North – Days 7 & 8

August 1 & 2

This morning my Mom, sister Emily and I visited a garage sale. I discovered a couple of reasonably priced treasures, one of which was a bit of a Nora wink. Nora absolutely LOVED her music boxes. She had a green music box, much like the one pictured below that played Happy Birthday. These little Fisher Price music boxes are reminiscent of my childhood and are hard to come by. We used to joke that Nora was a little hipster baby. There were really no other baby toys at this garage sale – just this lone special music box, and I almost missed it. “I kinda liked doze tings!”


I also found this Art Deco-ish box camera. I have no idea how to use it or if it even works, but I thought it would look cool in my art space. I’m going to try to hook it up to Instagram later.


I am accustomed to fog in the early mornings back home. It is strange and beautiful to see a mysterious shroud of low clouds rolling into the channel in the middle of an unsuspecting sunny afternoon.


My sister, Sarah wondering, “What the fog?” ~


The air gets cooler and I can physically reach out and touch the wisps of vapor. I can no longer see the land across the water; the sun’s warmth cuts through the chill that suddenly surrounds me. I recall the uncountable interludes of worry that would creep into my thoughts much like this fog, much less beautiful. My skin would grow cold, clarity obstructed, yet God’s warmth permeated my short-sighted uneasiness. The worry would eventually burn away reminding me not “what” but “WHO.”

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 NIV)

The fog of worry is gone for now. A heavy boulder of sorrow has instead been dropped into the lake of my soul. I can see the flecks of gold through the shimmering water, the veins of precious minerals. There is indeed beauty marbled throughout this immense sorrow.

On the smaller rocks I paint beautiful pictures. The smaller of life’s burdens can remain as rocks to weigh me down or they can become my canvas.



As night time falls upon us, we decorate Chinese lanterns to set off into the starry sky. We write messages to Nora and to Ali who “Godwinkcidentally” is one of Nora’s neighbors at the cemetery, among many other wonderful things.


It would appear that Gavin is wearing his corresponding ROCK PINK ROCK LOVE t-shirt from Ali’s fabulous Rock Pink Par-tay for this purpose. However, it has become his new favorite shirt. I have to wash it almost daily or he will just wear it again out of the stinky hamper.





The three glowing lanterns rise high above the earth. I can’t see them clearly through the tears that have pooled up in my eyes, my Dad’s arm around me. We remember through teary smiles as they drift off out of sight.


After a lazy Saturday morning William and I head off on the jet ski. The heart smiles from the horizon.


In my only attempt to capture a flock of seagulls (not the band), only THREE of them wind up in the picture. Totally unintentional!

20140805-001107-667108.jpgAnd now I am officially freaked out laughing, because in my efforts to hyperlink a picture of the band, I found THIS. (<– click it)

We are towing the 2 red kayaks behind us and are moving along at a slower pace. As we pass the dolomite mines we are disappointed that there isn’t a huge freighter to admire.


I jokingly ask Siri if there are any freighters in the area. I would have flipped my wig if she was like, “Look to your right,” because basically that’s all we had to do!


We drop the kayaks off at our intended destination and then continue on to investigate the freighter. I am amused, but not surprised to note that the aerial view of Narnia’s gorgeous cove is somewhat heart shaped!



The freighter is the Wilfred Sykes. We watch in awe as this monstrosity of steel turns around and then backs into port over the course of about twenty minutes. Several of the crew repel down to shore once the steel cables are roped into place. Fascinating.



We gawk and stare for a good while at this huge curiosity and then head off back to our awaiting kayaks.

This water! These rocks! The pine trees growing right OUT of these rocks! And the perfect sky! As stunning as these pictures are, they still can’t do it justice!



My eyes happen upon a ladybug struggling in the ripples of the water. Her fate seemingly sealed, when along comes the yellow paddle of my oar. I carefully extricate her from her peril and set her on my sleeve to dry off. How much she and I have in common, I think to myself. I too have been plucked out of the deadly water, currently basking in the warm sunshine from the comforts of God’s sleeve. I am never quite free from the chill of the water, perhaps never will be, but I have survived. I am warmed. I am loved.


