Another Emma Post.

I’m not sure what I want to post, but I know that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Emma Anne. Since this blog started with the story of Emma, then continued with the desire to honestly share the emotions of grief, and now exists to show what it is like to be a mom in all sorts of circumstances, I feel that something needs to be said. Somehow I need to share what it is like to be 5 years out from this experience. Perhaps someone will read it that is also 5 years out from grief and wondering if what they are feeling is normal. Or perhaps someone has a friend who is 5 years out and they are wondering how they are doing and what they should do for them. So here I sit, trying to figure out what I want to say. And if I am completely honest, all those things I listed were mainly to justify this post, but are not the real reason to write it. The real reason is that I want to, that I feel its been too long since I’ve been able to share about Emma.

And so, that’s the first thing I feel right now. I feel that the opportunities to share about the life and death of my second daughter are now few and far between. True, it is partly due to me. I used to make a point of answering everyone who asked how many children I had to include Emma in that count. Now, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I’m not as quick to bring her up unless I’m talking to someone who already knows the story. I do wear her ring all the time and just because I don’t bring her up doesn’t mean that I don’t think of her often. Just a few days ago Will asked me about my rings and why I wore them. He, of course, wanted to borrow them. I gladly shared with him why I wear the one ring (to show that I am married to Daddy and have promised to be married to him my whole life) and the other (to remind me of his sister Emma who lives in heaven). But the ring is more for me than for those who see it. Everyone who sees an engagement/wedding ring, knows what it is for. The other one they would probably just assume is my favorite ring. Maybe someday I’ll buy the matching rings for each of my kids and wear all 4. Then perhaps it will be more obvious that I’m making the point that I’m missing one.

Missing one. That’s another thing I feel. I don’t feel like we are incomplete without Emma here, but I do feel like she is part of that completeness. She just doesn’t fill our family in the same way each of our other children do. It’s funny that today when I was already processing Emma memories, Elise brought her up. She was asking one of those questions kids like to ask: “Mom, when I am 12 how old will Will be? How old will Seth be?” And then, how old will Emma be? So we talked about how she is 2 1/2 years older than Emma, Emma is 2 years older than Will and Will is 1 1/2 years older than Seth. And Elise looked sad and said, “Why did God just have to take her away before I was even able to play with her?” And I gave her the best reason I knew, but now as I think about it with tears in my eyes, I want to ask the same question. I know that Emma is happier in heaven. That her body is complete and whole, that she doesn’t suffer anymore. But I also know that God could have healed her here, on earth and let her live a normal life with us. And he chose not to. And strangely enough, I’m OK with it. Because God has given me peace and shown me enough of His amazing plan in regards to Emma’s life that I trust Him.

Yet, there is a deep sadness in my soul. One that will not go away until that day when I walk into heaven and see my little girl (probably all grown up) with wavy brown hair and beautiful big blue eyes, and I catch her in my arms. And then, then, I think that sadness will be gone. But until that time, there will still be many things that bring it back. Every one of her birthdays, every anniversary of her death, every time I go to a wedding and realize I’ll never go to hers, every time I watch a slide show of someone’s childhood and growing up and realize how much we have missed with her, every time that some little random and not always logical thing touches my heart in such a way that I remember. And I do remember. Sometimes it is hard to remember, especially when the thing I am reprocessing is the day she died. But even then I enjoy the memories, because they are all I have of her.

But they are not all of who she is. I can’t just remember her as who she WAS. Because Emma still IS. I know she is alive, full of health and joy and personality, in heaven. And so I also look forward to when I will really get to know her as she is now, exactly as God created her to be.

