Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lily's 6th Birthday Celebration!

Another year celebrating Lily's birthday has come and gone. My mind can hardly comprehend I'd have a big 6-year-old now. 

I have been blown away by the amount of people who remembered Lily this month and reached out through text, phone, message, comment, email, snail mail, gifts, sending flowers, etc. Each time my phone "dinged" on her birthday (sometimes one after another) and I read more of your words and saw more of your pictures, it brought a lot more sweet to this bittersweet day. Thank you. And to think people woke up on the 16th and thought of her makes this mama smile. 

A couple friends wished Lily a happy birthday and me a happy birthing day. I love that. It is just as much a special day for me.

It truly was a beautiful day, full of laughter and tears, as my friend Heather sings in Lily's song and said she wished this day would be. The weather was perfect, we made new memories, and enjoyed treasured traditions. Get ready for picture overload! :)

My Uncle Steve decorated Lily's special spot for her special day since my grandmother was out of town and couldn't do it this year. And my friend Elise went by her spot after work to take photos for me to see. My grandmother had forgotten to give Steve the new special number 6 birthday flag I got on Etsy. And then one of the balloons I got had a hole in it, so Steve selected a different one, which I appreciated. It's hard because I couldn't be there myself to make sure it was perfect. But at least her spot still looked beautiful.

Update in April: My grandmother had misplaced the special 6th birthday flag that I got for Lily's birthday on Etsy. She found it and took this photo for me. It was a surprise to receive it. Better late than never. ;)

I had planned on and was greatly looking forward to spending Lily's birthday this year on the Carolina Coast. I wanted to watch the sunrise over the March 16 ocean. However that'll have to wait until next year because my cousin Anna made it to the Nationals Swim Meet for her college (The University of Mary Washington) Division! I'm so proud of her and am thankful the meet was held in Greensboro, NC, which is just 1 1/2 hours from where I live. I also get to spend the day with my dear grandmother "Bumma," my sister-in-law Kala, my mom, Aunt Nana, and Uncle Bill. I wanted to do something unique and special and this was definitely that.

This is the rental home that we stayed in for the week. It was amazing! My spring break was actually the week of Lily's birthday and when we were in Greensboro for the meet. That worked out so I wasn't tied up with schoolwork and could focus on family and celebrating Lily.

We arrived on the night of the 15th and my Aunt Nana had brought a pack of red-velvet Oreos as a surprise. She had been holding on to them for a couple weeks. My grandmother reached in one of my bags and saw I had brought a pack as well! haha. They thought the surprise was ruined, but I told them the fact that I also had brought them didn't make the fact that she thought of Lily and got them any less special. It was interesting since neither of us had seen or purchased them before.

The weather in Greensboro on Lily's birthday was in the 70s, with blue skies and sunshine (just the way I like it). It was also a beautiful day in Crozet where her special spot is, in case she had any visitors. :) 

The week of Lily's birthday in North Carolina, there were white and pink blossoms everywhere, reminding me of the pure little girl born 6 years ago. Seemed so appropriate. I took this picture right in my front yard on the day before Lily's birthday.

On the morning of Lily's birthday, we had our coffee and chatted on the front porch of the rental home. Here is cute Bumma on the swing. :)

My sister-in-law Kala arrived that morning to spend the day with us. She brought these beautiful flowers, white roses and lilies to symbolize purity in Christ. She's a wonderful auntie and sister.

Waiting for my cousin to swim at the Greensboro Aquatic Center!

My Academic All-American cousin, Anna!

View from the top of the bleachers at the Greensboro Aquatic Center.

GO, Anna Corley!

In between Anna's morning and evening races, we (Bumma, Kala, my mom, Aunt Nana, Anna, Uncle Bill, and I) had lunch at Cracker Barrel (thanks to Bumma for treating us!) I was glad Anna was able to join us for this special tradition. If you recall, we have eaten at Cracker Barrel, my favorite restaurant, on each of Lily's birthdays.

Here are some classic rocking chair pictures.


With my beloved Bumma. I wore a pink/purple skirt, a butterfly shirt, and my Lily handprint necklace. :)

I enjoy looking around in the shop at Cracker Barrel. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that butterflies remind me of Lily. Well, I saw so many butterfly things in the shop on her birthday!

