5 Months Gone...But Not Forgotten

Friday, June 26, 2015

Today marks the 5 month angelversary of our sweet pea. 

Five months without snuggles, smiles and kisses.  Five months without searching for just the right outfit, headband to dress up my little princess.  Five long months without waking up to see her expressions, hear her sounds.  Five months without tubes, oxygen and doctors. 

It feels like an eternity has passed. 

Our hearts are forever broken and the passing time has not done one thing to mend it.  That old adage "Time heals all wounds" is just not so.  It's just not.  Don't let that saying fool you. 
Time might eventually change how you feel but nothing on this side of the veil can heal you from losing your child. 

In the five months since sissy has been gone, our family has had numerous "firsts" without her.  Each one with its own set of challenges and emotions.  There's a bit of mental prep that takes place prior to heading out for these.  A kind of like steeling of the heart so to speak. 

We, the adults, each go through cycles of floods of emotions.  It strikes us at varying times.  Then it's like the walls holding back an ocean of tears breaks free.  Then it passes only to return again at another unsuspecting moment in time.

We continue as a family to choose joy every day.  Some days it's a much harder task than on other days. 
Like today for instance.  It's such a bittersweet day.  Five months without her but also five months for her without all the "medical" stuff.  We all want the best for our children and we try to convince ourselves that because she lives in perfection now that this is what we want for her. 

While cognitively this may be the case, our hearts break with each passing day that we are separated from her.  The intensity of the pain ebbs and flows, unique to each of us.
Some days I wonder how I can go the rest of my life apart from Everly.  The thought is so maddening, so unthinkable, that I have to divert my attention from the concept.  It doesn't seem possible. 

I've been so surprised to learn what life is like as a grieving mother, father, grandparent.  Looking back at the five months, I thought I would share with you some of the eye openers I've experienced.
  • Choosing joy each day is hard work.  Physically and mentally it is a challenge.  Grief is like a cloth that completely enshrouds us and can make you feel as if you are watching your life from afar.  Making a conscious choice to "be happy" is one that most do not realize is the hardest of all choices for grieving loved ones. 
  • Social events are physically and emotionally draining for us.  While we enjoy the company and the activity, putting effort into socializing is hard work.  This has probably been the most surprising for me...learning how exhausting grief can be.  We thought we were tired from caring for Everly 24/7 but that doesn't hold a candle to the impact left by grief.  Even day to day events take a lot of energy but then compound it with a whole social event and it's like a marathon for us. 
  • We aren't the same people.  Nope.  Not in the least.  Every single thing we knew about the world, others around us and ourselves has become skewed.  No longer the same, we have to work diligently to redefine this new place, new understanding. 
  • Still at 5 months out we struggle with mindlessness, fighting forgetfulness and the inability to concentrate.  Simple tasks aren't so simple.  I've made more mistakes and forgotten more in the last five months than I have in all 42 years of my life.  It's truly disconcerting and as much as I work to combat it by making lists, leaving reminder notes, planning ahead...mistakes and forgetfulness still plague me. 
  • Difficult moments can strike when you least expect it.  A baby that resembles your angel, finding a lost sock under the bed, discovering leaves hidden in a book from a trip you took together, adorable outfits that would have been perfect for your angel, running into someone who doesn't know you've lost your child.  These are all reality and all have happened.  Some days, they are sweet reminders and other days they just sting.

  • Don't let our smiles fool you.  We still hurt deeply underneath the smiles, the laughs.  We put on our daily armor as much for everyone we encounter as for ourselves. We try to not be sad and forlorn when we are out so we get geared up.  Please know how valuable your hugs, inquiries and smiles are to us.  They mean the world...so thank you!

  • Speak her name...Everly's name.  The greatest gift you can give our family is to continue to speak her name.  Let us know you still think of her, us.  As the days get farther out, our single greatest fear is that she will be forgotten.  Please let us know she will not, that her name and her memory are important to you, too.  We love and thank you for that gift!