There is still so much I could write. Some of the things I am still processing, I’ll be honest, I am not yet prepared to share here. I used to share some of them in my support group, but unfortunately that group has since shut down and I miss it more than I thought I would. So you can pray for those of us that went regularly to that group, that we would find other outlets to process the things that still need to be processed. But the main thing that I want to say, is that there is still joy. It has been 5 years, and there is still pain, grief, things yet to process, and deep, deep sorrow. But, because of the powerful influence of Christ in my life, there is joy. And that is why I have renamed my blog “And then there was Joy.” As a reminder of the fact, that no matter the circumstances, when we walk beside the Father, he brings great, overwhelming, unexplainable joy.

Psalm 30:5: “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

4 Years in Heaven.

The day began at 5:30, a little earlier than I had planned on rising to begin a day of reflection. Will came to my bedside seeming a bit disoriented. Finally he decided that a drink of water was what he really wanted, and I sent him back to bed. It wasn’t until after 7, when I did get up to find him looking still just as miserable, that I thought to check his temperature. 102.9! I had planned on dropping the kids off at 9 at a friend’s house so that I could have some alone time to reflect and pray on this day that marked Emma’s 4th anniversary in heaven. I guess I would have at least one little one with me to keep me company.

After normal morning routines, I dropped Elise and Seth off at nine and headed home hoping for some time alone with God. But of course I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, so I started with that, and then since Will was happily watching a movie I decided to try to start with quieting my mind, since I wasn’t feeling particularly reflective. I sat still for awhile, but try as I might I found it impossible to completely empty my head of thoughts. And they weren’t deep thoughts either, just the normal shallow ones that fill my waking moments. Once I reached the realization that the only way I was going to shut down my mind was to fall asleep, which my body was threatening to do at that point, I gave up. I got up and did a couple of the chores that had been on my mental to do list. At least I could get those out of my head.

After a short burst of housework, I pulled out Emma’s photo album deciding I should have some time alone looking through it before sitting down with the kids later in the day. At that very moment, Will decided he was done watching his video and he came to join me. So we sat together, me remembering, he discovering for the first time. At first he just went through naming each face he recognized. Elise, Mom, Dad, Nana, Pop, even Emma when prompted. But then we reached the page describing Emma’s open heart surgery and his sensitive eyes caught sight of the photos of Emma after surgery during recovery. Tubes, wires, and blood covered her tiny little body and I could see the worry in his eyes. I tried to encourage him by showing the pictures from just a few days later when she looked so much better, but he kept coming back to those pictures. When Dad walked in to see how we were doing, Will had to turn the pages back once again to make sure Dad saw them too. This is going to be hard, I am realizing. I want my boys to know the story of Emma’s short life, but until now I guess I didn’t really see how much pain and hardship I would have to explain that went along with it. I’ve taken it for granted with Elise, who grew up knowing these things. She lived through them with us, albeit somewhat at a distance. But she’s seen the pictures over and over, and has developed for herself a somewhat simplified explanation for the troubling parts of the story. Though even Elise has come up with some harder questions this year as her mind tries to piece together the parts of the story she doesn’t know. She was not here the day Emma died, and up to this point, she has accepted our simple explanation that Emma stopped breathing and went to heaven. I remember when she finally put two and two together and realized this meant Emma “died,” since we hadn’t used that word. But just a few weeks ago Elise asked me how I knew that Emma died. Was she just gone that morning? What did I find when I woke the morning of her death? I hadn’t realized that even that simple thing was still bothering her little mind. So I explained how we don’t need our bodies anymore in heaven because we get new ones, and so that is what I found that morning. Emma was gone, but her body was still there. Later I went further, thinking maybe she was ready for some more of the details, explaining how we called 911 and I tried to breathe for her to save her life, but that it didn’t work because she was already gone.

I had to leave off Will’s and my exploration of the photo album as I needed to go get the kids to drop them off at their next play-date. I had some urgent errands to run as well, so I was gone probably about half an hour. When I returned, Will was sound asleep on the couch. John said he’d wandered in there by himself and fell asleep. I left him there and he ended up sleeping about 3 hours straight. With the house now quiet again, I went to my bedroom and did some journaling and Bible reading, realizing that reflection is not forced. The most reflection I got out of that time was more on simple changes I want to make in my daily life and a renewed desire to spend more time in Bible study and prayer. Perhaps that is all God wanted to say to me on that day. I’ve had more reflection pertaining specifically to Emma today as I have planned out this blog post than I did yesterday, but I started the day wanting to be open to what God had for me, and I am content in that.

