Friday, December 21, 2012

An announcement

Our sweet little girl is a big sister, once again.  We're expecting our 5th little blessing next summer.

After a prenatal loss, there is always fear that comes along with pregnancy.  But, more than fear, there is hope.  And our hopes are high.

Watch over your brother or sister, Keely  <3 p="p">

Saturday, December 15, 2012

at least 40 newly bereaved parents in minutes...

Yesterday, in a kindergarten classroom, 20 beautiful young souls lost their lives in unthinkable tragedy.  

Today, their parents are likely watching the sunrise on one of the darkest days of their lives; the first day without their beloved child.  

My heart breaks into a thousand pieces for them.  How quickly life can, and does, change.  Yesterday, they ate breakfast and sent their loved ones off to school.  For the last time.

It's hard to even wrap one's mind around it.  It's unfathomable.

All that can be said has been said.  My heart is with Sandy Hook Elementary's victim's parents, whose lives will never, never be the same.  I, along with much of the country, held my children close throughout the night, unable to shake the unshakable after hearing the unthinkable.  

There just are no words.

"Weep with those who weep."  Romans 12:15

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Nearer, Still Nearer

"Nearer, still nearer, close to Thy heart,
Draw me, my Savior—so precious Thou art!

Fold me, oh, fold me close to Thy breast.
Shelter me safe in that “Haven of Rest”;
Shelter me safe in that “Haven of Rest.”

Nearer, still nearer, nothing I bring,
Naught as an offering to Jesus, my King;
Only my sinful, now contrite heart.
Grant me the cleansing Thy blood doth impart.
Grant me the cleansing Thy blood doth impart.

Nearer, still nearer, Lord, to be Thine!
Sin, with its follies, I gladly resign,
All of its pleasures, pomp and its pride,
Give me but Jesus, my Lord, crucified.
Give me but Jesus, my Lord, crucified.

Nearer, still nearer, while life shall last.
Till safe in glory my anchor is cast;
Through endless ages ever to be
Nearer, my Savior, still nearer to Thee;
Nearer, my Savior, still nearer to Thee!"

Everyday, my girl, nearer to you in the arms of the Lord...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

Last Sunday was International Bereaved Mother's Day.  It just so happened that I saw a double rainbow in the sky, clear as can be.  A beautiful gift.  A promise from God.

Today is Mother's Day.  I am beyond lucky to have these 3 beautiful living sons.  They make this world brighter, they make my heart sing.  They've made me a mother, taught me more than I ever could've imagined.  I am beyond lucky to have had Keely for 22 weeks and 3 days, to have gotten to witness those final beats of her beautiful heart.  She made this world a brighter place, she makes my heart sing.  She makes me a mother and taught me more than I ever could've imagined.  

They are all the reasons I am a mother.  They are all my world.  They are my beautiful, wonderful, loving, bubbly children.  Each and every one of them.

Wishing a gentle mother's day to those wishing all their children were in their arms today. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

On vacation with us...Everywhere with us

We went to Disney World this past week.  We had a fantastic trip, wonderful weather.  We had {almost} everything we could ask for.  We missed our girl, talked about her, talked about what she'd be like were she with us physically.  We saw butterflies and remembered.  We let a balloon go in front of Cinderella's castle in her honor.  We missed her but were grateful for her presence in our hearts.

"No matter what happens, I'll always be with youForever. "

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Draw me nearer, blessed Lord...

As I read today about another family saying goodbye far too soon, I draw near to the heart of God.  We may never understand why we are put on these journeys but we can be sure of the goal.

Wishing peace to the family in their darkest hours.

"There are depths of love that I cannot know
Till I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I may not reach
Till I rest in peace with Thee."

Friday, April 13, 2012


What an emotional rollercoaster this past month has been. 5 years has been a tough anniversary. We're far enough out that most days we've accepted that Keely is gone and it seems so far from having held her and yet far from holding her again.

