Saturday, December 29, 2012

A beautiful remembrance

On Saturday December 8th, twelve days after Abigaile Grace was born, our family was honored by a service that could not have been more perfect to honor and remember Abbie's brief life. We were blessed by about 100 people in attendance, and felt incredibly surrounded by so much love, comfort, and support from our family, friends, church, and community. I also am aware of several who wanted to attend but could not, due to distance or other conflicts that day. Therefore, I felt led to create as close of a simulation of the service as possible on Abbie's blog.

Abbie was dressed in a beautiful gown and hat (that were beautifully made by our wonderful next-door neighbor Kat Ryan, who is extremely gifted with a sewing machine), and laid on a soft, cuddly pink blanket that I had found for her to be cozily laid on. Inside the casket with her were a white teddy bear with a purple ribbon, a heart-shaped pillow, and a tiny heart-shaped necklace, of which I have a matching heart necklace that fits perfectly around the outside of Abbie's. These last three items were gifts from the wonderful NICU staff at Children's Hospital.
God is truly in the details - the day before the service, a gorgeous lavender blanket arrived, that Abbie's aunt Jess had ordered. It had been embroidered with "Abigaile Grace, 11-26-12, Loved and Cherished." We brought the blanket along with us to the service, thinking we would have it up front somehow along with Abbie's casket, photo, and flowers. We handed it to the funeral director when we arrived at church, and while we were greeting guests and not giving him any direction whatsoever, he went up and draped it carefully over the casket. It took my breath away when I walked into the room and saw how beautifully our little girl's memorial was displayed in the church.  The blanket was literally the exact perfect size, and really made the casket seem much more warm and cozy, perfect for a tiny precious child. The color of the blanket also exactly matched the ribbons (which say "Daughter" and "Sister") that the florist had chosen to be wrapped around our floral bouquets. The canvas photo to the left was an incredible gift that was given to us by the organization Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and the gentle and talented photographer Stacey Buckett from Buckett Photography.

The other priceless gift that was given to us by the photographer was a slideshow of the photos she had taken of Abbie with us in the hospital. The service was closed casket, so the wonderful staff at Hosanna! was able to take this slideshow and have it playing during the public visitation. This was important to me because I knew it would give so many beloved family members and friends a way to see Abbie at the service despite it being closed casket. The slideshow moved me to tears when I first watched it (in the privacy of my own living room!) and I know it moved many others to tears at the service as well. What a beautiful gift that our family will treasure for years to come. You can watch the slideshow here: Baby Abbie.

And lastly, I have included below an audio-recording of the service, that Hosanna's tech team blessed us with. The service was incredibly moving and powerful for our family and I know for many others in attendance. While we would give anything to have our beloved second daughter back with us on this earth, we were so honored by the way in which her short life was so beautifully celebrated, and many times during the service I envisioned her cooing happily in the arms of Jesus. We never heard her voice here, but I cannot wait for the joy I will be filled with when I hear it for the first time, someday when we meet again.

The service was about 50 minutes long and I have split it into 11 tracks. Click on each photo below to listen to each audio track. If you don't have time to listen to the entire thing, I would encourage you to listen to Pastor Ryan Alexander's welcome and opening prayer, and also his message. God's love, grace, truth, and promise are truly present in the message. We are so thankful to have Ryan as one of our pastors at Hosanna! May God continue to use him mightily for His service. And may God continue to use the short, sweet life of Abbie, to draw others closer into His arms, where Abbie is resting today.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hallelujah! Light Has Come

During the past few weeks I have been spending a lot of time with Jesus, alone, in quietness, reflecting on our journey with the birth and loss of Abbie. I felt the Lord calling me to do this, to turn to the One who can heal my hurts, dry my tears, and help me to move forward from here. I am blessed with many weeks off of work right now for my physical recovery from the surgery, and have heard God's voice telling me to use this precious time to focus on emotional and spiritual recovery as well. So I have been obedient, and have seen the fruits of this disciplined focus, time and time again over these weeks.

Early in this time of reflection. I was listening to Christmas music on Pandora while sitting in a Caribou Coffee, spending time in God's Word and also working on some updates to this blog.  The song by BarlowGirl, "Hallelujah, Light Has Come" came on, and stopped me from everything I was doing. The song is sung in the virgin Mary's voice, singing to her newborn son Jesus who will save the world. However, many of the lyrics resonated with me about Abbie's short life also. I chose to write this post on the day I heard the song, but not to publish it until Christmas morning, as we celebrate the One who came into the world to save us all.

