'But God said to me, “My GRACE is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9'

Friday, 28 October 2011

Dear Hannah - Happy 2 month birthday

To my darling daughter Hannah Grace,

Tomorrow is your 2 month birthday! Wow, I can hardly believe it has been 2 months since you were born. It feels like just yesterday. If you were still here with us, we would be doing something special as a family to celebrate. In fact, we would also be taking you to a wedding with us! But instead it will just be Daddy and I going without you tomorrow. We will miss you. I was excited to pick out a cute outfit for you to wear to the wedding – I can picture it in my mind; you in a pretty pink dress, with a matching flower headband. You would have looked so beautiful! But I know that you will still be looking beautiful tomorrow, where you are now with the Lord in heaven.

Mummy misses you so much. Every moment of every day is hard without you. I miss holding you close and feeling the warmth of your skin against mine. I miss the cute little sounds you made as you ‘talked’ to me.  I miss the gorgeous looks you gave me as you gazed into my eyes and did what very much looked like a smile! You are so special to me.

Please know that I am thinking about you all the time, and that you very loved.
Love, your Mummy xxx

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Reflections on Hannah's Memorial Service

On September 7th we had Hannah Grace’s Memorial Service – 7 weeks ago today. As I think back on that day, I remember the pain of having to farewell our beautiful daughter. But I also remember the joy of being able to share precious memories of Hannah with the friends and family who came along to celebrate her life with us. Over 140 people came to celebrate, and grieve, with us! This was such a blessing, as people only got 1-2 days notice about it. We are so thankful for the effort that people made to come support us. Most of them didn’t get to meet Hannah, so it was very special to be able to share something of her life with them, and for them to feel like they got to know her a little bit through what was shared. 

The service was a fitting tribute to Hannah’s short, but hugely impacting, life. Our pastor did an amazing job of leading the service in a way that honoured Hannah and our Christian faith. It was encouraging to hear scripture verses that reminded us of the hope we have in the Lord, and that Hannah is now safe with Him! And Jeremy, his Mum, and two friends of ours each shared some of their special memories of our journey with Hannah Grace (the speeches can be read under the ‘Daddy’s letter’ and ‘Memorial Service’ blog tabs). 

After the service we all went over to the bridge, and scattered pink petals into the river in memory of Hannah’s life. My three flower girls from our wedding handed out the petals, and also passed around baskets of pink heart chocolates. We had red heart chocolates at our wedding, which represented Jeremy and my love for each other; so it was significant to then have pink ones to represent how much we loved Hannah Grace. Hearts also seemed appropriate, as Hannah touched the hearts and lives of so many people. 

Although I found it difficult to cope through the service, as it brought up so many painful emotions, I am really thankful that we did this to honour Hannah’s life. Looking back, I know I would regret it if we hadn’t done anything just because it felt too hard. So I am glad we did. However I never imagined that I would have to attend the memorial service of one of my children, let alone only 4 years into our marriage. Saying goodbye to my baby girl was the hardest thing I have ever had to do – the pain is too great to be able to explain in words. And it is impossible to understand unless you have experienced it. Being left behind, as a new Mum without her baby, feels so empty and lonely. I miss Hannah more than words could ever describe, and I know I always will. But throughout this journey we are thankful for the friends and family who are walking alongside us. And for our God who is carrying us each step of the way.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Going back

Last week Jeremy and I went back to visit the neonatal unit. We had made a thank-you card for the staff team there, and wanted to take it to them in person. We also took in a special gift for the NICU unit – a beautiful wool blanket that my Gran had knitted, in memory of Hannah Grace. Gran wanted to do something special for Hannah, so she made a blanket in Hannah’s colours to keep future NICU babies warm. So special! The staff at the unit were so thankful for both the blanket and the card. They were surprised to see us back so soon! But said they really appreciated us coming in to thank them in person, even though it was hard to do.

 The thank you poster card I made. 
Background: pink blossom in our garden that reminds me of Hannah

I had mixed emotions going back to the hospital, and especially to the neonatal floor. We were only planning to drop the card off to reception, but a nurse came and took us into the unit itself. Although we were in the exact place where Hannah was, somehow it looked different to me. The sounds were the same, and the set-up similar, but it felt like a different place. I don’t know why – maybe it was just because I knew Hannah wasn’t there any more. It was hard to go back, as it was another reminder that Hannah is gone. I wish that when I walked through those doors, I could have seen her lying in her bed, or heard her crying; and could have held her close one more time.

However in some ways it was also quite comforting to be back at the unit again. It is a place where I feel close to Hannah, because it is there that we shared our precious time with her. It holds so many wonderful memories! But also many painful ones. I spent so many hours holding and cuddling my beautiful daughter there, but I also had to sit in that room and hold her in my arms while she died. No Mother should ever have to do that.

