Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lily's 4th Birthday Celebration!

Lily Katherine's 4th birthday celebration has been beautiful. I have lots of photos, videos, and details about her day to share so hopefully you can feel like you were/are a part of the celebration. :) *If you are reading this through email you will want to click HERE to view the post so you can see all the videos.*

When I woke up on her birthday, I didn't feel as sad as I have on past birthdays. I had so much to do and a day full of plans, which really helped.

It was the first year on March 16 since Lily was born that I was able to be at her special spot. It was healing to spend time there on her sacred day and decorate it myself, rather than having a friend do it for me. And it was the first year her permanent stone was at her spot on her birthday, so it was extra special to be there to decorate it.

I decorated with the flag stand and "happy birthday" flag that I got last year. I may leave the flag stand there and change it out for different seasons and holidays. I would also like to get one for Lily's memorial garden at my house. 

I got four balloons for Lily's 4th birthday. And a bouquet of pretty spring flowers for her vase. Her spot looked so colorful for her special day. :) 

The four balloons that I got all looked so pretty together! The balloon on top left (in picture below) says "birthday girl" and has flowers and a butterfly on it, which both remind me of Lily (I got the same balloon for Lily's 3rd birthday). The one on top right says "you are loved!" with hearts and is in the shape of a heart, which is perfect because heats remind me of Lily and my Valentine's-themed baby shower. And Lily is so, so loved so it is perfect. The bottom left says "happy birthday!" and has colorful stripes and polka-dots and a cupcake on it, which was nice because we had cupcakes for Lily's birthday this year. The one on the bottom right says "happy birthday" and is in the shape of a heart as well and has butterflies, a dragonfly, and flowers (including a lily!) on it. 

I wanted to have fresh flowers at Lily's spot, but because the weather is still cold, I knew the flowers would freeze that very night. And because I live in a different state and cannot decorate Lily's stone or take her flowers as often as I'd like, I decided to get some flowers that will last through spring and still look pretty. I have never been a big fan of fake flowers, however I knew that was my only option for lasting flowers. I was pleasantly surprised by how real fake flowers are made to look these days. My grandmother and I went to Michael's the day before Lily's birthday and found some beautiful flowers to make a spring bouquet. I of course had to include roses and a lily, which I put in the center of the bouquet. My plan was to get more fresh roses and lilies on the morning of Lily's birthday, but I couldn't find any. So, I got baby's breath to put around the outside of the bouquet. That way she can at least have some fresh flowers (and baby's breath will last a little longer). And baby's breath is just so sweet and perfect for a baby, both in name and how it looks. White for my pure, innocent girl.

At my girl's spot. I wore a pink scarf in her honor :)
Each year on Lily's birthday, we have a tradition of eating at my favorite restaurant, Cracker Barrel. We have now done this for her 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th birthdays. This year, my grandmother treated everyone to lunch there, which was so generous of her! I had to get hashbrowns for my little Spud and so did my grandmother. :) There were thirteen of us total that had lunch together, both friends and family - it was me, my mom, my dad, my grandmother, Aunt Helen, cousin Hope, Aunt Nana, Aunt Sarah, Uncle Steve, friends Marilyn and her daughter Jewel, Aunt Ellie, and cousin Thomas.

After having lunch in Waynesboro, we all drove over the mountain to the Hillsboro Cemetery in Crozet where Lily's special spot is. I decorated Lily's spot beforehand so that it would be ready for the celebration. On the way over the mountain, my grandmother and I stopped at one of the overlooks so I could take a moment to look at the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Even though it was such a cloudy day, it was still so beautiful. I was able to reflect on March 16 for a moment. I wish I could have stayed longer, but everyone would be waiting at the cemetery.

My grandmother's friend Marilyn, who is so incredibly kind, played her guitar and sang two songs for Lily's celebration. My Uncle Steve and Aunt Sarah are also friends with her. After Lily's stone placement ceremony last November (when I had played the song "Beauty Will Rise" by Steven Curtis Chapman), somehow Steve was talking with Marilyn about the song and because he knows she is an amazing musician he asked if she could play the song at the cemetery on Lily's birthday. When Steve told me this around New Years, that is when I just knew that I had to make it up to VA this year on her special day. Marilyn worked on the song for several weeks (which was really tricky to learn). 

