Ashley's Story

She will leave fingerprints all over your heart



"Perched " here along with a few of her dinosaurs. 

It was a hard weekend for us.  We worked on transferring old videos of Ashley Kate and we discovered some we hadn't seen before.  A treasure for sure, but the longing for her intensified with each newly discovered scene.  She was amazing, and beautiful, and so full of JOY.  

The rain has left us longing for her a little more than what we are used to feeling everyday.  Its been raining for days and days and with that rain the memory of our precious Ash has washed over us all over again and again and again.   The rain causes me to long for her.  I feel an ache for her deep inside of my soul and wish that I could be given just one more chance to love on her.  

I think of her every day.

All throughout my days I miss her.

I see her everywhere. 

The memories of her make me smile and cause me to cry all at the same time.  

Ash loved us.  She loved all of us.  She expressed that love to us in so many different ways, but I have one particular memory of her "saying I love you" to me that stands out above the rest.  I go to it often.  Especially on the days when I'm missing her so much that it hurts to breathe.  I say that often when describing what its like to be without her and I realize that you might not understand what I mean.  Its ok.  A few of you know what I'm talking about, and I'm so very sorry that you understand all to well what it means when I say that breathing hurts now that she's gone. 

 I've never shared this memory here but thought that today I would.  At least I will try as the rain begins to fall once again and the longing for my daughter is pulling on my heart. 

"Perched" Once again.  Her very favorite spot.  

Ash sat on the "perch" in our foyer every single day.  It was her spot.  Just outside the doorway of her playroom and a step down into our family room where we all spent most of our time when we were home together.  It was so normal for me to walk into the room and see our sweet girl sitting there.   I can still see images of her sitting there even now as I type.

  On this particular day I was standing at the couch folding laundry while Ash was sitting behind me on the perch.  We were watching wonder pets on the big TV and I was talking to her about silly things that didn't mean anything to anyone but the two of us.  I looked up from the towels I was folding and saw her pat her little hands on the spot next to where she was sitting.  She was calling me to come over and sit down next to her.  As I got down on the floor and sat next to her she pushed play on her ipad and the youtube clip she had pulled up began to play.  As the music started she leaned her head over and rested it on me as together we watched what she had found. ( I don't know if you have ever seen what I'm going to try and describe.  Since she's left us I've tried so many times to find it again but have been unsuccessful. )  On the screen we watched the opening trailor for a Disney's Oceans movie that had just come out.  The music was beautiful and the narrator was rambling on about some things I don't remember,  but it was the image of what she was wanting me to see that grabbed my heart.  It was a scene in the middle of the ocean, under the surface of the water where they had filmed a mommy sea lion "holding" a baby sea lion out in front of her with her fins.  The two of them were spinning around in circles together as the music played.  I wish I could make you see what it was that she showed me that day.  I know my words aren't doing the image justice, but it was beautiful.  It was loving.  Nurturing.  In that very moment I knew.  I understood what Ash was wanting to share with me.  It was intentional.  Purposeful.  She was telling me what I had longed her entire life to hear her say.   

"I love you mommy."

I have no doubt in my mind that this is what she wanted me to know.  

I'll never forget that moment.  It was precious to me and now it has become priceless.   I sat next to her for a while that afternoon, and we watched it several times as her little head rested on me.  I told her how very much her mommy loved her and as my words were spoken to her she would tap, tap, tap her tiny finger on the screen making sure I was watching the mommy and the baby.  

 You see this wasn't the first mommy and baby scene she had ever wanted me to "stop" and see.  She seemed to find them all.  Some of her all time favorite movie scenes were exactly those...mommy and baby scenes.  Dumbo?  We watched the storks deliver baby after baby to the mommy animals on the train. We watched it again and again and again.  When Dumbo's mommy is holding him with her trunk and comforting him while Baby Mine plays...her all time favorite.  Bambi? ...scenes with his mommy played repeatedly over and over and over again on the screen of her ipad.  Silent tears slipped from her eyes on more than one occasion when Bambi's mommy got shot in the movie.  Just a couple of examples of countless scenes she played throughout the day...every day.

 She was drawn to images of babies and mommies in all of the things she watched.  And so I knew.  She didn't have to say it.  What she didn't have the voice to say to me she had the intent to let me know.  She found a way to say it.  

 She loved me.  

I often sit very still in our family room when I'm home alone during the day.  I look over at her "perch" and I can still see her sitting there.  As much as it hurts to live here without her the memories of her in every space inside our home bring back to us a little bit of her joy.  We see her so clearly here while we go from room to room.  

Taking steps in front of the mailbox...scattering books all over the playroom floor...watching Myth Busters and giggling from her perch...laying underneath the dining room table while I worked on her birthday invitations...banging on the dish wisher and "helping" me load it...watching Rangers games with Blake on the couch...napping in Allie's bed while she worked on her homework...turning off the light switch for me when we left her room every morning(we were so PROUD of her for learning this.  It took 2 years, but once she got it she got it.  It was her job and she was so good at it.  I can't turn on the light with that switch without aching for the weight of her to be back in my arms)... scooting down the hall to our bedroom(I can still hear her coming) day I even found her in the game room looking out at the pool!  As I came to pick her up she began to sign "swimming, swimming, swimmg".  She was such a funny girl. It was dark outside and she was trying to hide from me so she didn't have to go to bed.  We  have a thousand memories of her.  They wash over me daily as I go about the house.  Some bring smiles, there almost always tears, and some bring me to feel so close to her and yet so far away from her all at the same time.  

I miss her.

Desperately miss her.  

