Ashley's Story

She will leave fingerprints all over your heart


Not Ready

I'm not ready for this.

I wasn't ready for her to leave.

I wasn't ready to be left her without her.

We weren't ready to stop being her mom and dad.

 Not ready to be finished parenting her...  Loving her...  Caring for her.

We are weeks away from her 9th birthday and I'm not ready.  I don't know how to do this.

 I'm struggling tonight as I search for words.  The right words.  My final words to her.  The last thing I will ever be allowed to do "for" her.  I've been given 21 letters.  How do I say what needs to be said in only 21 letters?

I've searched my writings, her books, her movies...all the things she loved...I can't find anything that is "Ashley" and this HAS to be "so Ashley".   It has to say something that will be fitting for the amazing life that was laid to rest behind the stone in which these words will be forever engraved.  It has to mean something because she meant something.

Everything about this task feels so very wrong.  How can this be right?   Why am I searching for a brief 21 letters to memorialize her life instead of planning her birthday party?  Why?  Its not ok.  Its not.

We have been left so confused, so hurt, and so lost.  I KNEW with every part of me that God gave her to us and asked us to parent her.  I have NO idea what He plans for us to do without her.  NONE.  It is such a lonely, isolating, miserable place to be in.

I'm not ready for this.  This final piece of laying her to rest.  Once the words have been chosen, they will be engraved, and her beautiful, precious, body that I long to hold just one more time will be moved to its final resting place.  I'm feeling the pressure to complete this and yet I'm not ready.

I can't do this.  I want to wake up and have our life back.  The life that we lived with the most beautiful girl in the world playing down the hall.  The life that was filled her laughter, her smile, and her joy.  The life that was amazing and meaningful and so full of Ashley.

We just weren't ready for this life.  The one we have been forced to live without her in it.



There are moments where I struggle so intently to see her face, to smell her hair, or to kiss her cheeks.  I long to see her again.  To hold her. To love her.  I know she was really, really here for a moment, but the number of days since I last touched my beautiful baby keep adding up and I'm trying so very hard to keep telling myself that she was really here.  She was.  She was real.  She was happy,  She was beautiful. She was loved.  All I have to convince myself of those things is the pain I feel from her absence, the tears that flood my eyes, and the photographs that we took.

Oh how I miss this sweet girl and her dinosaurs.  She was the most beautiful little girl and she loved the ugliest of things!  I loved that about her.  Dinosaurs, bugs, lizards, roosters, cars, and myth busters.  None of it made sense to me, but its who she was.  I would give anything to see her sign any of the above just one more time.

I'm desperate to see her again.  Absolutely desperate.  My heart is so broken.  It hurts so very much.


I miss her most...

... When its raining or...

 When I'm at home or...

 When I'm headed out the door or...

  When I pull back into the drive or...

 When I open up the front door or...

 When I sit still or...

 When I'm running around or...

When I lay down.

I miss her most...every minute of the day.  It just seems that those rainy days hurt a little more, sting a little deeper, and last a little longer.

Its those rainy days that the tears fall from my eyes in a never ending fashion and I am sad and melancholy and lonely without my girl and her constant requests to go outside in the rain.  I miss seeing her tiny hands sign "rain" and I miss hearing her giggle as it falls onto her skin.

I feel as though I've been trapped running this never ending marathon of sorts.  I can't seem to make it to the finish line.  I've spent the better part of 9 months busying myself with event planning and today as I finish loading the boxes for the last event on my calendar I find myself glad that its come to an end.  I thought I needed things on the calendar to force myself to get up each day and in a way I did, but I find that I'm exhausted.  I'm really exhausted because being busy in the middle of this nightmare has forced me to move, but it has also forced me to keep putting myself in situations that I don't desire to be in anymore.  So I'm glad to be finishing the last of 6 and I don't plan on taking on another.  The joy of event planning is no longer there since those events are not being planned to celebrate the life of my sweet Ashley Kate.  Its merely a task that I feel I have to complete.  I don't want to do it anymore.  I don't know what I want anymore.