Marilyn sat on my grandparent's and Aunt Rachel's memorial bench. The bench is so beautiful, unique, and it's nice to sit there when visiting the cemetery and thinking of family who has gone before us to Heaven.

Marilyn singing at Lily's birthday celebration
Marilyn and I together by Lily's stone
At the cemetery, we started off our time together with Marilyn singing a precious lullaby that I had never heard before, but she asked if she could sing. It is so beautiful and perfect for Lily. The words and Marilyn's beautiful voice make me cry.

Here are the lyrics to the lullaby and a video of Marilyn singing it:

Like a ship in the harbor
Like a mother and child
Like a light in the darkness
I'll hold you awhile.
We'll rock on the water
I'll cradle you deep
And hold you while angels
Sing you to sleep.
He says "come unto Me, all ye who are weary,
Weak and lowly, and heavy-laden
And I will give you
My comfort and victory
And I will hold you
And give you My rest."

After Marilyn opened our time together with this lullaby, my dad said a prayer. Then, I read aloud something I wrote for Lily's birthday. Here is the video of me sharing:

After I finished sharing, Marilyn sang "Beauty Will Rise" by Steven Curtis Chapman. This song is extremely significant and important to me... so much so that I even chose some of the lyrics (Out of these ashes beauty will rise) to be included on Lily's headstone. She did an amazing job! Here is the video:


After Marilyn sang her last song, I was able to share a very special song. My incredibly thoughtful and caring friend Heather gave me the most precious and priceless gift for Lily's birthday. She wrote me a song in honor and remembrance of Lily and her brief but beautiful LIFE on this Earth. You can read more about this song by clicking HERE.

Here is the lovely lyrics page she created.

And here is a song for "Sweet Lily."

I first heard the song the morning of Lily's birthday and knew I had to share it at her celebration that afternoon. My dad picked up some blank CD's and I put it on CD to play at the service. Everyone was so touched by it. A family friend said it sounds like it should be on the radio!

After I shared Lily's song, my dear grandmother (Lily's great-grandmother) shared a bit of her heart. Here is the video:

After she shared, we lit Lily's number "4" sparkly pink candle on her very own red-velvet cupcake and sang her "happy birthday." My dad lit the candle many times and the wind kept blowing it out, so we had to shelter it with our hands.

Here is the video of us singing to her:

After we sang Lily "happy birthday," we enjoyed red-velvet cupcakes with adorable cupcake toppers in her honor. As most of the readers of this blog probably know already, red-velvet is a tradition each year on Lily's birthdays because I had red-velvet cake at my Valentine's baby shower.

I ordered the cupcake toppers on Etsy. The lady who made them made them herself and shipped them the next day so that they would arrive in time for Lily's birthday, which was very kind of her. She made half of them with the number "4" on top for Lily's 4th birthday and the other half with a little lamb on top. Lambs remind me of Lily (especially now because Lily's stone has a lamb on top and since this was the first year that Lily's stone was there on her birthday, I wanted to incorporate lambs). The lady made the cupcake toppers a little different than they are sold so that they would all match. I love the pink and white colors that remind me of my girl. The toppers were so adorable! I am saving a couple for Lily's memory chest. 

I had considered ordering a custom cake or perhaps cupcakes with a design, however I found that this was a simple and inexpensive option, yet still really cute. It would have been too messy to try cutting the cake at the cemetery for all the people there. I used my mom's lovely cupcake stand to display the cupcakes at the celebration.

Lily's birthday cupcakes on display at her celebration. I love how you can see John 3:16 in
this picture. Lily's stone also has that Scripture reference on it and her birthday is 3:16. :)

Lily's cupcakes were set up on my grandparent's and Aunt Rachel's memorial bench. I had her gorgeous portrait from Eternal Hope Memorial Portraits on display for everyone to see and enjoy.

Here is the group of family and friends at Lily's birthday celebration - my Uncle Steve and Aunt Sarah, dad, me, grandmother, mom, friends Pam and Bob Kirchman, Aunt Nana, Aunt Ellie and cousin Thomas, and friend Marilyn.

Here is another group shot with Marilyn's sweet daughter Jewel in it (had to get a couple shots for everyone to be included since somebody has to take the picture.) 