One of the hardest things about our visit was actually that while we were there, we saw a couple leaving the unit with their new baby – taking her home for the first time. I was thankful for them that their baby had improved enough to leave the unit, but so sad for us that our baby didn’t. Once again the realisation sunk in for me that we never got to take Hannah home. And we never will get to. I can’t help but cry when I think about this reality… it just doesn’t seem fair. It’s not how things should be, and it hurts so bad. I miss Hannah Grace every minute of every day. 

But I do know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The same God that blessed us with 6 wonderful days with Hannah, and was with us all through every moment in that neonatal unit, is still with us now. He is holding Hannah Grace in His arms in heaven, and He is carrying Jeremy and I through each day without her here on earth. 

God – please pass on to Hannah Grace that her Mummy and Daddy love her and miss her xxx

Saturday, 22 October 2011

4th Wedding Anniversary

On Thursday, October  20th, Jeremy and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary! Our wedding feels like a long time ago, and it feels like our lives were so different back then. We never could have imagined that 4 years on, we would be grieving the loss of our first child. 

 Our wedding day

Jeremy took Thursday off work so that we could spend the day together, which was really nice. We bought lunch and had a picnic at the beach, and went out for dinner. I am so thankful for my amazing husband; he is so loving, thoughtful, and sacrificial. He provides for, and protects, our family – and this has been particularly evident this year as he has done so for both his wife and his daughter. Jeremy was such an amazing Dad, as I knew he would be! As I watched the strong bond he had with Hannah Grace, and saw how devoted he was to loving her and protecting her in every way possible, my love and respect for him grew even further. Hannah was his little princess, and she adored him. I can’t imagine walking this grief journey without Jeremy by my side. Something like this tests a relationship; but so far, thanks to the Lord, it has strengthened ours. I am so thankful to the Lord for the amazing family he has blessed me with – an incredible husband, and a beautiful daughter.

 Jeremy and I on our anniversary

Although I really enjoyed our anniversary day, and am so thankful for our amazing marriage, the day also made me sad. Because it was another reminder that Hannah isn’t here now. As we had been thinking this year about our anniversary, we were expecting not to be able to do too much, as we would have a new baby. We were excited by the thought that we would celebrate as parents this year! Once Hannah died, and I realised once again we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted on our anniversary, I was actually really sad. I didn’t want to have this freedom! I wanted to be more tied down at home, fitting our celebration around a baby’s schedule or a babysitter. But Jeremy was really understanding towards how I was feeling (it was the first time I have cried on a wedding anniversary!), and loved me in a way that was so sensitive to my needs.

We planted a lemon tree for our wedding anniversary (4 years is represented by flowers and fruit)…

And we also planted a tree in memory of Hannah Grace. This was a really thoughtful gift from a friend.

Thank you, Jeremy, for loving me like Christ loves the Church. You honour me and point me towards the Lord. Happy 4 year anniversary… I look forward to celebrating many more with you!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Questions for God?

I have been thinking about how God is still good, even when bad things happen. It is hard for me to reconcile in my mind the idea that a loving God could allow my beautiful baby to die, but I still believe in His love and faithfulness. His character doesn’t change based on our circumstances - and I am so thankful for that! For the first week after Hannah died, I felt slightly abandoned by God. I felt like He had let us down somehow, even though I knew in my head that this wasn’t the case. But I began to realise that Hannah did so much better than the doctors thought she should have done based on her condition - and they couldn't explain that. And that we got far more time with her than they expected. So maybe, it was actually only thanks to God that we got the amazing time with Hannah that we did. Maybe if it wasn’t for the Lord, she would not have even lasted until full term. Maybe it was only by the grace of God that we got a whole week to love Hannah, get to know her, and bond with her. Maybe He was the one who allowed us to have so much joy in that week. I realised I should be thanking God for his grace in giving us what He did, rather than blaming Him for what we didn’t get.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

A few people have asked me if I have doubted my faith in God through this journey. And the truth is, no I haven’t. Of course I have questions for Him though! I have wondered why God didn’t answer our prayer for healing, how God could allow such a precious baby to die, and why it had to happen to us. When I think about the verse in Romans 8:28, I wonder what good could come out of Hannah dying that couldn’t have come out of her living – surely God could have used her even more if she had lived for 90 plus years? But at the same time as asking all these questions, I still trust God. His understanding is so far beyond mine. And to be honest, I don’t really need or want the answers to my questions. Even if God gave me a reason as to why Hannah died, I don’t think it would make me feel any better, because it wouldn’t bring her back! My pain and grief is not from a lack of answers, but from missing my daughter. Maybe when I get to heaven, and am reunited with my precious Hannah, God will reveal his reasons. Or it’s possible I won’t even know then. But in the meantime, I continue to trust that God sees the big picture, and that He is still in control. And I’m so glad He is – because I don’t want that responsibility!

Of course I wish that things could be different – I’m not saying that I’m content with the fact that I had to say goodbye to Hannah Grace. But I do still have hope in the Lord. I know that Hannah’s life lives on; but I wish that it was here with us, not in heaven. Jeremy and I have been left behind with no baby, and so much pain… and many questions for God. But God has been, and always will be, faithful; I truly believe that. We aren’t going to walk away from Him now, just because we are suffering. In fact we need Him now more than ever.

