Ashley's Story

She will leave fingerprints all over your heart


The first time I saw you I knew.  I knew before they ever told me that you were ours.  I remember stepping into the room and being drawn to you.  Just you.  Not the other two babies in the room...but you.  My heart swelled.  The love I felt for you overwhelmed my soul.  Never have I felt so sure of anything in my life.

  Sweet Ash, there were  no doubts.

  Not for a moment...

  I knew that God was good.

Living without you is crushing us all.  We are trying so very hard to stay together and yet I feel as though your absence is pulling us apart. Is God good?  As I watch us struggle day after day, each in our own ways, I've begun to wonder.

 Still deep inside of me I chant to myself...He is good...He is good...He is good.  Even though it doesn't feel as though He is good...He is good.  He has to be.

I don't feel His presence.

 I don't think He is here.

 I often wonder where has He gone?

 I lay awake at night and wonder where He is...

in those moments when I fail to feel as though He is with us I imagine that He is busy with you.  Silly huh?  I just hope that the reason I can't seem to find Him is because you are being so ornery, and so busy, and so all over the place that He has to spend His time chasing you, and listening to you talk...endlessly... I hope.

  I miss you sweet Ash.  I miss life with you.  I miss our home being filled with your laughter.  I miss your joy.  I miss how you smiled.  I miss how warm your little hands were in mine. I miss kissing your cheeks.  I miss tucking you in.

 Your rooms are empty without you in them.

 Our home is empty without you here.

 My heart is empty.

Tonight I'm wishing that I could whisper in your ear how very much that ... Daddy loves Ashley and Mommy loves Ashley and Blake loves Ashley and Allie loves Ashley and Jesus loves Ashley.

 Just once more.

I knew in the moment that He gave you to us that He was good...I'm trying to convince myself since the moments that He took you that He still is.

I love you sweet girl.  Tonight and every night for as long as I'm left here.



What do I say

I could write forever.

 Write a thousand words for a thousand days and still not say what it is my heart wants to say.

I don't write often, but its not for lack of thought.

I don't write much anymore because I don't believe that I can make anyone who reads these words understand.

And so...everyday I hear myself say,  "What do I say?"

What do I say now that she's gone?

Another child is being ushered into heaven tonight.  At least I hope thats how it works when our children die.

It seems so very wrong that our children spent everyday of their short lifes fighting to live.  What is so easy for most of us came at such a great cost for them.  Transplant life is miserable.  Not many happy endings...a few of course...just not many.  Not us anyway.   Eventually it catches up with our babies and we lose them.

  I'm struggling with assumptions,..struggling to truly believe that an example, a story, a recounting of someone's experience in God's word is to be assumed that it happens that way for all of us.  If so then why couldn't God have just said, "this is how it will be for all of you."???  I read over and over again how Lazarus was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom and I can only hope that my sweet Ash was carried too.  I've spent many a night tormented with thoughts of what if they didn't come for her and she was alone.  This is just one of the many thoughts I struggle with sharing here for fear that no one could ever understand how I can wonder such things.

My faith has been tested severely the past 16 months since Ashley Kate left this life.  Everything I believe, thought I was sure of, without a doubt would proclaim from the mountain tops, has been swirling around in my head and making sense of it all is not so easy to do anymore.  I think grief has an ugly way of causing doubt and confusion and it leaves us grasping to hang on to truths.  At least thats how it has affected me.

Its been 16 months since I held her and felt the weight of her body against my chest.  How can that be?  Dave shared with me just last night how very hard it is to grasp that this is really how life is going to be.  She is gone.  Not coming back to us.  Even now, 16 months later, we are still trying to accept that its over.  He ended our conversation with these words, " and so all I have left is the hope that we will one day see her again."  Its all there is.

I can't hear her anymore.  I don't know how to explain what I mean by that statement except to say that I lay in my bed at night and can no longer hear the memory of her giggle spilling down the hall.  Its gone now. I know its been gone for 16 months, but I used to be able to hear it.  Along with her pumps beeping and her crying out.  But now I can't remember it any more just by closing my eyes and concentrating on it.  The realization that it has left my memory has wrecked me.