Not pictured: my Aunt Helen and cousin Hope who had to leave early, friend Patricia who was able to make it at the last minute, friend Elise who couldn't make it, friends Joann and Heidi who came and left because they thought they missed us, and Bob and Sharon French who came right as we were leaving). What happened was a winter storm (lots of snow) came through on Lily's birthday. We had originally planned on having the celebration at the cemetery at 4 p.m., but had to move it back to 2 p.m. because of the weather. I wanted to sing Lily "happy birthday" at her exact birth minute (4:24 p.m.), but it didn't work out. We were going to leave to go back to North Carolina on Monday (the 17th), but had to leave on Sunday (the 16th) instead because of weather. I was so thankful that the weather held off until we were wrapping up! If we had waited until the original planned time, we would have been rained/snowed out. But because we had to change the time, not everyone was able to make it. And things just got messed up. But I appreciate everyone who came, tried to come, or wanted to come!

Here is Lily's spot up close all decorated with her flowers and cupcake. I am pretty sure her father left her those lilies laying on her stone because nobody else said they brought them.

My mom, grandmother, and I at Lily's spot on her birthday. Four generations!

This is my cousin Daniel's son, Owen, who was born three months before Lily. His son and my daughter would have been the best of buddies and cousins, just like Daniel and I were growing up, we are sure of it. Daniel is four months younger than me, so they are also boy and girl cousins and almost the same age apart!

On Lily's 1st birthday, Daniel sent me a photo of Owen holding a "happy birthday Lily" sign. It meant so much to me and I thought how special it would be if Owen took a picture each year on Lily's birthday, wishing her a special day. She would be turning the same age as he is each year. How bittersweet it will be to watch him grow up, changing throughout the years, and to know my daughter will never get to grow up into a lovely lady.

This is such a precious way to honor and remember Lily and to have them in a photo "together."

My sweet friend Patricia sent me gorgeous roses and lilies for Lily's birthday. They arrived on March 17th (St. Patrick's Day). It was a wonderful surprise on a very difficult day for me. March 17th was the day that I held Lily for the last time and left the hospital without her. St. Patrick's day will always remind me of her and what happened on that day in 2010. 

After things settled down from Lily's celebration on the 16th, the 17th was really hard for me. The gray sky didn't help. These flowers certainly brought color to the gray day. It was the first year that I hadn't received any flowers for Lily's birthday, so this made my day! Patricia said the name of the flowers was "Loving Lilies and Roses." :)

Thank you so much my dear friend for being so king and thoughtful and for remembering my girl with me always! Friends like you help ease the ache in my heart.

This was the note that came with my flowers: "Hannah, the love and dedication you show towards Lily's life is truly inspiring! I am so honored to be your friend. ;) Love, "Patty"

Here are Patricia and I at Lily's spot on her birthday. She was able to come at the last minute to at least see me and Lily's spot all decorated. And I was able to send her home with some cupcakes for her and her mom. :)

My mom got me a new sculpture from The Midnight Orange for my growing collection in honor of Lily's birthday. It is one I have wanted for quite some time - a lamb with a baby... perfect for my daughter of Heaven.

My awesome brother surprised me on March 18th with a pizza delivery to my house! He lives in South Carolina and I live in North Carolina, so I was not expecting this. He even got them to write a special birthday message for Lily on the box. He ordered two cheese pizzas for my entire family from Papa Johns, which was perfect because this is what my mom and I got each week when we had pregnancy/birth classes at one of my local pregnancy centers while I was pregnant with Lily. We used to do the "beat the clock" deal. Ironically, we got that on Tuesday nights as well.

One of the little boys that I nanny was born on the exact same day as Lily - March 16, 2010. That means he just celebrated his 4th birthday as well. I gave him a gift, which was also in honor of Lily. Here he is excited about opening his present. :)

"The little fella's" (what I call him) mom gave me a precious gift for Lily's birthday. She knows that we share that special day (and year). This picture frame is precious. It brought tears to my eyes when she gave it to me because I wasn't expecting anything and because it is so sweet what it says. The frame has a flower and the petals are hearts - both of which remind me of Lily! I haven't decided what photo I will put in it yet.

