Monday, June 29, 2009


As I was washing dishes last night, looking out the kitchen window at the backyard, I had a vision of our baby's baptism reception. I saw faces of familiar family members and friends all gathered together in our backyard. I saw smiles and joy written on those faces. I even saw myself proudly carrying her in my arms as we walked around greeting our guests.

For me, for all of us, it was one of those gatherings full of pure excitement, joy and gratitude.

As usual with most dreams and visions, I later realized it was sort of out of place. Mainly because the baptism reception will not take place in the summer, but more likely in the winter or early spring, which takes a backyard barbecue out of the equation. But it was a vision nonetheless.

Something came up over the weekend that reminded me of the many visions I had of our time with Cara. Probably one of the biggest things Cynthia and I both dreamed about was Cara's baptism at our church. I spent countless Sundays sitting up in the choir looking out in congregation dreaming about the day when Pastor G would pour blessed water over Cara's little body. I couldn't wait for that moment. I couldn't wait for the moment for everyone in the congregation to claim Cara as their own. Cara's baptism, the dying of herself and raising up into the new life of Christ, meant the world to us and still does.

And yet I could have never imagined handing over Cara in the way we did in that hospital room. I never imagined G there in such a way, holding Cara, anointing her with oil, and handing over her lifeless body and full spirit to God. This is not the type of vision a new Father has. But it was a beautiful moment that I'll always carry with me.

Cynthia and I, and I imagine even Cara, have these visions of our next little one and we can only pray to God they come true. That somehow, the brokenness of life will not rear its ugly head again and instead we'll be able to experience the hope of life.

I hope with all my heart that we'll have the incredible privilege of baptizing our baby at our church one day. It's a vision that I'm not letting go of. I know Cara will also be there in spirit, as she is so often felt as we worship.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


This summer, Cynthia and I are finding the summer weekends to be hard. The pain isn't as raw as it was last summer, but it's still hard nonetheless. It's still hard to be walk around the pool and see all the little babies and toddlers hand in hand with their parents. It's still hard to wake up on a summer Saturday with an empty nursery void of sweet little Cara slowly stirring as she wakes up for the day. The house is too quiet and our weekends are emptied of the joys of caring for Cara, who would have been 1 year and 3 months old.

It's still hard and it always will be. There will always be moments like last night for the rest of our lives.

Cynthia and I were driving separately back from the pool after meeting there after work. When Cynthia got home she told me that she cried the entire trip home and proceeded to break down again in the kitchen. All I could do was hold her and try to offer some words of comfort that quickly fell short. I can feel Cynthia's pain when she said "that she just wants Cara here" and "why are we the parents who lost our child?"

Times like this are the harder moments in grieving. They are the low points when you are hurt, angry and torn apart because of your child's death.

The best advice we've received about how to deal with these low points came from our counselor. He suggested to just be present in the moment, rather than fighting yourself by attempting to somehow to get out of the lowpoint. When you try to rise above the low point, or try to cover it up, or quickly move on, it only tends to get worse. And I think with patience and time, moments of peace and calm will eventually come. The "better" moments don't totally take away all the pain, but they do help.

Today is a typical summer day. We spent the already hot morning visiting the Farmer's Market downtown. We stopped at a table that had little baby outfits supporting the market...there was a cute little pink shirt that said "locally grown at the Farmer's market" with a little plant sprout graphic on the front of the shirt. Cara would have looked so cute in that shirt.

We love you, Cara. We miss you so much this summer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Divine Moments

There are moments in this life when everything seems right. When for only just a minute, all the world feels whole and safe. Something bigger than you picks you up and allows you look out across the vast horizon to see only what matters in the world.

These moments come through many different ways. Maybe from hearing a beautiful song on the radio for the first time. Maybe through marveling at the beauty of a plant while tending to your garden. Or maybe from sharing a good meal and hearty laughter at the dinner table with family and friends.

I don't have a perfect explanation or meaning for what these moments mean to us or why they even occur. But I wonder if they are glimpses of heaven. Pure, holy moments that give us a taste of what's to come.