Another birthday tradition is eating something red-velvet for Lily, started because I had red-velvet cake at my Valentine's Baby Shower. This year, we got cupcakes at Gigi's Cupcakes.

They were delicious! And even had hearts on top, which I thought was appropriate because of my Valentine's shower.

At exactly 4:24 p.m. on March 16, 2010, Lily Katherine was born. At 4:24 on her 6th birthday, we lit the red-velvet cupcake candle that is only used on special dates. We sang "Happy Birthday" to Lily, as well as a favorite of my families' that says, "Every day of the year, may you find Jesus near." Singing those words to her holds an entirely different meaning.

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We hung out for a while in the afternoon at the house. Here is my awesome Bumma. :)

Before the evening swimming session, I was able to see a bit of Lily's birthday sunset from the Greensboro Aquatic Center. It's not the beach, but still pretty.

After the meet, we enjoyed the sparkling cider I picked out at Costco for Lily's special day on the front porch.

The next morning, on March 17th, Bumma and I drove the 1 1/2 hours to Raleigh for day 2 of Lily's birthday celebration. Lily was born on March 16th, but the 17th reminds me of her almost just as much. That is the only other day I held her. That is the day I left the hospital without my girl and saw all the St. Patrick's Day green all over the place. Now, St. Patrick's Day will forever make me think of my girl and the time I had with her. 

There were beautiful flowers (with roses and lilies) waiting for me at my house from my dear friends from Ellerslie, Angie and Eliza. 

The note they sent said: "Dearest Hannah Rose and Lily, we are praying and thinking about you both today. Happy 6th Birthday in Heaven, Lily! Keep dancing with Jesus, dear. We love you both. Love, Angie and Eliza"

On St Patrick's Day 6 years later, Bumma, Kala, and I went to the very hospital that holds those sacred memories from 2010. 

For the second year (and what I now hope to make an annual tradition), I took treats to the nurses at the hospital and a couple of comfort boxes to be given to those walking through the loss of their precious baby (one for a girl and one for a boy). I will share more about the boxes and what I included in them in a blog post soon.

The treats I took were red-velvet mini cupcakes, St. Patrick's Day mini cupcakes from Gigi's, and red-velvet Oreos. Remember how my Aunt and I both got a pack of the red-velvet Oreos? Well, it worked out for us to have one and for one to be given to the nurses. :)

I didn't know what exactly to expect at the hospital. I thought maybe we'd just be dropping off the boxes and treats. I had no idea that several nurses from different hospital departments (a couple not pictured) had gathered in the not-officially-opened garden, specifically started for the bereaved. They had birthday balloons (thoughtfully a butterfly because they know butterflies remind me of Lily and a cupcake because I bring cupcakes) and a gift for me. :'-)

A couple side notes: 2 of the nurses had on shirts with butterflies! And this picture below was taken at 3:16.

As soon as I walked up, I couldn't help but cry at their thoughtfulness and the fact that they wanted to celebrate Lily with me. The weather was beautiful and the garden lovely with fresh blooms. I shared a bit about Lily and her birthday, some of my keepsakes of her, explained and shared each item in my boxes, and then explained the treats I brought.

The gift they gave me was a Willow Tree "Forget-me-not" figurine, which is amazing because I collect Willow Trees and include forget-me-not seeds in my boxes!

I was also given one of the new necklaces with a butterfly and pearl that they are now giving to each of their patients who lose a precious baby. One of the nurses told me she had been wanting to give one, but didn't know if it would mean the same thing to me, since it's not actually being given at the time of Lily's birth. Kala perfectly described it when she said it means something different now, but it's no less special. Now, when I wear this necklace, I think of Lily's birthday, I think of the nurses at the hospital and how thankful I am to be involved, and I think of how Lily's life and legacy are impacting the world.

Bumma, who also lost a baby daughter (my loved and missed Aunt Rachel), kept raving about how wonderful the nurses are and how impressed she is with their compassionate care there. Kala said she can't imagine delivering my niece anywhere else because of how great they are. They really and truly *are* great and I love that the memories with my girl are in those walls. 

The garden looks beautiful and is coming along quite nicely! I'm glad to have a special place to go at "Lily's Hospital" to remember her. I think I'll definitely have to spend some time there when my niece is born in May.

The room where Lily was born (235) was "somehow" open for the second year in a row, so my grandmother was able to go in there. I am thankful I was able to share Lily's hospital and room of birth with her because she's never been there. 