As we approach tomorrow, we will continue to forge ahead working to keep Everly's name alive and all that we've learned from our beautiful almost-year with her.  We want everyone to know how important it is to grab a hold of your life and live each day in the present, not letting obstacles be deterrents. 

Every day is a gift. 
As we learn how to live again without Everly, we are keeping this idea close to our hearts. 
We have two boys that continue to need us in the present and while we continue to mourn, we will continue to choose joy, too.

With love,


Today Is the Day

Monday, June 22, 2015

There are certain days in your life that can't be forgotten.

This is one.

This photo captured the day we told the boys their sister had a life-limiting genetic condition called Trisomy 18.  This photo was taken just moments before our lives as we knew it would be no more.

Everly was born in February 20, 2014.  Unlike most, we did not have a confirmed prenatal diagnosis of Trisomy 18.  At our 20 week check up, there was a concern and then at 23 weeks, there was a suspicion of T18.  However, in the subsequent weeks, that concern went by the wayside and it was thought to be a congenital heart defect alone. 

Nothing more.

On Everly's 5th day of life, our doctor sat us down and gave us news that would forever change our lives.  Our perfect little girl had a chromosomal defect that the medical community considers fatal.  That day we began to grieve the loss of the life we thought we would share with her. 

The news shattered us.  Devastated our family.  Brought to light fears we never even knew existed.

We spent one full day letting the news soak in before we had the boys come to the hospital to share with them as well.  How do you prepare to tell your children something so awful?  Garren, at age 15, knew as soon as we started to speak what we were going to say.  He remembered the 3 week period early on in my pregnancy the doctor suspected Trisomy 18.  It was such a difficult day to watch the agony, the questioning, the confusion and to know not only could you NOT do anything about it but you felt the exact same way as their parent. 

I look back and remember the anxiety we had as adults thinking about telling the boys their sister may not make it home.  To us, we only knew what we were told...most babies don't make it but a very brief time after birth. 

So, we had no expectation she would then spend 11 glorious months with us...experiencing the BEST life!  No, on this day, we thought we should begin preparing for the end.  We didn't reach our point of hope until we began to listen to HER and let HER lead us!  It was then that we began to look toward our newly created BUCKET LIST for her with excitement, hope and joy!  Our list started with just riding in the van, feeling the sun on her face, sleeping in her house.  Who would EVER guess this special BABY BUCKET LIST would include riding in a BOAT, visiting the MOUNTAINS, and meeting SANTA CLAUS??  Not only did we get to do her first little list of three things but her list grew to eventually top 100 AMAZING experiences we shared as a family!

What is a challenge for us is why other families do not get this chance?  Why even our family didn't get to see one year?  Five years?  Or her lifetime?  It's impossible to not ask this difficult questions.  I can only answer that it is not us in charge and our God does turn ALL things for good.  Why do we need to experience what seems like the depths of HELL to get to the GOOD?  We will not fully understand in this lifetime.  That I know.  Common platitudes given in times of crises fall on deaf ears when you've lost a child.  Ask who has experienced it.  However, I can tell you that the peace we feel comes from knowing that He is in control and that He walks beside us, carrying us as necessary.  It is not true that God will not give us more than we can handle.  I can tell you firsthand that losing my Everly was 100% no doubt, absolutely more than I could handle alone.  Without Him, I would not be able to get out of bed, function for my two boys, move forward.  No, it IS because of HIM that I CAN choose JOY each and every day. 

So, I look at this picture taken when Everly was 6 days old, 1 day before my 41st birthday, and I am so grateful that our family CHOSE life for Everly. 

We chose to spend each and every day living in the moment, being intentional in our time.  We made this choice on good days and on bad days.  Our Sweet Pea's diagnosis would not stop us from LIVING, from experiencing.  Yes, it was hard and yes, there were challenges.  But our desire to be purposeful with our hours, days, weeks was a conscious decision. 

One that we remain so grateful for...each and every day. 
You might not be in the same situation we were in, you might not have a medical diagnosis.  But if you are not living your life to the fullest, today is the day you can make a change.  Small steps. 

Enjoy this momentDo something you loveLive with purpose. Strive to make a difference.  Have no regrets.

