Happy Birthday, Norns!

The hollow void in my heart is especially tender as the 17th of April approaches. It becomes increasingly harder to come up with things to blog about that haven’t already been said on past birthdays and anniversaries. We still miss her beyond belief, and these dates are still as tough as ever. My mind is saturated with a million still-fresh memories of sights, sounds, and smells. The chorus of birds as we left for the hospital on that cool early morning. The steady drone of the tires as they brought us closer and closer to the hospital. The squeeze of my husband’s reassuring hand, my other hand cradling my belly, illuminated by passing street lamps. She was still safe, cherished and protected— very much alive inside of me. I refused to think past that moment. All that mattered was “right here / right now.” Right here, right now she was alive and I loved her fiercely.

My favorite “right here / right now” moment came at 5:20pm of this day, 2012 when we heard the BEAUTIFUL sound of Nora’s first cries.

Then 5:21 … Kissing her sweet face, just so ecstatic, I could burst!

“Ummmw… hello? I’m Nora. I’m new here. Are you my mom n dyad?”

There were countless hills, dips, loops and turns on this wild, whiplashing, precious adventure we had just embarked upon. Over each increment of the way, we collected a treasury of favorite “right here / right nows” that we wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

Last year I shared the sculpture I was creating in memory of Norns. It has been finished for quite some time, but decided to wait until her birthday rolled around again to do the official unveiling. So without further ado, I present “Nora”

Confession … It isn’t actually cast in bronze, as that ended up being way above and beyond my moneys!! But I think I did a pretty decent job of giving it a faux bronze finish! And unless I told you otherwise, you’d never know that there was another layer of paint under the faux bronze. The first paint job didn’t turn out exactly as I had imagined. It was a little too realistic and had taken on the characteristics of “creepy baby doll.”

Round 2 of paint turned out much better and brought Creepy Baby Doll back to Objet d’ Art. I gave it a base layer of black and then did separate dry brushings of brown, gold, and mint green over the black.

I attend an amazing sculpting class most Wednesday mornings that is about 40 minutes away – but so very worth the drive. I started this piece in mid-December of 2021 and finished on April 13th of last year, just in time for her birthday. During class one day the topic of conversation landed on some particular sculptures at the Cincinnati Art Museum. I had been to the Art Museum semi-recently with my friend Jim and had taken a photo of a sculpture that I thought was so beautiful. I decided to take a break from sculpting for a few minutes to go back through my photos to see if I happened to take a picture of one of these particular sculptures. I smiled as I found the picture in my camera roll, taken aback by the sculpture’s delicate beauty all over again.

I was glad to see that the description plaque was included in the photo. I hadn’t taken the time to read it while at the museum, so I wasn’t sure who the artist was. While the classroom conversation continued, I zoomed in on the plaque — then stood there frozen STARING at my phone, tears welling up in my eyes. “WHAT?!?!?” I whispered to myself, “NO. WAY.” I casually turned away and just let the tears flow down my cheeks, still staring at my phone through blurry tears.


That was reason enough to have taken a photo of that sweet, beautiful sculpture – but I had no idea when I took it that this sweet little beauty was a Nora, and that she was the ARTIST’S DAUGHTER too!!! Too crazy to be coincidence.

It’s hard to imagine that this Artist’s daughter, Nora would be 11 years old today. I have such a hard time envisioning her as anyone but the chunky, squeezable, delicious, fuzzy, baff and milkies loving two-year-old that she was when she left us. But here we are, still standing, all these years later.

We miss her and we celebrate her!

Today at the cemetery (Thank you for the beautiful YELLOW tulips, Robin & Ivy! I love you both!!!)
A little Bonbonerie cake for Norn’s party

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)

