Three Month Angelversary

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Today marks three months since our beloved Everly Marie Hopkins left our arms. 

For the most part, I have tried to share with everyone how our family is moving forward.  And while I will continue to do so, today my heart is led to share with you the reality of life after the loss of your child. 

That unimaginable loss. 

The one all parents consider their "worst nightmare." 

Let's start there.  The definition of nightmare is a person, thing or situation that is difficult to deal with; a terrifying or unpleasant experience or prospect. 

Taken one step further, here are synonyms of nightmare...

torment    hell    misery    agony    torture    terrifying

Kind of puts it into perspective, doesn't it?  

What's worse is that those words are 100% accurate. 

For the past 14 months, I have tried to be authentic and honest about our journey.  Though I try to focus on the positive, there are limits.  Losing a child is indescribable.  

“A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. There is no word for a parent who loses a child. That’s how awful the loss is.”
Jay Neugeboren, An Orphan's Tale

Wow.  Just wow.  We get it.  We live it.  That IS how awful our loss is.

And the loss of every child by every parent.  It literally is indescribable.  The words that come to mind just aren't strong or potent enough to even adequately skim the surface of the hurt, pain, sorrow and aftermath of losing a child. 

Our family has made tremendous strides in moving forward, in putting one foot in front of the other.  We took our first mini-trip together, shared two holidays, two birthdays; we smile, we laugh, we are making plans for the future. 

Hillsborough River kayak trip with mom
St. Augustine weekend trip

Blueberry Picking

16th birthday backpacking trip


Boys camp trip

Beach fishing with mom



What other choice do we have? 

It would be a travesty for the boys to lose not only their sister but their parents as well. 

I see how it could happen, though.  There are days when the tides roll in and you pray for them to sweep you away.  There are moments when you feel like you can't take even ONE more second of the pain.  You can barely breath.  The ache is such that you have never felt it before in your life.  It is suffocating.  Literally suffocating.  Your mind can't function, you see things, you read things and you have no idea what you've just seen or read.  Your heart hurts in such a way that you are positive and would bet money that it will break, literally fall apart, into pieces.  You have to make a conscious effort just to smile, to see the joy in something, everything.  You have to work with such might to choose happiness, to choose to see the positive each and every day.  You wonder how you can live for the next 20, 30, 50 years without your child?  How can you live with this unrelenting pain?  How?

You see, all around you, life continues.  Babies are born.  Birthdays are celebrated.  Holidays are observed.  Minutes pass.  Days pass.  Weeks and months pass.  Years pass.  Life continues. 

But, you, the parent of the angel baby?  Your life is bittersweet because each day is one more day further from the last day you held your baby, smelled her sweet skin, rubbed her chubby cheeks, watched her long eyelashes flutter, listened to her laugh.  Yet, it's one day closer to her again.

What a difficult balance this is for us.  We want to have life be the way it with our grief and get back to our normal life.  

Guess what?  That can't happen.  Our life will never be the same.  WE will never be the same.  Doesn't mean we can't find joy, can't find happiness again.  We have

But we aren't the same.  Our views are different.  Our priorities are different.  Our hearts are different.  We are different.

There are so many things that come up that catch us unexpectedly, that catch us off guard.  We have to work hard to stay focused on all that is good in the sight of something so obviously NOT.  What can be good about this loss?  What? 

I am confident that God's promises are true and He will turn all things...ALL, including the death of my precious daughter...for good.  For this I know.  As we are on the morning of our third month without our sweet girl, I must hold fast to this belief.

So, here's the catch with this...because we have a belief in a heaven, some might think that we won't hurt as much, or have as much pain maybe because we know Everly has now reached her forever heavenly home.  That our pain somehow is less or different even. 

The following best describes this dilemma we face:

Our brains tell us that our child is now in heaven and is living an eternity free from any pain, sadness, or sorrow. Our emotions tell us only one thing: we want our child to be right here with us so that we can walk together, talk together, and spend our time on this earth together. There is a constant tug of war when child loss occurs. Yes, we understand the passage from life to death and then to a heavenly place, but........because our heart aches so much the human side of us struggles every moment of every day wanting our child to be right here beside us! It so very hard to find peace amid the brokenness of child loss!

