Monday, January 30, 2012


Just a short post to say that I'm thankful for the many blessings in my life. Even though I have had headaches for weeks, now have a cold, and struggle with other health issues (not to mention lost my baby girl not long ago)... God is shedding light on my days and showing me things for which to be thankful. 

These light pink carnations were given to us 4 weeks ago at Anna's memorial service. They are just now about done - the last of her flowers, and my favorite. They have been a heartwarming reminder of her delicate beauty.

Last night I air-popped some corn and watched a fun movie with Matt. It was nice to sit, snack and laugh while cuddled up on the couch. My husband is such a blessing. Just his touch on my shoulder can calm me through.

Today, my focus has been largely on my son. Isaac is 22 months old, filling our home with new words every day in his toddler voice, running all over, and pointing out the beauty in simple things. I love his laugh, and I can't put enough kisses on his sweet cheeks. I am blessed to be home with him. Today we got to blow bubbles outside, read several books, play with many toys, and laugh together. 

A special delivery came today from my friends & coworkers at Art 'n Soul. It's a collage in celebration and memory of Anna Joy. Each of them filled a few of the sections of the tray in their own style. My heart is touched by their creativity, time, and love put into it. 

Take time to see blessings in your day. Through art, the people around you, or a cherished memory...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

by the way...

I got just one little, teensy weeny problem with this whole thing. See, Alissa has gotten all kinds of jewelry to remember Anna. Braclets and necklaces and charms and beads and this and that and all other forms of smarmy parmy remember-y things.

Well? What about me? One penant. That's it. And yes, I wear it everyday, thank you very much.

And, in case you don't really know me, let me tell you that if I were saying this out loud, and you were listening to me, you would first look at me with a mortified look, until you saw the smile the erupted across my face a the end of the last sentance, and then you would realize that I was really joking. Then you would give me a courtesey laugh, or a timid smile, or a cursory grin, or, a glare of death. Whichever suited your mood at the moment.

That was all. Just that one thought. Love you all. Oh, and thanks for the cards. We're still getting them and loving them lots.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's Cold

(This is Alissa. I wrote this January 19th when the power was out, so couldn't post then...)

We’re covered in snow and ice in Olympia, WA. The cold combined with power-outages has presented a new aspect of grief to me today. It’s kind of an eery feeling that brings additional emptiness. Things are dark, shut-down, damaged, quiet, buried, unsure, paused, heavy. Maybe these circumstances bring a new emptiness because all of the words I just used to describe our town resonate with my spirit right now. 

My fragile newborn girl died one month ago. One month. “The 19th” will probably bring varied emotions related to Anna’s passing for the rest of my life. It seems so very long ago, yet my body, mind, and heart ache like it was yesterday. If you haven’t experienced death close to you, you can’t understand how weird it is to breathe in someone’s spirit one moment, then try to grasp how it is suddenly gone the next. Wait... she was just breathing, looking around, making facial expressions two seconds ago... she can’t be gone! Her imperfect little heart was still fighting to beat longer than the medical staff expected. But it stopped. And some things in my spirit stopped with it. Babies aren’t supposed to die before their parents. 

* * *

(I wrote this just now...)

Thank you for continuing to read this blog. Thank you for praying, sending cards, and sharing how Anna's life has touched yours. All of these lift us a bit higher and carry us through another blurred, exhausting day. 

I'm still struggling with migraines and stomach aches. Please pray that we figure these things out so I can take care of my husband & son like I need to, spend time with friends, let myself grieve properly, etc. Matt has a cold again, and he doesn't usually get sick very often. We spent 4 nights at my parents' house this week while the power was out. Theirs was too, but they had a generator kicking heat out from the gas fireplace, and hot water. It wasn't too bad, really. We managed just fine, but it is good to be in our own home again. Praise God: I have had small breaks from the migraines off and on a couple of times this week, so I actually folded laundry, put dishes away, and swept the kitchen floor. 

Speaking of the kitchen floor... 
Today I was making dinner (another task I haven't done in months!) and started crying while listening to a song that hit me. It was "Stars Will Fall" by Aaron Shust:

When there's no breath in my lungs to scream
When there's no strength left inside of me
When there's no light that my eyes can see
I will say Your name

And stars will fall like rain
All the heavens and the earth will start to shake
Every mountain will be moved and cast away
At the mention of Your name 

When hope is a long lost friend
And the broken that was meant to bend
Lift the wounds that will never mend
I will say Your name

I cry JESUS!