April 17th

This year Nora’s birthday coincided with Easter. The theme of new life and resurrection that came with Easter draped beautifully onto the celebration of Nora’s birth and life. I was glad to be reminded this morning by a dear friend that Nora too has risen! She is forever healed and forever safe! That was such a sweet thought to start my day off with. Much better than how I actually started my day. For some unknown reason, the second I opened my eyes I immediately began FREAKING OUT that it was Monday and that my family had done absolutely no preparation for all that Monday holds. Just as I was about to go blasting into everyone’s bedrooms at 100 mph to harshly wake them up at 5:30am – I slowly remembered that it was Sunday (!!!!! Ohhh!!!) …….. It was Easter……. Which meant that it was my sweet baby’s birthday……. And my other kids don’t have to hate me. I can breathe… for a minute. Sweet relief faded off as it made room for the bittersweet memories and all the thoughts that would spew forth every time I looked at a clock throughout the day. “At this time 10 years ago we were on our way to the hospital… At this time 10 years ago we were all waiting patiently to meet this baby… At this time 10 years ago we were holding our precious baby girl, our perfect mighty Nora…” The aftershocks of the terrifying unknowns can still be felt all these years later, but so can the fiery ignition of pure and extraordinary LOVE. That’s what I wanted to stay focused on today.

In the weeks and days leading up to Nora’s birthday, I got some very sweet “love notes from heaven” in the form of hearts, ladybugs and trios of birds, and some others.

While driving Greta home from school a few days ago we saw an Elanor license plate!! (Nora’s full name is Elanora)
Three Birds! 💗💗💗

Late morning on Saturday, I was out in the backyard pulling some weeds. I turned my head up to investigate the sudden overhead quacking. Then stood there awestruck as I watched the THREE DUCKS circle back and forth. THREEEEEE DUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I ran in to get my phone to grab a picture – but missed the 3 of them together! I did manage to get this video of 3 turkey vultures a little while later. While I’m certain they’re not capable of singing any melodies pure and true, they are indeed THREE BIRDS, none the less!

Then on Saturday afternoon, (the day before Nora’s birthday) – we got “wind” of a Lantern Release THAT night only a few miles from our house. The event was called “Shine the Night” sponsored by The Best Day Ever Foundation. Without going off on a total tangent – – all I have to say right now is that I am in awe at how woven together our lives REALLY are. And it is just the coolest thing ever when you find those golden threads of connectedness! It was so nice, as a family, to have something beautiful and tangible to do in memory of Nora – on this day of all days!

Up, up, and away! ⭐️

Because Sunday was Easter, everyone was off work, and there weren’t any other obligations or priorities that took precedence. This smoothly facilitated having all of the extended family together at my parents’ house. My Mom made an amazing rouladen dinner, and then we sang “Happy Birthday” to Norns SEVERAL times – just as she would have liked, accompanied by her once favorite vintage hipster baby music box. We pre-ordered a beautiful lemon torte from the Bon Bonerie, and it was just as delicious as it was beautiful!

Norns Doll sporting Nora’s birthday hat
“It’s my borned day hat!”
Birthday decorations
William wore his special cuff links
4:17 on 4/17 – caught “by chance” AGAIN!

Earlier in the day, between church and Nora’s party, we paid a visit to the cemetery. We filled “Nora’s heart” with pretty spring flowers and sang happy birthday to her… several times….

Pretty flowers on Norn’s grave

Back in August of last year I started taking a sculpting class. I knew I’d be good at it as I’ve knocked out some pretty cool sand sculptures over the years. I’d never really sculpted in clay though, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I am just finishing up my 2nd clay sculpture that I started at the end of December. I have really kind of surprised myself!

And now in conclusion of this blog post, l and in sweet memory of Nora Rose, I would like to unveil my ALMOST finished sculpture of Lady Baby herself ~

I hope to someday have her cast in bronze.

Happy birthday, my sweet little love! We all miss you so much! Thanks for the pretty rainbow tonight!

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

June 3

I am fully aware of my desperate attempts to forget. I don’t want to think about the horribleness of where we were 7 long years ago. I don’t want to think about her vital signs monitor that we’d so hopefully stared at for 15 sleepless days and nights — now dark. Turned off. I don’t want to think about how she rubbed her arm across her itchy little nose one last time. Or the sound of her last breath while a lullaby rendition of a Journey song tinkled softly in the background. I don’t want to remember hospital smells. I don’t want to think about any of it – yet it is inescapable. No amount of staring mindlessly at my phone, or cleaning and organizing and straightening things will make it go away. Each year I brace myself, try to somehow make it more “comfortable” and never can. A lot like labor pains. Ain’t NUTHIN you can do to make those come on a little easier or gentler. And sometimes you say mean things, and you can’t think straight. It’s hard to think or care about anything or anyone else because F*#K!!!!!! This. Hurts. There is absolutely nothing to do but weather through each grief contraction. And they’re very strong this time of year.