Friends of ours call these moments "divine moments." And ever since they shared that Cara's funeral was one of those moments for them, I can't seem to get the notion of divine moments out of my head. Primarily because it's in these moments that I feel a connection to Cara.

I've had some of these experiences over the past year. Cara's funeral was also one of those moments for me. Other moments have occurred while working in Cara's memorial garden, receiving communion at church, listening to songs that remind me of Cara, or standing beside Cara's grave early in the morning alone or together with Cynthia after church each week.

There is also another place that struck me again this morning. Some mornings, I'll drive to work by taking "the long way" which takes me on a road that weaves right along the edge of a beautiful state park. For some reason, whenever I'm driving on this road in the morning the swirling world around me and the list of to-dos waiting for me at my desk fades away. For a moment, the dense tree cover at the edge of the park just makes me stand still and take notice of the beauty around me. My thoughts quickly turn to God and my baby daughter. This was the second time while driving along this road I felt like Cara was right there in the car with me. Right there, just like any baby would, in the backseat of her Daddy's car smiling and giggling at me. And maybe, just maybe she really was. Of course not physically there like I dream she would be. But there somehow through a spiritual realm, a divine realm, that I can't even begin to understand.

There is a peace and calm that comes after these moments. Lately, I've felt like Cara has been there to assure me that she is watching over all of us, Cynthia, me, and of course her little baby sister in the womb. I feel like she's there as our angel. And when I picture her, I see an angel. In spirit, I see a perfectly healthy, whole, happy, little baby girl with dark hair and chubby legs right there in the car with me. Her presence brings me peace. Because I know she is watching out for us and interceding for us along with all the saints and angels in heaven.

I love you, Cara...I know you're always with us...much more than we realize...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day ~ June 22, 2009

Father's Day this year was easier I believe than last year. Last year Tim and I could never see eye to eye on the day and our expectations for it. This year we went out last night to buy Tim a watch. Then today we spent the morning at church, the afternoon at the pool, and the evening with my parents and brother. There were moments of grief for Cara but also moments of joy for our next little one on the way.

Father's Day was coupled with another event that has been deeply upsetting for me. Today was the last Sunday our dear friend and pastor, L, will be at our church. She will be moving to another Methodist church not far down the road. In L's departure also comes the releasing of one of my earliest dreams at All Saints', to have her and G baptize our child. I picture baptizing our next daughter one day, and it always brings tears to my eyes, sometimes downright sobs. Now knowing that another person will be missing from that event deeply saddens me. I know though that both L and Cara's presence will always be there with us at the font. It's the water that unites us.

L once shared with me how she often thought of Cara during the Great Thanksgiving. It has prompted my own thoughts to be drawn to my baby girl many times as well. I'll forever remember her exuberance in starting those words, "It is right, and a good and joyful thing always and everywhere to give you thanks..."

Today was a sad day, but there were holy moments I will never forget. I'm not sure whose idea it was between the music director and L, but it was a precious gift for the choir to sing "Tis the Gift to be Simple" on Father's Day. Tim and I have not been to church on a holiday other than Easter (let's remember how that ended.) We both feel so connected to this song and our daughter drew close to us in that moment.

L went on to preach about "A Scandalous Church" and her vision for our future. That we would be the church reaching out the poor, the unloved, the needy in ways that would leave our neighbors talking. She shared the story of a professor who was entertaining someone new to the area. A man came to the door high on either drugs or alcohol and asked for money for the bus. This new neighbor offered to drive him to his destination. The professor wanting to explain the neighborhoods said it might not be the best idea, and this neighbor looked at her and said, "We are already dead." This is so incredibly true. We died in the waters of baptism and have been raised into a new life. This life is not our own, how much more radical will we live if we approach it with an 'already dead' mentality.

As I came forward for communion, L was there. "The body of Christ broken for you," she said as she firmly placed the bread into my hand tears streaming down her face. I would have hugged her right there had it been appropriate. We gathered around L at the baptismal font to offer our blessing for her future. And as she hugged me one last time at the threshold of All Saints', L said, "She was here today, wasn't she?"