I leaned on the kitchen counter as I cried, and Isaac immediately knew. He notices when I cry, and is quite sensitive and loving when I do. I sat down on the floor and let the tears come. Why didn't you move mountains for Anna, God? I cried out Your name so many times before and after she was born, believing you could. What stars did you make fall? Did the heavens and earth shake? I was sure hoping they would for my little girl. Why do other babies get better and get to go home? God, my hands feel so empty...

Isaac climbed into my lap as I cried, and just stayed there. Every few seconds he sweetly said, "Mommy?" like he wanted to help but wasn't sure how. He knew I needed comfort.

Most of the time I feel I'm trying to figure out whether I need to cry, laugh, scream, punch a wall, or run away. I'm so glad God carries me moment-by-moment, and gets me through when I never figure out which one I need. 

Like the song lyrics above, I feel like there's no breath in my lungs to scream, no strength left, and it's very hard to see the light most of the time. I believe I will eventually. And even now I get glimpses. But it's been awfully cold lately. 

And yet...

I still cry out His name. There is power in the name of Jesus. I can't see what He's doing, all the ways He's moving... but I call to Him - cry to Him - run to Him - sing to Him... and I know He is with me, even when I can't feel it. 

The beginning of this post is a portion of what I wrote on the 19th. My flip calendar displays this quote by Gloria Gaither for that day:
     God walks with us... He scoops us up in His arms
     or simply sits with us in silent strength until we 
     cannot avoid the awesome recognition that yes, 
     even now, He is here.

I can't avoid recognizing that Jesus is present. I'm wounded and beaten down. But as I look back on the past 2 months, although the memories are a blur, I see Him doing all of those things mentioned in the quote above. He has walked with us, held us in His arms, and sat with us in "silent strength". He got us through those stressful, scary days, and He'll get us through those ahead. 

Maybe God's "mountain-moving" in Anna's story is a million miracles I can't see. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's been a long time...

Hello again. I have to apologize, since it's been so long since I've written anything on this blog. The truth is, I've sat down numerous times in the last couple of weeks to write something, but while I get onto the blog to read your comments, I never get to the page to enter a new post. Why? I don't know. Maybe I'm scared. But really, I don't want to think about why I haven't written. There definitely has not been a lack of material. On the contrary, every day things happen that I find myself thinking about how I could blog them. But...I never get here.

So, now I am. There are too many incidences that have occurred since my last posting to post here. As such, I'll try to remember a few. I think I'll start with some more recent things. Maybe I'll get to go backwards into this last week, or even further. Who knows. We'll see how far back I can go. Without making this post long enough to publish as a novella, that is.

Tonight we had dinner at Chris and Mendy's house with most of Alissa's family. Mendy's mom was there too. As an intro, Chris and Mendy are two great people who have been friends with Alissa's parents for a long time. Their children were roughly the same ages as Alissa and her siblings, so they all grew up knowing each other quite well. Chris and Mendy love to host dinners at their wonderful home. They have a very large dining room table that can seat well over a dozen. And they love to dabble in gourmet type cooking so meals are quite spectacular. They also like to put little cards under everyone's dinner plate, and sometime during the evening, everyone has to answer the question on the card. It's typically a very fun and engaging dinner.

Anyway - that's where we were. Randy (Alissa's dad, for those of you who don't remember...), was asked something along the lines of what he respects most about his dad. Randy answered the question, but while he was doing so, I couldn't help think about what I respected most about my dad. Randy stated he respected - among quite a few things - how his dad is a very engaging person, and is very comfortable making other people feel comfortable. My dad was very similar in that regards, so it was easy for me to relate to what Randy talked about.

I also thought about how over the years, I often asked myself "what did dad (and mom...) do to make all of us kids turn out to be at least half-way decent people?" I often didn't have an answer. Randy, in his response to the above-mentioned question, said that he found the older he got the more he realized how many things he respected about his father. Likewise, I have done the same in answering my ongoing question. In the last couple of years, a lot of those answers have come just by being a father myself.

That being said, with all that has happened with Anna, I have never missed my dad more. Or, I guess I should say I have never missed Pops more. That is, after all, what I called him most of the time. Pops. Such and endearing term. To me, "Pops" says so much more than "Dad." Anyone can be a dad, and any dad can be good or bad. But I have yet to meet someone who is called Pops that has been a bad dad. Therefore, Pops = good dad. Aaaaannnd - I get off on a another tangent. Where was I? Missing Pops.

Did I mention somewhere else on this blog about him passing away? Well, if I didn't, know that he did, about five or six years ago, after a bout with leukemia. While there have been lots of times over the years that I have missed him, I haven't missed him as acutely as I have since we found out that Anna had her heart defects. While he never lost his any of his own children, he lost a lot of siblings, and his mother and father. So he was no stranger to grief. And while none of his children ever had any major medical issues, he had a quiet and simple faith in God that always seemed to come out. And, he always seemed to know what to say. Plus, he gave good hugs. Nice, big, strong, hold-you-tight-for-just-the-right-amount-of-time hugs. Man o man, I miss those hugs.