Just as in childbirth, each “contraction” is one step closer to holding that baby in my arms. I know with every fiber of my being and all of the love and hope in my heart that I will see and hold Nora again. God has given me glimpses and hints of what that will be like through the physical births of each of my four children, and then especially through the euphoric reunion with my birth daughter 10 whole years ago. THAT, amplified. We will ALL experience that someday with the ones we’ve loved and lost. Breathe through the pain, stay focused. No, it’s not so easy – but I try.

Today in memory of Nora, I donated blood, which I do regularly. I will be forever grateful for the blood donor who gave us some extra time with our sweet Lade. I also visited the cemetery. I cleaned off her pretty headstone and played her favorite song on her hipster baby music box.

“Happy Birthday” on the day you were born in to heaven, my sweet baby girl. My heart aches for you. Lots of hearts ache for you. You profoundly touched so many lives, and continue to do so many years after you’ve left us. What a legacy you’ve left behind. I breathe through and endure the pain of your loss. I know it will all be worth it someday. Thank you for being such a special part of our family, always and forever, sweet Stinky Cakes. Mommy loves you.

Birthday Baby

I think I’ve spent the past 7 birthdays fretting over how best to celebrate, commemorate and acknowledge such an important baby while simultaneously grieving that she’s not here with us. I don’t just mean “important” because she’s MY baby and I’ve experienced that profound maternal love for her. She really was important to so many people. Every so often I step back, slack jawed at the masses of people that became captivated with her story, her sweetness and her extraordinary personality. She touched A LOT of lives.

I think for the most part, we have adjusted to life without Nora’s physical presence, but that is not to imply that it is easy. We talk about her and think about her every single day. She still is and always will be very much a part of our family.

In the days leading up to and on what would have been Nora’s 9th birthday (WHAT?!?), I received some pretty amazing winks from heaven. The first were the 3 geese that flew over the highway and right “through” a rainbow spot in the sky as I was about to pass the cemetery. Were I not driving I would have tried to have taken a photo. But perhaps that was one of those winks that was meant for only me to see. The next happened again while I was driving, but I had to circle back and get a picture — because I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I was driving along, thinking about Nora. I audibly sighed, “I miss you, baby girl.” At that EXACT moment, I glanced over and saw a tenant panel of a sign that said, “MILK & BEANS”

My eyes flooded with tears. I imagined us talking for her in her voice, “Dat place sounds kinda nice! I kinda like milks n beanz!!” Yeah. Milk and beans. She loved her milkies and her Tupperware container of dried beans. She loved to swipe those beans off of her Bumbo tray and all over our living room.

Mmmmm. Milks in Michigan!

Seeing that literal SIGN at that precise moment was inexplicable and brought me so much joy! I bet she has all of the best milks and beans that she could ever want up in heaven!

Yesterday on Nora’s actual birthday Gavin went with me to the Bonbonerie to pick out a cake for the party. On the way there Gavin commented, “We should have angel foodcake for her!” I agreed that angel foodcake would be perfect, and said we’d have to remember that for next year. It was later in the day, so I wasn’t expecting a huge selection to be left at Bonbonerie. Upon seeing the line out the door when we got there, I figured we might have a chance at some pretty cookies and that would probably be about it — which was totally fine. We didn’t have to wait too terribly long. (The “socially distanced” lines always appear longer than they actually are.) Once inside, it was indeed slim pickins. My eyes were immediately drawn to the tray of beautiful bluebird cookies behind the glass — those would be perfect! Gavin made his way over to a shelf of prepackaged cookies and tarts and pastries. “Hey look!” he exclaimed, “Angel foodcake!!” And there they were, only 4 little cakes left, dusted in powdered sugar with pretty yellow icing flowers on top. How absolutely perfect. An angel foodcake and two sets of 3 little birds were purchased before we made our way back home. Thank You, God! 🌼 What a sweetly specific surprise!