The prayer of my heart continues to be that our precious baby, Abigaile Grace, will truly be her Father's joy, in pointing as many as possible to the Savior of the world, who came to us so long ago as the most precious Baby of all. Both of their lives were short on this earth but their impact has been far-reaching.

Though I still don't understand the full purpose of why her life had to be so brief, I believe that heaven sent her to me, just as heaven sent Jesus to his mother Mary and to each one of us. I look forward to the day when I will see my beloved daughter again and when I will understand fully, as I am sure Mary did when she arrived in heaven to greet once again her beloved Son.

Peace and joy to each of you this Christmas - may you experience the true presence of Jesus, the Light who has come.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Celebrating life on Isabel's birthday

Five years ago today, I became a mother to my first daughter, Isabel Noelle.
Four weeks ago today, I became a mother to my second daughter, Abigaile Grace.

It's incredible the waves of emotions that I go through right now on a daily basis. Last Friday I was driving birthday treats to Isabel's school to share with her classmates, and when I was about ten minutes away from the school, I could barely fight back the tears. I was thinking about how I can't believe how fast the past five years have flown by, and how I would not trade a single day I have had with the incredible privilege of mothering my children. I was also thinking how sad I was that I would never be sending birthday treats to a school class for Abbie.

Birthdays have a new meaning for me all of a sudden. Life is so precious, and can be taken from us in an instant, so I feel we need to truly celebrate when one of our loved ones reaches another birthday. So today, we celebrate our firstborn, even while we still mourn the loss of our youngest. Isabel has blessed our lives many times over, and I am so incredibly grateful for her life.

Isabel loves being a big sister, and she is just tickled right now anytime she sees a baby. I am thankful for the short time she had with Abbie, and for the daily experiences she has being a big sister to Josiah.

Happy 5th birthday Isabel! We are going to make your day as special as we possibly can, and I am sure your baby sister is smiling down on you from above today.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Groaning in anguish of heart

Oh how my heart is heavy this day. Our family lost a child just 18 days ago. She was a daughter...a sister...a grandchild...a niece...and we miss her terribly.

Twenty other precious, innocent children were lost today, due to the incomprehensible act of another. These beloved children were enjoying their schoolday, looking ahead to the holidays right around the corner, their futures filled with such promise, snuffed out in an instant.  The terror is unthinkable, and it is nearly beyond words.

I would have undoubtedly grieved with these families before we lost Abbie. The entire nation is grieving today, feeling an angry and confused sadness. But I feel my heart is moved even more for these families since our family's untimely loss.  My heart hurts for them in a way I cannot describe adequately here. I will spend much time in prayer for these families over the next days and weeks. I would ask you to do the same.

"I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God." - Psalm 38:8-9,15

Lord Jesus, our Mighty Comforter, please come down and hold each of these families in your hands, as You have so clearly held our family in our time of loss.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Something Happened

I am still having a hard time putting my own words to paper (or screen) about what happened and all the emotions I am experiencing, that run about the widest gamut that I could possibly imagine. There are times I feel completely numb and in shock, times I feel almost normal, just carrying out the responsibilities of everyday life, and times when I cannot prevent the tears from flowing, to the point where I worry I may never stop crying once I start. So, for now, I will copy the words of the children's book that was gifted to us by the wonderful Child Life Specialist in the hospital, that we have read several times to our children. I am so thankful it is helping our kids (especially Isabel) to deal with the events of the past week as well.

This book is not written from a Christian perspective, so there is some truth missing from it, as far as us all being able to see Abbie again in heaven someday. We cling to, and believe on, that truth with our whole hearts and every fiber of our beings. But despite the lack of an eternal perspective in the book, I still think it helps Isabel to deal with the truth that Abbie is not coming to live in our house with us as we had planned, as the reality of that will sink in over the next days and weeks. This is the part of the news that made Isabel the saddest when she came up to the hospital, the realization that her baby sister would not be coming home with us. We will all have to come to terms with it anew, on every milestone and significant date we reach (Christmas, Abbie's due date, what would be her first birthday, etc.)

I will take liberty to change the words slightly, to make it personal for our children. The story comes from the voice of Isabel, so imagine that as you read it.