I must tell you that it couldn't be further from reality.  While I firmly know that my daughter rests with Jesus and is in the ultimate glory, it does not change my pain nor does it soften our fresh hurt because of human struggles.  We are created with the full range of emotions...just as Jesus experienced, including sadness and sorrow.  He wept three times in the New Testament...for his friends, his enemies and for himself. 

But what this does do for me as a believer is to give me confidence that my God, my Savior, understands my pain personally.  He knows what I'm experiencing, every last tear He holds in His hand.  He gets my anger, comforts my sorrows and honors my faithfulness.  So, while my beliefs do not temper the pain, they do provide me hope. 

And hope is priceless. 

I crave sermons or messages  where someone's story ends like ours where God doesn't answer  prayers the way we wanted, expected and needed so desperately.  

You see, I believe that true faith begins when things don't turn out the way you want.  You don't get the desired ending, resolution.  When your prayers are answered differently than what you desire.  I think it's so much easier to praise God when all is well.  But what about when you experience horrendous storms?  When your sweet baby girl dies 3 weeks short of her first birthday?  What then? 

This is where the rubber meets the road.  Are you truly a believer and do you really believe in God's promises?  It is so easy to be angry, to turn away from your faith.

On my really tough days...when I receive baby coupons in the mail, when we celebrate another holiday without her, the day we received her death certificate, when we took her off our insurance, each time we check "deceased" on a box on a form, seeing an outfit that I would have chosen for her, when the weather is beautiful and I know she would have loved to go outside...on days that I miss her so badly that tears cloud my vision, it is to God that I turn. 

And it is during this time of need that God faithfully provides comfort for our family in so many ways...of course, through His Word, but also through people who love us and aren't frightened by our sorrow and grief.  These people who love selflessly, checking in on us just because or when they know the pain is still so sharp.  These loving people who try their best to put themselves in our shoes and think about the best ways they can help...a late night text, a thoughtful gift by the door, a heartfelt email, an unexpected book delivery, wearing Team Everly shirts to honor our baby girl, a surprise card in the mail, a call to say hello, just taking time to reach and chat, prayers for our family.  So many gestures of love and support as we continue to walk this unknown path to healing.  Just knowing that we, that Everly, has not been forgotten is so powerful. 

A thoughtful pick-me-up waiting on our porch

One of MANY pictures we have of our supportive friends...we'll be posting
others in another post about TEAM EVERLY...some our sweet friends at our
homeschool co-op, a few others also had their shirts on this day
but were busy, busy with kiddos and duties. 

I'm so glad we don't have to do "life" alone and that we have the love of those around us, both near and far, to help lift us up.  We are grateful that God is carrying us and that we have the support surrounding us as we make our way past this 3rd month without our sweet and much loved Everly Marie.

With love and appreciation,


Our Family
Everly remains in our hearts every single day

Sweet Baby, Elisabeth Maxine

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It is with a heavy heart that I share with you that Everly's friend Elisabeth Maxine has joined her in her forever home with Jesus.  You may recall that their family has been a constant support for ours over the past year and Brittney, Elisabeth's aunt, attended Everly's Celebration of Life. 

I know that Elisabeth's one year on this earth was filled with nothing but love from her family and friends alike.  They cherished every moment and savored each kiss and smile Elisabeth shared.  Her brothers doted on her, reading and entertaining her at every turn.  Dad, Mark, was Elisabeth's protector and buddy snuggling and giving out unconditional love.  Mom, Anissa, devoted herself entirely to the care of this precious child of God in every way that a mama can do. 

Now their world has been flipped upside down.  Now those moments will be but memories. 

They will cling to these precious memories in the days ahead, revisit them when the pain subsides.  When the fog dissipates to some visibility, they will look back on their miraculous year with Elisabeth Maxine and revel in her goodness, her perfection, and all that made EM (as we liked to call our girls since they BOTH have the SAME initials) HER. 