The last uncanny wink happened as I was in the car in the driveway waiting for William. He decided to come with me for a last minute trip to the grocery before guests arrived. I picked up my phone to check the time. It was not only 4:17 on 4/17 — but the random song that was playing took my breath away. “Thinking of You.” Of course I was thinking of her — but was she thinking of me too? Wow. My eyes welled up with tears again.

According to Timehop, it happened last year too – although I can’t remember what song was playing…

As in years past, we decorated the kitchen with the same decorations we used for Nora’s two birthdays while she was here with us. The invitation to family was last minute, so not everyone could make it, but those who were there made the day extra special. We talked about Nora, sang Happy Birthday to her, watched some cute videos, and we laughed and we cried.

Two candles because I can’t imagine her as any other age. Forever 2.

Such a special and important little old soul she was. Her time on this earth was brief, but she left behind so so much. Sooo many life lessons, so many precious memories, all while pointing us in the right direction, toward the Author of her life, of all life and of LOVE.

Happy birthday to you, my squishy Lady Baby! Enjoy your heavenly milkies and beans!

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

The Date Engraved in Granite

That date engraved in granite, forever branded as sacred. Silent recollection of the excruciating, raw reality we faced six years ago as she took her last breath. Remembering how we cradled her sweet body the whole night through. And then how the sun had the audacity to rise through the hospital window that morning. Nora. Sweet, sweet Nora. What an absolute gift she was – on loan for only a short time. She sure made good use of her time here, beckoning multitudes to see the world in a better, kinder way. Incompatible with life. “Pfffff!!! I’ll show dem!!!” she exclaimed, “Don’t try n’ slap dat label on me!”

My heart it aches. My empty arms yearn to cradle the sweetest 26 lbs that ever were. Even so, today outwardly looked just like any other day. I’m not a big planner or coordinator. And REALLY – – what are you “supposed” to do on days such as these anyway. Sitting around being sad seemed counterproductive, so I did do something in Nora’s memory to bless someone else, as suggested by a friend. I put together a new back pack full of essential items – socks, t-shirts, a hat, a toothbrush & toothpaste, snack bars, protein drinks, water, food items and a nice wallet with some cash in it. I headed down to 13th and Main, amidst the boarded up storefronts, and sat there in my car until I saw Mike making his way toward me. Mike is a homeless African American man we met while talking and wrapping things up out in Old St. Mary’s church parking lot. I told him yesterday that I didn’t have any cash on me (which was true), but I told him I’d be back tomorrow with something for him (which probably sounded like another empty promise). But I came back, as I promised him I would and I blessed him. We talked for awhile. He told me about his time in prison serving a 3 year sentence. He told me how his mom died recently and how sad he is. She was all he had. “I know the pain of grief, my friend, and I’m sorry.” It was a meaningful exchange. I hope I made some sort of difference for him, even if just for today. I know I can’t single-handedly make everything “all better” with one random act of kindness, but at least it was SOMETHING that demonstrated love. Love. That’s what Nora was all about. She gave and received inordinate, copious amounts of love, and THAT IS WHAT MATTERS. LOVE.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)

(As stated on Nora’s headstone)

Happy Birthday, Nora Rose!

2013.04.10 020

Happy birthday, my sweet Lady Baby. Often I have to do the math in my head – you’d be 8. In my heart you’re forever 2, just as I remember you — your sweet fuzzy hair, your delicious baby chunk, your blue, knowing eyes with a heart-shaped pupil. The smell of your sweet, soft skin filed carefully away in my important memories archive.

April 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm you breathed your first breath into your tiny, fragile lungs. The sounds of your first cries permeated the very depths of our hearts and took our breath away. You forever changed the trajectory of so many lives, including your own Mom’s. You were PERFECT, my baby girl, exactly who God designed and created you to be. Only with that extra 18th chromosome would you have been able to accomplish your life purpose. At the time, however, it was hard for us to grasp this. To put it bluntly, we were terrified. It was impossible not to fall head over heals in love with you. The threat and thought of losing you at any given moment was unbearable. Ever so gradually, we gained our bearings. We acclimated to the very new and very different life that a medically fragile baby brings.

