To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Broken Mama

Well....I did it.  I put away the baby clothes Harlynn will never wear. I packed them up, sealed them up, and put them away. Out of sight. Ever close in mind.

The crib is still in-tact. And it's empty. There are no pink sheets. There is no sleeping baby. Just a gray, bare mattress. I've stared at that mattress, at that crib, so many times over the last 12 weeks. Why is she gone? Why did she die? Why is this crib empty? Why are my arms empty?

I've heard, several times, how very strong people think I am. How I've somehow inspired them. I silently grimace at those remarks. Politely accept the compliment, but with total internal disbelief. Disbelief verging on disgust. I don't see myself as weak, but I certainly wouldn't consider myself strong. I exist. And that is all I can do these days. Exist. If being strong means not rolling over to die, then maybe I am. This journey has no road map. The path is long and dark. No one wants to walk it. No one wants to discover what waits on the other side. Does the road ever end? I walk along, and I stumble. I fall. Hard. It hurts. I struggle to stand. Not because I can't, but because I don't want to. I don't want to stand up simply to fall down again. I don't want to go further if it means I'll only get hurt once more. I am not strong. I am calloused. 

What does it mean - to be calloused? I have scars. Scars that document each of the milestones along my journey. Wounds that only appear, from the outside, to be healed. Thick skinned. A bodily armor that appears to be able to withstand the blows it receives. And while the outside is hard, and even noble in appearance, the inside is empty. The inside is fragile. The inside is tender, no matter the wounds that close themselves around it.

I do not seek encouragement. I am not fishing for reassurance. I'm not hoping someone tells me, "But Val, you ARE strong." I'm simply telling the truth. The truth is: this is exhausting. This is excruciating. This is unfathomable. And every day, every freaking day, I have to somehow convince myself there are things only I can do. There are things only I can tend to. And I stand up. And I start moving. And I resent every damn step.

This is the sea of sorrow. This is path of brokenness. This is the ugly truth. And this is my life. Every day.

Thank God for Haley. Thank God for the life and light she brings into this dark world. Thank God she gives me poise and purpose. I thank God for Harlynn, too. I miss her. Every moment. Every day. But I thank God for her just as often.

My name is Val. I am a broken mama.

I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. ~Psalm 121:1, 2

Thursday, June 27, 2013

{Illuminate} Week 2

The following is a homework assignment from a project class I enrolled in: Illuminate - Lighting the Path to Photographic Healing. This is week 2: Finding Your Light, and Experimenting With Light.

"When you hear a boy ask why the sun comes and goes, tell him because in this life there is no light without the dark." ~ Mago de Oz (That's a heavy metal band, no less. Never heard their music, but I do love this line.)

It amazes me how much the sun affects my mood. When it's cloudy or gloomy, I tend to be as well. But when the sun shines, I can feel myself standing a little taller. Breathing a little deeper. Smiling a little broader. The sun is literally the center of my universe. It makes things grow. It sustains life. It gives me a vitamin without me even having to swallow a pill. That's pretty awesome. The sun is pretty popular. Everything grows upwards, reaching for it. The leaves of trees open broadly and turn to catch as much light as they can. A sunflower stares at the sun all day. 

But when the sun is gone...when the sun is hidden out of sight, the days are noticeably darker. There is no basking in warmth. There is no radiance of light. There is only searching....searching for the light, and waiting for the dark to pass.  These are how some of my recent days have been spent. Searching for the light. Longing for the shadows to be lifted. Longing for a bright spot of any sort to find it's way into my day. Into my heart.

I had a revelation of sorts: The sun never. stops. shining. It never stops. It is always the brightest star in the sky, all day, every day. We just can't always see it. And when we can't see it, it isn't because the sun has gone away. It's because something has blocked its light. The obstruction is only temporary, and we will see the light again. It isn't about what we can't see. It's about having faith that what we can't see still exists.

On my dark days, may I realize I will see the sun again. May I take comfort in knowing it's always there. May I continually remember whether I can see it or not, the sun is always shining. And even on those dark and dreary days, sometimes...the light will come from a source we never expected.

Next: Broken Mama

Sunday, June 23, 2013

{Illuminate} Week 1

The following is a homework assignment from a project class I enrolled in: Illuminate - Lighting the Path to Photographic Healing. This is week 1: writing a letter to my baby, and posting self-portraits to share my story.

