This blog is an uncensored look into my soul. I am writing this as part of my healing process, but am leaving it public so others can follow me through my journey.

If you'd like to start from the beginning, click on the beautiful, adorable picture of Hailey on the right hand column.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hailey's Birthday "Party"

Sorry it took me quite a while to write about Hailey's Birthday "Party," but life's been a little crazy and overwhelming this last week.  I think the letdown from all the anticipation of Hailey's first birthday away from us finally hit me.  Not letdown in a bad way, just meaning that I no longer have this huge anxiety hanging over my head about that day and how I was going handle it or what we were going to do, my body and mind had to recover from that! 

I have to say though that the day couldn't have been more "beau'ful" and the support couldn't have been more overwhelming or appreciated!  I honestly struggled with whether or not I should have had a little birthday "party" at Hailey's Place.  I mean, it is a cemetery after all, and I know that some people have a very difficult time with cemeteries.  Plus, I didn't want to offend anyone else who may be visiting a loved one at that time.  However, the more I thought about it, I knew that's where it had to be.  

Hailey's Place is so amazingly "beau'ful" and peaceful.  I wanted everyone to see that.  Cemeteries used to remind me of Halloween or scary movies, until Hailey.  Now I find immense peace and comfort being there.  This place is seriously the most beautiful cemetery I've ever been to, and Hailey's specific spot is even better.  It is located on "Baby Hill," which is the nickname given to the main place children are resting.  Overlooking the hill is a huge angel statue called The Angel of Hope.  Hailey is between two little girls, right underneath a tree.  We knew it was the perfect spot the second we saw it.  (Gosh, that's weird to say.  I mean is there really a "perfect" spot to place our little girl in the ground?)

Anyways, as I mentioned above, I really wanted others to see why I find it so beautiful and peaceful.  So, I called the cemetery to make sure there would be no services going on that day and then began planning.  I kept it very simple: an open house for about two hours where anyone could stop by at their leisure, stay as little or long as they felt comfortable, have a piece of cake in Hailey's honor, and hopefully leave feeling a new sense of joy for the beau'ful life she lived.  Well, I must say, I feel like my goal was accomplished!

We had over 90 people show up!  Ninety!  I seriously still cannot believe the love and support our family and friends continue to show us.  It is sometimes beyond my ability to fathom and I often don't feel worthy of it.  It's such a humbling feeling to see all these wonderful people take time out of a busy, summer Saturday to come and celebrate my little girl's life and also give us the support we so desperately needed!  

I pray every single night for all of you who show us support through whatever means you're capable of.  Every bit counts and matters.  I believe 100% that we would not be where we are in our grieving process and have the strength and hope we have without all of you.  

Thank you, thank you, thank you...again and again and again!

One of three cakes we had for Hailey.

Wow...Look at all the love!

Check out the Lay's pinwheels a friend made!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hailey's 4th Birthday

It was an absolutely BEAU'FUL day.  I honestly could not have asked for Hailey's first birthday away from us to have gone any better.  I am so very blessed.  My wonderful, merciful, Heavenly Father has pulled through for me once again and carried me through this day!  My testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has grown even stronger.  I KNOW that He lives, as does my precious daughter.  I KNOW that they were here with me today.  It was absolutely an aMAYZing day! 

Honestly, I really wasn't overly sad.  It was a different feeling that I had.  A feeling of longing but also complete peace.  I longed for Hailey to be here with me today.  I longed to see her smiling face and hold her in my arms and tell her that I love her so much.  I longed to see those sparkling blue eyes as we sang Happy Birthday to her.  Yet, alongside that feeling was a sense of peace.  I was at peace knowing that Hailey was here with me and happier than she's EVER been.  At peace knowing that she got to have a double birthday party with us, her family on Earth, and them, all her family and friends in Heaven.  At peace knowing that I was being watched over, cared for...carried.

