Independence Day

A month has slipped by without her. Sometimes my heart hurts so badly I wonder if it’s possible to die of a broken heart. Bins of memories are stacked up in what was supposed to have been her bedroom. Plants and flowers from her funeral fill the void of the toys, chairs, and medical equipment. They’re beautiful and they’re something to occupy my unemployed hands. How horrible it was to take that little red white and blue dress down off of the hanger. I had it waiting for her – for today. Assuming that of course she would be here for her third Fourth of July — assuming there would always be tons of pictures to take.

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These are the thoughts that try to stir up my bitterness and rage evoking such sentiments as, “Why me?” “It’s not fair.” “I can’t do this.” My wounded soul, intimately connected with my God hears, “Yes, you! Give thanks!” “It might not seem fair, but someday you’ll see.” “No, you can’t do this. That’s why I’m going to carry you through it.” I lay my head down and breathe it in, so thankful, so blessed.

The days, the months and the years will continue on without her. I will continue to miss her terribly, but death has no power over true and eternal life. Today I not only celebrate our nation’s freedom, but the freedoms that Nora experienced directly because of it.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“All men” includes babies endowed by their Creator with a precious extra chromosome. Nora had a right to her amazing but short little LIFE. She didn’t have to go through any great lengths to pursue her HAPPINESS. As for LIBERTY? She finally has her true liberty. She is liberated from everything that restricted her health and development. It might not say it in the Declaration of Independence but it says in the Bible:

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
(Revelation 21:5 ESV)

“All things new” is the greatest liberating promise of all. I’m in pursuit of THAT kind of happiness and blessed with the FREEDOM to do it.

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The Meeting

On June 11 I was laying on my bed. My body physically ached from the crying spells. Sometimes taken off guard the grief comes like ocean waves, brutally knocking me down and pulling me under. I refuse to get pulled out to sea. My grip remains firm on God, my Rock and Saviour–His grip holds me even tighter. As I laid there on my bed I heard the mirthful melody of a Kona Ice truck (ice cream truck) off in the distance. They aren’t the typical ice cream trucks I remember from my childhood. No ear drum lacerating renditions of Zippity Doo Dah being looped over and over again. No scary shirtless driver that looked like he’d just woken up 15 minutes prior, at 6 PM.

I got excited for a second because in the past I’ve heard their trucks play their version of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. “How perfect and cool that would be,” I thought to myself as the music grew louder and more discernible. I was momentarily disappointed when I identified the steel drum, happy island music as Will Smith’s Summer Time. The truck circled through the cul de sac and cheerfully drove away onto another part of the subdivision.

I resumed my deliberate endeavor to keep my focus where it belongs when I heard the truck go past the top of our street again in the opposite direction. It was playing a different song. I listened quietly and intently to try and name that tune. At first I thought I was imagining it, because WHY would an ice cream truck be playing Happy Birthday?! So I got up off of the bed and opened the window to get a better listen… “Haaaappy birthday to you…”. Tears. Beloved happy tears as the truck made it’s way down the next street over.

No, the message didn’t come dramatically blaring down the street and delivered to me with a bow on top like I had hoped. God has had no trouble getting in my face, being loud and clear when He needs or wants to. However, this was an instance where had the things around me been too loud and too busy, I would have missed it altogether. If I hadn’t made the deliberate effort to get up off the bed, walk over to the window, open it and listen carefully, I wouldn’t have heard it. Sometimes I have to take the effort to really listen, to get up and “open the window” of my heart. This is as much a statement as it is a reminder to myself.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
(Psalm 46:10 NIV)

The evening of June 17th was one of those moments when God was undeniably and beautifully obvious — again like with Ali’s headstone! While seeing sweet friends out the door who had brought us dinner I discovered a beautiful miniature rose plant and a thick envelope on my front porch. I brought this nice surprise inside after saying goodbye to Tonya & Ella and sat down to read the letter:

Dear Aleisa,

Where do I begin?

First, let me express my deep sympathy for your loss. I can’t fathom the depth of the emotions you are all feeling with the passing of sweet Nora. I know you are comforted to know that she is happy and healed and whole. She is right now, and forever more, experiencing a bliss that you and I have never known.

I know that so many have reached out to you in your grief. I recognize that it can all be so overwhelming, especially at a time when you and your family want to hold each other close and shut out the world. I will try to be brief. I just wanted to offer you one more story of how you and Nora made a huge impact.

I am a Florida native. I have 2 sons who are now 14 and 12. I wanted another child but could never get my husband to agree. It caused a rift between us. I prayed that God would either change my heart or his, because the pain I felt aching for another child was too great. The heart God changed was mine. I became resigned to life with our two boys and I was happy. I homeschooled them. We traveled. We enjoyed times outdoors.

A little over a year ago, I missed my period. I figured I was starting menopause. Still, I wondered if I could be pregnant. I took a test and was shocked to learn that, yes, I was pregnant at 40 years old. We were thrilled, especially my youngest. We knew that a new baby would bring big changes, but we were happy to make them. I realized that God had answered my prayers of long ago and had given me the desire of my heart.

You have to understand that I was sure that this baby was a gift from God to us. We weren’t trying to get pregnant, but God had ordained it. We have great insurance which covered prenatal testing. I chose the new cell-free DNA test (Materni-21), not because we suspected a problem, but because it would allow us to know the baby’s sex about 4 weeks earlier than with ultrasound. I had the test and waited anxiously to learn whether we’d be having a boy or a girl. We went on a vacation we had planned. On our return home, we learned that my father-in-law had been admitted to the ICU and wasn’t doing well. My husband made tracks to Orlando (about an hour away) and kept bedside vigil.