After we finished up with the nurses, Bumma said she wanted to treat Kala and I to some food in the Cafe. Well, the Cafe was closed, so we went to the Cafeteria instead. It was interesting to see lots of St. Patrick's Day decorations in the place where I saw it in 2010. We enjoyed eating outside and chatting.

This is my cousin Daniel's son Owen wishing Lily a Happy 6th Birthday in Heaven! Daniel was born 4 months after me and Lily was born 3 months after Owen. Boy and girl cousins almost the same age apart! Oh how I dreamed they'd grow up close buds like Daniel and I were. Each year on Lily's birthday, Owen takes a photo like this. It is bittersweet to see him growing up through the years and to know Lily would be the same age, but she'll never grow up. I am thankful for these - the only way they can be in photos "together." Owen's mom is so thoughtful and kind to remember to do this for me and Lily Kat. One of my favorite traditions! I hope Owen will want to continue doing it through the years. 

My sweet friend Bex sent me a gift for Lily's birthday. I want to frame this beautiful print. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll remember that Bex was one of the first people to know about Lily and the first person to know her name.

I love how she wrote on the envelope: "Hannah Rose, mother to a beautiful flower."

She included a note to both the birthday girl and I:

Happy Birthday, Lily! You are missed. Your short earthly life has made a big difference in many lives, including my own. One day I will get to meet you, and I'm looking forward to that. You are never forgotten... And you are always loved! -Bex-

Dear Hannah Rose, Thinking of you and praying so much for you especially this week. (((hug))) Grieving all of the "could have, would have, and should have's" with you. Thank you for sharing your Lily girl's story with the is a beautiful memorial to her and it has impacted my life! Praying for comfort and His strong arms to hold you! You are so loved, -Bex-

My dear Lissy-friend, who was one of my Ellerslie roomies, wrote Lily's name in the sand on Parkdale Beach in Melbourne, Australia on her birthday.

She wrote this sweet message with it: "I wanted to let you know I am praying for you on this day (16th of March here in Australia) & thanking Jesus for the precious life of Lily Katherine & what a wonderful & powerful mark her life has left, praise the Lord. I pray that this day would be a day of rejoicing in the finished work of our savior on the cross & that you would continue to grow in His image through His love, mercy and grace day by day. Love you sweet friend! Psalm 139. Here is a little picture I took earlier today."

The lovely ladies at my faith-based infant loss support group, Covered in Love, were meeting on the evening of March 16 and had red-velvet cupcakes in the birthday girl's honor! How sweet! Thank you so much, Ellen, for doing that. I love knowing many people take part in eating red-velvet for Lily. :)

When they sent the photos, they wrote: "Happy 6th Birthday Lily Katherine! We love you Hannah Rose! Enjoying our red-velvet cupcakes in honor of your precious flower!"

Apparently they ran out of red-velvet cupcakes, so there was one rainbow sherbet. Ellen said it's Lily's rainbow. :)

About a week or so before Lily's birthday, my friend Stacy posted a picture of her daughter Rachel's grave decorated with a beautiful flag. I told her I would love one like it, especially because it has pink lilies. She said the flag made her think of Lily and that she was thinking about her upcoming birthday and wondering what she could get in her honor. So she got me one for Lily's special spot in VA and another one for Lily's memorial garden in NC.

She said. "I figured with her burial date landing on Easter, this flag is a good reminder that she isn't in that grave... He conquered it! I'll be praying for your heart as you walk thru these next few weeks."

My amazing Bible study leader, Terri, invited me and a couple others from our study over to her cozy home a few days before Lily's birthday. We enjoyed burgers and hot dogs. Before that, she treated us to the new "Frost" drink at Chick-fil-A, which was delicious!

Terri picked out this beautiful plant for me (she said she wanted it pink for my baby girl). It'll be perfect to plant in Lily's garden this spring. She also gave me a card with a pink butterfly.

On the inside of the card, Terri wrote the sweetest things. Though she said she didn't really know what to write, I told her it was perfect. And just the fact that she cares means more than I can say! 

This is what she wrote: "Dear Hannah Rose, I'm sorry that you have experienced this, but we know that the Lord has blessed you as only He can. Praise God we have such a wonderful Lord to help us through this life! You are such a mature and sweet young lady. I pray God sends you the perfect mate in His time. Love, Terri.. Proverbs 3:5-6"

This is what Proverbs 3:5-6 says: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths." 