That is what I am going to miss.

My Father's Day Watch

Cynthia took me out last night to buy a watch. It probably seems like an odd thing to buy, but I told Cynthia that I needed something to get me through this day. I guess I needed a little retail therapy.

I've also found myself over the past couple of months in desperate need of watch whether at work or church or on the run. I've never been much of a watch guy but it was time to give in for the convenience of having the time of day only a turn of the wrist away.

I also told Cynthia that it seemed like a good Dad thing to have. Cynthia made a cute comment last night that I could time her contractions when we hopefully deliver Cara's little sister.

And, in a way, wearing this watch is a small signal that I'm a Dad. And that I have two girls to keep after.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Preparing for Father's Day

I have mixed feelings about Father's day right now. Cynthia and I were planning out our weekend and I told her I just need some time to think about what that day is going to look like. I think it's going to be a harder day than I thought it would be.

The hallmark holidays are so tough. I know there are deeper meanings to them, but at times they seem more superficial and just an opportunity for furniture stores to throw another sale.

But I suppose they're tough because they do mean something. They are a day to celebrate and honor those you love.

For me, as with most holidays, Father's Day is bittersweet. I feel like a Father because I am a Father to two beautiful little girls. And I'm so thankful for them. But the day will be met with grief and longing for what should have been. Cara should be there at church with us and at the pool with her Grandparents later that day.

Father's day will be tough, but I know we'll get through it. I know there is a lot to be thankful for which gives me some peace. I am lucky to be a Father to two angels and a husband to a beautiful wife...

From Cynthia's card to me last Father's day...

As I continue to watch you grow in your love for Cara, I long for the day when we will be chasing our children in the backyard. That moment when you and I will both catch each others eye and smile, silently exchanging the pleasure of our family, but forever longing for our beautiful little girl.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A strange conversation

I've had a picture on my desk of Cynthia's and Cara's hands ever since I started back at work after Cara's death. I've only received about 3 or 4 comments on the picture in that time.

Yesterday afternoon, a co-worker who has never been at my desk walks by...

"Is that a picture of your wife, she's so cute!" she says.

"Thanks, yes she is."

"And what is that?"

"That's a picture of my daughter, who died last year."

"Oh. What happened?"

"She was stillborn when my wife was 38 weeks pregnant."

"Oh. I don't mean to be gross but my sister had that happen and her baby's fingernails looked the same way."

After saying this, she turned and walked away.

This very brief conversation left me speechless. Why point that out? Why not just say "I'm sorry." I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she was surprised by my picture. Maybe she got nervous.

Either way, it's just another confirmation that the office environment is a terrible place to grieve. Sorry, I just had to vent.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Terrible Assumptions

This afternoon I had lunch with C, her daughter, A and son, M. As the two of us tried to manage both of them while chatting, the server walked up to talk to A. She asked who belonged with whom. C said they were both hers. The server looked at me and said, "I was trying to figure it out. You haven't wanted to give this a try yet?"

I just plastered a fake smile on my face and made a noise in my throat, all while concealing my protruding belly under the table. I suppose I do look like I'm behind the times when compared to C's two 16 months apart.

C said that was the first time she had seen one of these assumptions made and asked how I usually handle them. Thankfully the situation has not arose too much. I have only been asked once if this was my first. I mostly respond by trying not to answer directly.

I did have a situation where I felt the need to address it. A client wished me a "Happy Mother-to-be Day". I have worked closely with this client for the last several months, so I explained the situation. Thankfully she was incredibly compassionate and said she would be praying for our pregnancy.

I'm trying to learn myself to not make assumptions. I think our society is far to prone to them. I want to be open to the hurting in the world and embrace them from the start, not have them explain themselves to me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

An emotional weekend

The grief came back in a big wave this weekend. We committed ourselves to a number of gatherings that we were looking forward to. It was in the moment though that I felt the absence of the one who should be with us.