Meanwhile, it was time to be hearing back from my doctor about the lab results. I thought that being able to tell my father-in-law whether we’d be having a boy or a girl would give him something to fight for. My first clue that something was wrong came when the nurse told me by phone that she had the results but that the doctor would have to review them first. At 8:00 pm the night of July 3, we got a call from my doctor. I prepared myself to hear that the baby had Down’s syndrome. Instead, we learned that our child had trisomy 18. Never having heard of t18, my doctor explained that the disorder was “incompatible with life”. We were told that most of these babies don’t make it to birth. Those that do may only live hours or days. She said that it was possible that the results were wrong but we could have an amnio to be sure. We were devastated.

I can’t describe the depths of my despair. I felt betrayed by God. Why would He have given me this baby only to take it away? And why was this happening NOW, when my father-in-law was dying? It was almost too much to bear.

With the limited information we had been given, we strongly considered abortion. Although vehemently opposed to it, the thought of carrying a child that I might never see seemed impossible. We figured that if our baby was going to die anyway, why not let it happen now. We thought that continuing the pregnancy would be too much for me, the boys…

About that time, I got up the nerve to search the internet for information about t18. Much of what I found echoed what I’d been told. BUT, I kept coming across YOUR blog in my searches. My cousin had been following your blog for awhile and suggested it to me too. So I took the plunge and began reading it.

First, I was surprised to learn that Nora had not only survived to birth, she was still going strong! That knowledge gave me hope and encouraged me to find out more about children with t18 who live past infancy.

I went back to the first chronicles of your blog while you were still pregnant. I will never be able to tell you how comforting it was to read my own thoughts and fears mirrored in your words. You understood how hard it was to feel your child move inside you, to love her while never knowing if you’d ever get to hold her alive. You understood how how painful it was to be approached by strangers who would ask if I was excited about my baby. After all, babies always bring happiness, right? I swallowed your words for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Your blog brought me hope. That hope helped me to cry out to God for my child. I came to realize that I could never end my baby’s life. My baby, a son, was given life by God and it was God and God alone who had the right to decide when to take that life.

We did lose my father-in-law. He never knew that there was anything wrong with our baby. He left this earth, desiring another grandchild so much. As God planned it, my father-in-law got to see my son before we did. At my 30 week check up, they couldn’t find my son’s heartbeat. He had died sometime that day. They admitted and induced me. Aden Chase Moon was born on October 16, 2013 surrounded by friends and family.

What I could never express in a letter is how much the experience changed me. It grew my faith to new levels. My appreciation for life and loved ones increased. My whole perspective changed. One little boy, who never took a breath, changed my life and the lives of many around me. And that may have never happened if I hadn’t found your blog. If you hadn’t been faithful to document your journey, I may have given in to the temptation of taking “the easy way out”. I owe the amazing changes in my life to you.

Fast forward a few months. My husband applied for a promotion and got it. After much prayer, my family is making the bold move to leave Florida, our family and friends and head north. In fact, I write this on the airplane. We close on our house tomorrow.

Do you know where we are moving? Do you know where God is sending us? To Kentucky in the exact same town that you live in. We found a house in the neighboring subdivision back in March. I had no idea where you lived. I knew it was somewhere north, as I knew you took vacations to the Great Lakes. I didn’t know exactly where you lived until after Nora had passed. One of your neighbors had posted to the Praying for Nora Rose page and I saw that she was posting from the town that I was moving to.

It may not mean as much to you, but it was pretty amazing to me to learn that the woman (and family) who changed my life so radically will be in my new hometown. I’ve been so anxious about our move away from home, but once I learned that you are in the EXACT SAME neighborhood, I realized yet again that God’s got this. He’s still writing my story.

I’m no stalker, and I don’t expect us to be best friends. I just wanted to let you know how you were used by God so richly in the life of my family.

I pray for you and your family. Losing Chase was the hardest thing I’ve ever endured. I can only imagine how much harder it would have been if he’d lived for two years prior to passing.

You have blessed me deeply. Please let me know if there is anything tangible I can do for you. I am always available if you ever want to talk. I’m here to listen, and I’ll understand.

God bless you,

Kristin

I sat there on the couch with this now tear-streaked, awe inspiring letter in my lap. “How in the world?!?!” I asked God out loud with an astonished smile. What a gift — for BOTH OF US!!! The God who created the vast and complex universe loves each of us so much that He will get down on His knee to our microlevel and ardently attend to our wounds.

Kristin left me her phone number in her letter. While I was with Gavin at his kickball league the next morning I texted Kristin to let her know I got her letter and I would call later in the day. She texted back that they’d were leaving at 4:00 to head back to Florida. They were only in town for the closing on their new house. I absolutely HAD to meet her and give her a hug before they left!!! Our incredible meeting took place about an hour later at her beautiful “soon to be” HOME!

We embraced in a tearful hug, unable to explain, but so grateful that God brought us together in such a way! Kristin introduced me to her precious family and we got to know each other just a little bit. I am looking so forward to getting to know them better, their new faces becoming familiar faces. God is just AWESOME. He will bring two women, two families together across 825 miles to support and love one another in their mutual losses. I think I can quit asking, “What are the odds!?!?!” because so many of these things, plain and simply, defy logic. I certainly didn’t need to be still and quiet for this gift that literally showed up on my doorstep, and then I on hers ~

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And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge (emphasis mine) —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV)

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 ~

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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 ~

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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.

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“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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

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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:

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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}

Closing

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.