I had lunch, went to pick up Elise and Seth, and then had a little nap. Then Elise and I spent some one on one time together as we went grocery shopping. We finished out our Wal-Mart excursion with picking out flowers for the cemetery. Elise chose the brightest bouquet she could find because she said: “It is almost Spring and these flowers look like Spring flowers.” She was very positive that Emma would like them. Again she asked me the question she has asked me many times: “Does Emma come and get them? Does she get to see them?” “No,” I answered, then paused. “Well, maybe God lets her see them, I don’t know.” Truth be told, I guess we put flowers on the grave more for our own comfort than for anything else. Elise then asked why some of the flowers on the graves never get old, and we had a discussion on fake vs real flowers. I told her I preferred putting real flowers on the grave, and she decided that must be so we could change them.

We went home and everyone got dressed for the cold so we could all go to the cemetery. On the way Elise voiced something I don’t hear her say often. “I wish Emma didn’t go to heaven. Because if she were here now, I would get to play with her.” I sympathized and tried to comfort her as I always do, saying how when we go to heaven, we’ll get plenty of time to play, but Elise is worried that she and Emma will be all grown up by then and not really interested in playing. “Well,” I offered, “I think that heaven will be a lot of fun for everyone, no matter how old they are.” We placed the flowers in the vase at the grave, and I praised Elise for making such a great choice. The bright colors shown bright in the brownness of the winter cemetery. We got some pictures and then gathered close for a quick prayer before bundling back in the car. You can tell by the picture we got that Will was pretty miserable as fevers and cold biting winds don’t mix well. We decided to all go out to eat as a family, which was a lot of fun.

After we got back and Seth went to bed, I sat on the couch with Elise and Will and we looked at Emma’s book. I read portions of it, but mostly we just looked at pictures. I tried to remind Elise of little things she did during that time. We pulled out the card she had made for Emma and sent to the hospital so she could read it. I took time to read several of the most important things to them, though I know much of it still goes over their heads. The book ended in tears for me and I think I noticed a few in Elise’s eyes as well. She announced loudly her dislike of listening to me cry and covered her ears, which kind of ruined the moment, but oh well. I don’t know how much Will understood from our day, but I am sort of glad that he got to stay home with me as this is the first year I would expect him to start to piece any of it together.

Today at dance I overheard Elise mentioning to one of her friends about her sister in heaven. To me that is the real sign of the day being a success. It was meant as a reminder, a reminder to me to teach my children of the grace of God as it was shown through our little Emma, a reminder for the children to remember their sister and to speak proudly of her to others, and a reminder as well for me to remember that Emma is not all of who I am, but just one page in this adventure God has called us to.

Emma’s 4th birthday.

I am sitting here surrounded by my children (all but one) and trying to think how to mark this day — what would have been Emma’s 4th birthday.  I’ve realized lately that a lot of the anxiety I was dealing with (and that thankfully is leaving now) might have to do with a new stage of grief that is different than where I’ve been before.  I don’t know if I can explain it or not.  It is very different and full of complicated emotions.

To try to put it simply, I am having to accept that I lost a child, while still trying not to worry about losing any of my other children.  It seems that the more children you have, the more you worry.  I am so thankful for my children’s health and really hope that God does not ask us to walk a path of hardship anything like that we did with Emma.  But that also makes it harder to remember Emma and what we went through without pain.

