Two Years

We took turns holding her lifeless, precious body all night long until the sun came up. Caressing her soft skin, stroking her precious fuzzy hair, I tried to memorize every single feature of her dear little face, her dimpled little hands, chubby baby fingers, and fat little toes. Occasionally one of us would recall a funny memory and a lilt of laughter would contradict the intense sorrow that tightly encapsulated the room. “How do we walk away from here? How do we just get in our car, shut the doors and drive home with all of our stuff… and no baby,” I wondered, hours in to clutching her body tightly. Somehow she had lost her exquisitely delicious baby scent, perhaps a biological process of dying, “Maybe it left with her soul? Is that what heaven smells like?” My heart ached for that enchanted baby aroma — still does and always will.

Since that morning of intense and crushing sorrow, our lives have continued on — minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, and now year into year. 

For a few days shy of two years, her little grave had been unmarked. For much of that time I was of the mindset that having “nothing” was better than settling for ordinary. We simply could not find anything that was befitting of such a special baby. About a year or so into image searching for “unique headstones” — I found one that I really liked. Indeed unique, it incorporated bronze accents into the granite. I loved that! It wasn’t EXACTLY what I wanted, but clearly who ever created that headstone had the ability to think outside the box. It was truly a work of art. I clicked on the image, ready to resign myself to the fact that they were in Europe or some far off land, as had been all the others I’d liked. Once redirected to their website, I sat staring in disbelief — Louisville, Kentucky!?!?! Really?!?! If you only knew the number of times I was redirected to a foreign website would you understand my astonishment! This is how I found Joy Monuments

And so now, without further ado, we present to you this gorgeous, distinctive, and very meaningful tribute to our beloved Nora:



Deciding on a headstone for your child is probably one of the saddest things a parent could ever have to do. But I will say that it was truly a “joy” to work with Joy Monuments. They were so patient with us as we tried to make up our minds on what it was that we truly wanted. This was nothing that we could have (or wanted to) pick out of a catalog. The portfolio of this monument company’s extraordinary work indicated to us that there wasn’t much that they weren’t capable of. So for many months we brainstormed and traded ideas back and forth until we finally settled on the perfect design, the perfect stone type and color, the perfect fonts, and the perfect accents while needing to take the cemetery regulations into consideration. 


We had to, of course, feature the “3 Little Birds” who showed up time and time again — before, throughout and after Nora’s life. The 3 little birds with their message pure true, as the song goes, “Don’t worry, about a thing. Cuz every little things gonna be alright.” Our pet house sparrow Ava (1997-2007) served as the model for the 3 little birds. They are created out of bronze, sculpted from pictures we provided of Ava. Each bird also represents a number 7, with there being 7 letters in ‘SPARROW’. The three of them together are the ‘777’ treasured days that Nora was here with us.


The headstone wouldn’t be complete without the asymmetrical, perfectly imperfect heart. The top of the heart is formed by a scripty letter E, for ‘Elanora’ (Nora’s full “fancy name”), E for ‘Eternity’, and E for the high-pitched ‘eeeeeeyeee’ noise that used to elicit a big smile from her sweet little face. The rest of the heart blends into the infinity symbol representing our infinite love, God’s infinite love, and the infinite eternity of heaven.

In anticipation for the day when our time is up on this earth we purchased the plots on either side of Nora. Someday my name and William’s name will be placed on the base of the monument with our respective dates, as we are united together in eternity. One bird in flight (Nora) and the other two birds (her Mom & Dad) perched in waiting with their paths to Eternity clearly marked, etched in stone.

Until then, I’ll be perched right here missing her, remembering her, and thinking about her and the June 3rd that she took flight. The grief is still very heavy. There are days when its weight is agonizing, but it is now just a part of me and I’ve accepted that. There is nothing I would do to be rid of it because it is all that I have left of her. It is the evidence of my love.

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

Refocus.