Another tradition we have each year on Lily's birthday is to have a get-together with our neighbor and her two kids. Joanna's daughter Ashley shares a birthday with Lily! She just turned 11 on March 16. We have gotten close to them over the last couple years and couldn't believe that a little girl who lives just a couple houses down was also born on March 16. Each year, we celebrate our shared special day with a party. We have cake and give Ashley a gift in Lily's honor. This is something I look forward to each year.

Here is Ashley with her gift this year. She absolutely loved it! I am really good at shopping for little girls. :)

This is the chocolate cake we enjoyed. My mom and I brought it this year. My mom made it from scratch (it was a big hit!) And I decorated it. Okay, don't laugh at how awful it looks haha. At least you can read it (it says Happy B-day L & A). There were eleven candles for Ashley and Lily's number "4" candle. We sang "happy birthday" and Ashley blew the candles out.

Here is the card we gave Ashley. It has a butterfly holding a cupcake. When I saw it, it reminded me of Lily, which is why I chose it. :)

This is the card my Aunt Helen gave me. Isn't it perfect? A precious lamb, lilies, and a butterfly... only thing it's missing is roses. Helen said she had this card for a while and when she found it recently, she thought of me. I like to believe Jesus had her save it for me for Lily's birthday. :) It is so adorable I want to frame it!

These are most of the cards I received for Lily's birthday.

I painted my grandmother's nails in the pink sparkly nail polish called "I Lily Love You" in honor of Lily. I had wanted to do both mine and my mom's nails as well, but didn't have time.

I gave my mom a framed photo of Lily's name in the sand in Australia from Carly Marie.

And I gave my Compassion sponsor child a birthday gift (she shares a birthday with Lily and is just one year older). :)

My friend Morgan did something sweet for Lily's birthday. This is what she said: "Even though there wasn't anything formal behind it, I want to let you know I donated a "blessing bag" in honor of Lily today. Rebecca had a 31 party where you could donate a thermal tote to a mom in the NICU to transport her breastmilk. I donated two and one of those donations was with Lily in my heart. Missing her with you today and always!"

I got a couple new butterflies for Lily's birthday from Carly Marie. They arrived in my inbox on March 14th, the anniversary of Lily's due date.

I chose white for purity because Lily Katherine's name means "pure and innocent." And I requested for "Forever Pure" to be written under Lily's name. It's the same phrase that is on her headstone under her name.

I also got this pretty dragonfly.

My sweet friend Naomi in Canada sent me the following two photos for Lily's birthday.

-Read the post I shared on Lily's birthday this year HERE.
-Read about Lily's 1st birthday HERE.
-Read about Lily's 2nd birthday HERE.
-Read about Lily's 3rd birthday HERE.

Thank you to everyone who has remembered and celebrated Lily with me this month! Whether you sent a text, message, email, card, or whatever else, I appreciate it more than you know! Blessings!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Days Nobody Remembers

Days like today are the days nobody remembers. Nobody but me that is. Today is March 27th and to most, it's just another spring day. But, for me it will always be the day my daughter's body was layed to rest beneath the earth. To me, it will be the day I watched as her tiny white casket was covered with tears, rose and lily petals, and dirt. And I had to leave her there. I had to walk away, with a piece of myself in the ground. There's no way to describe the aching and the emptiness of that moment. My arms were lost. It was over...really, truly over.

There are quite a few of these days in my life. I don't blame others for not remembering. I mean, most people don't even know the specific dates that are so important to me. I wonder if I would even remember them if I didn't have such a vivid memory. When something of significance (and oftentimes things that aren't very important) happens in my life, I always remember the date, how I felt, what the weather was like, and oftentimes, even what I was wearing!

That can make the memories and the days nobody remembers sting even more. I replay all the tiny details that I can't seem to forget. But, maybe I don't want to forget. Maybe remembering makes Lily feel that much closer. And when the memories don't fade, it doesn't feel as much like I'm moving away from her...

Just to name a few of the days that are forever imprinted on my heart and mind...

February 13th, the day of my Valentine's baby shower.

March 14th, Lily's due date.

August 15th, the day I had an abortion set up at Planned Parenthood. The day the Lord intervened in my life and saved hers. The day that reminds me how my heart was changed forever with the LIFE of my little girl.

October 9th, the day I found out Lily was indeed, A GIRL! Though I knew in my heart already that she was my lil' flower.