Tomorrow morning I will leave home with Blake for the last summer we will ever spend traveling together. He will be wearing the number 8 on his jersey this season in memory of his baby sister that will be forever 8 years old.   Its bitter and sweet.  Bitter because I know what I lost last summer while I was on the road with him and knowing I can never get it back hurts more than words can share.  Sweet because I get another chance to spend day after day with this amazing kid I got to parent.  I know the summer seasons will never again be the same once he moves to school and so I'm going to try so very hard to contain my sorrow and my grief and my tears and just enjoy watching him play.  Play the game that he loves so much.  I'm so proud of him.  I see him walk into a room and I'm just so in awe of who he has become.  I see him take the field and I'm overcome with admiration for the countless hours and sacrifice I know he's given to the sport.  I visit with him about his future and I hold my breath as I listen to him plan and dream.  He such a great guy.

I can't believe we are where we are.   Ashley Kate has gone on to Heaven, Allison Brooke has gotten her license and independence, and Blake has graduated High School and will be moving out just two weeks after we make it in off the road.  I never imagined I would find myself in this place.

I miss her.  I miss her then tomorrow...and the next and the next.


When Pillow Pets make you cry...

and giant metal roosters cause you to catch your breath...

and the empty seat in the rear view mirror becomes fuzzy from the tears that are falling...

and the silence from her rooms is so loud that I can't complete a thought...

I've learned that this is what it means to be my world...without our girl...this is true loneliness.

There is such a struggle in every day.  A fight to get to the end of another one without her.  With every change of the date, one month into two then three, four, we enter into the 9th without our sweet Ash and it hurts as much today as it did that very day.  With every passage of time it pains me when I realize everyone moved on.  Occasionally I'll hear from someone, somewhere who thought of her that day and the comfort that brings to this mommy's longing heart is truly indescribable.

Two days into the school year we lost her and now here we are in the final week, graduation on Friday, and the summer tournament season a week from today and I can't explain how we got here.  Without her.  I can't.  I just keep waking up each morning wondering if today will be the day we will see her once again.  They will be moving her soon.  After graduation.  I thought that was kind of them to wait.  It angers me that she will be moved, but its out of our control.  Her space is complete and the move will take place.  I don't know how we will get through that day.  I truly don't.

I missed my turn the other day and ended up there.  Seeing the completion of her space wrecked me.  I arrived at my destination sobbing, shaking, and tear stained.  I cried so hard in the arms of our photographer I knew I would be sick.  Again.  I can't explain why or when or predict any of my emotions.  They just flood over me.  It almost always ends with anger.  I'm not the same person I was.  I'm sad and broken and quiet and angry.  So angry.  The struggle to figure out how to live this new life of ours is exhausting.

I rarely ever speak to anyone we were once close to.  Its just too hard.  Too hard to face the people who watched us try so very hard to love her, and save her and keep her safe.  I'm just so ashamed.  So sorry.  So sad that we couldn't help her. They don't understand and I know that they don't.  I'm glad that they don't have to.  Being quiet is the best I can do.  I can't explain to my family or to those who were once our friends what happened.  All I know is that what we thought to be months ended up being days. Days.   Just a few days... and then she was gone.  I tried so hard.  I loved her more than description.  How I wish I could change what happened.  Go back and see with clear eyes what was happening.  We were just so shocked the morning she left.  So unprepared to say goodbye.

Faith is hard.  It is.  If anyone ever tells you that its not then they are lying to you.  Knowing and believing that she is with God does not make any of the pain go away.  It doesn't fill your empty arms or heal your shattered heart.  Faith is faith.  We still believe in who Jesus is.  We still know where our salvation comes from.  But...get past that and we are so confused.  Our belief in who God is and how He is involved in our daily lives is changing.  That's honesty.   Its the best I can do.  Dave and I struggle to come to grips with the way our daughter died.  The pain.  The suffering.  The horror of it all.  She could have been spared. She could have been taken by Him without all the struggle.   I believe God was able to do that. He didn't, but I know He could have.  I'll never understand why He didn't.   I know He alone holds the power of life and death and that I can't argue with.  I won't even try...but make me understand how her death...  I can't.  I'm not afraid to admit how angry I am over the way she died.  He knows my heart so lying to myself or the world would be ridiculous.