Friday night we celebrated R's 3rd birthday. Tim and I love R and the group of friends gathered together. R in particular has a been a source of joy for us, because she is able to interact with us, enjoys hanging out with us, and is a girl!!

Our friends are so sensitive to our pregnancy, talk about Cara and this new little one. But it was as I was taking a picture of the four children there that I realized what I didn't have. Our little girl should be eager to get her arms around the delicious little baby boy. Our little girl should be the dark haired one in the midst of light haired girls.

On the way home I tried to reconcile my feelings. I have heard a lot of parents after loss talk about their subsequent children. "If I hadn't lost this child, I wouldn't have had the next child and I can't picture my life without him (her)." I can't do that. I simply can't. I will always want Cara to be here with us. This little one wasn't in the plan, and I wholeheartedly believe that this one will bring us joy. I just can't say I'm ok with giving up Cara to get to this one.

This struggle of reconciliation continued into Saturday. Saturday we celebrated my brother's graduation from college. My parents' house filled with family and friends. I heard the hugs and excited greetings of those who only see each other at our family gatherings. Unspoken went the last gathering we all were together at - my daughter's funeral.

At 20 weeks pregnant, my belly was object of much attention. Lots of pats, rubs, comments. An out for those who didn't want to acknowledge the grief, the sadness, the loss, which subsequently was everyone. There was only one conversation that centered around my daughter. Everyone was outside enjoying the summer night, and I sought solace in the kitchen. My mom's best friend joined me at the kitchen table. She, having lost a baby, allowed me the space to share what I was truly feeling.

I realized that my pregnancy gives others the opportunity to cope with our loss and not far from my thoughts is how much more will this child allow that. The (not) replacement child. As she is passed around a crowd, will her big sister be mentioned? She isn't now. How could she be then?

Sunday brought more tears as my friend L preached one of the most amazing sermons I have heard on the day her son was baptized. She used birth analogies to connect the birth he receives at the waters of baptism and the rebirth he will continually experience through his life.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The replacement child

Last week Tim and I had our final joint counseling session with David. We have been meeting with David since two days after I delivered Cara. I remember that first walk up the steps to his office. The steps were narrow and steep. I walked up them slowly in tears from the pain of delivery and the weight of my grief heavy on me.

Our times with David have been the calm in the midst of the storm. It is there we have gone for affirmation in our grief, clarity of thought, and direction for the future. He has been one of the greatest blessings of our past year. The sessions started with grieving Cara, but eventually moved to our marriage, our relationships with others, and the hardest to process, ourselves. Tim and I often had talked about seeking counseling before losing Cara. Her death was the final push we needed.

We met with David weekly until about the end of last year. Then it became every other week, then once a month, until this last session we talked and there was silence. We asked David if there was anything else we should touch on again from previous sessions. His basic response was "no, I think we have finished." He went on to affirm the process we have been through and shared something I will always remember.

He told us the story of a colleague who wrote an article called, "The Replacement Religion". This individual had a very unique perspective, because he had been the replacement child. His parents lost a baby as infant, and he was the subsequent child. Their grief was such that they named this man the same name as his dead brother and essentially lived into all of their dreams for the first child.

David said, "I don't think this will be the case with your next child. Cara has a unique place in your lives. You have made a space for her, and she has become a child in her own right in your family."

I'm not entirely sure it was by design. I wanted to get pregnant right away after we lost Cara. I wanted another child so desperately to ease the pain. But it didn't happen. What we got instead was long cycles that would not support a pregnancy, a miscarriage, emotional cycles of infertility treatment and finally a glimmer of hope.

In that time, grieving Cara was very, very difficult, but it was also necessary. We found ways to remember her as our child and to honor and celebrate her.

Our excitement in learning that our next little one is a girl could also seem in a way to replace Cara, but that could not be further from the truth. We are excited to live out some of our little girl dreams, but we are already making new ones. Cara could never be replaced. However, we do expect that this little one will teach us to love Cara even more, in ways that we had not previously known.