March 26th, the day of her celebration of LIFE/memorial service.

March 27th, her burial...

These are the days that catch me off guard. These are the days that can hurt just as much as the days you'd expect to birthdays, Christmas, Mother's Day, Easter. These are the days I think to myself, "this many years ago today, I was doing this..."

These are the days nobody remembers. Nobody but me. And the One who loves her more than I...

You can read all about this sacred day HERE.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Taking Her Home

Four years ago today, on March 26, 2010, Lily was taken over state lines from North Carolina where she was born to my home state of Virginia where she would forever remain on this Earth. Her spirit was already with her Creator, but her precious little body would be layed to rest in Virginia.

I am not sure how it all worked out, but we were able to transport her in the "little white box" in our car with us. I am sure it would have cost a lot of money to have her driven/flown up by someone else, so I am incredibly thankful we were able to do this. It also felt more natural for her family to take her. We kept her with us until the burial.

The funeral home in NC brought her to our home the day we would be driving up to Virginia. We were able to bring her inside our house, what was to be her home. Where she would have come back from the hospital to. I am thankful she was able to come here, even just that once.

I remember I sat in the backseat with the white box on the seat beside me and my mom and sister sat up front. We listened to the Jewel "Lullaby" CD, which was my favorite from pregnancy. On the car ride up, I wrote Lily a letter that I was to share at her memorial service that evening. I usually get really carsick if I attempt to do anything like read or write, but I didn't this time. I knew I was meant to do this. I thought I would be way too much of an emotional wreck to share, but God gave me the words and the strength.

That evening, we had a celebration of LIFE/memorial service for Lily at my Aunt Nana and Uncle Bill's house in Crozet. Friends and family gathered together for my little girl. It was a very bittersweet time of mourning her loss, yet celebrating her life.

You can read all about this beautiful celebration by clicking HERE.

On March 26, 2010 at Lily's celebration of LIFE service


Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Last Time I Saw Her

It was on this day four years ago that I saw sweet Lily girl for the last time this side of Heaven. March 17th was the last time I held her (at the hospital), but I was able to see her one last time at the funeral home before her burial on March 27th.

The reason we waited a week and a half for her service and burial was because we had to figure things out with two different funeral homes since Lily was born in North Carolina and was buried in Virginia. I was also recovering from birth and needed the extra days to physically recover before making the trip up. I personally think it's a good idea to wait a few days before having a burial to give that extra time to process things emotionally. This is a big step that brings closure and I wanted to be fully present to remember the sacred day. I also wanted to have the service and burial on a weekend so that more people would be able to come.

Anyways, when I left the hospital, I was holding on to the promise of seeing Lily again. I was told I'd get to see her one last time before her burial. However, in the following days, things weren't exactly working out the way I wanted them to, so I didn't know if that would happen after all. I am so thankful it did. 

One week after I gave birth to my silent daughter, I went to see her at the funeral home. A piece of me was already there, where she was, and I was just aching to be near her. For some reason, I thought we went to the funeral home six days after her birthday (maybe that is the day we had planned to go initially). Those days are a blur. My mom recently found a piece of paper from that day with the date of March 23, 2010 on it. It has the funeral home name and address and the costs. Seeing it made me lose my breath. I now have it in her memory chest... I don't know why, but I feel the need to keep anything and everything associated with Lily, like it somehow validates her existence more.

For the first time in all those months, she wasn't with me. The phantom kicks reminded me of what I had lost. I felt so empty without her. Like literally part of myself was missing. She truly was a part of me, living inside of me all that time. The limo arrived and Mr. Willie picked my mom, sister, and I up and we embarked on the journey across town to discuss the details of Lily's memorial service and burial. The car was hot, I was warm, I was trying to choke back the tears.

I wondered if I was ready to see her...would I ever be ready? Would I regret if I did, or regret if I didn't? The fear and the sadness were right on the surface and all I could do was ask God for guidance. Lord, if you want me to see her, speak it to my heart. If I shouldn't see her, keep me from her.

