Ashley's Story

She will leave fingerprints all over your heart


It would have been...

...her 12th birthday today.

We haven't seen her face since just after her 8th.  How can that even be true? Time doesn't seem to work the way it used to.  It feels like its been forever, and yet it feels like it was just yesterday that we celebrated her 8 years of life.  I can't make sense of it.  Any of it.

Its become tradition over the last 4 birthdays for us to spend this day performing random acts of kindness around our community in celebration of the life that Ashley Kate lived.  She lived a beautiful life.  So full of joy.  Still it stretches us to our emotional limits to put ourselves out there on this day, and even though we experienced great joy today in sharing with those we came in contact with the tears still flowed.  Tonight I sit here in our home with pounding head and heart from the range of emotions we experienced throughout the day.

I wish I could share that time heals and things get easier as the years pass, but the truth is that it hurts. It still hurts. The hurting doesn't go away.  The tears don't dry up.  The empty place that is left inside of your heart when your child loses her battle in this life does not fill itself back up.  It just doesn't.  Standing in the middle of a cemetery on the date that you celebrate the life of your little girl will never feel normal.

I share all of that because that is truth.  It is the reality of living without her here with us.

But...we know we were blessed.  We are still blessed.  Our family was given a gift August 4, 2005 when that tiny 2lb bundle of baby girl took her first breath in this world.  She left us with beautiful memories that flood over our hearts on a daily basis.  We have hurts, but we also have joy  We have joy because she taught us to feel joy.

Ashley Kate, you beautiful soul, your mommy and daddy love you so very much.  We miss you.  We wish we could see who you would have been at 12 years old.   I can't imagine what your day held. I hope that it was filled with joy and laughter. Being in the presence of Jesus is so much more than what we could have given to you on this special day.  Happy 12th Birthday to you our sweet, sweet girl.

You are and will always be...Forever loved...forever missed...forever eight.


Christmas Day

Christmas Morning with her Daddy and that ugly, orange dinosaur she just needed to have. One of our very favorite snapshots of Ashley Kate.  Her beauty radiates from this image.  Oh sweet girl, you are missed.  

We have now been separated from our sweet Ashley Kate for 4 Christmas mornings.  Each one as difficult as the first.  I have now spent 4 holiday seasons standing in a cemetery.  There are no words for how hard that is at Christmas.

It seems as though I've watched the Father collect so many of our children and take them unto Himself over these last three years.  Each time I hear of yet another mother enduring the unthinkable my heart breaks a little more.  Death has robbed so many of us of so many moments with our little ones.

As I sat through this Christmas Day choking on my tears as the memories of Ash flooded over me, I thought of all of those mothers who were waking up this morning to spend their first Christmas Day without their child.  Oh how my heart aches for them...for me... for all of us.  Christmas just isn't Christmas anymore...not once you've walked away and left your most precious of gifts in the ground. Precious mother, I feel your pain today.  I cry for your loss.  Your longing.  Your wanting to wish it all back to the way it once was when sleepy eyes woke with wonder, and stockings hung from the mantle with sweet surprises just waiting to be discovered.  How I wish I could spare you from the loss you will be feeling today.

It is so very hard for those around us to understand.  So hard for them to see past the painted smile, and the forced effort to be present as the celebration of this day unfolded before us.  I wish I could make them see, let them be one of us for just a moment, but yet I would never wish the pain of such loss on another even if only for a short moment.

Today I found my heart searching for understanding...seeking a peace in knowing that our beautiful Ashley sat near the feet of Jesus and not on the lap of Santa for another year.   Oh the JOY she must have felt this Christmas morning as all of heaven sang Holy, Holy Holy round His throne.  As much as I missed her much as I wanted to give to much as I wanted to hold her close to me...I understand that all of that CAN NOT compare to what Jesus has given, and shown, and bestowed upon my precious girl this day.  She has seen Him face to face.  She has walked along beside Him.  She has touched His face.  She has seen the very face of God!  I can't even comprehend.  
As I long to have her here with me this Christmas day and every other day I am trying so very hard to bring my heart back to these thoughts.  These things that I know to be true.  He loves her.  Although it makes no sense to me how He could love her more than I do, I believe that He does.  He must.

Merry Christmas Ashley Kate.  Your mommy missed you today.  Your daddy longed to hold you on his lap as you peeked into your stocking.  We thought of you.  We remembered your wonder. We smiled as we shared memories of your Christmas mornings spent with us.  We smiled, we cried, we celebrated.  Your stocking still hung although we knew you would not be here.  We anxiously await to be where you are.  Until then we will keep seeking, searching, and serving.


