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happy birthday, beautiful February 26, 2011

Posted by guinever in christianity, death, grief, heaven, life, loss, moving on.

A lot of my friends have been asking me how I’m doing…I haven’t been writing except little snippets on facebook. Blogging is virtually non-existent and has been replaced with one liners.

I’m good. Most of the time, I’m great. I really am. God has blessed me and given me peace and joy. I am living my life and enjoying it. Tonight I’m thinking back eight years ago waking up in labor with a certain baby girl.

I want to go kiss that baby girl right now.

But she’s getting all her kisses in heaven from her great grandparents right now. And from the angels.  And from all the other little girls who have slipped from their parents’ arms into Jesus’ arms.

About a month ago on facebook, a friend asked for inexpensive ideas for her daughter’s 8th birthday party. We had been pregnant together. A few minutes later, another friend posted pictures of her daughter’s 8th birthday cake.  Another blonde girl. BAM BAM. I hadn’t really had any moments of grief for a long time.  Tears. But that’s not all. Then another friend whose baby was stillborn just a short month before Abby’s life ended was writing about her grief too. More tears.

I want MY birthday girl where I can see her and touch her and watch her eat cake.

Today is Abby’s 8th birthday. Where has the time gone? We only had 2 birthdays with her. Then she was gone. Now she has been gone nearly six years.

As I was thinking of my labor, I decided to look through her photo album. When I got it out of the cabinet, my tears fell. Then I opened it.  On the first page is her name:

“father rejoices”

“the bright one, the shining one.”

Then on the next page is this picture.

Do you see her praying hands? I remember her folding her hands quite a bit her first few days.

So sweet!

It’s almost as if she was born to worship, born for heaven right out of the womb. With this thought and looking at this picture and the others on the page, Forget a couple quiet tears, my body was racked with sobbing.

I miss my Abby girl!

It’s been a long time since I’ve cried like that, and I want people to know! This has been the EASIEST February ever. I can’t even believe it. My growth is phenomenal since last year and the previous ones. Part of the reason is I haven’t had time to have a personal pity party because my heart has been heavy, so heavy for others in recent weeks. I was reminded of something I wrote a month after Abby died:

A month. 4 weeks ago tomorrow, our journey of death began. When we were driving home yesterday, Todd asked me if I was doing a lot of crying that he didn’t know about, and I told him not really. I asked him if he cried when Rachel died. The answer was no. I asked him if he cried when Petros died. No. I asked him if he cried when Corrie died. No. And I asked him if he cried when baby Anna was stillborn. No. And I asked him if he’s been broken and weeping and praying for Beth’s recovery. No.

I have spent 9 months, many nights sleepless, just crying and praying for other people. Now, there’s a million people crying and weeping for ME and God is answering their prayers and God has brought me peace and grace.

I don’t think I’m holding it in (so to speak). I asked Todd if he remembered that Thursday morning. How could he forget? I screamed at the top of my lungs and relived every detail of those almost 2 hours of agony where Abby was hurt and dying. I scared him, he said. He kept telling me to relax. He said he reverted into his Bradley mode because it reminded him of labor (before I wrote about it in that way in the funeral memoir) My release was in every way physical, emotional and spiritual. And now I have peace. And my tears are much less than his.

Happy birthday, beautiful. My pretty dancing, singing girl in heaven. I miss you.

I never got past those first 2 pages of the photo album. I’m saving those for the morning when I go to the cemetery with whoever wants to go with me. Not sure which of the kids, if any will want to come. I have some tulips from church that I’ve been enjoying all week that I’ll toss on Abby’s grave.


Grandpa, a man of many hats July 23, 2009

Posted by guinever in christianity, death, everyday life, heaven.

I’m cleaning today, digging through a drawer that is stacked with papers and photos. I found a piece of notebook paper folded in sixths. On it was the memoir that I wrote for my Grandpa Herrick’s funeral, who died February 3, 1996.

When I think of Grandpa, I see a man with many hats. I think a lot of us here gave him at least one over the years. I see a man with many plaid shirts, suspenders, belt buckles and tools.

When I think of Grandpa, I see a man in a chair. Reading, doing crossword puzzles, winning at Scrabble, and snoring.

I remember one time he accused us grandkids of eating the toilet paper because it seemed to disappear whenever we visited.

When I think of Grandpa, I see a man who was always building and making things for the people he loved. He and my dad built the house on Beecher road. He built the cabin in the woods. The bunk beds. A see-saw and swing for us grandkids. A fort in a tree so he could hunt for deer. When he wasn’t falling off ladders, he was climbing them, to  erect a bigger than life satellite dish on the roof.

I’ll always remember the love and care he showed Grandma. The last thing he made …only minutes before he collapsed, was a sandwich for her.

For me, the most special thing he built is the simple wooden chest that still sits in the corner of my room. What once was filled with toys is now filled with linens and blankets. Even after 20 years, my name that he carved in the bottom of the toy box has not faded. Neither will these memories. The assurance that Grandpa is in Heaven makes the pain a little less and the memories even greater.

Grandma and Grandpa H

Isn’t it lovely that I have this old photo to go along with this memoir? Based on how old my brother and I look, I’m guessing this was taken around 1977.

it’s ok to ask February 12, 2008

Posted by guinever in church, death, grief, heaven, loss.

When I see a friend of mine crying, I go to her. I sit beside her and put my arm around her and ask if she wants to talk about it, and I listen. Or I’ll call her on the phone and listen, send an e-card.