Something Happened, by Cathy Blanford

On the day it happened, everyone woke up happy.
We were all happy about the new baby who was coming to be in our family.
Mommy was happy because she really loved me and Josiah,
      and now she was going to have a new baby, too.
Daddy was happy because two kids were great, and three would be even better!
I was happy because I knew that Mommy and Daddy loved me.
I loved them and Josiah and my dog, Ginger, but...
I had always wanted another baby sister or brother.
But that night, something really bad happened.
Instead of going to the hospital to say hello...we had to go to the hospital to say goodbye.
Mommy and Daddy told me our baby had died...but I didn't even know about that.
Our baby died...because something happened.
Nobody knows for sure why it happened.
I was scared that it was my fault, but Mommy and Daddy said it wasn't anybody's fault.
Sometimes bad things just happen.
I wish I could make our baby come back, but our baby is dead.
Our baby can't come back, no matter how hard we wish.
For a long time, everyone at our house felt sad.
Sometimes I had a tummy ache and just felt like crying.
Sometimes I felt really mad and I didn't even want to play.
And then, something else happened.
We planted a tree and flowers in our backyard for our baby.
Now we have a special place to go and remember.
Everyone says that maybe someday we'll have another baby.
Right now, Mommy, Daddy, Josiah, Ginger, and I are still a family.
I love playing with Josiah. I love playing with Ginger. I love playing with Mommy and Daddy.
When I wasn't always sure, Mommy and Daddy helped me know our love goes on and on.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Abbie's Memorial Service

Our family is incredibly blessed, overwhelmed, and made speechless, by the outpouring of love, support, and generosity that has come during our time of loss and healing. I will dedicate a separate post to that later, after we have fully processed (and are organized enough to give proper gratitude for) all the amazing gestures, kindnesses, and gifts that have come our family's way.

This post is dedicated to share the details of the memorial service we have planned for Abbie. Any and all are welcome to attend, as we would like to give each one of you a hug to thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and kindness.

Her obituary is posted here.

We chose to hold an open memorial service for her, so that many who have been touched by her short life, can come and celebrate the eternal promise we have in Jesus, that she will live forever with Him in heaven and that we will be united with her again one day. Mother and father will get to hold daughter, and two sisters and a brother will be able to hug, hold hands, and play ring around the rosie until they collapse in giggles on the ground! I envision Abbie as being a blondie like our other two kids, and I can't wait to see all that blond sunshiny hair falling around the girls' faces as they laugh and lie down in the green grass to catch their breath!

Details are as follows:

Saturday, December 8th
Hosanna! Lutheran Church, 9600 163rd St. West, Lakeville, MN.
12:30pm - Public visitation
1:30pm - Service
2:30 pm - Light luncheon

The mission of the March of Dimes is near and dear to our family's heart, as Abbie was our second child born prematurely. Therefore, in lieu of flowers, we have opened a memorial account for Abbie at Merrill Lynch. Donations can be brought to the service or mailed to our home at 4639 Tamie Ave, Eagan, MN 55123.  We intend to use a sizable portion of this account for a donation to the March of Dimes ( The research this wonderful organization does is critical to reduce the incidence of prematurity worldwide. We still have a long journey ahead to work toward stronger, healthier babies!

Blessings to each of you - know that God's light and grace are shining down on you from above, with sweet Abbie in his arms.

With all our love and gratitude,
The Christenson Family

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Isabel and Josiah meeting Abbie

On Monday, after Abbie went to be with Jesus, the kind staff of the NICU told us that we could spend as much time with her that day as we wanted to, and we could even do so in my hospital room so the time would be more comfortable. So they brought her up to us in a beautiful white basket, and she spent the day in my room. We both held her a lot of the time, and were able to extend our time with the physical body of our precious girl, even though we knew that her spirit and soul were even at that moment looking down on us from above, where she was resting and rocking in the arms of our Savior.

A Child Life Specialist from the NICU came up to visit with us as well, to provide support, advice, and recommendations on how to best share the loss of a baby with the other children in the home. We talked a lot about Isabel and Josiah and where they each are developmentally. She provided us with some recommendations on what language to use and also provided us with some really helpful children's books that are written specifically to help siblings deal with the loss of a new baby who they were expecting to come home and live with them.  After reviewing all the information she provided, Luke and I talked privately and decided ultimately, especially for Isabel, that it would be good to have them come and meet baby Abbie in person, to be able to see her, touch her, hold her, and have that physical memory and photographs to help them continue to process this loss as they grow. 

Our wonderful nanny, Kalli, brought the kids up to the hospital in the evening, and left them with us for awhile so we could have some private time as a family of five. We knew Josiah's attention span would be shorter, so Kalli stayed at the hospital and took him back from us after a little bit, so we could spend some additional time with Isabel explaning the events of the day to her at her level and answer any questions that she might have. This extra time was really helpful to have with our firstborn daughter and her curious spirit.