How long has it been

How long has it been since we last touched your face?

How long has it been since we last kissed your cheeks?

How long has it been since we last brushed your hair?

How long has it been since we last rocked you to sleep?

How long has it been since we last saw your smile?

How long has it been since we last heard you laugh?

How long has it been since we last told you how much you were loved?

How long has it been since we last checked on you in your sleep?

How long has it been, precious Ash, since you left for Heaven?

How long has it been since we began longing for this life to end?

How long has it been since Heaven became sweeter?

How long has it been since Jesus became more real?

The passing of days in this life does not heal a heart that has been broken by grief.  The counting of time is a reminder of not only how long it has been since we have had you here with us, but it is also a reminder of how many days closer we are to being with you again.

Its been 1,095 days since you left for Heaven.  My heart has ached for all 1,095 of those days, and yet it has also rejoiced for you.  You have been with Jesus now for every one of those days, and I know there are no words in this life that can describe the sights that have you seen.  Precious girl, we rejoice for you that you have finished your race.  Still my tears fall freely, and my heart hurts daily because I miss you so very much.  The belief of Heaven does not end the suffering of a broken heart.  But oh to know that you no longer suffer the pain of a body that did not work is enough for this mommy's heart to rejoice for YOU!  Tears do not fall from your eyes anymore.  That is a comfort for me.  

How long has it been since I last saw you?

I see you everyday sweet girl. I see you in my memories.  I see you asleep in your bed when I walk into your room.  I see you playing with your toys when I peek into the playroom.  I see you sitting on your "perch" in our foyer as I glance over that way. I see you sitting in the big chair that you loved so much.  I see you scooting across the floor on your way down the hall.  I see you here, around me, in the memories I have stored up for this life.  One day I will see you again...face to face...but for now I see you in all the places where you used to be.

1,095 days closer.  We are 1,095 days closer to seeing you there.  Don't give up on us sweet girl.  We are stumbling, and struggling, and scratching our way through each day, but we are surviving them.  We will one day all be together again.  Its the only way we are making it without you here.  Knowing that we will see you again some day.

You are forever loved... forever missed...forever 8.


Celebrating You

Sweet Ash,

 Its August again...August 4th...what should be your eleventh birthday...and yet...your not here.

 Not anymore.

 Still we wanted to celebrate you.

 Your life...who you you lived...and all that you accomplished in your short 8 years in this place.  How do we celebrate when our hearts are still shattered from your absence?  How do we celebrate when we can no longer touch you, or hold you, or kiss your cheeks?  Its been so difficult to be separated from you today.  So painful to not see your smile, hear your giggles, and watch your eyes twinkle. I've longed to know you at this age. Who would you be? How beautiful? I hope we honored your memory well today.  I hope we brought glory to the Father with our attempts today.  Our focus was to spread JOY to those around us in celebration of you. Little acts of kindness in memory of the little girl who forever changed us.

Early this morning Daddy and I took a balloon to your memorial.  To the place that we go when our hearts are longing to be close to you.  I tied a single pink balloon around "your" wrist and watched the breeze cause it to slowly sway above your head.  I desperately wanted to be somewhere else with you.   Anywhere else but that place.  I wanted to run to where you where you really are.  I know your soul is not here,  I know its not there because I watched it leave your body as you left for Heaven, I felt your last breath escape your broken body and I kissed your cheeks a thousand times when it did.   But this is the last place I saw your tiny face and so,,,its the place I go.  Its all we have for now,  Its the only place we can go to "see" you.

I've cried a million tears since that moment you left, and I know I'll cry a million more.  My heart broke into a million pieces that morning, and I still find myself trying to pick the pile of it up off the floor. Ive struggled to breathe more days than not.  I've spent so many sleepless nights without you here, desperately trying to remember every feature of your face. You were so, so beautiful and I intentionally tried to make a forever memory of you so I would have it if the day ever came that you were no longer here.

Precious girl of mine I will cry a million more tears but take great peace in knowing that tears no longer escape from your eyes.  I'll pick up the pieces of my broken heart a million times over knowing that your heart will never break again.  I'll fight for each breath and take that on willingly  because I know you will never have to labor for another.  I'll give up a peaceful nights sleep for as many nights as I'm left here because I know you now know perfect peace.  There are no more sleepless nights for you to suffer through.  My pain is great, but yours is no more.  For that I am so thankful.  Your pain is gone, your tears are dry, your heart doesn't hurt, your labored breaths have ceased and you live in perfect peace.  For every moment of eternity you now have peace.  If I had to choose between the pain I feel since you left or the pain you were forced to endure then I choose me a million times over so that your struggle could come to an end.