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Matthew 5:4
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Below is what the Scholes Family posted on Team Elisabeth Maxine's Facebook page:

Our precious and perfect Elisabeth Maxine passed away sweetly tonight (Sunday, April 19, 2015) in Mark's & my arms. We sat on the back deck with our boys in the breeze and trees as our beautiful girl closed her pretty eyes on Earth and opened them to see her Heavenly Father.

The photo is from just yesterday at The Wildflower Center. Surrounded by family and love we celebrated her miraculous, beautiful One Year of life on Earth.

Thank you, Lord for her 373 days with us."

Team Everly, please join my family and I as we lift the Scholes/Albracht family up in prayer in the days, weeks and months ahead.  We know all too well the gamut of emotions they will be going through and support is much needed.

A Divine Connection

Friday, April 10, 2015

I began writing about our journey right before I delivered EverBaby when we thought she "just" had heart defects.  At the time I wrote on Caring Bridge and one day soon after we found out about Everly's diagnosis, I received an email from a mama in Texas who was pregnant with a girl also diagnosed with Trisomy 18. 

This mama, Anissa Scholes, and I began what has become a year long across-the-miles friendship.  It turns out that we had many similarities that went beyond our special girls. 

And one so extraordinary because of our heart wrenching but beautiful journey with our daughters.

Anissa and Mark Scholes are the proud parents of Elisabeth Maxine and her three brothers.  She is also loved and cared for by many adoring family members, including Brittney, Anissa's sister.  Better known as Aunt Bees, Brittney also followed our Everly and came to know and love her through Facebook posts and our writings. 

Fast forward through the year of communications, calls, texts and messages between Anissa, Brittney and myself to Everly's Celebration of Life.  We were thrilled and so excited to find out that Brittney would be coming and representing the whole Scholes family.  We were just in awe that she would make the trip here from Texas, though we had never met, to honor our child. 

We were so blessed to have her be here and be among those celebrating with us the life of our precious girl.  We enjoyed her company and she spent time with us and Everly's aunt and uncle who also came to the celebration.

I was pleased to be able to spend some extra one-on-one time with Aunt Bees the day following the service.  One, it allowed us to get to know one another and speak about the two girls we both love so much.  And, two, the day after laying your child to rest is hard.  So to have plans and someone with a good ear is a blessing. 

We had an enjoyable afternoon going for a walk on the beach, a drive through downtown Clearwater and lunch at Columbia (believe it or not, my first time even though I've lived here 20 years!).  Though Anissa was not understandably able to attend, she was with us in spirit and called during our lunch to send her love and treated us to the lunch! 

I've felt such a connection to this family and through them to baby Elisabeth Maxine who turns one tomorrow!  They are on a journey that we know all too well...the tense doctor's visits, the worry about germs and illness, the increased oxygen needs and all that goes with this unique walk we share.  Anissa and Mark just recently shared that Elisabeth's cardiologist has some special concerns about her future.  Anissa writes about this visit here and I would encourage all of Everly's friends to read and show some love to this wonderful family.  (The link to Elisabeth Maxine's Facebook page is on the right.) 

I am excited to be traveling to Texas at the end of the month to meet little Elisabeth and the Scholes family.  I expect it to be an emotional challenge but have felt the urging to make the visit.  They have been remarkably gracious with me inviting me in and welcoming the visit, even understanding my trepidation.  I am glad that I have made the decision to go and expect that it will be a special time. 
Another perk of the trip aside from meeting all the Scholes is that I will also get to reconnect with Brittney, who has many plans for us which I love! 

I know that God's ways aren't our ways and many times we aren't able to see the reasons why things occur.  I will probably never know while I'm on earth why my daughter passed away at 11 months and 6 days.  However, I do know that God is with me and he continues...just as he has the entire journey thus be with me.  I also know that the faith the Scholes family has will hold them up as they continue this roller coaster of a ride.  God has been with them and they will be the first to tell you that it is He who continues to comfort them even now.  Thankfully, only He is in charge and only He knows the future.  We have Him to cast our worries upon and just live in the moment today. 

This is probably one of my favorite verses because it tells me that He's got this and so just let it go. 

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Much love and blessings to all!