I ran out of time to finish this post, so it is now July 15th (John and my 9th wedding anniversary by the way!) and I can share how I did remember Emma yesterday.  I went to the Farmer’s Market, where a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers and gladiolas caught my eye.  I purchased the bouquet and set it up on the desk at the store along with a small sign saying “in memory of Emma Anne.”  Now, not many people came by to see it, but I still enjoyed having it there.  I wanted to take it to the cemetery later that day, but it was too late to do that by the time we had supper.  Perhaps we can make time today.

Anyway, give your kids that are within reach an extra big hug today.

3 Years Ago.

It was three years ago today that we welcomed Emma Anne into our lives. Yesterday I remembered my labor, long and hard, and the way that God came alongside me to give me strength. Emma’s labor has been my longest so far, but also the most spiritual. It was then that God began to make clear to me how much he was there for us, without us really realizing how much we would need it.

I remember her birth, the lifeless body that was nevertheless still filled with life. I remember how tiny she seemed, that her hair was wavy, and that she was more worn out than I was from the labor. I remember my joy at being able to hold her in my arms. It would be later that there would be worry and frustration over her health, but for that day her life seemed full of hope and promise just like any little baby.

When I try to imagine her here with us now I have a very fuzzy picture. You see, I don’t know what she would have been like, whether she would have learned to walk, to talk, to eat. I don’t know how our family would be with the busyness of caring for her needs above all else. But when I imagine her happy and healthy and playing in heaven, then I feel like the picture clears. That was her future all along. That is where she belongs.

“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” Proverbs 14:10

“Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.” Proverbs 14:13

“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b

“You have turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent, O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” Psalm 30:11-12

MEND support group.

Hi all. As most of you know I attend a support group once a month that deals with miscarriage, infant loss, and stillbirth. This group is called MEND (Mothers Enduring Neonatal Death). It is a great Christian support group and I have enjoyed being a part of it. This month, 40/29 news is doing a story on our group. We were recorded during a meeting this month and some interviews were done as well. If you would like to learn more about this group, or would like to just see me on TV (wink), you can catch the program on Sunday, April 27 at 10 pm.

2 Years in heaven.

February 21, 2008:  My day of “fasting” went very well.  It was a very relaxing day, mostly because of the way I approached it, and also partly because I was limited in how busy I could be without turning on the computer.  It is amazing how dependent I am on the computer, even my grocery list is kept on there.  As I did my devotions today (Woman on a Mission Bible Study) I ran across a verse that jumped out at me.  II Corinthians 9:8 says: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  As many of you know, Emma means complete or whole, and Anne means full of grace.  So put together, they mean Complete Grace or as in this verse:  all grace.  After her name popped out at me in the verse I started thinking what that meant.  The time of my life so far where I have felt God’s presence most completely, where I have felt true abundant life, and where I found myself effortlessly abounding in good works was during Emma’s life.  Many people would mention that they didn’t know how I did it, or that they couldn’t imagine going through what we were going through.  And yet, to me it was never so easy to live the spiritual life.  Since that time I have found it harder to continue to live in that abundance.  Sometimes I miss what we had with Emma, the excitement, the drama of her life.  But perhaps, hopefully, it is really this abundant life that I am missing.  If so, according to this verse that is available to me even now in the humdrum of everyday life.  I thought through this longer and realized that all that needed to be done to tap into it was to act, to make a decision to do something for God and then to do it.  As we do, he begins to pour his grace into us, making it easier and easier to continue to abound in good works until we reach the point that it feels easy, natural.  But through it all, it is obvious that it is God who makes the whole process work.  Realizing how easy it all was has encouraged me to begin to make those little decisions and act on them.  Every time I choose to say a kind word to Elise even though she has interrupted me for the umpteenth time.  Every time I get up from the middle of something intriguing without letting out a tremendous sigh to get Will from his bed.  Every time I choose to joyfully clean my house.  Every smile I give to someone I meet.  These are all little things, but I do believe that as we start acting on the little things it becomes easier to do the big ones.  Continue reading