Be intentional in your interactions, plans, life, relationships
Today is the day.  Do it for Everly.  Do it for yourself

I'd really love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment.

With love,


Another Friend Indeed

Monday, June 8, 2015

I’m so excited to introduce you to another Everly’s Angels Foundation board member, Sarah, who will be covering Marketing and Media Relations.  She is married to a funny and supportive guy and a good friend of ours, Dan.  She is also the proud mama of three of the most caring boys I have ever met…all with hearts the size of Texas!     
Here's Sarah with Josh and Jonathan...just missing Dan and Nathan.
We have been friends for a number of years and met when our lives intersected in the homeschool community.  She and I, along with the visionary Traci behind our homeschool group (SHINE), worked side by side as leaders in the group.  Our friendship really blossomed during this special time.

Our friendship, however, really reached a new level over the last year and a half.  Though she has never experienced child loss, she was able to touch family in a most exceptional way.  I’ll share more in a sec.  But it was not only her heart that so struck us.  In fact, it was that her entire family…her husband, her three boys (elementary, middle & high school, I might add!!) and even her mom played a pivotal roll in intimately walking side by side with our family. 

They were prayer warriors for us beginning during the pregnancy…keeping us lifted at all times.  Then when we came home from the hospital and we were so careful with not taking Everly into closed in spaces, it was Sarah and her boys who literally saved my sanity.  Always having been an outgoing person, staying in was a change for me.  It was she who suggested getting together at our family’s favorite hike spot.  It was a win win idea…Everly (and all of us) get fresh air and was safe, we each got some exercise and I got some girl time while the boys walk with their buddies. 

What started as one Saturday turned into a regular routine of meeting for our morning hikes together…all 8 of us!  Her boys would help my boys get all of Everly’s medical equipment unloaded, set, then reloaded week after week after week.  They were patient as we had to work around her feed schedule (we didn’t yet use the feed pump so I had to manually push the syringe), the many stops and starts as her machines went off and the obsession we had with sanitizing and personal distance for fear of any illness.  Never once complaining, this family literally walked sided by side with us. 

When the weather turned too hot to hike, we continued our weekly visits and instead went to our neighborhood pool, quite a trek from their house, I might add.  Again, never once complaining, and always so cheerful and exuberant to be with us and to see Everly each Saturday morning.  When their family had a conflict on a Saturday, they were quick to make arrangements to instead meet us on Friday.  At the end, all the boys were a little over the pool thing, but due to the extreme Florida heat, options for us meeting safely with Everly were limited.  However, no complaints ever were voiced.  You could see the love they all had for Everly, each week as they gazed at her and prayed for her. 

Week after week, this was our routine.  For more than six months straight, Sarah and her boys, Jonathan, Josh and Nathan would faithfully give of their time to meet us.

Sarah was who I could depend on to be a listening ear when things were tough.  It was Sarah who I could call or text at ridiculously late hours when the pangs of grief stung, raw and painful.  She visited me in the wee hours of the night time after time while Everly and I were in the hospital in the winter.  She brought fries (#shhhdonttell), tea and her listening ear on many difficult evenings.  She would sit and let Everly squeeze her finger, hunched over and gowned up, so that I could eat. 

Her desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus was and is so evident in her life and how she lives and in her kind and loving boys.  She and her husband are raising boys who deeply care for others and have empathy for the plight of their friends.  For that, I am thankful and grateful and very much in awe.  If we could all be like them, the world would be a better place. 

I’m so proud to call Sarah one of my best friends.  I’m so glad that she (and her family) will be continuing with us as we keep Everly’s memory alive.  I’m so honored to call them friends.



A Friend Indeed

I am SO over the moon happy for one of my nearest and dearest friends, Jennifer. 
Let me tell you about this amazing gal…she’s the faithful daughter of the King, supportive wife to her crafty husband and doting mom to two energetic boys. She’s also an incredibly talented graphic designer, skilled photographer and crafter extraordinaire!  She also just happens to be Everly’s Angels Foundation’s very own Lead Creative Designer!!! 