"To overcome adversity is to allow adversity to 'overcome' you. You allow those heartaches, pains, and perplexities to break apart the 'rock of resistance' in your character, to lay you low, to humble you, so that you run--not walk, run--to Jesus. In the shadow of His wings, in the safety of His arms, in the cleft of His rock, in the shelter of His fortress, in the hollow of His hand, you then find safety." [Quote from Joni Eareckson Tada]


Monday, 10 October 2011

6 week Birthday

Happy 6 week birthday to my precious princess. Hope you are celebrating in heaven today. Hannah Grace - your short life was so lively, courageous, and encouraging (as well as so many other things of course!). You have inspired us to show the same characteristics in our lives. And so today, to celebrate 6 weeks since you were born, there are over 100 people doing something lively, courageous or encouraging to continue your legacy! All over the world, your life is having an impact! Sorry we can't be together to celebrate today, but know that you are loved and missed by so many people.

 Hidden in the clouds,
Above the wavy sea,
There is a place called Heaven,
And it’s calling out to me.
I really hate to leave you,
All alone and so upset,
But I know you really love me,
And that you won’t forget.

My time with you’s been short,
But I don’t want you to be sad,
Celebrate the memories,
And all the good times that we had.

Butterflies surround me,
Coloured pink with streaks of gold,
And all the other kids here,
Say that we’ll never get old.

So when you’re feeling down,
And you miss me more than ever,
Remember that I’m happy,
And that I’ll be with you forever.

(By Maya Hayden-Evans)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Lively, Courageous, Encouraging

Next Monday would be Hannah Grace’s 6 week birthday, and I decided I wanted to do something to celebrate. But I wanted something that would not only involve remembering Hannah, but that would also help other people somehow. 

In the week that we were privileged to spend with Hannah Grace, the words that kept coming up to describe her were lively, courageous, and encouraging; so these became the theme words we have used to summarise Hannah’s character and personality.

Lively - From turning somersaults before she was even born, to kicking her booties off, to crying because she didn’t want her nappy changed, Hannah was very active and full of personality!
Courageous - Hannah fought against the odds to make it to a week old, and was brave through many challenges in her life. On her last day, she even fought against death – fighting to stay in my arms even though her little heart was struggling. This was an incredible display of love and courage.
Encouraging - Whenever anyone was with Hannah, they couldn't help but feel joyous; and feel love both from her and for her! The Lord used her to touch the lives of so many people. Even now that she is gone, although the pain and sadness is so strong, there is an overwhelming joy that we feel when we think about the blessing that our daughter is.

We wrote these three words on Hannah’s memorial service sheet as well as on the bookmarks we made to give to everyone, as we want to encourage other people to show these characteristics too. If these characteristics that Hannah showed in life inspire people, then this is one way we feel like her legacy is continuing. Although Hannah was only here with us for a short time, our desire is that she would never be forgotten, and that God would continue to use her in significant ways.

So on Monday October 10th, we are encouraging people to do something Lively, Courageous, or Encouraging in their day, in memory of Hannah Grace. In this way, people can share in her life and help us to continue her legacy. There are people all over the world who love Hannah, and this is one way that they can be involved too; as it doesn’t matter where you are or what your plans are, you can still join in. I am looking forward to hearing stories of what people do on Monday to celebrate!

I wish Hannah Grace was still here with us. I wish we were celebrating her 6 week birthday WITH her. I wish we didn’t have to think about continuing her legacy, because she was here doing it herself. I wish that instead of having to create this event in memory of her, I could just hold her and cuddle her and kiss her. But I can’t. And that makes me so sad. But seeing as I can’t, I am thankful that we can at least do something positive to remember her. I’m sure Hannah would have wanted that. So we pray that God uses this event to touch lives, and hopefully to also draw people closer to Him.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

One month on

Today, Oct 4th, is one month since our beautiful Hannah Grace went to be with the Lord. I thought the pain would be getting easier over time, but in many ways it seems to be getting harder. I have been trying to work out why this is, and I think it's because it is longer and longer since I have held my daughter in my arms. Every day that passes, is one more day away from our time with Hannah. And this hurts! The memories aren't fading, but they feel like so long ago. My arms feel so empty - I am a new Mum, totally in love with my gorgeous daughter, and yet I can't hold her :( As time goes by, the reality is sinking in more and more that I will never hold her again. Until I see her in heaven, that is, but for me heaven is most likely far too long away to be counting down to yet! I am thankful that in the meantime, God is holding her for me.

The memories from that day one month ago are painful. I held my daughter for 17 long hours, with only one short break, and had to watch her deteriorate and die in my arms. Somehow, God gave us the strength to get through. But I will never forget the pain of that day, as we had to farewell the most precious gift God had ever given us.

Hannah - Mummy and Daddy love you and miss you a lot.