The 12th of course is the day I believe Lily went to be with Jesus. Even though I didn't necessarily feel like doing anything or visiting with anyone, I am so glad I went. It turned out to be a wonderful evening and a sweet time of fellowship. I took my Lily scrapbook and was able to share it with Terri and Deanna. Each time I share it is a gift! I love hearing people's reactions to the scrapbook I poured my heart into.

A couple weeks before Lily's birthday, there was a package for me from Amazon, which surprised me because I couldn't remember ordering anything.

The note says: "Happy Birthday, Lily! "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." -Romans 15:13

Thank you to my friend Erin for sending it. I didn't know who to thank at first because there was no name with the note, however I saw I could send a thank you on Amazon, which is where I saw who it was from. What a sweet and thoughtful gift! Red-velvet is a special "Lily thing." There are many delightful recipes in here that I'm looking forward to making, and plan on using one on Lily's birthday this year.

I received this from my sweet Bonnie friend in the mail for Lily's birthday. She wrote, "In honor of Lily, I saw this chocolate bar and thought of her and you. Enjoy."

I recently shared about a cloth diaper for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. Kala ordered one for my niece on the 16th. She sent me the screen shot that says, "This purchase was made in honor of Lily Katherine." :)

Speaking of my niece, I saw the most adorable St. Patrick's Day shirt at Target about a couple weeks ago. Since St. Patrick's Day reminds me of Lily, I couldn't resist getting this for my niece to wear next year on Lily's birthday. It has hearts making a clover. It's crazy to think next year she will be here too!

My Aunt Nana gave me this beautiful butterfly shirt for Lily's birthday! I like the colors blue and white together, and of course butterflies are perfect.

My mom gave me this purse for Lily's birthday.

I saw this butterfly scarf at Cracker Barrel on Lily's birthday and decided to get it in her honor.

Update at the end of March: I received one last gift in honor of Lily's birthday. My thoughtful Aunt Helen sent me a few things that had Lily written all over them. It makes me smile when people know what the things are that I associate with her and that those things make others think of her as well.

She sent a sweet little lamb that I'll probably take to Lily's spot, a "Birth Verse" card, with March 16 and John 3:16 on it, some stickers (including butterflies and flowers), and a card.

The card has 6 lambs and balloons for her 6th birthday.

This is what the inside of the "Birth Verse" card says.

Bumma (my grandmother) wrote Lily a poem for her 6th birthday. An 84-year-old woman remembering her great-baby-granddaughter. How sweet is that!

She is so cute... she has an iPhone and can operate it at a basic level, but it takes her a loong time to type things, so she took a photo of the poem written out and sent it to me. That works too haha. Don't ask me how I can decipher her writing though. ;-) 

For my precious great-granddaughter, Lily Katherine - March 16, 2016

You're first home - your mommy's tummy

Safe, secure, and sheltered there
Covered with LOVE by your family
Above and beyond that - the LOVE of the Lord

We may never understand

Why your second home was not Earth
In a wisdom beyond our own
Heaven was to become your second HOME

You never drew a breath on the Earth

Going straight into Your Father's arms
Never suffering pain that Earth can bring
Sadly, leaving all of us behind

Our arms are empty, but not our hearts

Hearts breaking because of our loss
Hearts assured that you'd made it HOME
Heaven - for most of us our third HOME

You, Lily Katherine, skipped home number two

Leaving us perplexed and overwhelmed
But, with the HOPE of the Lord
We're on our way

On our way - fighting the fight

And running the race
Laid out before us
As we're headed HOME

My friend Eliza also sent me something she wrote for Lily's birthday. This is the beautiful letter and poem she wrote to Lily (her aunt she mentions was stillborn):

Dearest Lily,

I don't know where to start with this birthday letter, but I know that God has laid it upon my heart to write to you.

Happy sixth Birthday, precious and beautiful girl. Your life was short and for some reason God chose to have you live with Him. Maybe it was because He would have missed you too much here on Earth. Sometimes, things happen and we don't know why. I don't know why my aunt had to die. I don't know why I am in a wheelchair. I don't know why some things happen the way they do. Yet, even with the not knowing why, He knows. God has a purpose in everything, and even though I wish I could have met you, I know you are in a much better place than this Earth. So, keep dancing with Jesus and give my aunt a hug for me if you could. Her name is Adel. I look forward to taking a walk with both you and Jesus in Heaven. Soon and very soon shall we all be together.