I read that " in His presence there is fullness of joy".  The book and verse escape me now, but I did read it in the Bible not long after she left.  I've kept that close to my heart all these days as I can only imagine what that truly means.  Ashley Kate was joy.  The only example of it I have ever known in my life.  So to read that there is FULLNESS of joy in God's presence does comfort me as I try and imagine what she must feel now as she stands in His presence.  Oh how I hope she laughs.  How I hope that her voice spills out of her with laughter and giggles every day.  Please let her laugh.

What a mess it is to live on this side of eternity... away from your child.  My thoughts are consumed with how much longer, how many more hours, how many more days until we are all there. It hurts so much to know that we are finished parenting her.  To know that we will never again be known to her as her mom and dad.  I believe she will know us, but I do not believe that I will be her mommy once we are reunited.  Again, I can't explain that to you.  Its just what I believe.  8 years was not enough.  It went so fast.

It doesn't get any easier.  It never stops hurting.  We think of her daily.  We miss her desperately.  Never would I ask her to come back, to give up what she has now gained, but the longing in my heart to smell her hair, kiss her cheeks, hold her hands, has not gone away.

What do I say?  I don't say much.  I'm pretty quiet now.  My thoughts are consumed with her memory and my heart is forever broken.

Each day we go through the motions of this life, but never far from our thoughts and never out of our hearts is the emptiness that we were left with the moment she was taken from our lives.  Grieving doesnt end with the passage of time.  You move with it, breathe with it, live with it because you aren't given any other choice.  It becomes a part of you.  A part you hide deep inside your soul so that others can't see.  Its a deep, ugly, painful secret that sneaks up on you as you wash the dishes, drive down the street, walk through the grocery store, and lay your head down at night.  Tears fall silently down your face and no one knows why.  I found myself alone in the house last week, washing dishes, and with the falling of the water from the faucet my tears mingled in a puddled in the sink.  I whispered the words to the song I would sing as Ashley Kate lay there with her hair spilled over into my hands as I washed it each week.  I could see her there so clearly and my heart hurt so deeply,  Blake had come in during this time and I had no idea he was even there until I felt his strong arms wrap around me and heard him whisper that he loved me.  He let me cry.  Didn't try and stop me.  Just let me cry till I could cry no more.  Its not often that they see me fall apart.  Oh how I love these children.  Love how much they loved her.  Love how gentle they are with Dave and I as we struggle through such loss.

Blake and Allie are beautiful people.  They are these amazing young adults who were shaped by the life of a precious baby sister whom they loved deeply.  I see the impact she had on them almost every day.  They will live better, love deeper, and change their part of the world because God chose them to be her big brother and big sister.  She was such a gift to each one of us.

What do I say?

As another transplant child makes his way "home" tonight Heaven feels so very far away.  I pray God holds our children tight as our arms ache for them.  No more pain, or sadness, or fear for either of them.


Christmas 2014

Daddy and I stood together at "the happiest place on earth" this Christmas and tears poured from our eyes as the photographers took picture after picture for us.  Surrounded by thousands of strangers who were excitedly talking, laughing, and posing, it felt as though nothing else mattered in that moment but the huge hole in our hearts created by your absence.  More than once I found myself wishing you could see what I was seeing and then I would say to myself, "but oh my sweet girl you must be seeing SO MUCH MORE."  My hope is that its true and not just something I'm telling myself to survive the moments that feel as though I won't make it through.


Remembering "Loudly" this Christmas

This is a throwback to one of my very favorite holiday memories during Ashley Kate's beautiful life.  I found myself standing in front of this very spot one day last week and tears fell from my eyes as I remembered this interaction with Santa.  My heart is breaking as the Christmas season surrounds us and our baby gherkin is so very far from us.  The holiday will never be the same.  Our family will never be together again and for us thats all that ever mattered at Christmas time.  My heart hurts so deeply everyday and yet it is magnified even more this time of year.    