An experience such as losing your child is literally life changing.  It alters your whole world, your whole existence, you're whole identity.  Yet I have found that if I choose to see the good in it, what little there may seem to be at times, the blessings literally pour out.  If I choose to thank God for the honor of being Hailey's mother, here on Earth, and someday in Heaven, I am blessed to still feel her around me all the time.  If I choose to trust in my Heavenly Father and the fact that He, and only He, knows the bigger picture and that He absolutely will compensate me for my sacrifices and faith now, I slowly begin to experience a sense of joy as we hand out "Halos" to those in need.  If I choose to let Him carry me and walk beside me through my trials and grief, He grants me peace and comfort literally beyond any words of description.  Choosing anything else is just not an option for me.  I can't.  I don't have time to be angry and more selfishly, I need Him!  There is no way in the world I would be able to carry this load myself.  I never truly understood this principle until I experienced the worst possible thing I could have ever dreamed of. 

Now don't get me wrong.  I am still human.  I still have my days of intense pain and grief.  Last Sunday, for example, I literally laid in bed until 4:30pm.  Luckily, my husband is amazingly supportive and took care of the girls for me. And, I am already starting to feel the stress and anticipation of August 11th, the day we now call Hailey's Heavenly Birthday.  But I have seen the miracles that faith can work and I feel the need to share those with you.  There will be other times for me to share my darker moments, but not on my daughter's birthday.  This was a day to celebrate.  Celebrate my precious Hailey and the beautiful life she lived.

All that being said, let me share my day with you all.  First off, the few days leading up to today were the worst.  I struggled greatly with my emotions.  The anticipation of this day was immensely worse than the actual day itself...which I've heard before.   

However, then the blessings started.  Yesterday, we received a card that literally touched my heart from top to bottom.  The smile it put on my face is still there and the feeling of, "Tomorrow is going to be okay," was priceless.  The card came from a family, with four children, that we had given a "Halo" to many months ago.  In it was written, "In honor of Hailey's 4th birthday, please accept our modest contribution to her foundation."  Along with the message were six stacks of four $1.00 bills each paper clipped together with a picture of something that represented Hailey!  Under each picture was written, "Love," and the name of the family member who contributed.  I was so very touched.  I told Sean that they could have included absolutely no money, but just those pictures representing Hailey and I would have been just as thrilled!!!  The fact that this family has kept up with my blog and learned enough about Hailey to know the things that represent her to us was so incredible to me.  What an aMAYZing blessing and way to honor my little girl!!!

Today I woke up to messages on my answering machine, texts on my cell phone, emails, and Facebook messages all from such supportive, compassionate family and friends remembering us and Hailey.  What a beau'ful way to start a day. 

Lexi and I went shopping and bought two huge balloons and a bag of Lay's Potato Chips for Hailey's Place, along with some cake decorating stuff and little goody bags for our open house on Saturday.  (We're having an "open house" at Hailey's Place from 11-1 for anyone that would like to stop by.)    After shopping we went by Hailey's Place and found that some people had already visited her!  

We hung out for a bit and then went to run a couple more errands.  We stopped at a little food court down the street and I was frantically looking for a dime.  I kept asking Hailey to send me one so I'd know she was there today.  As we were eating, I was starting to get a little bummed because I knew we were going home after that and I probably wouldn't have another chance to find one.  All of a sudden, I heard the jingling of change falling to the ground.  My ears perked up like a bloodhound and I looked everywhere.  About 20 feet away at another table were a bunch of moms with their kids.  Of course, the kids scrambled to grab all their dropped coins, but I wasn't about to give up.  I knew that was my sign from Hailey.  So as Lexi and I left about 15 minutes later, I purposely walked right by their table.  (I probably looked a little creepy because there was plenty of room to go around instead of in between their table and another.)  But, as I looked joke, right there next to the leg of one of the chairs was a dime!!!  A single dime!  I felt like one of the kids as I dove for it!  The lady sitting in the chair kind of gave me a silly look, but honestly, I didn't care a bit!  I found my dime!!  Thanks Hailey!  

Sean and I went to Hailey's Place a little later and just sat and reflected for a bit, which was really nice.  Seeing her beautiful smiling face on that flag always makes my heart skip a beat.  She sparkles.   

Afterward, we came home to a huge bunch of balloons delivered from some family friends in Boston.  What a surprise!  I never knew you could have balloons delivered.  Those were Ava's favorite part.  I laughed as I pictured Hailey yelling at her, "No touch!  Me balloons!  No Ava touch!"   