I watch as she flies off into the forever of the bold blue sky. Someday I reckon will join her.


I am in love with the Pure Michigan ads, commercials and billboards alike. We were quite surprised to see a billboard in Cincinnati advertising “OUR” Michigan, Les Cheneaux Islands (in bottom left corner)!


These are our best DRAMATIC re-enactments ~



We explore the shoreline for a couple of hours before heading back. I stand in awed silence memorizing the sight, sounds and smells of this unparalleled treasure as William secures the kayaks to the jet ski. A heart winks back.


The rest of the day unfolds with lots to do, or not, if you so choose!


The day draws to a close, our extended family and friends among us watching the crazy cold water skiers.



Emily und Josh spielt Tischtennis!


The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.
(‭Psalm‬ ‭65‬:‭8‬ NIV)


North – Days 5 & 6

July 30 & 31

The grief and desiderium have become a familiar part of my very being — a throbbing wound that I can’t escape, but don’t necessarily want to. It is the evidence of my great love for her, the indelible mark that she has left on my heart that I will carry with me until I breathe my own last breath. The initial stab wound and remembering that moment is one of the biggest things that hurt. She rubbed her poor sweet IV bandaged wrist across her itchy little nose one last time and then she was gone. I glanced up and saw her monitors turn off. She was really gone. It’s so easy for me to hate that moment from this side of heaven, but oh, the ecstasy that she must have coalesced into. Much like a butterfly leaving the chrysalis, suddenly cognizant of its ability to fly! We are all still stuck in the darkness of this cocoon waiting for our wings to develop, humanly oblivious to what just happened on the other side of the silk.

20140804-220218-79338776.jpgPHOTO © Sarah Ward 2014

Gavin and I take a late morning walk along the road. I cherish how he still reaches for my hand as we amble along side by side. Love. We marvel at the beauty of the butterfly, the morphing wisps of cirrus clouds overhead.


A woodpecker in the pines catches our attention. We are awestruck to discover that it is not one, but THREE pileated woodpeckers!!!!!!! I have never encountered these giant woodpeckers up here. Of COURSE there are three of them. They appear to be 2 adults with a juvenile.

Much later in the day they showed up IN our yard! Incase I didn’t quite feel God’s impassioned presence already?


He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
(‭Psalm‬ ‭23‬:‭2-3‬ NIV)


Greta and her Daddy are just back from an excursion of their own as I head out in the kayak.


Being out in the water with the ability to navigate through the islets is incredibly curative. I look out to the never-ending expanse of the Great Lake Huron and breathe in the untainted air. This.


I row past my great grandmother’s cottage on the mainland. This is where the pictures of me as an infant in the first vacation post were taken — where it all began.


I remember.


I imagine Nora in heaven sitting on a swing with her just like I did when I was little. A sideways heart on the horizon smiles back at me.


I row onward thanking God for this incredible beauty, and for the absolute gift of being present in it.

The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. All your works praise you, Lord.
(‭Psalm‬ ‭145‬:‭9-10‬ NIV)

The mornings are characterized by the beloved aroma of goetta, bacon and coffee. The canned laughter of Leave it to Beaver or Addam’s Family on Netflix evokes nostalgia.


As the sun climbs higher in the sky, the clear cold water and the lightly toasted sand beckon the castle builders.


Or toad houses, as the case may be ~


Today I am remembering Eleanor W. One year ago on this day of July 31st, sweet precious Ellie was born into heaven. Ellie and Nora brought their Mommies together as friends through their mutual extra 18th chromosome. Our friendship is a great bit of beauty from the ashes in each of our families’ lives. At sunset I wrote her name with pebbles in the sand. You are loved and treasured, Eleanor! Happy birthday to you!


A heart smiles back.


He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.
(‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3‬:‭11-12‬ NIV)

North – Days 3 & 4

July 28 & 29

William, Gavin and I bike along the length of the island (1.1mile). It is a beautiful ride accompanied by the smell of pine and the hum of distant boat motors. The resplendent blue water is visible through the trees on both sides of the street. We stop at a spot I used to visit in days of yore when Nora was just a covert little zygote. I had been unaware then of her tiny presence, blissfully oblivious to a sweet extra chromosome and to what the next three years had in store for me — for my family.