Dear Harlynn,

It's coming up on three months since we had to say goodbye to you. Three months since the doctor said, "I'm so sorry..."  Three months since our lives entered the realm of the unthinkable. 

There have been days where I feel peace about where you are, what you're doing, and I can honestly say I rejoice for you. But there are dark days, Harlynn. Days where I don't understand how I'm expected to find a way out. Days where I'm completely overcome by how much I miss you. My arms ache to hold you. My chest aches to have you near. My heart pounds at its walls, begging to be relieved of having to sustain me. 

Most people don't understand. Most people don't want to. I certainly wish I didn't have to. This is a pain that hurts like no other. And it never. goes. away.

I question God. I question why He didn't change this. I question why he allowed your heart to stop. I question why the prayer I prayed - to be spared this pain - went unanswered. I get mad. I get confused.  I don't understand why the rest of this world still has to endure suffering. I question how He could deem I would ever be strong enough to endure this. A quiet voice, His voice, tells me I don't have to be strong enough. He has and will continue to carry me through. But I still get mad. I still remind Him He could have kept you alive. I still cry for the moments that will never be. 

The other day I was driving behind a Napa Auto Parts pickup. Its brake lights were on continuously. I thought it was funny, a store specializing in ensuring the proper operation of vehicles, was driving one that was defective.  I think I sometimes feel like that. I'm somehow expected to keep going, keep rolling forward, but all I want to do is stop. Put on the brakes. The rest of the world may think I have stopped...but for their sake, for their expectations, I've somehow found a way to function. Found a way to move. Found a way to get up every day despite my total brokenness. 

Yesterday I started crying - out of nowhere, the tears welled up and I cried at the dinner table. Your daddy asked, "What triggered this?"  The fact that our daughter died. The fact that she's in the cemetery instead of our home. The fact that I don't know what else to do, what else I can do, besides cry.

I don't want you to see me sad. I do pray you occasionally get a window from Heaven to peek in on us, though. And for those moments, I want you to see us as a loving family. A family who shares together. Who laughs together. Who can be happy we knew you at all, and hold on to your life in every possible memorializing fashion. I want you to see us as the family you'll be excited to one day meet, and never be separated from. 

I'm going to try to do some good in this world. I'm going to try to be a mommy you and your sister will be proud of. I'm going to try to help other hearts that hurt like mine. I'm going to try to keep your life flame flickering in a special way. I'm going to try to be your mommy in every way I still can.

There will never be another Harlynn. There will never be another you. I'm so honored I got to be the one to carry you while you were here. I love you, sweet baby girl. I miss you. I hurt for not having you here with us.

Love for eternity,

Your Mommy

Friday, June 21, 2013

Faith's Lodge

I kind of started to tell you about it. Really, though, there aren't words that can appropriately explain the depth of our experience there. The purpose is heartbreaking, yet the the bottom line is this place is a blessing. It is a respite. It is a stepping stone on the path to healing. Plainly stated, Faith's Lodge is amazing.

Faith was the first daughter of the founders of Faith's Lodge - and she was stillborn. I implore you to read more about this wonderful couple and their story, but the cliff notes version is as a result of this tragedy, Faith's Lodge was built. Tucked away in a remote wooded paradise in Wisconsin, the lodge gives bereaved parents and families a chance to connect, a chance to face their grief, and a chance to share their child's legacy.

The last night of our being there, we had a wonderful steak dinner (one of the dads himself became our grill master) and all ~ eight couples total ~ sat around the table sharing in a most special time. Those couples, and the babies they lost, left lasting imprints on my heart. I will forever remember their precious children, and I'm sure Harlynn has met them already. We cried together, we shared in each other's pain....and we laughed together. I laughed so hard during one game of Scattergories, I nearly cried. I didn't have to hide how I was feeling. I wasn't worried that if these people saw me laugh, they would assume I was "over" losing Harlynn. I could cry and laugh all in the same breath, and they got it. They understood. I could be this forever changed person I am, and they were completely natural about it. They know this road. They recognize this journey.

Aside from sharing time with other bereaved parents, there are crafts at the lodge, designed to help you start a memorial garden. We did a birdhouse, a garden stone, and a wooden plaque. We also participated in a heart-stone activity. Stones shaped like hearts were decorated by each couple, and placed at the Bridge of Hope. We found a niche in a tree stump to place Harlynn's stone. There were so many heart stones near and around the bridge. There are so many parents who have been blessed to spend time at that lodge. There are so many children who left far too soon, but are still so very loved.