Speaking of Dad's hugs, the day that Anna died, Alissa's parents, siblings (and spouses), and some others were there from her side of the family. My mom and Pete, my oldest brother, were there from my side, but since my other two brothers live in Idaho and my sister lives in Spokane, they weren't able to get over. Anyway (geez - enough sidetracks already!), in the moments after Anna passed, I don't really remember many specifics. I remember holding Anna's body, and I remember sobbing over it. I was told later that I wailed. I don't remember that, but it is certainly possible. Then, later as I went around giving and receiving hugs, Pete put his big, strong, arms around me and held me close, for just the right amount of time. In that moment, I felt as if my dad were hugging me through my brother's arms. I also knew that, at the same moment of my hug from Pete, my dad's arms were enfolding my little precious angel, Anna Joy. And he was welcoming her into heaven, telling her about all of the wonderful things that are there.

As I said in Anna's service, I am extremely jealous of my dad. He gets to be with Anna, and love on her like I would like to do. How I would love to be there too. I can't wait to get there. But apparently God still has something for me to do here. I'm not sure what, but I'm trying to figure it out as I go along. As the Apostle Paul says, "for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." That verse has been with me for a long time, and I have tried to implement that thought into my life. Anna has given me a new perspective on that thought though, and one day maybe I'll write about it. I have meditated often on that passage since Anna passed away. There are lots of thoughts bouncing around in my head, and I haven't got a full grasp on them yet, so the writing will have to wait a bit.

Well, this post has already taken on epic proportions, so I guess just one moment will have to do for now. I will say, however, that if you want another good read (and cry), check out Andy and Katy have an incredible story too. Andy's recent post is quite heartfelt, and while we have only met in person twice, I know that he and I would be good (if not great...) friends. This couple is just one of the countless stories of triumph in pain that are out there. Andy and Katy, if either of you get to a point where you can find a few minutes to read this post (okay ten or fifteen, since I'm too lengthy...) know that Alissa and I are praying for you too. You guys are incredible.

By the way, every day Alissa and I eagerly await our postman (actually, I think she's technically a postwoman, but I hope I'm being PC by saying postman - you know, lady actresses call themselves actors now, too, right? Aaaaannd, another sidetrack...), hoping to get yet another sympathy card. There was one day this week, that for the first time since Anna died we did not get a card. We were both crestfallen. But the next day we got a couple more, and haven't missed any since. Thank you to all of you who continue to support us, pray for us, and generally love on us. We love you all too.

Good night, maybe I'll write again soon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sadness, Headaches, Balloons, Lessons

I'm just going to continue to share my heart. I'm not good at pretending. So here it is. This is where I'm at...

The sadness has started to sink in more these past few days. This is really hard. This sadness is so deep. It is dark, confusing, and all-consuming. I'm learning it's called GRIEF.

I still believe in God and His goodness and perfect will. But I also believe that He can handle my disappointment, anger, confusion, and tears. I don't get why things turned out the way they have. I want my baby back. I miss her terribly. It's so hard to accept that we've really been through what we have. 

I've been crying more lately. But I still haven't let myself really cry. The yelling, wailing, yearning-type cry that I long to let loose. I still hold it in. (Not sure why - maybe I've trained myself to hold it in for years.) My body needs to let it go - to exercise, to cry, find release. I'm worried that Isaac will be scared if he hears/sees me that way, or the neighbors will wonder. My whole body is tense, and my neck is sore. Maybe that's why I have such a bad headache... still...  

Matt went back to work today. I'm concerned for both of us. Matt is grieving, too, of course. But we are grieving differently, and aren't sure how to help each other. 

Saturday we gathered with my family and a few other friends to release 11 balloons as part of our celebration for Anna going to heaven. It was super cold, but turned out to be meaningful regardless. I spent time finding scripture verses about heaven the night before, which was so good for me. 

Here are a few photos and the 11 scriptures we read:
1. "Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth - so wonderful that no one will even think about the old ones anymore... And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard no more. No longer will babies die when only a few days old..." Isaiah 65:17-20

2. "There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you... when everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am." John 14:2-3

3. So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18

4. ... we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. That's why we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8

5. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return to Jerusalem, singing songs of everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be overcome with joy and gladness. Isaiah 35:10

6. And they will see his face and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there - no need for lamps or sun - for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:4-5

7. Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when they are raised, they will be full of power. 1 Corinthians 15:43

8. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever... Look, I am making all things new! Revelation 21:3-5

9. ... for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return. 2 Timothy 1:12

(It was harder than I thought it would be to let go of my balloon...)

10. Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely... 1 Corinthians 13:12

11. He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon!" Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20

My 5-yr-old niece made a special note for Anna from her heart-shaped notepad (the same niece who made the "celebration cake" - see previous post). It said: 
You shine
I hop for joy
To Anna


I can't get this song out of my head. It's the special song written for Anna, "Safe in His Hands", by our friend Kathy Kerber. The chorus lyrics are...

You are safe in His hands
And though my tears fall like rain
Though I don't understand
God is real, He is love
You're already a part of His marvelous plan
And all I need to know
Is you are safe in His hands

My tears have been falling like rain - my face is often soaked. I had to ask myself again, "Do I really believe Anna is safe in God's hands?" As humans, made of flesh, it's hard to picture heaven - it's not tangible. My hands long to touch her again. I want to feel her. My body is still recovering from carrying her and delivering her. She was real, right? She really existed, right? I really gave birth and loved on my baby for 11 days, right? It doesn't feel real sometimes. But my aching heart and body tell me it did happen. I study photos to convince myself that it did. She was born, she went through surgery, I watched her lay in the hospital with tubes coming out of her - my beautiful girl - and then I lost her. Way too soon. This isn't supposed to happen! This isn't right! My heart screams these things. I cry out to God to help me survive, even though I'm mad at Him at the same time. I run to Him because it's all I know to do, yet my broken-heart reaction is to stiff-arm him. 

All I can do is surrender my baby daughter to Jesus again... and again... and again...
Even if she was still here, the safest place for her would be in HIS hands. No one could love her  more than Him - not even her mama. And I love her a lot. Her 11 days here on earth were full of major medical intervention. I couldn't care for her as my mothering instincts longed to; I couldn't keep her safe. So God keeps asking me to trust Him. Even now that she's gone. This may be the toughest lesson of all.

I am so sad. And I will be for a while. Joy doesn't equal happiness. Joy doesn't mean things are OK. Joy doesn't mean the absence of sadness or pain. Joy means there is something bigger going on, and God knows what it is. Even though I hate my circumstances, I can choose to trust that God sees and knows the answers to my questions - and He'll get me through... somehow... until I join Him (and Anna) someday. 

I believe He loves Anna. I believe He loves me. Love doesn't always feel good. 

This is going to hurt. I hate that it is my reality. I don't want it to be real. I want to rewind several weeks and see the outcome change. I want to hear Anna cry. I want to see her in the cradle. I want to touch her soft brown hair on her warm head - wash it, kiss it, smell it... instead of just looking at a few locks that were cut and put in a baggie after she died. 

Please continue to lift us up in prayer. We won't survive without it. Pray for healing of our broken hearts, comfort in our pain... for hope to be reachable, and for darkness & depression to stay away. Pray for strength for the next task, courage for the next step, and sensitivity to be kind to each other.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Song News and Celebration Cake

There will be a professional recording of "Little One (for Anna Joy)" or "Safe In His Hands" coming available within the next couple of months. Keep watching for information on how to obtain your own copy.

Thanks again for all of your prayers. We still need them as we continue to navigate the loss of Anna, and are forced to re-enter the real world soon... even though our hearts and minds are protesting. Our home is filled with pink flowers and plants since the service. They are beautiful, and remind me of Anna's sweet, delicate life. But the flowers will fade and wilt, although my memory and love for Anna will not. 

Here is a photo of the "celebration cake" my 5-year-old niece, Alivia, had the idea to make for Anna because we're happy she got to go to heaven. She wanted to cut it in half, and then put it back together because Anna now has a whole heart. So sweet! We plan to release the 11 pink balloons we had at the memorial sometime soon to represent releasing Anna to heaven (yesterday turned out to be too stormy)

Matt and I are still overwhelmed by your support, and thank God for blessing us with your prayers, encouragement, and friendship.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I think...

After all of this time, I think I finally figured out how to post a post under my own name, and not under my wife's. Aaaaannnnd - lo and behold! it was simpler than cooking a can of tomato soup. Go figure...Oh, well, live and learn, right?

Well, I wanted to come back and give you some more info on Anna's service. Alissa is hanging out with her family while I'm home with Isaac, who is safe and sound in bed, sleeping quietly and cozily. Isn't that a fun word? Cozily. I am. I'm figuring Liss will show up here pretty soon, and hopefully I won't be distracted too much when and if she does.