The thin narrow dock spans out through the reeds. It is quiet. Beautiful. Until the bees become threatened by our presence. One sting, two stings, Gavin is their target. And there went the serenity.


Apparently there was a nest hidden under the dock that we had the audacity to walk over and the bees were none too happy about it. Neither William or I got stung. Gavin wasn’t crazy about extending our excursion down this dock in the first place, and of course he’s the one who got stung. Twice. Ah, poor buddy!!! This was his first encounter with a bee sting(s). Thanking God that there was no allergic reaction!

He shook it off and is back to playing as soon as we get back. There’s no sniffling in Wiffle ball with Uncle Josh!


Kids just fall from the sky around here.
(My niece Keira the Rockstar and her Daddy)


The weather has been exceedingly chillier than we are used to this time of year. Thank goodness for knee socks!!


The previous day we were taken aback to learn that the house our families rented for 4 consecutive summers on the neighboring island was gone. In its place stood a newly constructed, very large and unfamiliar house. It is a beautiful home but is rudely oblivious to its imposure on our sacred ground. This place was the backdrop of so so many treasured memories that now exists only in pictures and in thought. We stopped by in the car Sunday to have a look around. We gathered a few rocks and left a few tears. William and I oared past again in the kayaks today. You can see the newly built house in the background of the picture below.
45° 58′ 51.949″ N 84° 18′ 47.208″ W


Beneath the Kissing Bridge ~



Temporarily distracted from my sadness, I row through the reeds and the heart-shaped lily pads. The warm sunshine on my face and the cool breeze in my hair are God’s soothing mercies.


Feather ~






The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
(‭Psalm‬ ‭9‬:‭9-10‬ NIV)



North – Days 1 & 2

July 26th & 27th

The flat expanse of farmland and orange barrels lay stretched out before us. No bottles to mix, no diapers to check, no cries to soothe. “Shouldn’t I be DOING something?” my routines, patterns and habits wonder in confusion. I miss her.

The reminders of God’s love are obvious and unimstakeable.


The hearts and the countless trios of birds bear their reminder that everything is going to be alright.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.(‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭1‬ ESV)

The farms gradually fade into forests of tall Northern pines and we begin scanning the horizon for the majestic spires of the Mackinac Bridge. At long last, we see them. I feel the familiar tinge of excitement I felt as a little girl. The bridge signifies that we are almost there; the same sparkle now reflecting in the eyes of my children.




Looking back at pictures from past Michigan vacations, this is my very first trip to Cedarville / Les Cheneaux Islands in 1973. I was about 2 or 3 months old here. 🙂 I reportedly rode up in a portable bassinet in the backseat of an orange VW bug. The bassinet was tied down with clothesline though, so I was safe, not to worry.



The crisp smell of cedar pine intermingled with boat fuel and a hint of fish, the quintessence of my very being. Home.

The sun is remiss and low clouds hover as we arrive at our destination. I look down and see the heart as soon as I step out of the car ~


By late afternoon a break in the clouds indicate that it is time for swimming. If the air temperature is registering in at a brisk 61°, you can only imagine how cold the water must be. They don’t currrrr ~




Although our grief is heavy, we are excited to be in this special corner of the world. It had become increasingly difficult to find rental properties up here to comfortably accommodate our ever growing family. This past December my parents announced to us that they had finally found and purchased a beautiful place to house all 17 of us, which then included Nora. Nora’s needs and comforts were taken into careful consideration and we couldn’t wait to bring her up here for her third vacation up North, her place of origin. There is even a fancy baff tub with jets in the downstairs bathroom. We were tearfully joyful at this awesome news.



So here we are. It is our first summer in this house of our own–even more beautiful than the pictures we had seen. What we had intended as respite from the daily grind, has now become a sanctuary to cushion our broken hearts together as a family. How incredibly blessed and thankful we are for all of the time and hard work that has gone in to making it all that it is.