I saw June bugs for the first time - and they were gross. I'm sure most of you know how well I do with creatures having more than four legs...  I saw more ticks than I ever knew existed in the universe, which was also gross. But aside from the bugs (which I don't like no matter where I am), this place was wonderful. Wild. Peaceful.

I hesitate to use the word "healing" because I don't want to be misunderstood or lead anyone to think that because Brent and I went there and had such wonderful experiences, that we're suddenly better or "fixed". Healing is a process. A long one. We started our process because of this lodge.

I can't say enough about the other parents we spent our time with. They are such wonderful people. They are so enjoyable to be with. They are all madly in love with the children they lost. They would do anything to have their children here still. We all would. I cried when I had to say goodbye to them. They are dear, dear people. 

I want to share some pictures of our time there, so will do that below. If you ever have reason to go to Faith's Lodge (though I pray you don't), I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of it. Mr. and Mrs. Lacek (Faith's parents) had a very specific plan and cause in building that lodge, and it holds true to their intention. It is a very special place with a very special purpose. Harlynn, give Faith a hug and tell her how very thankful we are to her parents. We were able to feel closer to you than we've felt this whole time thanks to their vision. I love you, sweet baby.

The View

Reading & Relaxing

Brent's Mad Painting Skills

Top of Heart Stone

Side of Heart Stone
Front of Heart Stone

I thought it was bird doo!

Wood Burner Master

Heart Stone Resting Place
We Love You, Harlynn

Big Manitou Falls, WI

Some Of Our New Friends & Our Impromptu Field Trip

Harlynn's Parents ~ Loving Her Always

Next: Illuminate: Week 1
Prev: Homesick

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I wish you could see this place. I wish you could see it, but I hope you never have to. We're at a lodge built specifically as a retreat location for bereaved parents. Members of the club no one knows exists, until they're unexpectedly thrust into its midst. Children aren't supposed to pass away before their parents. Babies aren't supposed to fill plots in a cemetery. Yet, the painful reality is those things happen. There are so many hearts that beat differently as a result of being broken by this pain. It's a shame a place like this has to exist, but what a blessing that it does.

We're in the middle of the woods, literally surrounded by trees. The only sounds are from the birds during the day, and the frogs and bugs at night. Nighttime is almost deafening here - it's the coolest and strangest thing I've ever heard after sunset.  The unrelenting chorus of croaks, chirps, and whistles is a beautiful mess. It's enchanting and overwhelming at the same time. I guess this is a hopping place for frogs. (I had to...I'm sorry...)  It strikes me as funny that I'm able to sit at a keyboard in the middle of this wilderness and write about my time here. I guess "roughing it" has evolved over time.

I'm on the balcony outside our room, reclined in the Adirondack chair, barefoot, and wearing my favorite Wyoming sweatshirt. It actually was Brent's, but I covertly took ownership. There's a light cloud cover over the sky keeping the perfect outdoor temperature, the slightest breeze keeping the bugs at bay, and a tranquility that blankets this place, making it more cozy than any favorite sweatshirt. There are birds singing and chirping in the trees, grebes and ducks swimming on the lake, and somewhere nearby there's a black bear waiting until we go to sleep to attempt to raid the outdoor trash can. This place is beautiful. This place is perfect. This place has let me feel closer to my little Harlynn than anywhere else.

This morning I walked downstairs to get myself coffee and breakfast, and her picture was the first thing I saw. I can't tell you what it did for my soul to have her greet me "good morning", and to know that others would see her picture as they came down to begin their day. I enjoyed breakfast alone, being the only one up early this morning, sipping coffee and slurping cereal on the main patio. I wished I would have brought my Bible downstairs with me so I could have read it during that time. It was so peaceful and serene, I might have actually been able to focus on a passage or two.

Our only audience here, aside from the wildlife, are other parents who have lived through the unthinkable. We're not being ignored because no one knows what to say or do. We're not being avoided because other people feel awkward about addressing our situation. We're not expected to be "okay". Society tells us to dust ourselves off and keep walking. My heart knows that's not always possible. Here, we're allowed to be broken. We're allowed to be fragile. We're allowed to laugh and joke and cry all in the same breath. We're allowed to be as reclusive or outgoing as we need to be, moment to moment. Most importantly, we're allowed to talk freely about Harlynn. We're allowed to share our daughter and gloat about the beautiful baby she was, is, and always will be. We're allowed to be Harlynn's parents.