I blinked back a piercing surge of tears as they suddenly wheeled past in a sea of pink balloons and flowers, a tiny pink bundle asleep in her smiling mama’s arms. I stoically held my bleeding, shattered heart together inside my chest and pressed the elevator button. Exactly to the day, four years ago that was us with our new baby. Sweet Nora. I remembered how elated and also how terrified we were to be leaving this very same hospital with a baby that miraculously survived delivery yet “likely won’t live past the week”. But wait!!! We are SO madly in love with her!!!!!!! Doesn’t that count for SOMETHING?!?!??!! I remembered the unstoppable stream of tears that poured down my cheeks soaking my shirt and Nora’s tiny receiving blanket. I remembered the smiles that faded into concerned pity as people passing saw my contradicting tear streaked face. Deep breath, slow exhale. We had so much more than “maybe a week”, I reminded myself. Yes, we were so madly in love with her, and that counted for something. That counted for EVERYTHING. Refocus.We were there at the hospital this evening to visit my Oma (my German “grandma”) who sadly was taken away in an ambulance last Wednesday after she fell and broke her leg at my parents’ house, where she is living. She is 88-years young and has had seen and experienced a myriad of struggles and hardships throughout her brave life. Her insuppressible spunk and willpower combined with the stereotypical German stubbornness has pulled her through each and every battle she’s had to face. This current battle of her broken leg is complicated by the break’s close proximity to one of her prosthetic knees. It will require a delicate and involved surgery with a specific surgeon who specializes in complicated orthopedic cases such as this. The first attempt at surgery was abruptly terminated last Friday because of a cardiac issue that arose after they had put her under anesthesia and positioned her for the operation. She recovered well out of the anesthesia, but in the mean time they have had to figure out what is going on with her heart. The good news is that she did not suffer a heart attack. Surgery was rescheduled for today, but then rescheduled again for this Wednesday to make provisions for specific cardiac anesthesiology to be on hand. Even still, there is a pretty substantial risk involved. Oma could surely use and would most certainly appreciate any and all prayers!  
Oma and I this past Easter

William and I had a nice visit with her today. She is in great spirits, all things considered, and the hospital staff seems to really enjoy caring for her and interacting with her. She is truly, truly a one-of-a-kind character. We prayed over her and I hugged her and kissed her several times before we left. She told me that if something happens tomorrow, she doesn’t want us to be sad. 😭😭😭  I reassured her with a lump in my throat that God is watching over her, and little Norns is too.   William noticed that the hospital campus shows up on my GPS screen in the shape of a heart.

“In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.”

‭‭(Psalm‬ ‭33:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

The Night Before Your Birthday 

  
I remember laying here in this same spot four years ago protected in an otherworldly sanctuary of peace. It was almost ridiculous that I wasn’t curled up on the floor in a puddle of anxiety laced tears. My hand hovered over you on the other side of my skin, savoring each and every one of your little pokes and kicks. I was keenly aware that those sweet flutters could very well be some of the last experiences we had together on this earth, but I was blissfully unable to be bothered or upset by that. Oh, the legions of warrior angels that must have been standing guard around us, protecting our gift of serenity with all their might. A grand adventure was about to unfold! There was no time to be wasted or stolen with lies.

There are the days when the pain of being without you is excruciating. I want and crave nothing more than to sniff you and kiss you, stroke your sweet cheeks and nibble on your knee muffins and your little elf ear. You were (and still are) such a huge gift. Tomorrow is the anniversary of a HAPPY day. Even though you won’t be here with us in the sweet “stinky” flesh to celebrate with us, I don’t want the beauty of your LIFE to be tarnished with the sadness of your death. (***ADD moment: Is it weird that a song called “Life and Death” is playing on Pandora right now?!???!***) So warrior angels? If you follow this blog and you’re reading this right now, will you please keep a watchful eye over us as you did so efficiently those four years ago? 

You brought unfathomable love and joy into our lives, Nora. I am eternally grateful for our statisic-defying 777 days together and the absolute privilege of having you as my daughter. Although we are apart for now, you are still very close in my heart and ever on my mind. Tomorrow we will celebrate you with cake, ice cream, sparkles and balloons and of course your favorite song “Happy Birthday”. We certainly won’t sound as beautiful as the angels, but we’ll do our very best!

Happy, beautiful birthday, sweet Lady Baby!

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”‭‭(1 Peter‬ ‭1:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Merry Christmas!

*tap*tap*tap* Is this thing on?

My natural inclination is to apologize for my lack of regular postings, but I know that most of you who still read this blog understand that it probably doesn’t come so easy anymore. No, I will admit — it doesn’t. Half the time I just don’t have anything to say, the other half of the time I don’t have anything nice to say, so I don’t say anything at all.

In case you missed it, I was featured in an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer! I feel that the author and photographer/videographer did a wonderful job in depicting my story / Nora’s story. They had interviewed me for this almost a year ago, and I figured they decided not to run the story, which was no big deal. I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from  Chrissie Thompson the Friday before it went to print. She called to give me a heads up, and to read the article to me over the phone since she couldn’t send it. Here’s the link:

Abortion: The Most Important Decision of Her Life

Since it is now Christmas Eve, I will publicly unveil this year’s Christmas card while simultaneously wishing each of you a very Merry  Christmas and happy holiday season!

