I don’t believe in coincidences anymore.¬†

It had been a week and a day since Aria left this world. We were watching the Seahawks game with Brian’s family, trying to be a little more normal. I was pretty silent and glued to my phone during the game. I kept flipping through the pictures we had taken of Aria wondering how we had gotten here. My heart was bleeding and the shock was beginning to wear off. It was somewhere around halftime that I finally believed and understood that Aria wasn’t coming back, and I was quickly losing my ability to stay calm. So as we got in the car to head to my parent’s house, I began to feel my temperature rise as the tears started forming in my eyes. I looked out the window and watched the pouring rain drench the earth around us. It was an incredibly depressing scene. As I sat there in a puddle of tears I thought, it would be really wonderful if Aria could send me a rainbow right now. Later, I learned that Brian was thinking the exact same thing.

This is the part where I promise you that I’m not making any of this up. I wouldn’t believe it either if it didn’t happen to me, but it did. 

You see, just as we turned the corner, the rain stopped. A moment before the skies were completely gray, and the rain had been pouring down with no end in sight. Suddenly, there was nothing. The skies cleared and the sun instantly beamed through the trees, lighting up the sky and igniting my soul. And there it was, dead center in the sky. A rainbow. It was brilliant, vibrant and I felt it’s message loud and clear. I looked at Brian and we both laughed in disbelief. There she was, our baby girl, coloring the sky and bringing my spirit back to life. 

There have been a few other moments since that day where I’ve felt her presence. I love that she sends me occasional reminders that I am never alone. Those are the things that keep me going. Without them, I wouldn’t have the strength to crawl out of bed each morning. 

And this is where I tell you that I believe with my whole heart that death is not the end. If it were, these things would just feel like coincidences but they don’t. A coincidence is when your husband accidentally puts on the exact same color shirt as you. Those things don’t renew your spirit and give you peace. The only way I can explain it is that these miracles are glimpses of heaven, and the eternal life that we will share with Aria one day. 

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Be bold with your kindness

“Hi! Welcome!” 

Just as Brian and I were leaving church this morning, a woman who had been sitting next to us during the service decided to greet us. At first, I didn’t really know what to do. Usually when a stranger greets me, my bubbly personality takes over and I happily engage in conversation. Since our beautiful daughter passed away, I have had a hard time finding my footing in moments like this. It took a moment for me to figure out how to respond. She asked if we were just visiting, and I told her we had been in the area for a while now but hadn’t found our church home quite yet. She said she was glad we came, and hoped to see us next week. Her smile was warm and inviting. She spoke so sweetly and her joy radiated through me.

If only she could see how broken I am. It has been 5 weeks since Aria left this earth and my wounds are still so raw. I find myself randomly shedding tears throughout the day, and I’m still figuring out how to live life after loss. So here I was, barely managing to maintain my own friendships, and I was joyfully engaging in conversation with someone I had never met before. Somehow, in that moment I felt happy. I was so glad that someone reached out and recognized that I was here. She was overwhelmingly kind and exactly what my damaged heart needed this morning. I even wondered if she felt God leading her to greet me. 

My interaction with this woman really got me thinking. I wondered how many times I ignored someone because I was too shy to say hello. How many times have I been impatient with someone who was barely hanging on by a thread? Most of the time we can’t see the brokeness in others. We don’t know they are hurting, but the way we treat them makes such a huge difference.

A few weeks ago, I was checking out at Target when the cashier joked with me about the weather. I hadn’t smiled in days, but I knew this conversation would become very awkward if I didn’t respond. So I forced a laugh and agreed with her. And you know what? That forced laugh was enough to bring my mood up just a little bit. It gave me hope that I would soon find joy and real laughter again. In the cashier’s eyes, we were just talking about a snowstorm. But to me, we were proving that happiness is still out there. 

You never know what your actions will bring to someone’s life. How we treat others can have an incredible impact, and we may never realize how meaningful something actually was. Today I learned how valuable a simple “hello” can be. It is my hope that anyone reading this feels encouraged to be bold with their kindness. Go forth and spread joy into the world, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Your actions matter so much more than you think. 

Joy After Loss

After Aria passed, we were faced with the impossible task of letting go of her body. I feared this moment more than I feared her dying. How could I let go of Aria knowing I would never hold my daughter in my arms again? The thought of it was completely devastating, but we knew it had to be done. We had to let go. 

So we turned on her song (My Little Girl by Jack Johnson) and began to say our goodbyes. I rocked her to the soft music as tears drenched my cheeks. I studied every inch of her, promising not to forget a single part. As I held her close and took in her sweet scent, I tried not to remember that this would be the last time.