I wish I could "hear" her tell me that she loved me just one more time.  

On the harder days since she left I try and remind myself that we are one day closer to eternity.  This is but a temporary place we are caught in.  It won't be long.  One day we will see her again...some day.  I reminded Dave at lunch today just as he has had to remind me on several of the days since she went on to Heaven that all of "this"  all of this "stuff" in our world is just noise.  It means nothing.  It will disappear and then we will be there.  We've done the hardest of days.  We've said goodbye.  We've walked away from her stone.  We've done it.  Now we have to do this.  We can survive the rest of this.  Its only temporary.  

Even still though I find us wishing she  were "perched" here with us instead of just the memories.   


Writing Again

Loving and Being Loved by her was the most amazing gift.

I wish you could have known how it felt.  When she wrapped her little arms around your neck you KNEW what if meant to be loved.  It was real...genuine...unconditional...amazing.  

In those early days, those 16 or so days before we met her, we prayed daily that she would be able to give and receive love.  Our earnest prayer was for her to know how much we all loved her, and for her to be able to love us all back. I desperately wanted her to love Blake and Allison back.   It was the focus of my prayers for our tiny baby girl.  The rest didn't matter to me.  There was nothing they could tell me about her that would make any difference.  She was loved, she was wanted, she was going to be ours, and I wanted her to have the ability to love.  

OH HOW ABUNDANTLY God answered that prayer.  I could have never imagined what it would feel like to be loved by Ashley Kate.  

Its been a little while.  A while since I've shared any thoughts, any moments, any stories,any emotions... or since I've shared anything at all.

There have been so many days that I have stopped myself from writing.  

We miss her.

Every day.

Every thing about her.

 Despite the passing of time we feel the loss deeply.  Tears fall and there are days when we can't speak.  Days when it seems as though breathing takes all of our energy and there is nothing left to say.  There are also days when we talk late into the night about how much it hurts to be separated from her.   How much we miss her.

 I've come to understand that there is only one person in this world who knows the depth of the pain of losing her that I feel.   Only one other who loved her as much as I did.  I lay my head down on the pillows next to his every night and he watches the tears fall from my eyes helpless to do anything other than just allow it to happen.  Everyday we find ourselves laughing, remembering, and crying.  Not a day goes by that Dave and I don't talk about our sweet Ash.  She remains such a huge part of who we are.

You don't move on.

You don't get over it.

You don't.

You breathe, you move, you cry, you exist, and you live because you don't have the power to control life and death, but you never stop missing, loving, or grieving the loss of one of your children.  There is a piece of you that is gone and you feel that emptiness daily.

I'm writing again.

Not for any other reason than remembering and never wanting to forget the beautiful details of her life...her story.  I realized a couple of weeks ago that there were so many things that Blake and Allison still don't know about her story.  They were only 10 and 7 when she was born.  One day as Allie and I were in the car visiting I began to talk about Ashley's birth story and how we watched the hand of God move in our lives during those days.  Much to my amazement she had never heard so much of it before.   Many, many things we had protected their little hearts from.  They were just so young at the time.

 So I'm writing a book for them.

Just the two of them.  Recording the days before she was born, the stories of God moving our hearts toward her, how He brought her to us, and the many ways in which we saw Him show up throughout her life.  My hope is that through the writing of her story our hearts will begin to heal from the hurt we now feel since He took her back.  That somehow the 4 of us might begin to see or maybe even understand a little of what He is doing in our lives now without her here.  As a part of her story I'm compiling all the many messages and letters that have been sent to us over the years.  The stories of how her life impacted others. I want to say thank you for sharing with us over the years.  I have thousands and thousands of comments and messages from you.  We have letters and stories that you have shared.   In 8 years she made more of a difference than I will make in my lifetime.  I want for Blake and Allison to know the many incredible ways that God used their baby sister.  How without ever speaking a word she changed so many lives.  I know that the telling of these stories will inspire and encourage them as they go on to live their lives.  

And maybe somehow in the writing of her story the burden of the guilt I bare will be lightened?

Guilt is a heavy, heavy weight.  I feel it daily.  I struggle with guilt.  Its an ugly little piece of my grief.  It has taken months and months for me to finally admit to Dave how much of it I fight on a daily basis.  Not guilt over how we raised Ashley Kate, or how we allowed her to live her life, or even how we eventually lost her, but guilt over being who I am.  I feel guilty that I'm not this amazing mother who has moved on to do great things.  I feel guilty that I am not an advocate or a fundraiser or an inspiration like so many other moms have gone on to be.  I feel guilty that I have no desire or calling to be or do any monumental things to change the world of transplant, or special needs parenting.  I'm just not that grieving mother.  I'm not.  Much to the disappointment of so many.  I wish I were someone else, or someone more, but I can't make myself  do what I am not called to do.  So I continue to bare this weight, this disappointment, and its suffocating me.

I was called to be Ashley's mom.  I have no doubts about that.  I'll forever know that I did the very best I could with her.  I'll stand before God someday and I know that I will have loved her with every part of me and given my all to Him as I parented her.  He called me to love her and I did.  More than I could have ever imagined was possible I loved her.  The flip side of loving her so deeply is the missing of her even deeper.  The loss of having her in our lives has been devastating.  There is no getting around that.

So I'm writing again.  Not silent anymore.  I will occasionally share some of those stories here.  I will share memories of her too.  I will continue to share our grief as well.     I will share images of her memorial once it is completed and I will share with you details of the charity that is being established in her memory and as part of her legacy.  For those of you who are still here, still loving us, and still supporting us with your encouraging words and sincere prayers we thank you.