Lexi and I decorated a special cake for Hailey.  She had it all drawn out on a piece of paper because it had to be perfect.  She wanted it to have a little girl like Hailey walking toward Heaven. I have to say, I'm pretty proud of how it turned out.  I mean, I'm clearly no Van Gogh, but it wasn't half bad!  Lexi did most of the decorating herself, but I helped with the little girl and flowers.

Our masterpiece.

Next, we all went to Hailey's Place to take some family pictures with our little angel and sing "Happy Birthday."  

Our Typical Family Photo

One of the blessings poured down upon us!

Then off to dinner at one of Hailey's favorite restaurants, Souplantation.  Our neighbors joined us for dinner since Hailey only knew them as family and we knew she would have definitely wanted them there!  It was so nice to have them along!   

After dinner I came home to a pot of flowers, 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke and an envelope full of beautiful, inspiring letters from my young women at church.  I was in awe of these faithful, precious young daughters of God and the support they showed me.  

I also wanted to mention a sweet message I received from one of our special family friends in Florida.  She talks about Hailey all the time to her "almost" 4 year old grandson.  They went out and released two "lellow" balloons in honor of Hailey and her favorite color. 

Oh and one of the neatest cards I've ever seen: 
How cool is that?
And on the back was the perfect, life size, image of a single dime...tails up!

We ended the day by lighting a number 4 candle and singing Happy Birthday again...then diving into Hailey's cake.

Honestly, the day really couldn't have been any better.  The weather was gorgeous.  Her place was serene.  The blessings poured out.  She was there.  

I hope that when she saw her family she saw us happy and joyous for her.  I didn't want to be sad and cry...I didn't want her to see that on her birthday.  I wanted her to "visit us" and leave with the best birthday gift we could give her...our happiness in her honor.  

I have to thank all of you who called, texted, emailed, Facebooked, thought of, prayed, donated, gifted, visited, today.  Any gesture of support and love that you may have rendered, whether small or big, quiet or loud, near or far, known or unknown was so deeply appreciated and important to making this day a "BEAU'FUL" one for myself and my family.  

Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.  May God bless you all for mourning with those that mourn and comforting those that stand in need of comfort. I am blessed.  

It truly is a beau'ful day!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Trip

Gosh, I don't even know where to begin.  I feel like I haven't written in so long...which, I guess, is kind of true.  Anyways, I officially made it through our first family trip away from Hailey.  I have traveled since she passed away, but never with my entire family, therefore, leaving her here "all alone."  I put that in quotation marks because, obviously, I know she's not really alone, but that's how I felt and I struggled with it a lot.

I thought it would be tremendously difficult to leave her here without any family members around to look after her place and visit her.  Well, I have to say that I couldn't have been more wrong.  I mean, it was tough to leave her, but I cannot even begin to describe the gratitude and joy I felt after receiving numerous text messages, pictures, emails, phone calls, etc., from friends who had stopped by to visit her while I was gone!!!  It was overwhelming!  

I received several texts from friends who took their kids by to visit Hailey, with pictures of how cute her place was decorated for the 4th of July.  I received a video from a friend and her daughter who stopped by.  I received a phone call from a dear friend who lost her brother in a tragic accident several years ago on the 4th of July.  Her parents came down to visit and they all spent their 4th of July at Hailey's Place...with sparklers and everything!  (Oh, and her father even found a dime as he walked out of the store from buying the supplies!)  I just don't think I could be any more blessed with such amazing people in my life.  How could I even imagined that so many friends of mine (and some I don't even know very well) would take the time out of their summer to go and visit my baby girl.  What an honor it is for me to have you all in my life.  

I also want to acknowledge those of you who don't live nearby and are unable to visit Hailey, yet continue to send me emails, comments, Facebook messages, etc., of encouragement.  I literally read and save every single one and am touched over and over again by the support you all have shown me.  I hope and pray that no one close to me ever has to go through something like this, but I can promise each of you that if it ever were to happen, I will pay it forward and take just as good care of them as you all have of me.

Lastly, I want to thank all of my family and friends whom I visited during this trip for handling our loss with such dignity and respect.  Many of you I was seeing for the first time since Hailey passed away, however it was as if you were right here beside me this entire past year.  I know most of you continue to read my blog regularly so you're always aware of where I am in this process and how I'm feeling.  For that, I'm grateful.  I think it made it much easier and less awkward to see you all.