But I miss you desperately.



Everyday until my life ends.

 You are so loved.  Still so very loved.  Forever loved...Forever missed...Forever eight.

Happy Birthday sweet girl.  How I wish I could tell you face to face.


Christmas Time...Again

Missing the moments like this one tonight.
Precious memories.

Its Christmas time


and your not here.

  Its the third Christmas we've spent without you home here with us. How can that be?  I still look for you everyday...I'm still trying to wake from this horrible dream... I still catch myself checking your room as I walk by to see if your resting peacefully.  How can we be celebrating our third Christmas without you already?  It doesn't seem possible.

 My heart aches for you tonight, and I wonder how precious would you be as I tucked you into your bed this Christmas Eve.  At ten years old would your eyes still twinkle and would your giggle still spill out all over us if we could of kissed your sweet face tonight? As I sit by the tree Daddy is asleep next to me on the couch, and the tears are falling from my eyes making the glow of its lights blurry.  More than anything this Christmas I wish I could give him another day with you.  Nothing we want can be purchased and wrapped up to place under the tree, because all we want is to have another moment with you.  Just a minute, another memory, a moment in time to touch you, hold you, and love on you.  If only it was within my reach to give that to him.  Its all he wants.  Its all any of us want.

Sweet Ash, it hurts so very much to be away from you on Christmas Day.

Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas anymore.

We've surrounded ourselves with the memories of Christmas' past and the images brought to mind bring joy to our hearts.  Remembering the times we spent together with you and your brother and sister heal our hurts even if only a little.  We were so blessed to parent the three of you together.  There was joy and laughter in our home.  Our hearts are comforted by the knowledge  that you were loved and you knew it.  You were happy and you showed it.  You laughed and you shared it.   You lived.  Truly lived.

I miss you everyday, but especially today...this Christmas Eve...this night it hurts...deeply.

Merry Christmas Ashley Kate, you are missed, you are loved, you are and forever will be close to our hearts.

  I love you sweet girl, Mommy.


Ashley's Room

Its been such a long time coming.

 Such a journey to get to this place...this place where I ready to step out in faith and share with the world and with all of you what has been brewing in my heart.

 I'm nervous...a little afraid...and a lot excited.

 Still I think we are ready...

ready to tell you about...

 Please take a moment to go over to our new website at and look around. Its taken us months to design it, to have the image of her drawn, and to get everything just right, but we are pleased with the final results.  An artist in Malaysia took the image we provided of her and brought our sweet Ash's character illustration to life.  When I look at it I see her.  The big bow reminds me of our beautiful Ash with her long, dark hair.  I can see her in the image, and I hear her laughter spilling out of that big smile.  It makes me feel happy when I look at it, and I haven't felt happy in such a long time.

I have struggled for so long trying to decide what I wanted to do in her memory, and how I wanted to get it done.  I had so many ideas and yet this little idea just never went away.  I came back to it time and time again.  Something about it, about the Pillow Pets, and about the way I felt when I thought of how much comfort they brought to our Ash especially in the final months of her life made me choose this above all else.  

I am working diligently out of Ashley's Room these days.  Overcoming the sting of its emptiness as it fills up with Pillow Pets.  I giggle to myself wondering what she would think if she could see it now. Most days I work with tear stained cheeks.  My mind filled with her memory. My heart desperately searching for a way to make a difference.  I am reminded so often of the little things that meant so very much to me in the days, weeks, and months of those long hospital stays.  The little things that made the biggest difference in our days.  Its those memories that drive me to use something as simple as a Pillow Pet with a tag attached to it that comes from her room to share with a hurting family that they were thought of, prayed for, and remembered today.  Nothing that will change the world, but maybe just a little something that will change a small moment in the world their critically ill child is living in. Its not much, but my hope is that it may be a blessing.  

Selfishly it helps my broken heart to know that somewhere, someone will read that little tag we have attached and say her name will be read, perhaps even spoken aloud...and that as silly as it may seem comforts me.  Just knowing she will be remembered helps.  

Already we've been so blessed through Ashley's Room.  I stood in line with two baskets full of pets one day and a total stranger asked me who they were for.  I briefly stated I was purchasing them in memory of my daughter for children who were in the hospital and she insisted on paying for one of the baskets.  

Tears slipped from my eyes.  Blessed...  Comforted... the act of a stranger.