I'm not sure what it is about this 5 year mark. The days were the same as they were that year, a Monday, a Wednesday and this Saturday is 5 years from her burial. I don't know if it's some silent marking of grief that is like a rite of passage. I don't know if maybe it's this heart wrenching every year, but this year was rough. Easter came and went, just as it did that year. I lost myself in love for my sweet living children and how lucky we are to be their parents. I lost myself in love and grief for our precious girl we wish could've been with us.

We are so lucky that our friends and family remember alongside us. I know that many on this heartbroken road don't have that luxury.

Her balloons were released into a gorgeous, sunny sky and sent straight up to Heaven. Her cake was make, decorated and eaten. Her Easter basket was filled.

And she was missed. So, so, so missed.


Monday, April 2, 2012

perfect quote for her final moments...

" There was no noise, no tremble, just peace. Oh god. I realize as a woman how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life."

~Steel Magnolias

It was a Monday then too.

This time, 5 years ago, Keely still kicked away.

I went into my regular doctor's appointment. We did the usual check up, everything seemed great. Then she got the doppler out and found that precious heartbeat. It seemed... slow.

She thought it must be the machine so we used the portable ultrasound machine that was already in the room. There was that heartbeat again but it didn't satisfy the doctor. We made the trek down the hall to the big ultrasound room. Walking down the hallway, I thought to myself "I could find out the sex!". I still had no idea. None. I knew the heartbeat was slow but it was there.

The doctor puts me in the ultrasound room with the technician and shut the door. We watch in complete silence until it is apparent that the slow heartbeat is slowing down even more and under her breath, the technician whispers "oh my god". I hold out hope until the very last beat and then the tears overtake me. The technician just shakes her head no and I can see the tears have overtaken her as well. She leaves the room. She left the image of our girl up on the ultrasound screen, now completely silent, completely still.

I remember those moments like they happened yesterday, maybe even better than I used to now that the shock has worn off.

5 years ago, our lives were irreparably changed. A defining moment in life.

We miss you, Keely Rae! But we love you even more <3

Sunday, April 1, 2012

5 years ago today and tomorrow and 5 years ago on Easter and her birthday and...

This day 5 years ago, Keely was alive and well, kicking and dancing in my belly. 5 years ago today, we were remembering the passing of my grandmother who had passed on this day in 1991. 5 years ago today, we had no idea. None.

We had gone to my parents' town, to church and to tour a home. The realtor and I joked about finding out the sex. She was pregnant too, due about the same time I was. Her daughter will be 5 soon. I will visit my daughter's grave. I felt fine. I had been to the doctor the week before because something didn't feel right but I couldn't quite figure out what. At that appointment, we heard her sweet, precious heartbeat. She was perfect. My mind had been put at ease. All was well for 4 more days.

Today, 5 years ago, was the last day we knew complete, naive happiness. There is happiness now, but there is always someone missing. I don't really remember who I was before. I don't remember what "it couldn't happen to me" felt like.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Some of the memories are hard to remember, not that I can't remember well but that I remember too well and some of them are just plain hard. I've decided that they're also too precious to forget. I'll record them here so my children and grandchildren can know even after I'm gone.

Boston, Keely's big brother, was not even 2 yet when she died. I remember him in his little suit at the funeral, the same one we'd purchased that year for him to wear at Easter. When we bought it we had no idea...

An almost two year old at a visitation for 2 hours then the funeral for another 1.5+ hours. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it? But I couldn't bare the thought of having him far from me so we gave it a shot.

Between my sisters, parents, Nana, husband and myself, he was not only cared for but entertained and quite cordial throughout the entire visitation. He never caused a scene or threw a fit. And then the funeral came, when I *needed* to be able to listen to the words and let the tears flow so I could give her a proper goodbye. As we settled into our seats for the eulogy, he crawled into my lap and fell asleep before the first word was even spoken. Oh how I needed him there, just like that! He slept throughout the funeral, slept as I walked past her casket for the very last time and stayed asleep until we got into the car to go to the graveside service. I needed my living child, to feel his warm, deep breaths, to feel him curled up next to me and remind me that I was still living and needed to live for him, for his future. After everyone walked past the casket, he slept as his daddy carried his sister to the town car, a trip to her final resting place. Then, graveside, he just watched.

I don't know if he remembers any of the funeral, I don't think so. But I will remember for him, that even in his very early days, he knew just what Mommy and Daddy needed. I will be forever grateful.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

the famous bereaved...

In honor of the Duggars and the loss they suffer publicly, I'd like to look at a few other famous families who've buried their children far, far too soon.

One of the woman in American History I most admire, a classic beauty, a poised leader, an adoring mother, Jacqueline Kennedy knew more than her fair share of heartache. Before being widowed (twice), she suffered a miscarriage, the stillbirth of daughter Arabella and the death of 2 day old son Patrick, born premature.

I have a vivid memory of standing at Arlington National Cemetery as a little girl and being fascinated by those graves.

Rest in peace, Jackie, along with 3 of your 4 children.


Grief does not discriminate.

I would even go so far as to say grief reaches every. single. person at some point in their lives. Rich, poor, every racial and religious background, every level of education, every age.

But there's something especially painful about grief that goes outside the normal cycle of life. We expect to bury our grandparents someday. That isn't to say that it won't be painful and heartwrenching and sorrowful, but it is generally expected sooner or later. We even expect that, someday, down the road and still too soon, we'll outlive our own parents, maybe even siblings. It may not be a conscious thought but it's within the normal realms of expectations.

And then a child dies. Maybe not even our own child. Maybe not even a child we knew well. But a child dying is out of the ordinary, even against what feels like a natural order of events and it shakes us to our human core. It isn't supposed to happen.

And then the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the kind of event that years down the road, you have to remind yourself is reality. YOUR child dies. In 3 years of posts here, 5 years of thoughts and a lifetime of vocabulary, I have yet to find the words to describe what happens when a very part of your body, part of your heart and soul beats you to Heaven.

"I don't think of him every day; I think of him every hour of every day."
~ Gregory Peck, in an interview many years after the death of his son

I can't think of a title.

So I'll spend my energy on something other than a title and get right to the heart of it.

The Duggars' little girl died, just like my little girl died. Their hearts broke just like our hearts broke. It doesn't matter if they have 1000 other children, that one died. But they had to suffer such heartache on television. I do not envy that position, not for one second. My heart goes out to them, these are some of if not the hardest days they'll face on this earth. I will say, though, that showing the life and death of their beautiful little Jubilee as well as their journey into bereavement on television is helping putting a face on a topic that is still taboo in 2012.

It is a sad truth that children have been dying since the beginning of time (possibly the first recorded child death was David and Bathsheba?). In past cultures, it was even expected that a person may not live long on this earth. It is a sad truth that still exists and yet, as a society, it's often more popular to pretend that it doesn't.

My heart is heavy for the Duggars but light for their sweet child. May the days be gentle for them as they pave this path for themselves. On a selfish note, my own nerves have been severed at preparing to watch the showing, airing tonight, that chronicles their loss. It comes at a fragile time of year for me.

"I shall go to him, but he will not return to me." II Samuel 12:23

Sunday, March 25, 2012

blame from others...

When Keely died, I naturally went through every last second I carried her and asked myself if I'd done anything wrong. I asked my doctor if I'd done anything wrong. I questioned if I had done something differently, might she still be alive? I fabricated many moments where I'd made a different decision and fabricated a different outcome for her. Doctors assured me I did everything 'right'. My husband assured me nothing could have been done differently.

For the sake of my living children, I tried to assure myself. Deep down, I *know* I didn't do anything to contribute to her death. But those questions are a normal part of grieving, I believe.

Now, for all the self-doubt I had, especially in the early days, I was and am still unprepared for the judgement by others.