Last year we were split up into different accommodations. It worked out, but it would have been nice to all be together. I haven’t yet had the strength to drive down the gravel driveway that leads to last year’s little cabin where we stayed with Nora. It would be exceedingly painful to be staying there or in the house where the rest of the family stayed. We spent a lot of time in the big house during the day with Nora. It would be so hard to sit in the same rooms, in the same chair that I rocked her in this same time last year. This new place is a fresh slate to create new memories, and a soothing refuge to reflect on the treasured memories of the past.

I watch in contemplative silence as a lazy mist rolls across the channels. She is with me in my heart.




Several generations of cousins, second-cousins, once, twice, thrice removed, aunts, uncles — greats and grand, etc. convene for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at a relative’s lake house. Despite a couple of raindrops, it is a beautiful evening!



Heart-shaped puddle ~







Heading back to the house across the Kissing Bridge, the sun courts the horizon for their evening promenade.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
(‭Psalm‬ ‭91‬:‭11‬ ESV)


We huddle around the campfire to seek protection from the boreal winds. We laugh. We love.



Happy Birthday, S!

Twenty-one years ago at 1:30 in the morning a precious baby girl breathed air into her lungs for the first time. The sound of her newborn cry would remain etched in my mind for years and years to come. I held her in my arms, her big blue eyes looking back at me. The Mommy I had chosen for her was there too–looking on in wonder at her beautiful new baby daughter, her Daddy waiting anxiously just outside the door. Their joy became my strength.


A few days later under a little gazebo in the park I held that tiny bundle for the last time. I tearfully placed her in their arms, somehow able to admit at 20-years-old that I wasn’t what was best for her. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, God and his legion of angels carried my wounded heart away from the gazebo that day. I’m not strong enough to do something like that on my own. There were probably trios of birds and hearts all over the place, but I hadn’t bothered to notice. For the next 18 years her Mommy devotedly sent me pictures and letters as she had promised. And then it came – THE letter. S. wanted to meet me!!!!! There is nothing on this earth that I can possibly compare what it’s like to embrace someone you’ve thought about, loved, and missed every single day for eighteen years. The only correlation I can make is that of a birth, but even that is only a matter of 8+ months of eager anticipation. Perhaps it would be like being pregnant for 18 years, but way better because you aren’t actually pregnant? It’s hard to believe that 21 years have now elapsed. I have always been so thankful for the God given discernment to realize the sanctity of a tiny embryo. The embryo that was my birth daughter. The embryo that the world that was quick to dismiss as an “inconvenience.” A “choice.” I’ve given thanks for the courage to admit that I wasn’t what was best for this baby who would someday grow up into a little girl, a teenager, a young lady.

Almost twenty-one years later, also at 1:30 in the morning, another precious baby girl breathed air into her lungs, but it was for the last time. As I’m faced with this painful season of my life, I am thankful for the perspective that S.’s story has invested. Because of S. I know that I will survive having said goodbye to Nora. I know I will take each day as it comes. Rain or shine, I will get through it. The Lord’s joy is and will be my strength. He will continue to carry me through the darkest days, but this time I KNOW He’s there.


I know that I will think of Nora every single day for the rest of my life, sometimes with painful yearning, sometimes with resolute joy. I know that God will write me letters and send me pictures of Nora in the form of a beautiful sunrise, hearts in the clouds and in the songs of the birds. Because of S. I know that the years will fly by quickly. I know that someday–some incredible, euphoric day that I won’t be able to put into words again–I will have another such moment as I had with my first born. I’ll get that “letter” from God that Nora wants to meet me. And I will go. I will go with such fervid excitement as I watch her nearing closer, tears in my eyes, about to jump out of my skin. And then I’ll have it – the treasured and longed for embrace.


Thank you, S. for the hope that the story of your life has bestowed upon my broken heart. I couldn’t do this without you. Thank you and HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I LOVE you. I know that your sweet little birth sister is up there singing her favorite song to you! I hope your day was wonderful!

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.


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.




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 to his shift.

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,


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 ~


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 ~







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

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

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

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

These are the photos in their raw and untouched form ~






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

As explains them:

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

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


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

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

The Cemetery

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Arms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Coincidence?” Methinks not.

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