I don’t know if you can see us down here on earth right now or not, but the whole world is a scary place right now. The threat and thought of a virus has us all in quarantine, living a life none of us ever could have imagined. We find ourselves asking how we have become a part of something that “only happens in movies… to other, imaginary people…” Deep water, fear of the unknown / unseen, life interrupted. This old, familiar road that we walked down while you were here – but on a global level. We’re afraid of losing losing those we love the most, or even falling prey to the virus ourselves. Some of us have lost our jobs, our businesses and have no idea how we’re going to pay the bills, or put food on the table for ourselves and our families. The economy has gone to hell in a hand basket. It is unsettling, to say the least, not to know exactly what is around each corner. It is scary not to have any kind of definitive solution to the multitude of problems at hand right now. I remember these feelings of fear all too well, my sweet girl.

One of the many things that God taught me THROUGH YOU is that fear is a liar. I wasted so much time dwelling on all of the “what ifs” – imagining all kinds of horrible worst case scenarios. There are pictures of me holding you in what should have been a beautiful moment… but I see my swollen eyes, my tear-streaked face. I can almost feel my racing heart while Satan whispered fear and lies into my thoughts, “What if she dies tonight…” Instead of soaking in all of your sweetness and marveling at your soft shocks of dark hair, your tiny little face, I was debilitated with crippling fear. I’m sorry for any millisecond of time I wasted in fear. Many of those fears were worse than actually losing you. Why? Because I wasn’t meant to experience those scenarios at that time. When we actually did lose you on this earth – God MET US RIGHT THERE in inexplicably miraculous ways to comfort us and to bring us peace. None of that comfort or peace accompanies Satan-authored thoughts of fear. I try to remember those lessons in this present day when fear and uncertainty seem to always be on the menu with each news headline. I don’t have to have it all figured out right here, right now. Sometimes that’s not even my job. It’s God’s. So today, on your birthday, in honor of you, I’m going to be still, soak in peace and TRUST that God is going to make beauty from this mess we’re all in. He always has, He always is, He always will.

I hope you’re having the grandest of parties up in heaven, your favorite song “Happy Birthday” on loop, lots and lots of hot pink, toga party baffs and milkies on tap. You are so so very missed and loved!

Here are some sweet memories of your past birthdays with us – the day you were born, your Little Girl Birthday and your Big Girl Birthday ~

And just because we could all use a good laugh right now… here’s your famous rap songs “Kinda Stinky” and “What Time Is It?”

I love you, Nora!!!
I hope and pray all of Norns’s fan club is doing well through this difficult time. If you are so inclined, we would love to hear how Nora affected or changed your life in some way. Each and every account, no matter how big or small reminds us that Nora was sent here for such beautiful reasons and we would LOVE to hear or be reminded of them! Love and blessings to each of you and your families!

(And now, as I conclude this blog post – how crazy that “Praise You in This Storm” comes on the radio in the background… )

Everything is OK. Love, God

I received a text a few weeks ago from a dear friend inviting William and I out to dinner with her and her husband. I was excited at the prospect. Heather is one of those people who I wish I saw more regularly – that I wasn’t so consumed by the busyness and chaos of day to day life. Of course this is a feeble excuse, and a pronounced reminder to be more intentional. We met for dinner and drinks a few days later. As usual, it was great to see Heather and Brian. We always seem to be able to pick up right where we left off without skipping a beat. We got each other back up to speed on our lives, our kids, vacations, home renovations and the like. It was then that Heather unveiled her latest endeavor. She handed me a gift bag with a big smile and a sparkle in her eye. I pulled out a book – a children’s book – “Everything is OK. Love, God … written by Heather Momper Leonard”

“WHHHAAAAAAT???” My eyes immediately welled up with tears. She did it!!!! We both have talked for years about writing children’s books – and now here hers was! No longer just an idea – a tangible, real life book that I was holding in my hands! Heather went on to explain the story of the book and then insisted that I open the front cover. So I did.

“For my children, anyone searching, and all those who have lost someone dear to them.

Dedicated to Nora Rose Yusko”

😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 OH. MY. GOSH. Could not even believe this sweet, kind tribute to sweet Norns. I paged through the beautifully illustrated book through a haze of tears. It was perfect. I hugged her and cried some more. Wow.