My mom sent me a text along with a photo of a pile of Pillow Pets she had purchased on Ashley Kate's birthday in her memory.  Again...tears flowed.  No one had ever done anything for her birthday since she left and that simple act in her memory blessed and comforted and humbled me. 

This morning we received our very first request to host a Pillow Pet Drive in her memory.  I am so  blessed.  So humbled.  So excited. 

So although its taken a while to get it right, we have finally done it and now we are ready to share with all of you a little bit about our precious Ashley's Room.  Its a beautiful place.  



Its August Again

Its August again...

I woke to the sounds of the rain.

 A storm moved quickly through.

 The sounds of the wind and the rain outside my window were an echo of the many emotions I've felt in my heart all month.  I lay there listening and the tears in my eyes began to slide down my cheeks.

In those first few moments that I find myself awake each morning my heart skips a beat, and my mind plays quick tricks on me.  Then the realization that she's not really here floods over me and those tears, all too familiar to my pillow, reappear and begin to fall...again.

I fight the urge to come here...daily.  I say a thousand things, share a thousand thoughts, heartaches and memories with myself in my mind every single day.  Things I feel drawn to come to this place and spill out on this screen, but then don't.  I wish I could explain why, but I can't.

As the anniversary of Ashley Kate's death approaches I find myself battling with the loss, the emptiness, and the loneliness of living without her.   The month of August is a long, miserable, painful walk among all of the lasts we experienced with her. She had a beautiful life, but the last 29 days of it were so painful.  The last 13 even more so.  Her body was broken and the memory of those days hurt.   That is the simple truth of all of hurts... it still will always hurt.

I struggle with all the decisions, choices, what ifs, and onlys...I'm constantly battling them all.  Forgiving others has never been a difficult task...forgiving myself has been impossible.  It was such a confusing time.  There were no easy answers.  No solutions.  No directions.

I find myself staring, longing for what other mothers have.  Little girls bring a rush of joy and a flood of pain in a mixed up bundle of emotion.  Its so hard not to want what those around me have.  I still want our daughter.  I want to hold her.  Touch her.  Kiss her.  I'm jealous?  I think?  Not sure if thats the right word to describe what rises up in me as I catch a glimpse of an 8-10 year old in the store, at dinner, or on a playground.  I find myself smiling, and staring, and wiping the silent tears that have slipped from my eyes onto my cheeks as I stand frozen in the aisle of Hobby Lobby, or at our table in Chick Fil A.  Its so hard to explain.

A dear friend shared with me this morning that she took her daughter to Ashley's mausoleum. I've never shared where she lay with anyone that I can remember.  I've been waiting for her memorial piece to be completed and placed. I don't know of anyone who has ever stood in that precious space other than the four of us, but oh how precious to know that they took the time to go and to remember our sweet Ashley Kate.  My heart is overwhelmed.

Most people in our lives don't know and haven't known what to say.  Its ok, because I don't know what to say to them either.  We've lost our community, the places we belonged, since we lost her.  One of the most difficult parts of losing a child is not feeling like you belong where you once did.  Of all the many people we once considered our friends in the transplant world, those we've learned so much from...we are no longer a part of their lives or they ours.  We've become their worst nightmare, and I can imagine how frightening we must be to them.    Four days shy of two years since her passing and I can count on one hand those who have weathered the storm along side us.  Two who survived all  the many days that we needed to be silent, the days we needed to scream, the days where the tears fell seemingly without end, and the days were numbness was the only work I could use to describe to them how I felt.  They stuck it out and still do.  They loved her enough and loved us enough to just accept where we were at any given moment.  Whether it be ugly or whether it be beautiful.  I am FOREVER grateful to them for hanging in there.  For loving us all enough to hang on because they felt it was valuable enough to endure all of the awful in hopes of being near us when we remember the beautiful. Thank you so very much for allowing us to hurt.   For not telling us to move on...or that it was time to get over it...or to stop grieving.  Thank you so very much for your willingness to keep keep keep texting.. and to keep showing up.

When the occasional letter or email or text comes through it so blesses our hearts.  Some of those who faithfully loved, and prayed, and followed throughout Ashley Kate's life will still share with us that they were reminded of her, thought of her, or miss her.  Priceless are those moments when I discover their words.  Tears fall, my heart is overwhelmed, and I am reminded that she made a difference in this world. I'm reminded she was here for a bigger purpose and  He must have seen that it was fulfilled and then He took her her eternal home.

Its August again and its a struggle.