Last June when I had bronchitis and a double ear infection, I started watching a Netflix documentary (wow, surprise...) about our national parks. There was quite a bit of time spent on John Muir and how influential he was in preserving some of our most notable parks and forests. He found healing in the mountains. He found peace of mind in the woods.  I've always liked John Muir, since visiting Muir Woods as a kid. If it weren't for insects, I would eat, sleep, and live outdoors. Pieces of my heart will always be in Wyoming and in certain thinking spots I used to go to get away from it all. I "get" Mr. Muir even more now. There is definitely cause and reason to keep as much of what God gave us in nature. There is healing in these trees. There is comfort in these hills. I know I sound like a promo for Avatar, but it's true: there is something to be said for relishing being a small creature in a big, beautiful world.

I've been sitting outside all day so far. I've spent some time reading, I've spent some time visiting, and I've spent some time in quiet meditation. There are a lot of hymns that have run through my head the last 24 hours, and the birds have provided lovely harmonies. One hymn in particular that's been on repeat in my mind is "How Beautiful Heaven Must Be." I know that if I'm in awe of this place and God's handiwork here, Harlynn will have so much more to show me one day when we're together in His presence. Thinking of those treasures, thinking of the beauty that awaits, and thinking of our precious makes me homesick.

Next: Faith's Lodge
Prev: 6th Dear Harlynn

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Little Birdie Told Me

The eye that sees each sparrow fall, His unseen hand is in it all.

The above is part of a church hymn I used to sing ("Lord I Believe").  Trust me - it ties in to this post quite well. The story I'm about to tell is an old one. I've told it many times, and it still resonates with me all these years later. I find that as I apply it to my life, it really fits every situation. I lived through this in the summer of 1998, and it was about seven years later I was reflecting on it and realized it had a much more meaningful application.  Bear with me. You're about to embark on a journey that will reveal to you how my mind works. And that it takes me a really long time to learn life lessons.

Statistics state that most vehicle accidents occur within three miles of one's home. For every single accident I've had, (and no, I will not divulge that grand total) that statistic has rung true. Funny how things "hit so close to home".  I remember the summer of 2000 when my friend Ken stood on the sidewalk and witnessed a six car pile up on Cody's main street. I was involved. It was a doozie - and when I had stopped crying long enough to ask him if he could drive me, he took me to our friend Darrell's work - the body shop. Four days later I drove to see Darrell again because I had hit a boulder and scratched the side of my car. Darrell said, "Val, I like seeing you often, but this has got to stop." That was a bad week. Thank God for friends like Ken and Darrell, though. I digress.

One of my first "accidents" happened in the first vehicle I ever purchased. My tan, 1988 Chevy Celebrity. It was my first car, my first bank loan, and my first love. I loved that car and made every possible excuse to drive it.

I was living with my parents and working about 30 miles from home as a Sales Associate at Corral West Ranchwear. This particular day, I had the day off, but it was payday. Before the days of direct deposit, I had to pick up my check from the store and deposit it in my bank account.

It was a gorgeous summer day. Bright shining sun, not a cloud in the sky, a whisper of a breeze, and miles of unadulterated scenic highway. I had what my dad called "four-by" air conditioning. Four windows that rolled down. With the windows down, my FM tunes blaring, my sunglasses on, and my hair tussled by the wind, I felt like a movie star.  

I was less than two miles from home when I saw the flock of sparrows on the side of the road. They were enjoying the warm day and the barley tops that had spilled over on to the road from the trucks. As my car approached, they all took to flight in sync, lifting and darting in complete unison. One little sparrow must have been having an off day, however. He didn't make it in time to be with his friends. He smacked my windshield with a surprising force for as small a creature he was. His head was down between my wiper blades and his feet were toward the middle of my windshield. He had one wing spread to his side, and the other tucked beneath him. It was entirely evident he had just flown his last flight.

I was about nauseated by the sight. Also, being raised by my mom (the worrier), I knew that birds carried diseases. Therefore, I was not about to stop and touch this bird in an attempt to remove it from my windshield. I did the only thing I knew to do. I kept driving.