This week I anticipate the anniversary of Emma’s heaven birthday.  Though I like to think of it as a birthday rather than a death day, it does still contain much sadness.  I’m not overwhelmed with sadness this year, partly because I’ve been too busy to think about it.  I am making a conscious effort to slow down to start to think of it, because for some reason it is important to me to mark that day as something special.  To remember purposely the life of our amazing daughter, in honor of her and of God who blessed our family with her.  Tomorrow is Feb. 21, the day before her heaven birthday.  Last year, I had decided that for me the 21st would be my day of grief, so that the 22nd could be treated as a day of joy and celebration.  In order to make a physical reminder of that, I decided to fast on the 21st, breaking the fast on the 22nd.  Last year I was pregnant and this year I am nursing, so my mode of fasting is giving up my computer for one day.  So, you will not see me online tomorrow at all.  I will not even turn on my computer.  I spend a lot of time during the day on the computer, so this actually is a good way for me to create time to reflect and spend time in communion with God.  Last year, I had someone take Elise for part of the day as well, but since tomorrow will be unpredictable with the icy weather, and if it is not icy, with Elise’s dance class, I think I will just keep the kids with me.  I intend to include Elise in some of the rememberings, and in the evening John will be gone for a meeting, so I can spend that time in alone time if it is needed.

February 22 is Friday.  We don’t have specific plans for that day, and it is busy with other things, so we decided to make time to be together as a family on Sunday.  So Sunday we will be coming home from church for a meeting with our realtor, and then will probably head out to do something special.

Thank you to all who have remembered this coming anniversary and taken the time to ask me how I am doing.  It means a lot to me when others remember these significant dates and even more when they make an effort to ask me about them.  I enjoy taking time to talk about Emma, and needless to say, those opportunities do not arise as often anymore.

In the middle.

Do you ever feel in the middle?  Do you ever feel that you don’t completely fit in either of two normal places?  I do all the time.  Because I don’t fit any more.

I look at those of my friends who have 3 children and I think, “That should be me.  I have 3 kids.  But you can’t see them, and for all practical considerations I only have two.”
Then I look at my friends who have 2 children and I realize I don’t quite fit there either.  Sure to everyone who doesn’t know my story it appears that I have only two kids.  Ironically, when I am out with Will everyone assumes I only have one kid.  I guess I look too young to have had 3 children, so that’s not a bad thing.  But sometimes my heart aches to yell out to curious strangers, “I have three children!”  I always say I have three children, but unless they start asking questions to figure out which one’s missing, I usually leave it at that.
Suffice it to say that my family is incomplete.  There is always a peice of us missing, and that peice carries with her a huge part of my heart.  I am whole in Christ, and I am learning that through him I find my completeness.  Sure I don’t fit the mold, but who truly does?  And if being in the middle means I am drawn closer to heaven, how can that be a bad thing?  It’s not.  I embrace the uniqueness of our family, but that doesn’t mean I don’t often wish I were carting around a third child.  The middle child.  The one who I miss almost every day.  My heart aches for her right now.

When my arms are filled with Will, I am thankful, but I am also sad.  Two years ago my arms were filled with another child.  Sometimes I wish it were her I were holding.  Don’t misunderstand me, I would never trade Will for Emma, but I would gladly share him with Emma.  He’ll never know her.  Not until heaven that is.  The way he watches Elise with so much interest reminds me of how Emma used to watch Elise.  Wouldn’t it be nice if he could share that same connection with Emma that he has with Elise?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all walk together to heaven?

I know I am not the only one in the middle.  All of us probably find someplace where we look at others and realize we are different.  And I know there are many other moms who find themselves counting a child who is missing.  Some of them are missing more than one.  And so to all of you who are different, may the Lord meet you in the middle.

December 16, 2005:

7:30 am – The last few appointments are being finished up today – I’m hoping to be able to pick Miriam and Emma up tomorrow!

Unless something else comes up, we should be home this weekend. We do have another appointment next Thursday, and more into January (including another MRI), but hopefullly those will alll be day trips 🙂