Christmas Volumes, December 13, 2010
One morning early last week Ashley Kate and I ventured out to run a few errands. It was still early and there weren't many people out and about. Most at work, kids obviously in school and so the mall crowd was pretty light. A safe time of day for us to drop in, pick up a couple of gifts and pop back out.

As we walked down the corridor I could see the large tree decorated in the center of the mall and Ashley spotted it too. She began to sign "tree, lights" and I was talking to her about how big the tree was and how high it went. As we got closer we could see the line that had just started to form. Little ones all dressed up and waiting with their eyes sparkling to see the man in the red suit. Like I said, it was early and he had yet to arrive.

We proceeded past the line and into Dillards. I grabbed the two items I needed and did a little bit of extra shopping while I was there. Ash had her dinosaur in hand, her little mask on her face, and two backpacks filled with bags of fluids and IV pumps. She was enjoying the music that was playing and "dancing her dinosaur" back and forth to the sounds of jingle bells. Just a good time for us both. We finished our shopping and went back out the way we had come in.

As we walked past the tree and around to the front of it we signed and talked a little more about the ornaments and the colors. We had no intentions of visiting with the "big guy" knowing that a wait in that line would not be in her best interest. So what happened next took me by surprise, but blessed my heart in such a way that I'm not so sure it wasn't the most precious Christmas memory I have ever experienced.

Apparently as we were looking at the Christmas tree Santa had arrived, settled himself into the large chair and was readying himself for a long day at work. The line began to get excited at his arrival and the photographers were handing out their price lists. Then I noticed the big guy getting back up out of his chair. He left his place and approached my sweet Ashley with a look of kindness across his face. He knelt down in front of her, reached his white gloved hand out and brushed it across her cheek. I could hear her giggle behind her mask. I was taken in by the look in his eyes. They were full of compassion, full of kindness, and it seemed maybe even full of understanding although I could have just imagined the latter. I can't deny that in that moment tears had formed in my eyes as I watched this silent interaction between the "star of the show" and my youngest daughter. There were no words exchanged between the two, but the conversation they were having with one another spoke volumes to the heart of this mommy. He didn't stay long, but he was there long enough to make an impression on my heart. It was a moment that I'm sure my sweet Ashley will have no memory of, but one that I will never forget. As he stood up to leave her he reached down and patted her dinosaur on its back and then patted her on top of her head. I was barely able to get the words out of my mouth, but I choked back the tears and whispered "Merry Christmas" to the gentle man and he nodded his head as he walked back to his place.

I've thought about this interaction with Santa Claus and Ashley a lot over the last few days. I can't quite put into words how very much it meant to me. His kindness was so loud. So loving. So precious. I can't help but think how very much he became the hands and feet of Jesus to us that day. Don't get me wrong. I don't think in anyway that Santa is there representing Christ to the world in that mall, but to me on that day he in some small way did. I could imagine Jesus doing that very same thing as he watched my sweet Ashley so unaware of who He is sitting on the outside of the line that was there forming to meet with Him. I could see him reaching out his hand to touch hers, to brush his fingers across her pink little cheeks and then acknowledging what He already knew was special to her by patting that well loved dino on the back before patting her on top of her head.

I'm not crazy, guys. Really I'm not. I just have this image of Jesus in my mind loving on my sweet girl through the touch of that little old man who chose to put on that well known red suit this year. He didn't have to speak, to say a word, to explain his intentions. His eyes were there speaking the words instead and the message was loud and clear. That simple act meant more to me than the old man will ever know, but Christ knows. He does. He knows what it took to even get her home to be in that mall that morning and He knows if this will be her last Christmas or just one of many more. He knows so much more than I do about her life span and where we are headed.