I wanted to live her life without regret.  We tried so hard to make it count.  Every day.  Unfortunately I don't believe we achieved what we set out to do.  I regret trusting and believing that there was more time.  I gave up so many days of her last few months because I truly believe I needed to invest in my older children because Ash would be so ill during this school year that I would be missing so much of their lives.  I was wrong.  I was so wrong.  I made the wrong choice and I regret it.  Had I known we would lose her so quickly I would have never stepped out of this house.  I would have spent every moment with her and the loss of that time haunts me.  It will forever haunt me.

The last time I held her I had NO idea it was going to be the last time.  At 4 am I heard her tiny hand patting the rails of her bed.  I sat up to check on her, talk to her, and see what she needed.  She signed sit up, hold me...and so I did.  I sat her up on the edge of her bed and got on my knees as she leaned her body into my chest.  I wrapped my arms around her and slowly rocked back and forth.  I told her how very much I loved her and how proud I was of her.  I had no idea why I was saying to her the things that were coming out of my mouth, but I said them anyway.  "Your doing a good job, Ash.  A great, great job.  You are so brave and so beautiful.  I'm so proud of you."  She reached her hand behind her and patted the mattress to tell me she needed to lay back down.  I laid her there and propped her elbows and hands, hips and knees on her pillow pets...

Pillow pets make me cry...when I see hers, when I'm walking through a store and see one I know she would have loved, when I see a child clinging to one at a ballgame...pillow pets make me cry and they remind me of a beautiful, precious, baby girl who loved them so very much.


You Just Don't Know

I'm going to speak truth today.  It was the promise I made to myself in the beginning of this story and I'll hold myself accountable to keep that promise.

You just don't know.


I'm SO grateful that you don't.  SO VERY grateful.

If you did not live inside this home with her then you just can't know how it feels to live here without her.  If you did not live with the sounds of her laughter, her play, her music, her movies, her toys, her very breath as she slept, then you just don't know the magnitude of the loss.  You can't know.  The silence is SO loud.  I sit in it daily and it makes me want to scream.  Scream out, audibly, angrily, loudly into the space that she once filled and no longer does.

Ashley Kate filled our home.  She filled our hearts.  She filled our lives.  She filled us so full she spilled out all over everything we touched.  She was that amazing.  That full of joy.  That breathtaking.  Her beauty overwhelmed my soul.  She humbled me and blessed me and made me grateful for everything in my life.  Losing her is devastating.  Truly the loss is so very deep I cannot describe it.  So painful I cannot put into words the struggle we all feel as we manage to make it through everyday.  You just don't know.

I've want to move this blog into a private forum.  I want to take it back from the few who use it in a manner it was not intended.  To take it away from the ugly people who think they have a right to spew their thoughts about our family and our grief and our precious baby whom we lost.  I want to take it back from those who have disappeared from our lives because we don't grieve in the manner they think we should.  I want to take it back from the one who so viciously attacked us on the very night our daughter lay next to me dying as I stumbled upon the words.  I knew the very next morning that once it became public knowledge that Ashley Kate had been lost that that person would rejoice in our pain and in her struggle.  What a horrible thought to have to struggle with as we made the decision to let others know she was gone.

I'll say again what I said last week.  Mothers Day sucks.  For anyone who has ever lost a child it is a horrible, awful reminder thrown in your face of all that is lost.  There is no "happy".  There is grief.  Thank you to those of you who realize what pain it is for a parent who has lost.  Thank you for your prayers and your encouragement.  Thank you for remembering how painful it was going to be in our house.  Thank you to my precious husband who knew what he wanted to convey and his awareness of not saying "Happy Mother's Day" because it wasn't going to be a happy day.  I grieve for him knowing how very painful Father's Day will be for him.  I dread the loss he will feel and how it will be magnified because the whole world will be screaming "Happy Father's Day" in his face.  I say all of this because I know it to be true.