This year hasn’t been an easy one. Life has been brutally hard for various reasons. There are days where I struggle to sense God’s presence in my life. I get distracted with trying to figure everything out and trying to put all the pieces together on my own. Days where I feel defeated, beat down and hopeless. The title of this book could not be a clearer message: “Everything Is OK! Love, God” – – stop trying to figure everything out on my own. Trust Him!!! Look for Him!!! He’s HERE!!! He wants to and is going to be here with us through it all.

Thank you, thank you , thank you from the depths of my heart for this beautifully written and illustrated book, Heather. I am so excited that you fulfilled your dream of writing a book, and so touched that you were inspired by Nora and all of the ways that God made Himself KNOWN to us through her. You are an amazing friend.

To everyone reading this, I hope that you will be inspired to get your own copy of this sweet, sweet book. It is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Love-Heather-Momper-Leonard/dp/148972088X

Be blessed!


June 3

Unthinkable that we’ve weathered four June 3rds, that Nora has been gone for TWICE as long as she was here with us. Time has unapologetically ticked on without her. A substantial part of me is still stuck in 2014, refusing to adhere to any clocks or calendars. The rest of me has no choice.

Every year it’s a struggle, for obvious reasons — we MISS her. It’s painful to remember those last days and hours we had with Nora. It’s also a struggle trying to find the “perfect way” to honor Nora’s last day with us. We’re not big planners or organizers. Something big and public is completely overwhelming, yet something low key seems inadequate. What do we do?!

And then as if God had already pre-arranged everything, beautiful opportunities have presented themselves to us on our sacred June 3rd. Our first June 3rd, it was a ceremony at Xavier University to honor and remember organ donors. (Nora was a cartilage and tissue donor). This year, for the third year in a row, we were invited to Camp Lionheart through Starshine of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. It is specifically for families who have experienced the loss of a child/sibling. It always falls in June, often on June 3rd.

So here we are in community with a dear collection of families who are also forced on through time without their sweet children. There’s no need to try and explain the weight of the sorrow that we carry around with us every single day. It’s not strange or awkward to bring up our children and talk about them with one another. We have met some fascinating people here all with their own unique stories and experiences, but with whom we share this common bond.

We all sleep in cabins scattered throughout the camp. Creaky bunk beds, rudimentary showers, and the basic necessities. We gather together in the dining hall for our meals, and then there are organized activities throughout the day — swimming, zip lining, hiking, arts and crafts, fire pits and camp songs that are led by the animated camp leaders. It is truly the awesome “camp experience” in every sense of the word! All this — just handed to us on THIS particular weekend as a soothing balm to our wounded hearts. We’re so very, very thankful for Starshine / Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and all that they do to nurture families like ours who have endured the unimaginable.

Here are some photos from the weekend:

William & Greta

Norns Doll on a hike

Greta & I building a rock tower

Our dear friends the Reimers and the Lundstroms

We also paid a visit to the cemetery this evening:

Little sweat bee 💗🐝

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

May 18

Today started out with the typical routine of getting the kids up, ready and driven to school. I went about my day, oblivious to its significance until I opened up Timehop. It was as if I had been mindlessly jogging along when suddenly I was clothes-lined at the neck, knocked down, choked. Nora is always, always so close in thought, but I hate to think of her in the place that she was 4 years ago today.

Today is the day that we casually strolled in to the ER at Children’s expecting for Nora to get some IV fluids and then we’d be on our way back home. In the terrible, awful blink of an eye, the true gravity of the situation was revealed.  One minute we were checking in at the desk, the next we were in the shock and trauma bay. I kept getting glimpses of her sweet skin through the mob of doctors and nurses surrounding her. A very controlled and professional dire urgency assumed the room, but for me standing in the corner about to lose my mind, being literally held up by my husband. I always knew back in that dusty corner of my mind that our time with Nora was limited, but I never dreamt it would end like this. And then it didn’t end. She was stabilized. She survived the surgery to correct her stomach that had somehow flipped and cinched off the blood supply. Gastric Volvulous, as it was medically termed. And all the while, where the FUCK was my maternal instinct warning that something was terribly wrong?? How could I have let her go through the night like that?? I was (still often am) tortured with guilt. “There’s no way you could have known,” the doctor with the soothing voice explained, “This type of thing is such a fluke, especially in children. This is something that usually happens to little old ladies.” Little old ladies, huh? This sweet baby girl with such knowing wisdom in her eyes, well beyond her years. This baby who didn’t care much for cartoons or baby shows, but who loved to watch Matlock and Texas Walker Ranger with her afghan across her knees. This Lady Baby with the old soul.  Her stomach flipped. Yeah, okay, God.