They tried to discourage me from seeing her. They said she didn't look like she did at the hospital. They said I wouldn't want that to be my last memory of her. I wondered why they were saying that? ...what did my little girl look like? I was afraid to know. After discussing all the details, I decided I did want to see her. I needed that closureThat one last kiss. I needed to see her in that sweet outfit she was wearing, and those little brown shoes. I had peace in my decision. Walking down the stairs, I looked over to my left where I saw a tiny white casket on the other side of the room (my sister took photos, which some might find strange, but to me, these were some of the only photos I'd ever have of Lily. This is my reality. I needed this memory in photos. If you don't want to look, stop reading now).

There she is, Lord. There she is. Should I look? Oh, Lord, my little girl...her lifeless body is right before my eyes. Her body that was in me, such a part of me and yet separate, a week ago, now there she is in that little white box

Hesitantly, I approached her. Instead of fear or alarm, I felt complete joy to see my sweet girl. She was so beautiful. I smiled at her in her beautiful outfit, the one we had picked out for her to come home from the hospital in. What was to be her "coming home from the hospital outfit" turned out to be her "going home to Jesus outfit." Her true home. Her forever Home. This beautiful pink outfit is one of the only two she will ever wear. The first one she wore is now tucked away safely inside her memory chest. Underneath, she wore a precious onesie that mom and I found for her at J.C. Penny, on one of our many shopping outings. We loved to shop for our sweet little girl! Both mom and I were so certain she was a girl that we shopped for her before any doctor told us she was a her! :) Her burial outfit has roses on it, for her mommy, Hannah Rose. My Lily in her rose dress. It is a matching set, with a dress, pants underneath and a hat. The dress also has pink hearts on it, which is perfect because she has my heart. Not only that, but hearts remind me of Lily because I had a Valentine's-themed baby shower.

Lily wore her adorable brown shoes. The pair I had sitting on my dresser for almost my entire pregnancy. The pair that I couldn't wait for her to wear. I miss those little brown shoes with the sweet little bows on them. I miss the excitement of holding them in my hands, as I waited for the little girl who would one day soon fill them. They were so tiny for my tiny little girl. For her age, my girl had big hands and feet though! It was so cute to see her feet squashed into the shoes. She could barely fit them as a newborn!

My mom, my sister, Emma, and I spent some time alone with Lily. There are three boys and three girls in my family. Us girls call ourselves, "the girl's club." Lily was to be the newest member of our little "club." No matter how many more babies are born into this family in the future, she will always and forever be the fourth member. I cherish these pictures and memories.

As our time with Lily was ending, my heart was breaking. I knew these would be the last moments spent with her. I didn't want to leave her there, in that cold funeral home. I wanted to take her home with me. But, that was never meant to be.

I had brought along my lambskin from when I was a baby. It was waiting in the cradle by my bed to be used by Lily when she came home from the hospital. But, she never got to use it. I tore a piece of it and put it in the casket with her, resting under her hand.

My mind was so scattered in these first few days and weeks, so none of this was planned. I look back now and see how beautifully orchestrated by God it was. It all just fell into place.

My sister had on my old purity ring that my grandmother had given to me when I was 15. I decided to tie it around Lily's dress. My pure, set-apart princess. Lily meaning purity. Lily, a symbol of my renewed purity in Christ. The ring somehow had become torn down the middle. Just as my purity had been torn. Yet, my Jesus pieced it back together. And this little girl was a symbol of that. She was the instrument He used. Since then, I have gotten a new purity ring, a whole one, to wear until my wedding day...

It was time to go. How do you share a home with someone, carrying them in your womb for nine months, your heart bonding with hers, only to have to let go? I had to say goodbye to the very one that had lived and grown within me for nearly a year. 

I whispered in Lily's ear how I loved her so much, though I was really whispering it to Heaven. It felt like my heart was being ripped out of me. I wanted to keep her for the rest of my life on this Earth. All these stages of saying goodbye - leaving the hospital, leaving the funeral home, and soon to be leaving the cemetery after the burial. How could I possibly walk away without her? My legs felt so very heavy. I knew this would be the last time I'd see her pretty face. I could count the number of times I kissed her, rather than a lifetime of sweet kisses, hugs, and cuddles. I knew the next time I was near her that little white box would have a closed lid. They closed the lid, not me. The hope of Eternity with her gave me strength to carry on...

After taking in one last look of my beautiful girl, all dressed up for Jesus...I gave her one last kiss goodbye. 

...for now.

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