 I'm also going to say this...

Struggling our way through these holidays does not make us less parents to our other two children.  We love them just as fiercely as we loved Ashley Kate.  They KNOW they are loved.  They KNOW we value them.  They KNOW they are our priority.  STILL our priority even as we battle our way through the loss of their baby sister.  We have been and daily continue to be at every single event in their lives.  Blake and Allison are amazing people and that didn't happen by accident.  It was by the grace of God, the loving of their little sister, and the daily involvement of their parents.  Don't pass judgement on us about how we parent the remaining children we have.  You just DON'T KNOW who we are and everything that we are doing in the middle of our loss.

Please don't pretend to.

My flesh wants to call you out publicly.  My flesh wants to scream out at you . My flesh wants to fight back.  I'm trying to show grace.  I'm trying to let you know how clueless you are with your words without hurting you as much as you have hurt me.

My apologies to the many, many people who will read this that have only ever loved on our baby and our family.  You have been and have continued to be a source of strength for all of us.  You are loved and appreciated.  More than you will ever know.


Its Thursday

Its raining

Shes gone

The cocktail of all three is more than I can swallow.

I've learned I have three emotions.  I wake up feeling one of the three.  I've felt one of the three every single day since she left.  Sometimes I feel all three in one day.  Sometimes I struggle with one of them for several days in a row before I wake with one of the others.

I'm angry

I'm sad

or I'm numb

I could write a thousand words about a thousand moments I've spent struggling since she left us and fill a thousand pages with those wouldn't help though.

So instead of writing my thousand words about those thousand moments I sit and stare and let them swirl around in my head while the tears fill my eyes and spill out on my face.

I was her mom.  Its all I wanted to be for the rest of my life.  Instead of getting to be that I get to be here for the rest of my life without her.

 It sucks.

 Mother's day sucks.

Every day without her sucks.

Its Thursday and its raining and shes gone...the combination of the three make me angry and sad and numb all at the same time.


What we should have felt...

...was hope.

What I expected to feel...

was hope.

We lay awake in the early morning hours, silently, knowing the other was awake...still...there were no words spoken for quite a while.

"I didn't expect to feel such pain today."

That's what he said to me...the tears fell from my eyes and covered my pillow.  It was an overwhelming, heavy, suffocating pain that enveloped us both.

I hesitated to even try to put anything into words, but to be honest I didn't expect the pain of her absence to come over us the very moment our eyes opened this Easter morning.

Hope is what I thought this holiday would bring to our exhausted, broken, shattered hearts.  It did not.

We went through the day struggling.  We cried.  We hurt.  We were silent.  We were angry.  We were confused by it all.  Still are.

The letters H O P E hang on the wall in her play room.  I can't tell you how many times I have felt like ripping them down off that wall in the last 8 months.  There was a moment as she lay in her hospital bed underneath those stupid letters that spell that stupid word and I knew, it came so violently to me, and I knew there was no more hope.  We were no longer hopeful that she would recover.  I have resented those letters and that word and what it once represented in our life for so long.  Its ridiculous, I know, but its the truth.

Then Easter came.

 Our first one without her.

  For some stupid reason I had convinced myself that I would feel comforted and hopeful knowing that because of His resurrection I would one day see my sweet Ash again.  I could not have been more wrong. We felt devastated.  We did.  We felt betrayed and broken and destroyed.  What should have brought comfort to our aching souls only seemed to hurt all the more.  I don't get it.  I've spent this week trying to understand why it hurt us so deeply to endure this holiday without her here.  I know in my heart where she is and that her celebration was more than I could ever comprehend.  Still my soul, the deepest part of who I am, is screaming.  It is.  I wish it weren't, but it is.  Still.

We did not feel what we thought we should have felt.  It gets harder every day.  Don't be fooled when people tell you that it will get easier.  It will not.  It does not.