I have to say that the most difficult part of my trip was the last week.  We drove down and spent it with Sean's family.  I think it was the most difficult because I wanted Hailey's grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousins to be able to experience her. Many times I would just sit and watch Lexi and Ava playing with their cousins and just wonder where Hailey would have been in that mix.  What would she have been doing?  Who would she have bonded with and played with?  More realistically, who would she have yelled at and tormented! :)  I had several emotional breakdowns.

Sean's brother and sister-in-law have four adorable boys.  They are seriously the sweetest, nicest boys you could ever meet.  Their youngest, Sam, turned 3 while we were there.  I have to admit that it was extremely difficult to watch him because he was the same age as Hailey was when she passed away.  He talked and acted in a similar way to her and honestly, even looked a little like her.  There were times when I just wanted to scoop him up and hug him just to feel a child that size in my arms again.  However, amongst all the pain came an enormous blessing that I never could have anticipated.  Sam's 3rd birthday fell on the Saturday that we were there and Hailey's 4th birthday is coming up on July 20th.  My sister-in-law asked me if I would like to throw a joint birthday party for the two of them.  I was thrilled!  I knew it would be extremely emotional for me, however, I also knew what a precious experience it would be.  While Sean and I were visiting some friends, she took Lexi shopping and let her help plan the entire party.  Lexi was so excited and had a blast!  When we got back, she couldn't wait to show us what she did.  They decorated with Dora (one of Hailey's favorites), made a huge birthday poster, a plate of cupcakes for both Hailey and Sam, a bag of Lay's Potato Chips, party hats, balloons, goodie bags, and even a pinata.  I have to say though, that the most touching part of the entire party were the two special chairs they had for Sam and Hailey.  Sean's brother printed out an adorable picture of Hailey from her last birthday party and taped it onto her chair.  I couldn't believe how thoughtful they were.  They remembered everything!

The Birthday Party
(That other white chair was Sam's!)

We tried to get a family photo...
and yep, this is typical!

I'll admit that as they sang Happy Birthday to both of them, the tears flowed from my eyes.  I tried so hard to keep it together, but the pain was almost unbearable.  Yet beneath it all was that little glimmer of joy.  Joy for Hailey and the fact that she was remembered.  Joy for such compassionate family members who would include her at their son's birthday party.  Joy for Lexi and the pride in her eyes for this party she helped plan.  I could just see Hailey standing on that chair next to her little cousin, with the hugest smile on her face, yelling, "I'm here guys!  I'm here!  And I love it!"  The pain was was so raw, but the joy was there too.  The gratitude I feel toward my sister-in-law for including us in that birthday party is beyond words and something that I will never forget.

I have to say that's the most important thing I  learned from this trip.  Acknowledge it.  When around someone who you know is grieving...acknowledge it.  I know that it is extremely scary and you don't have a clue of what to say or know how they'll react.  I can say, however, from very personal experience that most people want you to acknowledge their loss and keep that person alive in your hearts and memories.  When in doubt, just ask.  Ask them how they're doing or if they would like to talk about their loved one.  All they have to do is say, "No," and then you'll know what to do from there.  Most likely though, I'll bet that they'll be so grateful that you remembered and acknowledged their loved one because I can promise you...they haven't forgotten for one second.  Even when they aren't talking about it, it's there on their mind every minute.  I have to admit that I could talk about Hailey all day, everyday.  I love talking about her and remembering her.  But, it's also scary for me because I don't want to be considered a "downer" or someone who can't stop talking about it.  So, honestly, as awkward as it is for those who are on the other side of the situation, I think it's just as awkward for us on this side.  (Again, just a reminder that I'm only speaking from my experience and perspective...I am well aware that there are some who don't like to talk about it...that's why it's so important to just ask.)

Well, this is getting quite long, so I'm just going to say that I'm so glad I survived and I'm even more glad to be home.  We went and visited Hailey the day we got home and her place was loved!  There were flowers, balloons, flags, stars, etc., all left by those who stopped by to visit her.  I love thinking that when people who don't know her walk by her spot, they'll think, "Wow, that little girl sure is loved and missed."

Hailey's Place when we returned!

She was so happy!

Thank you again to all of you who support me through whatever means you're able.  I honestly would not be where I am today without you.