I'm still amazed at how incredible Anna's service was. There was lots of sniffling, tear falling, mascera running, and even a bit of sobbing here and there. My little nephew, Drew (age 7 or 8 or something like that...), apparently started sobbing during Anna's slideshow. How sweet is that?!?!

By the way, the slideshow was an awesome tear-jerker. Did we mention the song that was written by a fellow church member? I think so, but if not, I'm sure I'll hear about it and we'll have to explain. Well, Alissa pre-recorded the song, and used it during the slideshow. Yes, it was pretty amazing that she could get through the song at all, but she did. She'll say the recording wasn't that good, but since most of us are non-music geniuses, we wouldn't ever know the difference.

But I'm getting out of order...

Our pastor, Bill Bowers, opened the service by welcoming everyone and offered a prayer. Our good friend, Art, led everyone in a couple of songs. By the way, if you were at the service, you might remember Pastor Bill mentioning that the Freeby family (that's Alissa's side...) was very musical. He also mentioned that the Peppley's were not, which is pretty true. So don't think he was being mean, he was just being honest!

The tributes came next. My sister, Heidi, started them off with a kind of poem, where she and her sister-in-law took comments that Alissa and I had written on this blog. They then compiled them into a form of poem, and she read them off. That was pretty cool.

Pastor Dave then read his letter, which was already posted. So no need to retread that old path, right? And no, I'm not referring to Dave being old...

Next was my brother Joe, and he commented on putting on the full armor of God. Normally, he would have been the one to be a blubbering fool behind the podium. But for some odd reason, that fell to one of my other brothers, Tony, who came after Joe. The funny thing is that Tony started his tribute out by saying he thought he would be able to get through it easier if he just stuck with facts and figures. Well, he did, but he also got choked up quite a bit. Nice work, T.

I think Alissa's Uncle Doug came next. It's possible someone else was in there too, or I got someone out of order, but I'll let Alissa correct me if I'm wrong. And I'm having a blond moment, cuz I can't remember what he talked about specifically. It's possible it had something to do with how strong Alissa and I were through the whole ordeal. And - well - no one likes to hear their horn tooted, right? Well, except maybe celebrities and politicians. So I probably tuned out a little bit. But I digress...He also read a few words from his wife and one of his daughters. Regardless of what he said, it was special.

Anna's grandpa (affectionately known as Pabba...) got up and read a card that he gave to her on her birth day (as in the day of her birth, not birthday...). Pabba gives all of his grandchildren a nickname, and all of them have "bug" in them. For example, he calls Isaac Doodle-bug. Well, he reveals the nickname in the birth day card that he gives to the kids when they are born. So he let everyone know that he was to call Anna Bella-bug. Bella means beautiful. Yes, we all cried.

Alissa went next, and she poured out her heart to her little baby girl. I went last, and after I got done the crowd started to applaud. Since I'm a guy, and guys are all conceited, I initially thought they were applauding because mine was the best and most touching. I eventually realized that the applause was for everyone who had given a tribute. They all were spectacular, and all were so heart-felt that there wasn't one that was better than the rest.

...Meanwhile, Pastor Bill sat on a stool, perched kind of back and away in a far corner of the platform. I think he thought the tributes were going to be pretty quick, so why not stay there on the stage? Well, they weren't quick, so he just sat there and enjoyed watching the backs of our heads. Thank you, Bill.

Well, we all cut into his time too much, so he had to remove a lot of what he was prepared to say. However, his words were direct and full of passion. He spoke of how Anna came into this world with half a heart, but made a significant impact on this world just by simply being herself. Then he directed us all to consider how we are living our lives. Are we living whole-heartedly to God? Or are we living with just half a heart? Like I mentioned last night, I think his one quote summed up Anna's story and message to this world. It was certainly tragic that Anna was born with half a heart. But what is even more tragic is a person who is only half-heartedly living for God. He challenged us to consider our place in God's kingdom, and asked us if we would do what we can to be like Anna, and live whole-heartedly.

All in all, the service was a tremendous time of celebrating Anna's life. Alissa and I would like to once again fervently thank everyone who came to Anna's service in person and in spirit (what does that mean anyway..."in spirit?" can a person really be somewhere else as a spirit? I think not...whoa - strange tangent! sorry). I'm thinking I would like to get copies of what everyone said for Anna, and put them in a post (or posts...). That way, all of you who couldn't be at the service can get an idea of how it went.

Well, it's 11:30, Alissa is not home yet (they must be having fun! luckies...), and I'm getting tired. Of course, I'll probably stay up reading, or playing some stupid computer game, but I really should go to bed. After all, there are some very important activities happening tomorrow, namely some good football bowl games. I gotta rest up so I can watch them, right?