When I handed her to Brian, he completely melted around her. He told her she was beautiful and although he kept repeating “I love you”, he didn’t need to say anything. I could feel his love for Aria deep within my bones. His fatherly love soared beyond the clouds and broke through heaven’s gates as he cuddled her in his arms. 

The chaplain who counseled and prayed with us during our journey at CHOP then entered my room. Together, we prayed over her. We thanked God for blessing us with such an incredible gift, and for allowing us to be a part of her life. We asked God to tell her all about the parents who so desperately wished she could have stayed. We prayed for peace and understanding. 

We set Aria into the small bassinet by my hospital bed and called the nurses station to tell them we were ready. The nurse entered, and gently draped a white blanket over her. As she wheeled her out of the room, we felt Aria’s presence slowly stepping out as well. 

Suddenly, Brian and I were overcome by an emotion we weren’t expecting. We felt joy. By letting go, we felt Aria entering heaven and feeling God’s warm embrace. I pictured her smiling and all the angels rejoicing that this beautiful child was now among them. Aria was now in a place far better than we could have ever created for her on earth, and we felt thankful for that.

I was looking through a journal I had used while pregnant with Aria and came across this part.   

“I want this baby to grow up loving God.” It may not have been the way we planned it, nor the way we wanted things to be, but my dreams came true. Aria will know God for every moment of her life. It overwhelms me to imagine how special her relationship with Christ must be. It’s something I can’t begin to fathom while I’m still on earth. 

It is in these truths that I find joy. I am only able to move forward peacefully knowing that Aria is alive and well in God’s kingdom. In heaven, she is completely uninhibited by the complications that made it impossible for her to sustain life on earth. Aria is free. As parents, we could not ask for more. 

Two hours from home.

Brian has been driving through the night, and our trip is almost over. It’s so hard to believe we are returning home, and Aria isn’t with us. This is an outcome I never considered as a possibility. I had so much faith that Aria would pull through. I just can’t wrap my head around it. I’m not sure if the shock has fully worn off yet, maybe it never will. 

This is the last big step of our journey. Once we walk into our home, as hard as it will be, this is where we can really begin to heal. I’m looking forward to regaining emotional stability at some point, and being able to feel a little closer to my old self. I’m looking forward to hearing Brian’s laugh again, and his happy spirit returning to his body.

We are such a far cry from who we once were, but I suppose it’s not a terrible thing. Aria changed us. She touched our lives in a way that only she could. I wouldn’t give up my memories of her for anything. As painful as they can be, she’s worth every tear. 

I really hope she’s proud of us. We’re trying so hard to be strong, although most of the time it feels like we are barely hanging on. I hope she understands our tears are just drops of love overflowing from our bodies. I feel this loss in depths of my heart I never knew existed. It is an indescribable mix of pain for the child I lost, and joy for having the opportunity to be her mother. Our time together was unfairly short, but it was nothing but pure love. 

Our girl would have been one month old today. I’m not sure how time has managed to go by so quickly, but I’m thankful. I am glad the days aren’t dragging on. But if she was still here, I would be looking at her growing body and begging her to stop growing up so fast. Since she’s in heaven, she is my forever baby. I’ll always see her as the sweet two pound, eleven ounce little girl I once cradled in my arms. 

Happy one month birthday, Aria. I hope you have a wonderful day up there. Send your Mama a rainbow when you get the chance. I love you. 

Heaven 

I used to put very little thought into what heaven is like. I figured I would find out one day, but until then I’ll just worry about life on earth. Now that my beautiful daughter has taken her place in the Lord’s kingdom, I find myself constantly wondering what it’s like up there. I know it’s far better than anything we could give her on earth. I know Aria feels immeasurable amounts of love and peace. But it’s the little things I wonder about. What is life like for those in heaven? Does she still get up each morning like we do on earth? Does she get to watch over us constantly? As strange as it sounds, I wish there were visiting hours in heaven. A few moments a day where we could come see where their Aria spends her time, and what she does during the day. If only for ten minutes, I would love to see how she’s doing. 

I wanted to…

I wanted to kiss your belly as I got you dressed in the morning.

I wanted to hear you laugh.

I wanted to see the wonder in your eyes as we visited Disney World for the first time.

I wanted to watch you sleep in my arms.

I wanted to hear you shout “Daddy!” as you ran towards the door when your Dad came home from work.

I wanted to cheer you on as you took your first steps.

I wanted to celebrate your birthdays with you. 

I wanted to watch you graduate from high school.

I wanted to watch your Daddy walk you down the aisle. 

I wanted to spend my life with you, Aria. 

I wanted more time.

I miss you.