Here is a free verse poem for your Lily:

Lily, a jewel, a glisten of life.

An everlasting beauty
Though none upon this Earth did hear your laugh
your life is authentic

Dance my dear with Him

Run and play in the safety of Him
This life is but a breath
Yet, your life has just begun

My friend Naomi sent me this: "Remembering Lily Katherine with you today. Last night, as we were reading a book that my Kindergartner had for homework, I noticed those lily flowers and roses together. Of course I thought of you and your girl! (The funny story book is written by Robert Munch and is about a little girl that tears out ribbons off her dress to help a bride, a groom and some guests of the wedding party who are lost and late for a wedding. In the end, despite a teared and dirty dress, the bride and groom invite her in to be their flower girl.)"

My friend April sent me this: "Can you see your girl's name written in my Caramel Machiatto?"

My friend Sarita sent me this: "Happy heavenly birthday to sweet Lily, born into Jesus' arms on March 16."

My friend Niki sent me this: "Saw this! Thought of you! They are beautiful like the love and memories and strength you have as a mom! Hugs"

My friend Lynn sent me this: "A little something I put together in honor of your precious little daughter, Lily.... Whom you long for and miss with all your broken / hopeful heart. Keeping you close in my prayers during this difficult time."

My mom and I are good friends with our neighbor, Joanna, who lives just 2 houses down. The fact that we live so close and that we are friends makes it even more "ironic" that her daughter, Ashley, was also born on March 16th. She turned 13 this year, which means Lily was born on her 7th birthday. Two girls, born at the same hospital on the same date. Each year in Lily's honor, we select a gift to give Ashley. Here's the gift for this year.

And here's the card... perfect with flowers for my flower. :)

My friend Heather, who wrote Lily's song, wrote me on the 16th and said: "I wanted to write and wish your little flower a Happy Birthday, and tell her momma I am thinking about you and praying for you. May the grace of God continue to pour into your heart, and His love continue overflow from you in this next year. May His comfort cover you and fill you, and may you experience such rich, sweet intimacy with Jesus as never before. I am loving and missing your precious girl with you today, dear friend. May this day be one of "laughter and tears" as I wrote in Lily's song, as you remember your little one and celebrate her life. I remembered that I had roses and lilies as a part of the bouquets for our wedding, so I thought I would send a picture.

A couple friends sent this picture to me on Lily's birthday.

Amanda wrote: "I think it's special that Lily was born on 3/16. What a special verse.

And Jordan wrote: "This made me think of your sweet Lily Katherine."

My other Aussie friend, Karen, sent me this photo and wrote the following: "Just a lil message to wish Lily a Happy Birthday and to let you know she is being thought of from down unda. My sister received a bouquet of lillies the other day, and my first thought was of you and your lil Lily...they will always be her flower. I've attached a picture for you. May this day be one of peace-filled remembrance and hope."

I was happy to share Lily's scrapbook with my favorite 84-year-old. She loves her great-granddaughter. :)

Oh yeah, and there was a sweet community cat that lived next door to the house where we stayed. In just a few short days, I grew quite fond of "Miss Baby" as I lovingly referred to her as. How funny that a kitty was right next to me, a crazy cat lady. If I had it my way, I'd adopt every kitty in need of a home! ;)

I also want to share a couple of my favorite messages that were sent on Lily's birthday:

From Natalie: "I just wanted to say that I'm thinking about you and your sweet girl on her birthday. Yesterday, I was thinking about how she has had a greater impact on the world in her short time here than many of us who are given much longer. It's amazing how God has used her short life and how you have glorified him by being such a dedicated mother and sharing Lily's story far and wide."

From Brittany: "I'm always praying for you and thinking of Lily. It's funny. My birthday is March, but instead of that standing out to me, the 16th does. I think of sand and potatoes and lilies. March will never be the same again."

My little sister Emma (otherwise known as "Bub") told me that the morning after Lily's birthday, a butterfly fluttered by right in front of her. It made me smile that it reminded her of her niece and that it brought her some comfort after Lily's birthday being a hard day for her.

Here are the blog posts I've written over the years, both on Lily's birthdays, as well as the posts about how we've celebrated her birthdays:


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