May 18, 2014 was the beginning of the end. It wasn’t Nora’s heart or her lungs that we kept such special watch on. It was something that was completely under our radar, and I suspect that God planned it that way. While I was pregnant with her, we prayed, begged and pleaded to be able to have just SOME time with her, “Even if it’s just a couple of hours, God!” Instead we were lavished with 18,633 hours, exceedingly more than we had asked for.

“I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Birthday 6

My heart is heavy as Nora’s birthday approaches. It’s so hard to imagine what she would be like as a 6-year-old. I last knew her, held her and loved her as a chunky little 2-year-old. Instead of putting together a collection of little girl party favors and wrapping up special presents for her, I am on a beautiful walk by myself here in Georgetown, Texas. We are all down here for the Big Kids’ Spring Break. Gavin & Greta are off having fun with their cousins while I grab a moment of solitude on this gorgeous day. From a seemingly endless winter back home, this WARM, picturesque walk along the San Gabriel River is a gift.

Yet, each step takes me further and further down the path I’ve been on since she left us. The magnitude of the grief has never really gone away. I’ve just adjusted to the massiveness of it. I am somehow strengthened by it whether I want to be or not. I have no choice. It is a part of me.

The perfect imprint of a leaf in an aged slab of concrete catches my eye.

How very like Nora. She too has been gone for many seasons, yet she left such a lasting impression on this world — in ways I never could have imagined. Perhaps it was the softening of our hearts, or her adorable illustration of how important EVERY life is. Or maybe it was just her sweet, sweet disposition, endearing her to everyone who set eyes on her. I love the quote: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Evidence of her love lingers here with me. Maybe I read too much into these things, but I like to think they’re little glimpses of heaven; reminders that each day is a step closer ~

Three ducks suddenly paddle up alongside me, swimming with me as I walk.

Reminiscent of the print of those three ducks featured in the hallway of Children’s Hospital after we held her for the very last time.

and the hearts are such physical reminders of the abundance of love that once was, still is and will always be. Only love remains.

The brief lives of the beautiful, fragrant wildflowers ~

We’re back home in the cold now, but so thankful for the brief respite in the company of our sweet family. Thank you Jill & Chris for a wonderful visit and for all the delicious meals you lavished us with! We arrived home late last night, walking off the plane and up the jetway as the clock rolled over to midnight, April 17, 2018.

Aerial view of Cincinnati

How have all these years passed?! It was incredibly hard waking up this morning, not only because I had gone to bed just 4 hours earlier, but because it was all still so fresh in my mind. The alarm sounded this morning to get the kids up and out of bed, ready for school. Six years ago that same alarm went off to get us off to the hospital in time for my scheduled induction. There were two very intense outcomes before me that morning six years ago. I had no idea which one, but I had to get out of bed anyway, because time never stops for anyone. The strong sense peace was completely unnatural and I marveled at it almost laughingly. After about 10 or so hours of uneventful labor, the sweetest cry that I ever did hear filled the room. She was alive!!! And then she was on my chest gazing up at me with the most lovely blue eyes. We imagine that Nora was saying (in her voice), “Ummm. Scuze me… um… are you my mom n dyad? My names Nora.”

Ohhh for heaven’s sake, I was completely smitten with her!!!!! She got “smashed” with kisses.

There were some very frightening moments immediately after that, but her sweet little body finally figured out this new world she was in. She was stable and we got to bring her home a couple days later. It was the very beginning of two extraordinary years!

Happy birthday, my sweet baby. I hope you are having the grandest of parties in heaven – maybe a bubbly hot tub party with all of your chubby baby friends. I wish I was there to squeeze you in your “babing suit”!

You won’t have to ask because they’ll already know how you like to hear your favorite song sung multiple times. We’ll be down here celebrating you and the day that you fluttered down into this world leaving your mark on all who knew you and read about you. Happy birthday, sweet baby Norns. I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

Scenes from today: