Oh, the remembering is hard sometimes. There are so many triggers, though some have changed over the last five years. Could it really be five years since our third daughter arrived?

I have many reminders of my youngest daughter. Some are still safely packed away after our move in December...the molds of her hand and foot done by the staff at Children's Mercy, her clothes and toys that I just couldn't bear to give away. Others adorn the top of my desk...her smiling sonogram picture, a treasured drawing done from one of my favorite pictures of Kristen, a stuffed bear wearing one of Kristen's outfits. And yet others I wear close to my heart, like the photo pendant made by a sweet friend and this new piece of jewelry:

In late March, I received an email from Hallie at Everlasting Memories. She'd seen my blog and asked if I would be interested in writing a product critique for my choice of a keepsake from their selection of memorial jewelry items. I was especially taken with their photo engraved pendants (a heart-shaped one, of course). It took me some time to go through my photos of Kristen. I wanted to find just the right one. I kept coming back to one I had taken just a couple of weeks before her surgery. We were on our way to the library, and I quickly snapped it as she wiggled in her carseat. She had her Pooh Buddy, and she was smiling. Unfortunately, the photo came out a bit blurry.

A couple of years ago, a sweet lady contacted me through CMH and offered to make a drawing of my daughter. She had lost a son and was reaching out to others who had lost a beloved child. I sent her the same blurry photo, hoping she would be able to work her magic on it. And she did.

When I contacted Hallie about the photo I wanted to use, I explained about the blurry one, unsure if it would work. I sent it to her, along with a photo of the drawing, so she could check with their head engraver. The next email I received from Hallie asked if I'd like any engraving on the back and what length of chain I preferred. I responded on a Monday, just before noon. The very next day, just as we were sitting down to lunch, the doorbell rang. My necklace was already here!


I don't think my photos do it justice. It truly is beautiful, and I've received a number of compliments on it. One thing that struck me about it right away is the weight of the pendant. It's not heavy, but it has a nice, comfortable weight to it. I got an 18" chain, so the pendant sits right next to my heart.

The timing could not have been more perfect. The necklace arrived the week before Kristen's birthday.

Thank you for your very personal and prompt service, Hallie. Thank you, Everlasting Memories!

Mothering her


Never is the mothering so hard as on her birthday.

In our family, the birthday girl gets to have the birthday wreath hung on the front door in her honor. She gets to choose her birthday meal and the flavor and design of her cake. It's a day to celebrate!

But what do you do when that birthday girl isn't here to make those choices? It doesn't seem right to NOT celebrate in some fashion. However, when that birthday is forever tied to a sad anniversary just 3 months down the road, it's just hard. It's hard to know what to do. It's hard to push past the sadness to focus on the joy.

I don't get to mother Kristen the way I do her older sisters. Sometimes mothering those beautiful girls (a teenager and an almost teenager--need I say more?) brings me straight to my knees. For entirely different reasons, mothering Kristen brings me to the same place. It's all uncharted territory for me. None of it is the same. And I can't do any of it on my own.

And on days like this, when the tears flow so easily, knowing that she's perfect and whole and in the best possible place she could be just doesn't make the ache in my heart go away. I miss her with every fiber of my being.

But mothering her is how I push through the sadness. Every bear knit, assembled and shipped...every card sent...every GriefShare session led...every remembrance of someone else's loved one. These are the ways I can mother her. And just like the mothering I do for her sisters, I always wish I was better at it.

So thankful for God's mercy and grace, and for my Emily and Grace...and Kristen. ♥

Happy 4th Heavenly Birthday, Little One.

Hearts & Reminders


I miss Kristen every single day, but there are days when I just miss her more deeply.  Those days aren't always the days one might expect.  Seeing all the little ones in the Christmas program at church made that still-tender spot in my heart ache.  I should have had another daughter up there to video.  She would be 3 1/2 now, though I most often still think of her as a baby.

Recently, I received a precious package from "A Heart to Hold."  This beautiful ministry makes weighted heart-shaped pillows for families who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss.  I requested one that weighs 6 pounds 14 ounces, the birth weight of my Kristen.  When I first cradled it in my arms, I was surprised at how heavy it felt.  I remember that little girl of mine seeming so light in my arms.  It's all in what you're used to, I guess, and my arms have been empty for over 3 years now.  What seemed like a feather at one time felt much different now.

Seemingly forgetting how she felt in my arms made me wonder what else had slipped from memory.  So I found myself recounting her days with us, re-reading old Caring Bridge entries and facebook status updates.  That's all fine and good until I get close to August 2009.  At that point I find myself in a very sad place, a place I don't often go on purpose.  Last night I came across the slide show my dear sister-in-law made for Kristen's service.  It was beautiful, but left me feeling heartsick and in a puddle of tears.

The reminders that Kristen isn't here are everywhere.  They are in her sisters' faces.  They are in the picture frames that don't have new pictures to go in them.  They are in the fifth stocking that hangs on the fireplace.  They are in every little bear that is sent to a grieving family.  They are even in the kitchen chairs.  As we rearranged the living room after Thanksgiving to make room for the Christmas tree, I had to move our "God Bless America" bear that my father-in-law carved out of a log from a corner in the living room to a corner in the kitchen.  That corner was previously occupied by one of the two extra dining chairs we keep near the table (but not at the table).  Quickly moving it to a spot at the table, I didn't realize until I went to set the table for supper that we now have five spots at the table instead of four.  Kristen was so little that she never had her own "spot" at the table.  Seeing that fifth chair made me wonder if we would have had squabbles over which sister wanted to have Kristen sit next to her.  Yet another reminder.

The reminders can be tearful, but they are good to have.  They make me feel closer to her.  After the Christmas tree has been put away, and the living room has space again for the "God Bless America" bear, I may just leave that fifth chair at the table.  Our family of five will never gather around that earthly table together, but having another spot there helps me picture what our heavenly table might feel like. 

Any reminder of heaven is most definitely good for the heart.

A Different Kind of Hard


Of the dozens of the Peace of my Heart bears that have found their way into the hands of grieving parents over the last couple of years, very few have gone to someone I know personally.  Even fewer have been hand-delivered rather than mailed.  I had an opportunity to hand-deliver one such bear to a new friend recently.


This sweet friend faced what would have been her dear child's 5th birthday.  She remarked that she thought it would get easier, but it hasn't.  She called it a different kind of hard.  As I reflected on my own nearly 3-year journey, I completely get that.

The obvious heartache is there and always will be.  What I hadn't considered before, and what's made my last year such a terribly difficult one, is the collateral damage of grief.  The knowing that I'm not the same...and never will be.  The not fitting into my old life.  The realization that some of the people who were there in the beginning just aren't any more.  The deep sadness of relationships that couldn't survive my brokenness.

As the next anniversary looms ahead, I deal with flashbacks...from the hospital, from the funeral, from the last conversations with my mom.  I stay up too late because I'm afraid that sleep won't come quickly enough to keep those mind movies away.

There's a strange sense of relief, even a sense of accomplishment at getting through another birthday, holiday or anniversary.  I'll be glad to be on the other side of August again.  As much as I try to be all there for my family, there are times when I'm just not.

It truly is a different kind of hard.

Sometimes there just are no words...


I'm not sure where my words have gone, but they just don't flow from my fingertips to the keyboard like they once did.  I used to be able to pour out my heart here and feel a kind of release in doing so.  My heart is in knots over lots of different things right now, and the words just aren't there.

Kristen's 3rd birthday was 3 weeks ago.  We spent the day together as a family, remembering our littlest girl and making memories with our two older girls.  It's one of the most bittersweet days of the year.

In honor of Kristen's birthday, we sent 30 bears to Children's Mercy Hospital, to be distributed to bereaved parents as they reach the 6-month mark following the death of their child.  No, it's not pleasant to think about, but the fact is that children die.  They leave behind parents and siblings whose lives are never the same.  Those families ache to have someone remember them, to remember their sweet child, months and years down the road.  My hope is that the little knitted bear they receive will be a reminder that someone cares...and that God cares.

So many of my friends helped to work on those bears.  Over the course of four months, they knit, stuffed and stitched.  They donated supplies, time and food.  They supported a cause close to my heart and supported my own broken heart in the process.  The really beautiful thing is that, whether they know it or not, many of them continue to do so.

I will close with a collection of photos.  Maybe they will speak louder than the words that seem to escape me.

Our "Peace of my Heart" birthday cake
(Emily made the bear out of Rice Krispie treats;
Grace drew the dove from our logo)

Kristen's birthday wreath

Balloon release

Our matching wristbands read, "Forever in my heart"

Kristen's tree

Grace decorated my water bottle with the Peace of my Heart logo

Delicious burgers at a cute little place in Lindsborg

Near The Old Mill Museum

On the hunt for a geocache

Coronado Heights

Some of the bears before packaging

The birthday bear I made for my desk

Bears for CMH

More bears for CMH
Bears packed and ready for the trip to KC
(Thanks to Bryan & Angie!)

2009 Memory Quilt
1st Floor across from the CMH Chapel

I love you, Little Stuff ♥

A Precious Gift


My waking hours are filled with many, laundry, meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning.  In all that I do, there is always a hint of a thought nearby, the thought of how different those things would be with a toddler in tow.  I do my best to be thankful as I tackle my "to-do" list.  I am absolutely thankful to have the means and opportunity to educate my children at home.  I am more than grateful that we have clothes to wear, food to eat and a roof over our heads.  Even so, it all seems incomplete.  And it is.  Our family here is incomplete.  I know that one day it will be made right.  I have no doubt that all that seems incomplete is still completely in God's hands.  Yet, I still am left longing for what will never be here on earth.

It's perplexing.

There is an incredibly beautiful song that Nicol Sponberg recorded called "Home."  There are no lovely pictures to see in the YouTube video below, but you can hear Nicol's heartfelt words.  (Nicol was an original member of the Christian group, Selah.  She is Todd Smith's sister and lost her son to SIDS not long after Todd & Angie Smith's daughter, Audrey, died just 2 1/2 hours after her birth.  Nicol has walked a difficult road; I find comfort in what she shares through her music.)

"HOME" by Nicol Sponberg

What is it like to be held in the same arms
that hold the universe?
What is it like to sleep on the chest of the
King of heaven and earth?
When you open your eyes and look on the face
of the giver of life, the author of grace

Do you know that your days here changed everything
You’re missed here and will always be
But you left here the greatest gift of all
‘cause our hearts ache for home

What is it like to breathe in and breathe out
heaven’s glorious light?
What is it like to be robed in perfection,
no reason to cry?
When you feel on your face your Father’s kiss,
His welcome embrace, we prayed for this

You should know that your days here changed everything
You’re missed here and will always be
But you left here the greatest gift of all
‘cause our hearts ache for home

So twinkle twinkle little star, we will keep you in our hearts
Twinkle twinkle little star, we will meet you where you are
Your days here changed everything
You’re missed here and will always be
But you left here the greatest gift of all
‘cause our hearts ache for home
I am so struck by the line of the chorus that speaks to the greatest gift being left with us...the yearning for our heavenly home.  You left that with me, my sweet Kristen.  And as much as it brings tears to my eyes, I treasure that very precious gift.

Bears & Blessings


If you've looked around this blog at all, you probably know a little something about the bears I began knitting after Kristen died. The knitting itself was very therapeutic for me, and I wanted to turn it into something that could reach out to others. My initial plan was to make bears to send to the chaplain at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, who would in turn send them to newly bereaved parents. I found, however, that the list of bereaved parents that fall within (or near) my own circle of friends and acquaintances is sadly much longer than I ever imagined. I’ve sent out some bears on my own (and have a few more that I need to send), but I still haven’t sent a single bear to CMH. As sweet and simple as these bears are, they do take time to make!

Emily and I began a discussion after Kristen’s birthday last year about how we could honor Kristen’s memory and reach out to others at the same time. As a way to do just that, I invited several friends to join us in making bears!

We are meeting as a group one Saturday each month (January to April) to knit and assemble as many bears as we can. We will then box up all the bears and deliver them to CMH in time for Kristen’s 3rd birthday on May 7, 2012.

Our first session was a week ago, and I have to say that I was completely overwhelmed with the wonderful response.  Two dozen people gave up part of their Saturday to help with making bears.  A few were already knitters and went right to work on knitting bear parts.  Those who don't knit jumped in with rolling skeins of yarn into center-pull balls.  Still others learned how to seam garter stitch and stuffed arms, legs and bear bodies.  Some worked on scarves of all colors and styles.  One even offered to sew gift bags!  The group ranged in age from 2 to 79.  

I'd like to share a story about that 2 year-old.

Little "Miss M" has a special place in my heart.  She shares Kristen's birthday.  In fact, the girls were born within a couple hours of each other to moms who went to high school together (and who both know the pain of losing a child).  While I almost always think of Kristen as a baby, this special little friend gives me a glimpse of how big Kristen might be if she were still here.  It's a difficult thing to explain, yet another example of where joy and sorrow coexist.

I took a few pictures during our first bear-making session, but the scene I didn't capture with my camera is forever etched in my mind:  I watched this sweet 2 year-old poke stuffing into a bear as her momma held it for her.  She would quietly ask me if the bear needed more stuffing.  I'd tell her, "just a little more," and she would add some, then we'd check it again.  Precious, precious stuff.

Watching moms and daughters working alongside one another, enjoying the wonderful fellowship of dear friends, and knowing that Kristen was being remembered so sweetly most certainly blessed me that day, and continues to do so.