Before I reached the main highway, little bird was becoming more of a distraction. Feathers were flying everywhere and I had to roll up my window so they stopped flying inside the car at my face. His little feet were tapping on my windshield in rapid succession, like a little machine gun. I couldn't handle hearing the tap-tap-rappity-tap any longer. I turned up my tunes. Problem solved.

You can probably imagine, however, how distracting it would be to have this small body in the middle of my windshield. The further I drove, the fewer feathers remained. It was becoming a true eyesore the longer I went along. I couldn't stomach it anymore. I put my hand up and spread my fingers to block the bird from my view. Problem solved.

The looks I got on the highway as vehicles passed me in the opposite direction were somewhat priceless. My head was bobbing as I was rocking out to my radio, my hand was in mid-air in a random salute, and there was a dead bird in the middle of my windshield. And I drove like this for 30 miles.

When I pulled up to work, I ran inside to get my paycheck. It was a quick visit, as I had other errands to run. When I got back into the car, I re-assumed my position. I drove across town to the Wal-Mart, parked the car, and ran inside to do my shopping. I remember hoping some nice stranger would kindly remove the carnage from my car while I was inside.

When my shopping was done, I walked back out to the parking lot where a mom and two children were loading in to an SUV in front of me. A little girl, about four years old, was completely fixated on something. I looked around to see what could be so interesting, but finding nothing, got in my car. I looked up and our eyes met. She had been looking at the bird. That dead, disgusting bird. I most likely scarred that little girl for life.

I once again assumed my position. It was time to head home. The tapping of the little birdie toenails called for even louder tunes, and my hand was spread to capacity to cover the unsightly view. I drove all the way back to my town and clear to the opposite side of it to try to catch my dad at his office. He was just leaving as I pulled up.

I had driven nearly 70 miles by this point, with the bird as a new fixture on my windshield. I rolled down my window as I pulled up alongside him. "Hi Dad. Can you please take this bird off my windshield?"

Dad looked, trying to process the question I had just asked him. He had been used to me spouting random inquiries, but this was something. I remember he looked and said, "That's a bird?"  It was true - it looked more like an alien-creature than a sparrow at this point.

"Yeah. I drove to Cody and back after I hit it. I didn't want to touch it."
"You did what?......Val.....*sigh*"

He put his truck in park, grabbed a glove from his seat (I'm telling you, birds carry diseases...) and peeled the bird from my windshield. He tossed it over to the nearby gravel pile. We never saw the bird again.

Here's the kicker, and what this experience taught me years later. As we go through life, our experiences and challenges put us to the test. Some of them we try to ignore. We create our own diversions to distract us from the gruesome truth of what we're up against. We pretend they don't exist, we do what we can to cover them up, and we try to go on as if we don't have the ugly truth staring us directly in the face.  We hope someone else will take care of it. We hope it will somehow go away. If we move fast enough, stay busy enough, or tell ourselves enough times it isn't a problem, then maybe it won't actually be a problem.  In reality, we tend to make it more of a mess by not dealing with it. It gets worse instead of better. We forget that whether or not we go on as if it doesn't exist, other people see it. Other people are impacted by our choices. Everything we do - and for that matter - everything we don't do, affects everyone around us.

The only way to get around it, the only way to set ourselves free, is to take it to our Father. Once we ask him to take care of it, once we give him permission to handle the gross, ugly carnage we've found ourselves in the middle of, he takes it from us. Without lecture, without question, he tosses it to the side and we never have to deal with it again.

You don't know how many times I've come back to this experience. You don't know how many times I've had to remind myself the lesson I learned years later. You don't know how many times I've forgotten I don't have to take care of everything (that I CAN'T take care of everything) by my own power. You don't know how many times I've had to ask him to just fix it. And you don't know how many times he has.

Lord I believe, yes I believe; I cannot doubt, or be deceived; 
The eye that sees each sparrow fall - 
His unseen hand is in it all.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

6th Dear Harlynn

Dear Harlynn,

It's been eight weeks since we came home from the hospital without you. Eight weeks since we held you for the first and last time. As each day passes, our longing for you increases. We miss you so very much. We love you even more. We aren't sure how to go about our days without you here. You're still a part of our daily lives, and you forever will be. How we wish it were in a different way.

