Christ. Hundreds and hundreds of followers on Aleisa’s blog have been touched by Nora’s story, and by the miracle of her life. When Nora was hospitalized this past January, a family member of mine told me that she literally got down on her knees and prayed for Nora’s health, something this woman had not done in over ten years.

My dad suddenly and unexpectedly passed away on February 25th of this year, at the age of 48. Nora has been my rock through this storm. I wasn’t able to check out and fall apart through my pain, because my sweet Nora needed me. She would let me hold her and didn’t mind if I sobbed uncontrollably, but would smile and rub my arm.

Nora inspired me every day to live my life better. I loved to watch her wake up from a nap or a deep sleep. She would open her eyes, look around, and just smile. She was happy to be awake. Happy she was in her house. Happy that it was a plain old rainy Tuesday. If this child, who has overcome so many obstacles and likely had more to face, could wake up every day with such hope and joy, couldn’t I? Couldn’t we all? It shouldn’t surprise anyone when I confess that Nora is my hero. She will forever be my hero.

So now the question is, what are we going to do? How can we go on without this sweet girl? How can we live on earth without Nora Rose? Well, I’ll let you know when I figure that out, but what I CAN tell you is this: We have been left a great responsibility. Nora’s Mother. Nora’s Father. Nora’s Nanny. Nora’s Nurse. Nora’s Follower. These are our titles. Our job now is to live up to them, to work the rest of our lives to somehow be worthy enough to be associated with this angel, this miracle, this Prophet to the Nations. Thank you.