Isabel's was thrilled to learn that she had a baby sister (she had been convinced from day one that the baby was a girl!), and then when we explained that Abbie was just too little and sick and that she wouldn't be coming home with us and instead went to live with Jesus right away, Isabel crumbled into a solid few minutes of sobbing (which made my tears flow also). We gently assured her that Abbie was in a better place, and we would see her again one day when we are all in heaven. This seemed to help her. Isabel has a very vivid picture of heaven in her mind, and talks about it often. She is convinced it will be filled with all the things a little girl would love...princesses, mermaids, Barbies, etc. So I told her that when we are all there someday, she will get to show Abbie everything and they can play together as sisters. I look forward to seeing that day, when Isabel gets to be a big sister to Abbie the way she has been dreaming of doing for the past 5 months since we have known a new baby was coming.

Isabel wanted to see all of Abbie's body parts (her arms, her feet, her tummy, her back, her bottom) - almost as if she wanted to make sure she was a real baby and not a very lifelike doll. This reinforced our decision to have her meet Abbie physically, because we would not have been able to answer these types of questions had Abbie not been there with us.  At the end of our visit, Isabel held Abbie and sat beside me in the bed while I read her the book Something Happened, which is a children's book written for families who have experienced the loss of a baby.  The words in this book were very soothing to my heart, Luke's heart, and hopefully Isabel's heart as well. When Luke took the kids home for bed that evening, he once again read this book separately to each of them, helping them to each understand about their baby sister in their own unique way.  We have been told by many that children grieve over weeks and months just like adults, so we will continue to help each of our children process our loss for as long as they need us to.

As a friend reminded me last night during our time of prayer, I am now, and always will be, a mother of three children. We will honor Abigaile's memory by continuing to teach our children about the love we have for her, as they grow older and we experience all the joy that there is to come in watching the two of them grow and live their lives. Isabel, Josiah, and Abbie have all been true blessings to us, and we are proud and humbled to have been chosen to be their parents. For God to have entrusted these precious ones to us for a time, when He loves them even more than we can understand or fathom, is truly an amazing thing.

Love and blessings,
The Christenson Family

Monday, November 26, 2012

November Baby

Last night at 12:27am we welcomed into the world, very unexpectedly, a precious, perfect little miracle who we named Abigaile Grace. Abigaile for "The Father's Joy" and "Grace" for the grace of God. She was born at 23 weeks, 1 day of gestation, just barely considered viable and the age that the wonderful doctors and nurses of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit here at Children's Hospital St. Paul would do everything in their power to keep her alive at such a delicate age. She came out kicking her legs (Luke gave me the play-by-play since he could peek over the curtain during my C-section), and for the next many hours, they worked on stabilizing her, via breathing tubes, chest tubes, IV's, and all sorts of other things I can go into more detail on later. I got to see her for the first time at 4:00am. Beautiful!

At 9:00am or so, we got an urgent call from the NICU team to come down right away because they were doing CPR on Abbie. 5 minutes before that, I would have told you it would take me a good half hour to get out of my bed. Give a worried, loving mama that kind of call, and you have never seen a post-C-section woman move so fast in all your life. I was in the wheelchair in less than 2 minutes, and we headed down to see our daughter. When we arrived, the neonatologist told us they had been attempting CPR for upwards of 5 minutes and Abbie was not responding. Even if they were able to resuscitate her at this time, the risk of permanent brain damage were very, very high, and she told us she thought this was Abbie's way of saying her organs were just too little to survive outside of mama's womb.  Her recommendation was to stop the resuscitation attempts, and we consented.

Immediately now we got to hold our precious little girl. We spent two hours with her before she ended up going off into the arms of Jesus. We sang to her, talked to her, told her how much we loved her, and Luke even gave her a sponge bath. She was one loved baby in those short couple of hours. She has been, and is even now, The Father's Joy, and she is rocking in the arms of her Heavenly Father where we will see her again one day. And, we like to think that Jesus will also give her lots of time to be rocked and loved on by Grandpa Dave, who preceded her journey to heaven by 5 1/2 years. He hasn't gotten to hold a grandbaby yet, and he loves babies, so now he will help care for her until we meet again one day!

Our family sincerely appreciates all your prayers, love, and support, and we will provide more detail on this blog over the next days and weeks, to fill in the missing information from this initial post and to answer any questions.

Love and blessings,
Kristy and Luke Christenson