Print
We’ve got Lady Baby always on our minds and like to imagine her up in heaven doing all sorts of sweet and silly things. If it were to actually snow here, how funny to think of her helping to cut out snow flakes and tossing them down to us. Then of course the implication that Starbucks was trying to cancel Christmas this year by dispensing plain red cups. LOL. Hmm… Wayyyy too many other things to focus attention and energy on. Just LOVE, for the LOVE!

I had some help from Greta this year. This little drawing was part of her Christmas wish list and it made us smile, so we had to share it:

manger scene

greeting.jpg

 

If you usually receive a card from us and you haven’t received one yet, perhaps it will get to you in March. Which leads me to my next segment…

Things I’ve Learned in 2015

Last year’s tree of knowledge blossomed with the acrid aroma of garlic when I unknowingly substituted 3 garlic BULBS for 3 garlic CLOVES. I nearly asphyxiated my family and ruined our kitchen and adjoining rooms in the process, but NOW I KNOW.

And now on to 2015’s lesson(s) …

This year I was curious as to why I hadn’t heard a single feedback on my Christmas card many days after I had sent it out. Was it too over the top? Is it really bad, and no one likes it?? Did it make everyone sad?? At least my MOM would have said something?? Right? 😬

Turns out they weren’t being delivered. How could this be?? Slightly panicked, I began brainstorming on what the problem might be. This is when I stumbled upon a wellspring of information from offbeatbride’s site. Of course at this point, I had already addressed my DARK GRAY envelopes with METALLIC ink, stamped them and dropped them into the abyss of the big blue mail receptacle: 

Nooooooo!!!!

I had gone through such great lengths to get the envelopes ordered on time, the card design completed and sent off to the printer only slightly last minute…

I was all

 

Thanks for this hilarious visual, Melanie!!! 

When I might as well have been all

 about it.

Very slowly but surely, people are receiving them.  *Sigh of relief… * Just might not be before Christmas.

My other big lesson happened on an otherwise fabulous trip to Chicago just before Thanksgiving this year. William and I headed off to the Windy City for a long weekend with a couple of dear friends of ours and no kids. Hotel accommodations were made, restaurant reservations placed well ahead of time, Uber app downloaded and configured, proper attire carefully selected and methodically packed… Except… My bathing suit! … D*mn it! Oh well. I just won’t go swimming. Simple enough.

Fast forward to Saturday when William and I were walking through clods of snow in 19 degrees outside of the art museum trying to figure out the Uber app in real life. In real freezing cold life. Once back to the hotel, nothing sounded better than to immerse myself in the scalding, steaming, bubbly, soothing whirlpool. As swimwear is not exactly in peak season in Chicago at this time, I had 2 options:

1) A $265.00, ugly at best, string bikini that was left over from the summer, now tucked away in the back corner at Bloomingdales.

or

2.) A $7 disposable bathing suit enthusiastically  presented to us by a member of the hotel spa staff:

… “They’re inexpensive enough…”

The first big warning sign that I should have just left well enough alone was the fact that they only had one size left:

“It will be just fine,” she reassured me, “There is a ton of elastic in it. It will fit you!”

“Pleeeeeease???” my frozen feet pleaded.

After a 4 second span of undecided silence, I caved. What the heck… Why not. YOLO!

William handed over $7 in exchange for the “Dipster” package.

The kind young girl showed me around the locker room and gave me instructions on how to use the locker key pads, and then left me to make a complete ass out of myself from this point forward.

I looked around in vain for some sort of changing rooms, or a curtain… SOMETHING. I’m not the type of person who treats a public locker room like my own personal rowdy Las Vegas strip club. That’s fine if that’s your thing and you don’t mind letting it all hang out in front of complete strangers. Just WAY out of my comfort zone, is all I’m sayin. This was my second sign that swimming REALLY wasn’t that big of a deal. Just go back to the hotel room, for the love!!!!! But no. William was already probably waiting for me out in the pool area. I’ll just HURRY UP and change as fast as I can, I thought to myself.

Well, of course, as soon as I’m standing there in nothing but black socks, fumbling with this stupid plastic packaging — like 7 people come barging in. And then some girl starts putting on makeup, and brushing her hair in the mirror directly behind me and totally invading my 700 foot radius I have claimed as personal space based on my current state of clothelessness. My hot red face certainly wasn’t cold anymore!!

