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.