Ashley's Story

She will leave fingerprints all over your heart


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.


Forever 8

Ashley Kate, Forever 8
August 4, 2005-August 29,2013

Ten years ago today our precious gherkin took her first breath.

I wasn't there.

I missed the joy of seeing her come into this world.

25 days shy, of two years from today, our precious gherkin took her last breath.

I was there.

I held her head in my hands and watched as her soul left this world.  I literally felt her last breath as it escaped her body.

The joy, the beauty, the pain, the tears...a thousand times again I would be there.  If asked to do it again and again and again I would answer...Yes!

Oh how I loved her.  How we all loved her.

There are a lot of tears falling today.  A lot of wishing that she were here.  A lot of wondering who she would be at 10 years old.

I don't imagine there are birthdays in Heaven.  No celebrating her life or her special day.  No need to keep track of time, count the days, or years of ones life.  I truly believe she is not any age now.  Not in Heaven anyway.  Things are different there I imagine...and...thats ok.  It has to be because I can't change it. Yet, without understanding the mysteries of who God is and where Heaven is I can't picture her any other way than 8 years old.

I can't help but wonder though who she would have been had she turned 10 years old here with us today.  How big would she be?  How beautiful would she be?  How happy?  How funny?  How ornery?  How would her laughter sound as it spilled down the hall this morning to wake us up?

Ashley Kate will forever be 8 years old.  Never growing up, aging, or maturing.  She will not be 10, or 12, or 15.  She will remain 8 years old in our hearts and in our memories and in our family.  There are no words to describe the hurt that brings along with it.  No words.

There will be no party and no celebrating.  Instead there will be remembering.  There will be longing. There will be a drive to the cemetery where her body lays behind a stone.  The only act of parenting I will be allowed to do for my daughter on her 10th birthday today is arranging the flowers in the vase attached to the place where we were forced to leave her.  There is great pain in that statement.  Great loss.

I never knew how to plan for her death. I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  I didn't know how to. That surprises a lot of people.  People have said to me, "but you knew she would could you not have prepared yourself?"  As if knowing we would one day lose her should have made it any easier. Made it ok.  I still remember the day, the moment, just days shy of her 5th birthday that the surgeon stood before me and said, "She won't grow up.  There is no escaping that.  This has pretty much guaranteed that as a fact. "  I wanted to scream at him.  I wanted him to hurt as much as his words were stinging me.  I cried a lot that day.  So much so that I ran out of tears, and then I just stood by her bedside willing him to be wrong.    

He wasn't.

Three years later he would be right.

 Instead of concentrating on her death I chose to celebrate her life.  Celebrate it on a grand scale!  I was so very grateful for each year, every birthday, and all of her days with us.  I couldn't contain my excitement, and although she didn't really understand what all the fuss was about she did learn that the day she was born was a day we celebrated.  She laughed and clapped and cheered every year as I would begin to sing "Happy Birthday" to her in the days and weeks before her special day.  Precious Ash never planned or anticipated her tomorrows.  She only knew how to live in the moment.  What a beautiful way to live out her days!

Sweet Ash, your mom and dad love you so much.

We miss you and wish that we could be with you to celebrate your 10th birthday.  Its hard not to want you with us because we have never been where you are now.  All we know is the joy that you shared with us while you were here and we long to feel that again.  You were so precious, so beautiful, and so loved.

 We used to lie awake at night and talk about what you would be like on your tenth birthday.  We tried to imagine what you would look like and what all you would have learned.  I wondered how would I ever pick you up with your long legs!  I couldn't picture what life would be like once you were ten, but oh how I wanted to know you at that age.  I wanted to hear your laugh and see your face and hold your hands in mine.  I was looking forward to watching you grow up. I so desperately wanted to know you as you aged.

 Now that you are where you are I wouldn't ask you to come back to us.  I could never be that selfish.  I just wish you hadn't had to leave so soon.  I wish you had never been sick.  Had never known the pain of dying.  Had never left.  Precious girl if I had to choose the pain of living without you or the pain of you still living in your broken body I would choose our pain over yours.  A thousand times over I would choose to hurt like this so that you never knew another moment of pain.  Knowing that you are free from all that hurt you in this world is enough to make the hurt we live with worth it.

 But... I miss you.

 Desperately miss you.


 Especially today.

Happy 10th Birthday sweet girl.

You are loved.  Forever loved.  Forever 8.