I finally got the disposable / reusable contraption on and followed the arrowed signs that read “POOL”. Sure enough, on my way to the pool — there is the neat and tidy row of dressing rooms that everyone else had the courtesy and decency to use. Except me. In my disposable bathing suit. (Oooooh!! Just go back to the room!!!!!!)

Enter pool room and there is my husband reposed and simmering in the whirlpool with a bemused expression on his face. Other people also in the whirlpool are looking at me like:

At the point of no return, I forced an anxiety-ridden smile and exclaimed, “Tah Dah!!!” (jazz hands)

I proceeded to make my way into the disappointingly lukewarm whirlpool. Maybe if I close my eyes really tight they can’t see me…. Aaaaaaarrrrgh!! D*mn it!!!!!!

Finally, enough was enough. I was going to get out and dry off, and go straight back to the room. So I stood up and started up the concrete steps only to discover that this durable, tear resistant Tyvek® from DuPont fabric was the equivalent of trying to lift a garbage bag full of water out of a pool. The entire body of water was now collected in this bathing suit. “Pardon me while I empty my bathing suit back into your whirlpool! You’re welcome, bye!!!”

I grabbed a complimentary robe from the locker room, hurriedly stuffed my clothes into my purse and stoically made my way back to our room where I stood there trying to assess what had just happened…

Wondering why swimming / whirlpooling had been THAT important. There it is, people. The lovely inexpensive / reusable bathing suit, in case you have a hankering to make a complete fool of yourself a second or third time or more! I may have saved $258, but certainly didn’t spare any dignity what so ever. Oh well. It’s hilarious in hind sight — no pun intended.

Merry Christmas! 😂💗💕

In Loving Memory of Nora

This past June my friend Janelle contacted me about setting up a “Give Back” benefit in Nora’s memory. As a Thirty-One consultant she explained her idea of having people sponsor a Thirty-One bag or tote which we would then fill with toiletries / arts and crafts and appropriate miscellanies for parents and children staying at Children’s Hospital. Recalling our own anxious times with Nora in the hospital, I thought this was a great idea. Those extra little somethings can be such gesture of love, especially during times when everything else seems to be upside down. In many instances shampoo, a toothbrush, hair ties, etc. were the last thing that that terrified mama was thinking about when she suddenly found herself holding the tiny hand of her toddler in a hospital bed. For the siblings and/or the patients themselves — a little diversion from the medicines, the shots, X-rays, scans and waiting rooms with some crayons, stickers or a stuffed animal — something. After some deliberation we decided that the donated bags and totes would go to the Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati. I designed a flyer and put the word out on Nora’s Facebook page. In a few week’s time we had accumulated 26 sponsors for the kids’ totes and 20 sponsors for the parent totes! THANK YOU so very much to each and every one of you who participated! It felt so good to collectively do something in Nora’s memory, especially something that would bless people in what is likely a very scary season of their lives.

With the bags ordered, Janelle set to work collecting the multitude of contents from a variety of sources and then hauled it all over to my house where we set to work assembling it. Of course we had a couple of helpers… for a little bit anyway! Greta’s interest held a little bit longer than Gavin’s, but we got it all done in about an hour’s time!

  
  
We truly appreciate all the offers to help put these together, but we had plenty hands on deck this time around. We are hoping to do this again next year, and depending on the turn out, we might be able to use your help then!

Finally, on August 25th, William, Janelle, the kids and I packed up the bags/totes full of goodies into the car and set off to the Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati to make our special delivery. Here are some pictures from our visit:
       

It was very sweet to be immediately recognized as “Nora’s family” by a member of the staff who was a blog follower / Nora fan. Although we had spent many nights at Children’s with Nora, we never partook in the opportunity to stay at this beautiful establishment. Each stay at the hospital was so serious, we were afraid to leave Nora’s side. Nor did we want to take up a room when our house is 20 minutes away. Some of the families listed on the visitor’s board had traveled half way around the world to receive care for their children next door at the hospital. Tears of gratitude welled up in my eyes at this reminder of how truly blessed we were to have lived SO close.

We had expected to drop off our donations and head back out, but a volunteer asked us if we’d like to take a tour! We graciously accepted! I’d have to say that if you’re faced with the anxieties of a child in the hospital, RMH does an incredible job of making sure these families are comfortable, inspired, encouraged, fed, nurtured and taken care of. I was truly touched by the presence of hearts everywhere I looked. No doubt this was a place of LOVE.