Over the years, she has blessed our family with her skill sets.  However, she just went above and beyond in such special ways this past year plus. Because she is so obedient and humble about her God-given abilities, talents and giftings, many are unaware of just how talented Jennifer truly is and how her heart is led to minister to others. 

She is the silent force behind SO much of what you see for Love for Everly, Team Everly and now all Everly’s Angels.  I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you all that she does for “us” as a collective whole.  Here’s literally just a sampling of what she has created for us because of her servant’s heart and her love for Everly and our family:  priceless photos of Everly at 2 months old (the infamous book shot and me holding Everly); series of photos of both boys a couple of years ago and most recently Garren’s 16th; our handout business cards; Love for Everly Etsy shop and website, including all graphics and photos of products; designed the bookmarks for the shop and a few new things I can’t wait for you to see that are ready to make their appearance in Everly’s shop as well.  In addition, Jen channeled her creative juices into creating a beautiful vision for Everly’s Celebration of Life…from the bucket list frame she and her husband surprised me with to the topiaries adorning the tables to choosing and enlarging of photos used.   Needless to say, she has a vision for design, color and style that is unparalleled.  We are SO lucky that she is our creative designer for Everly’s Angels!
Her family is also wholeheartedly behind her and what she does for us.  Not only are they supportive, hubby Jeremy even puts his muscle and woodworking into projects she's made for us and her kiddos Noah and Xander willingly share their mama with me.

One of the two biggest gifts she has ever blessed us with came days after Everly passed away.  Jen came to the house to photograph Everly when she “came home” for the weekend.  She also photographed each of us with our sweet angel and it was a precious time for us.  However, it isn’t easy for someone who is unfamiliar with a family to do such a thing, let alone someone who is so close to the family.  And the photos, most of which we’ve chosen to keep as private family memories, are some of the most touching and intimate we have and will always treasure.

The second gift that is noteworthy is the creation of our Love For Everly website.  Words really can’t express the gratitude I had in my heart when she surprised me with it!  Up until Everly’s passing, I was writing on the CaringBridge website. Then after sissy’s Celebration, Jen shared with me this secret she had been quietly working on for weeks…www.LoveforEverly.com.  Not only was it the most beautiful thing I had ever seen...colors chosen specifically for Everly, little details picked out just for her…but each element fit Sweet Pea’s personality just right.  The mind-blowing part was that Jen had painstakingly copied ALL of my blog posts, pictures and captions one at a time and in chronological order from Caring Bridge and placed them into the new website.  One at a time.  All 76 of them.  And all hundreds of photos.   What an amazing gift to use your talent to uplift and encourage someone else! 

Jennifer has sacrificially spent hours upon hours upon hours creating, designing, uploading, working to bless our family.  She continues to do this and does so willingly. 


Not only does she spend precious time creating and designing for us, but she also spends time with us.  She’s been coming over to be with me…laughing, crying, shopping (yikes!!), planning, cleaning, organizing (the pantry still rocks, girl!), photographing (#gottahavethecamera)…one day every week since Everly passed away.  It is one of the highlights of my week and the day I most look forward to!  There were a couple crazy weeks on my side that prevented her from being able to come over and even Garren asked where Jen was after noticing it had been a whole week.  She brings so much joy and fun into our home while she’s there that all of the family loves having her stay!  I’ve kept her so busy (#reallyjusthavingtoomuchfun) a couple of times that we’ve had sleepovers at the house!

That brings me to this…

Jen just opened her own Etsy shop called Pocket Full of Kisses (do we not just LOVE this title??)!!!!  I’m so very proud of her for the work she’s put into designing her products!  And, yes, every single one is handmade!  Her creative mind works 24/7 and so it’s only a matter of time before PFOK Design Studio is stocked full of designs!  I would LOVE to have everyone check out her Etsy shop...click here…like it on Facebook, favorite it on Etsy and let her know how talented she is by ordering some of her new designs!  I just ordered mine and can’t wait to put them to use!!  Oh, and in case you were wondering, she does custom orders so keep that in mind! 
How blessed and lucky I am to call her friend!