Just months after Keely's birth and death, I met with a woman I'd played soccer with in high school for a photoshoot. She told me about a girl she knew that had done drugs and asked me if I had done anything like that. Totally shaken that that thought could even run through someone's mind about me, I told her the sad percentage that MOST stillbirths are caused by unknown reasons. Even when everything seems 'right', something is wrong through no fault.

I've heard many ignorant comments from people in the time since losing Keely. I feel certain the thoughts that people don't say to me are far worse. I've come to realize that it isn't about me at all. It's about them. It's about them wanting to find a way to separate themselves from something so horrifying as losing a child. People don't want to hear that it could happen to them. People want to hear it was something you did, something they don't do so it could be an impossibility.

The sad, horrifying truth is that is could happen to you. It could happen to me again. It could happen to anyone.

But, I don't blame people for trying to convince themselves otherwise. I still try to do the same thing. It's just harder now.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Winnie the Pooh strikes again!

That cuddly little bear is taking direct hits at my heart these days. Here's one more...

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

So true, pooh. So very true.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Winnie the Pooh

“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together... there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart...
I'll always be with you.”
~ A.A. Milne {winnie the pooh}

I think A.A. Milne was a very wise man (or woman? I just realized I don't know!). Wrapping all of these beautiful, deep little truths into a cuddly and warm bear for all generations to love. Many of his quotes can be related to bereavement. As I come on the 5 year mark, I have been looking through songs and quotes and bible verses to use on the invitation for Keely's celebration. The quote from above really stood out to me. Perfect for this year.

I'll ask again, HOW has it been 5 years? I so distinctly remember looking at the veterans of bereavement in my early days and thinking "how did they do it?" and now I'm here and someone is looking at me, asking that same question. I still don't have an answer.


Sunday, March 11, 2012


I finally got a chance last night to watch a television show I had recorded about surviving death and the experiences these people had of going to the great beyond and coming back to tell of it.

It's very interesting to me how different each story was, but the running connection was that they couldn't quite find the words to describe that feeling. A feeling of complete positivity, pure love, etc but all of the interviewees still seemed as if they were searching for the right words to describe it.

Although... 1 Corinthians 2:9

Thursday, March 8, 2012

secrets of our club

I can remember as a newly bereaved mother asking if it got better. I asked myself all the time and asked that of the veteran bereaved. Truthfully, I can't remember their answers. I know that *people* in general told me it would get better with time but I don't know if that answer came from other bereaved parents.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret, it doesn't. The grief itself doesn't change much. The grief is still a gaping hole in your heart, just waiting to be reunited with your child. But I don't think people say that too often; it's just overwhelming.

I will say this, though: while the grief itself doesn't change much, how we live with it, how we handle it and how we present it to the world does. That might be overwhelming too, though. What isn't overwhelming when your child has died? Not much. Maybe the Food Network.

Will you ever smile again? Yes. Will ever feel truly happy again? Most likely.

One of the most frightening thoughts to me in the early, dark days was the fear that Keely would be forgotten. In all fairness, it's a valid fear. Many have moved on, never to speak her name again. But, without a shadow of a doubt, there is a very important core of people that I know will never forget her and now I can see that is far more important. Quality over quantity.

As grief ages, what we need changes and often we don't know what that will be until the moment comes.