On the Sunday close to Christmas, something happened. Someone started to sing the descant during one of the hymns. It was so beautiful that chills ran up my arms, and I started shaking. Then I felt that funny kind of feeling in my stomach too. It was so heavenly.

So angelic. This thought led me to thoughts of Heaven. Thoughts of Angels. Abby is with the angels. Abby is in heaven. The hymn continued and so did the heavenly descant. I started to cry and I just couldn’t get a hold of myself. By the end of the song, I was sobbing.

My pastor apparently saw me and told his wife because then she looked behind her at me. That started a ripple effect. Another person looked back at me, then another.

No one asked me what was wrong either during or after the service. Did they not ask because they knew the answer and just didn’t want to go there?

Did they not ask because if it were them, they would want to be just left alone?

I just want to let you know that it’s ok to ask. I need a hug once in awhile. When my tears are ignored, it doesn’t make me feel welcome, makes me want to go somewhere else.

top 5 things not to say at a funeral May 9, 2007

Posted by guinever in christianity, death, everyday life, grief, healing, heaven, loss.

In the two years since my daughter’s death, several people have asked me what they can say to a friend who has just lost a child or another loved one. My answer has always been,

There are truly no words. Just listen. Get your friend talking.

Ask about their loved one. Ask what they miss the most, what they remember. If you have some stories to tell about the person who has just died, tell them. They will grasp onto your memories and cherish them.

Here are five things not to say to the grieving family at the visitation or funeral and why you shouldn’t say them:

  1. You can always have another child. OR you’re young; you can get married again.
  2. Don’t worry. You’ll see him again.
  3. At least he didn’t suffer long.
  4. He is in a better place.
  5. Be thankful he died at an early age. He doesn’t have to experience pain and heartache on this earth.

Although these might be true statements, they are not helpful and can be very hurtful. You can’t replace a person by having another child or remarrying. The parents will want this child back. The widow will want her husband back. The child will want his parent back.

For Christians, death is bitter sweet; yes, we’re glad that our loved ones are in heaven and we look forward to seeing them again. But the reality is that we would much rather have our loved one here right now with us.

A note to pastors for mother’s day

Abby’s sandals May 6, 2007

Posted by guinever in death, grief, healing, heaven, loss.

I wrote this about 2 months after my daughter’s death.

The night after the funeral, Jennifer pulled me aside and gave me an envelope that the funeral director had given her. She told me that it contained Abby’s sandals. I felt it and it seemed like maybe it contained more than her sandals. Her shirt, shorts, something else? I was afraid to open it.

Tonight, eight weeks later, I finally opened the envelope. I really didn’t think I’d ever open it. Or maybe I wouldn’t open it for a very long time. I imagined putting it in the wooden chest that Todd is going to make and sending everything up to the attic with a note attached, “Abby’s sandals. Never opened.”

Tonight as my house is silent, I sit here thinking about my baby girl. I gaze at the proof of her gravestone that I’ve signed off on. I think of Val, the artist who has taken the time to sketch her face. I love what he did with the photograph we provided. Her dimples are there, her eyes are twinkling, her hair is wispy with some curls, her bangs are long. There’s a little flower on the collar of her shirt. How can I be happy over a gravestone? But I am. Soon, Val will her etch face into stone. And I think, “Is this what my baby has become? A beautiful face etched in black granite?” I want to taste her, smell her, touch her. I want to see the shirt she was wearing.

So I went to the hutch, and felt around at its top. I had to stand on a chair to reach the envelope. I opened it right away, because I know if I had hesitated for even a moment, I would have changed my mind. Inside the manilla envelope was a thick clear plastic envelope. It contained her sandals and a photocopy of the picture I had given to the funeral director. The photocopy is smudged with the yucky makeup they used to cover Abby’s pale deathness. Is that lipstick I see on her fingers and on her dolly’s cheek? I hadn’t noticed the blanket before. How many times had I looked at this picture and I never noticed that the blanket from my Grandpa is in the picture. Priceless.

The sandals. I want to touch the sandals. I want to smell the sandals. But it’s not her. I want to smell Abby. This isn’t Abby’s smell. Is it the smell of leather encased in plastic? Leather smells like leather. A good scent. But this isn’t a good leather smell. Something antiseptic to it.

There’s a few dried liquid drops on the sandals. Seems like the wrong color for blood. Iodine? The orange makeup? I don’t know. I smell the shoes again.

I’m both disappointed and relieved that her clothes aren’t here. I put the sandals and picture back into the clear envelope and into the manilla envelope and shut the clasp and throw it back up onto the top of the hutch, out of reach and out sight, just like Abby.

So far away. Singing and dancing with the angels and the archangels of heaven and all the Herricks and the Van Campens that have gone before her. Do they know her? Have her four great-grandfathers claimed her as their own? Are they loving her? Is she delighting them with her smiles and sweetness? Is Abby’s spirit as a 2 year old? Or is her spirit mature? Will she be 2 when I see her again? Does she know her tiny embryo sibling? Are they together? Does she have a sister with her or is he a brother? Are they holding hands? Do spirits have hands?

Jesus has my baby Abby. I want my Abby. I want her back. Why did He have to take her so soon? I wasn’t done with her. People have told me that her work on earth was done. That’s a stupid thing to say. No, her work had just begun. I have a lot more work for Abby to do. She used to help me everywhere. I need her help again.

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