 Thank you again to everyone who helped make this possible and a big shout out to Janelle who put it all together. We’d love to do it again next year!

_______________________

A few weeks after we dropped the bags and totes off, I had the absolute pleasure of paying a visit to Ronald McDonald House again! This time I went to spend some time with beautiful Ivy and her sweet Mama & Grandmother. They had come in to town from West Virginia for Ivy’s doctor appointments and were staying at RMH! Ivy has trisomy 18 like Nora did, and was one of the first babies – if not THE first baby with trisomy 18 to receive life sustaining heart surgery at Cincinnati Children’s in 2013. She has paved the way for other babies with this condition, proving that surgery for these children is NOT futile. Ivy will be 3 in December!

It is such a blessing to know this family! We can’t wait to see Ivy and Robin again next time they’re in town!
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:12 NIV)

 

A Concurrence of Miracles

I bow my head in tearful thanksgiving for the precious lives of Marlee Jo and Runner Cosette. How very blessed each of these little girls were to have been so loved and cherished literally every second of their lives. I pray for continued strength and for the comfort of peace to be upon these families as they embark on this painful journey of loss.

I can’t say for certain, but I imagine that Nornor jumped right out of her baff tub with her fuzzy wispy hair still wet, and ran as fast as she could to greet her sweet little trisomy sisters. When Jesus came into view she sent them off running straight into His arms.

 In Sweet Loving Memory of
Marlee Jo
July 12 – 14, 2015
&
Runner Cosette
July 11 – 15, 2015

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
(Romans 8:18-19)

Next Door / Next Day

Within this same maternity ward, over the course of eight years I mentored three young women through adoptions, the first in 1994. Here again, in a matter of just TWO days, I’ve been here to support TWO families in the birth of their daughters, both who have trisomy 18!

A second baby girl has been born in the room right next door to where Runner was born. Her name is Marlee. Again, I had the honor of being there to meet Marlee after she was born and to give HOPE in this uncertain situation.

Same optimal spot in the parking garage, I hurried through the familiar halls up to the 9th floor. Runner had gone home with her family just hours before, and is doing well. PRAISE GOD!!! A lump welled up in my throat as I glanced into their vacant room as I passed by. I won’t soon forget the miraculous scene that unfolded in there. I recalled how Bridge Over Troubled Water was “randomly” playing yesterday as I walked in. How perfectly appropriate.

 And now just the next room down the same intense anticipation hangs heavy outside the door as Marlee is about to be born. A familiar face from yesterday’s staff is already standing vigil, her head against the wall and tears in her eyes. We talk. We hug. We comfort one another. Sweet Shirley. 

We are met with some of Aimee’s family, who invite me to sit with them in a room down the hall. As Shirley’s attention is needed elsewhere, I accept their offer. Throughout Aimee’s pregnancy I had only corresponded with her through Facebook and had never met in person. This was my first time meeting everyone. I shared a little bit about Nora also with her family and showed them pictures. Showed them hope.

Before long, Marlee’s arrival was announced. She was here, along with the reinforced tangle of uncertainty. Marlee was experiencing some trouble breathing, but she was breathing! When Aimee and Nick were ready the visitors streamed in. I stood in wait, not wanting to impose.

And then it was my turn. With great reverence and awe, I entered the room. A very tiny pink little bundle laid on her smiling mama’s chest. Marlee. Her delicate little features demanded our attention and besieged the hearts of everyone in that room. 

 
Marlee, Runner, Nora – God’s beautiful creations that He has entrusted us with. Each mighty little life has been lavished with great purpose which will unfold day by day as the budding of a beautiful flower. 

I can’t predict the road ahead for these families – just as I could not predict my own. However, I do know that each of these little ladies will change their families in ways they never could have imagined. There will be times of intense joy, and also times of intense worry, but it will all be worth it. THIS is what it means to love your children with reckless abandon – as Christ loves us in all of our own “imperfections”. Despite this often uncomfortable interruption of “life as usual”, despite the possibility of being deeply wounded in grief, we have said YES, LORD. YES, to these sweet, delicate little babies who bring with them a message of WONDROUS love. 

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
(‭Matthew‬ ‭25‬:‭40‬ NIV)

Please add little Marlee to your prayers. That her little body will strengthen with each passing hour, that the doctors and dear nurses will continue to efficiently and expertly attend to her needs as they arise, and that little Marlee will get to go home as Runner did. Praise you, God for these precious miracles!