So when a newly bereaved parents asks me if it gets better, I don't know what to say. Better may not be the right word. Quieter, maybe.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

leap year again

Leap year. Once every four years, we get an extra day. Four years ago, 2008. It had been less than a year since Keely's death and we were still a couple of months away from the birth of our rainbow boy. Looking back, I made the following post:

I noticed that during some of the other 4D scans; Callum has his big sister's eyes, but I hadn't thought much about it other than thinking that would be nice. I've realized today that those beautiful eyes that he shares with his big sister haven't ever looked back at me. I'm still glad he has features of hers and of his big brother, but I think to see her eyes looking back at me is going to be very powerful and I'm a little nervous. Has anybody felt that way about their rainbow baby's features? I just cannot wait to hold him and hear him crying and feel his warmth. I cannot wait to do all these things special with him and at the same time, wonder what her cries would've sounded like or if she would've stayed calm like she was in utero. :blush:

MISSing our angels and praying for our rainbows

Much has changed in those 4 years. 2 more beautiful children have been born safely into our arms in those years. We've grown and grieved, healed some and missed more. The raw, terrifying fear has subsided. Our grief has matured and we've found some solace in acceptance. At times the acceptance is a bitter pill and other times, a soft foundation. 4 years of being built up by our beautiful children, both living and dead, teaching us more than we ever could teach them. 4 years of moments spent wondering what Keely's contribution would've been should we have been allowed more earthly time with her.

I can look back on the words written 4 years ago by a frightened, broken hearted woman carrying a rainbow baby she wasn't sure she'd be able to hear cry or laugh or see smile and understand her a little better. I look back as a broken hearted mother whose mind may still wonder 'what if' but whose heart is full, hands are full and life is blessed by all her children. I am left to wonder what 4 years from now might bring. 4 years is just a blink in life but filled by so, so many beautiful moments I'm just not willing to forget.


a drawing and a clue...

I am an artist by trade. Just for fun the other night, I did quick studies of my children. I did very quick pen and ink sketches of each boy and they asked me to do one of Keely too. So I did my version of what she might look like today (we have several sketches I did of her while we were in the hospital after she was born so I wanted to try something different). It was a little of each brother but with my sister's nose and her daddy's chin just like she had at birth. I made her hair slightly longer than her shoulders and partly pulled up with a bow, like it has been in dreams of her.

When I finished the drawing, I showed it to my sons for their approval. Middle brother liked it and ran off. Big brother liked it and ran off. As Big brother ran off, he said "but she doesn't always have a bow in her hair!"...

So sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn't? :) I love their beautiful minds.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

a dream

I had a dream last night.

My Nana was on a misty beach, throwing a ball to her beloved dog, Jake. Also chasing after the ball was Keely. In my dream, she was about the size of a 4, almost 5 year old, with skinny legs and wild blonde hair flying behind her. Up on the beach were many umbrellas with other people <3

I love those dreams.

"Everybody will be happy over there" ~hymn

Saturday, February 25, 2012

retreat, retreat

Coming up on 5 years down the road, some things have become more clear to me in my grief.

Springtime is hard. It's a time all about rebirth, renewal, refreshing and now...retreating. When I was 9 years old, my beloved grandmother passed away the day before Easter. Last year, my Nana fell ill unexpectedly in early April, just before Easter and passed away a month later. 6 weeks after my Nana's passing, my Gramps was gone too. And, of course, my Keely died April 2nd, was born April 11th and that year, Easter fell in between. Lots of sadness among the magnolia blooms. Daffodils blooming but the winter winds still whip around often; never allowing one to know what to expect. That's deep, right?

5 years now and I've finally realized why I don't like springtime. I'm irritable and short with those outside of what I see as my safe little circle, the nest I have around my family. Easily annoyed and easy to cry, I realize now the calendar and familiar spring air that gets under my skin. So to protect my heart and protect unknowing strangers, I retreat a bit during this time of year. Just enough to allow a little cushion and time to cry if I need it.

So as my annual retreat is upon me, I may post less and I may post more often. I don't know for sure what I'll need but I do know that for now, my grief is mature enough to allow whatever I need, whenever I need it to honor the lives I'm missing and protect the lives living around me.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Just missing my little girl tonight. As the time comes to plan what should've been her 5th birthday but will be a celebration of her short, but oh so important life.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

one more goodbye

After 5 years, many, many beautiful souls and countless incredible moments, I have decided to resign from the bereavement photography organization I joined shortly after Keely's death. I served as area coordinator and a photographer for those 5 years and have been lucky enough to encounter some truly amazing families and spend time with beautiful little souls, whose time on earth was far too short.