As I sit here in our family room this morning with my sweet baby girl asleep in her room I'm thinking once again about that interaction between the two and I'm feeling so blessed to have witnessed such kindness toward her. The fire is crackling, the sounds of "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas" play, and the candle's are filling the air with the smell of Christmas cookies. I don't have big plans for the day, just some laundry, bath room cleanings, and a little bit of gift wrapping. Its days like today, moments like the one I'm enjoying right now that mean more to me than anything. A day spent in our home, with our Ashley, at the holidays. I love my life. All the ups and downs. The pain and the joy. Its just so amazing to be her mommy. So amazing. I'm so grateful for today. I just thought I would share with you how "loud" this recent Christmas memory has been playing in my mind this morning. Hope you are just as blessed by it this season as I was. Take care my friends and Merry Christmas.


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One More Christmas

Our Last Christmas with you

If we could have one more Christmas...

One more Christmas with you.

We would do all the things you loved to do.

We would drive all night on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning too.

 We would take you to see the lights all over town and never slow down.

We would watch Frosty a thousand times plus one more.  

We would let you un wrap anything you wanted even if it wasn't yours.

We would let you open as many gifts as your little heart desired and I would never say , "Let's wait till it's Christmas day."

We would hold you close to our hearts and would never let go.

We would all pile into your bed and watch the lights twinkle overhead.

We would stay up as late as you wanted and never fall asleep.

We would take a thousand pictures.  Make a thousand memories that I could keep. 

We would laugh, and giggle, and play all day.

We would hang on so tight you would have to wiggle away.

We would make Christmas cards to send to all our friends.  With Blake and Allie and you in them.  

We would throw beach balls at the fan and toss your roosters up there too.  

We would memorize every single moment we had to spend with you.  

If we had one more Christmas to spend with you...

We would place you in the middle of these two and wait to see all the ornery things you'd do.

Christmas isn't really Christmas without you.

We love you.  We miss you.  We wish we could have one more Christmas with you..

I so desperately want to whisper to you that...Daddy loves Ashley... and Mommy loves Ashley... and Blake loves Ashley...and Allie loves Ashley... and Jesus loves Ashley...just one more time.


Sweet Ash

I'm missing you tonight.  

I wish I could have tucked you in... Hung your IV's and TPN...  Put you in your jammies...Taken down your hair...Rubbed lotion on your feet...Gotten you a drink...Covered you with warm blankets...Kissed you on your cheeks...Made rooster sounds in your ear...Read Goodnight Moon for the thousandth time... 

I wish I had another night to sit next to your you sleep...listen to you breathe...cry and plead and beg on your behalf...  

I hope you smiled today.  I hope you got to play.  I hope you walked and ran.  I hope you used your voice.  To tell your story.  

Sweet Ash, your mom loves you today...tomorrow...and forever.


I miss you

I miss you so much.  So much so that the pain of your absence silences me even though I want to scream.  I miss all of you.  Every bit.  Every single part.  It hurts so much to live this life when you are no longer a part of it.  The rain is falling again today and I find myself standing in it.  Allowing it to wash memories of you all over me.  It mingles with my tears as they fall from my eyes.

I'm struggling.  Every day seems to get harder.  I open my eyes and thoughts of you flood my soul.  I lay down at night and memories of you keep me from falling asleep.  My dreams are filled with haunting memories of your last days, your last moments, your final breath.  I scream so loud in my sleep that no sounds escape my lips.  Its one long nightmare that I can't get out of.

I'm so different now.  I'm no longer the same.  I was my best self with you here and I can see that I am just a shell of that person without you here.  What was this all about?  I can't figure it out.  I wouldn't ask you to leave the place you are now for anything.  I could never be that selfish, but if I could have found a way to help you stay here I would have.  I'm so very sorry we lost you.  I know you trusted us.  I know you believed we would keep you safe.  I did too.  I'm so very disappointed in who we are and what we were unable to do.

I miss you Ash.  More every moment that you are gone. You've been gone from us for 14 months.  How can that be?   My hope is that some day this life will end and when it does that we will be united once again.  No more tears.  No more sadness.  No more longing. I'm trying to convince myself of this.   Until then I will keep fighting my way to the end of each day knowing that it brings me one day closer to you.

I love you sweet girl.  More than you could have ever known.