I will continue my work on bereavement paintings in Keely's honor.

In loving memory

Friday, February 10, 2012

a coincidence or a sweet hello...

And I choose to believe the latter :)

Yesterday, as I perused for shirts for my sons to go to Disney World in the spring, etsy thought I might also like a little embroidered shirt with a leopard print Minnie Mouse outline, pink polka dot bow and the child's name across the bottom, matching the bow.

The sample name on the shirt read "Keely"

<3 <3 <3

A coincidence yes, but also a sweet reminder of what might've been. She would've just turned 5 when we'll be going. But her mouse ears (that we got with her name last time) will sit on the shelf, unused.

Thank you for the hello, little girl!

Friday, January 27, 2012

half a decade, this spring

I am getting my spring plans ready. Two birthdays to plan, Easter, vacation, spring break, etc, etc. In doing so, I wanted to make sure my husband put in the dates he'd like to be off to spend some extra time together as a family.

One of those days is, of course, Keely's birthday. We always do a celebration of her life at the cemetery, sending balloons with messages to Heaven. This year, she would've been 5 years old. Getting ready to start kindergarten, just after her big brother, so grown up. It's been nearly 5 years since we saw her sweet blue eyes. Would they have even stayed blue? Here we are, half a decade later...those same unanswered questions hang in the air, the same pangs of heartache still sting. 5 years just seems so long.

But every moment that takes us farther from having held her takes us closer to holding her again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

a few lines, left unfinished

I'm a list-maker. Maybe that's an understatement. I'm an obsessive list-maker. I have a list every morning for that day, a list for the week, a list for the month. I make lists for every event I plan (birthday parties, Christmas, etc). That's how I stay organized and in control.

Sometimes, I find it interesting to keep my lists if they've been for something important in life. I find it interesting later to see what I found most important to remember. Or more important not to forget.

But this isn't about list-making. In looking back over the lists I made for our move late last year, I found a little snippet of a poem I wrote. Just four little lines, left unfinished. I remember writing them. I remember being "stuck". No other words could help those four little lines. Nothing else could help me explain myself or made sense to go along. I was too busy with our move to express myself more thoroughly.

"so for now I'll look within me
and exhale a heavy sigh,
and accept a bitter silence
from loved ones who didn't die."

That's it. I could come up with nothing before and nothing after. I don't quite remember what prompted those words but I do know there are lonely moments in grief. At least they feel lonely. The unfortunate truth is that there is always someone on that sad journey with you but it doesn't always feel that way. Often, it's the person in the same room as you but it's too big a burden to bring it up. Sometimes the silence is out of their own tiresome grief or out of fear of hurting you deeper. Sometimes the silence isn't about forgetting but about remembering too clearly. Often, when I have those thoughts that loved ones important to me here on earth have moved on and I feel sad about it, I feel compelled to make sure it's known that my blessings are counted. I know how very lucky I am, even in moments of sadness. I often feel I have to make sure everybody knows that. But moments of sadness don't make one weak or ungrateful. Moments of sadness make one human. And heartbroken. And a full heart can still be broken.

A heart so full of love and gratitude can still feel loss and hurt. It can still long for and miss those whose physical presence has moved on. Is that another step in this process? Understanding that?

Regardless, I wanted to record those lines somewhere because they deserve remembrance too. Even the grateful, even the blessed have moments of utter loneliness. Even the fullest hearts feel broken. Love is unique to each loved one and so is grief.

Monday, January 9, 2012

a prayer of a 6 year old

In the midst of my oldest son's prayers two nights ago, I hear...

"and, Dear God, I pray that my whole family can be together someday in Heaven. It's really too bad Keely can't come to Disney World with us; I really think she'd like it."

My heart simultaneously burst with pride and heartbreak.