We sent you a purple balloon tonight. We all wrote little notes on it - I helped Haley with hers. She made her very own "H" and she was so proud. She is one smart little cookie. I asked Haley what she wanted you to know so we could write it on the balloon for you to see. She answered, "That I love her." She's your awesome big sister, Harlynn. Daddy and I each wrote you a note, too. We went to the back yard and let it go. Up, up, up, and away. We watched it for the longest time. It was still a teeny speck in the sky before we came inside to eat dinner. I kept the metal washer the balloon was tied to, and wrote on it. I'll put it with the rest of our keepsakes for you. 

This has been my first week back at work and it's been rough. People don't know what to say or what to do, so they don't say or do anything. There have been a few, and thank God for them, who have been willing to be vulnerable with me. I read another article and after my first couple of days at work, it resonated with me so powerfully. I don't want people to be afraid of me or uncomfortable around me - I want them to know that I am forever changed for having the privilege of being your mommy. I want them to know that you will always be a part of our family and they'll need to get used to hearing your name. Eventually it will be easier to walk through my office door each morning, and people will talk with me again as they once did.  I do wish I could have brought you to work to show you off, instead of having to cry alone in my office for not having you here.

I went to a special ceremony today. Before I got pregnant with you, I graduated from a Women's Leadership program put on by the United Way here. Today was the graduation for the class that came after mine. I was blessed for having attended. I heard some powerful speeches, and was in tears a few times. One of my fellow classmates, and a dear friend, held my hand as I cried. I wish you could have met her. I wish you could have met all of them. They would have fawned over you, I'm sure. I wanted to tell you something about being there this afternoon, Harlynn. As a mother, I have all these hopes and dreams for my children. I thought about what choices Haley will make as she gets older, and I thought about all the things we won't ever experience with you. I would have loved for you to go through a program like this one day. It struck me as I sat there, though, how you ARE a leader, sweetie. Even in your death, you are a leader. You've taught me, and so many others. You've taught me the importance of transparent honesty. You've taught me the value of vulnerability. You've given me a new perspective on absolutely everything. You've led me into new relationships, strengthened existing ones, and have taught me how to truly cherish people.  You've taught me the importance of keeping promises and staying true to a given word. You've taught me self-control. You've taught me how to be firm in my faith. You've led me to be a person I only ever wished I could be before. The Golden Rule - treat others as you would have them treat you - I see the importance that carries in a way I didn't before. There is so much I have now that I wouldn't have had were it not for you. My hopes and dreams of everything you would be in life were shattered when we found out your heart was still - yet somehow, you've fulfilled them from beyond the sting of death. I am so proud to be your mommy. I am so proud of all you were able to accomplish - without even trying! 

I have a feeling you're not done yet. Our lives will go on and your name will be used in some pretty special ways. You'll continue to give hope and healing to more than just your daddy, your sister, and me. You're going to accomplish more. I'm going to work to make it happen. 

I love you. Every moment of every day.


Next: Homesick
Prev: My "Good Fortune"

Saturday, June 1, 2013

My "Good Fortune"

I've got sunshine on a cloudy Day....When it's cold outside....I got the month of....well, freezing June.  That's not how the song goes, but that's our reality today.  It's the first of June, and the heat has kicked on in the house several times today. Yes it seems it's a cool, wet summer here in the prairie land. A small part of me wants to think the reason the weather has been so crummy this year is because even Mother Nature herself is grieving alongside us, wishing she could have known Harlynn here on earth.  And as the weather stinks, so does my attitude. The wind and rain and clouds are enough to make me lose my mind a bit. I need sunshine. I need warmth. I need the physical proof and representation of "brighter days".  I want to believe they exist.

This morning as I was outside trimming back the lilac bushes (or trees, rather, since they're so out-of-control tall....) I was wondering if Heaven had lilacs. Their perfumy scent is one of the loveliest scents I can imagine. Even while trimming branches in a cold light mist, I was glad for the excuse to be up close to the blooms.  Can Harlynn smell the lilacs? Does Heaven have smells? Would you have had allergies like the rest of us, sweet baby girl? I wish I could have heard your cute little baby sneeze. I wish I could have watched your teeny nose wrinkle.

You know, I used to find it so unfair that people had to die. I thought it was so unfair they didn't get to be here for and with the rest of us. Today, though, as I was working away with the hedge clippers and arborist saw, my tune changed. It's unfair to have to live. It's unfair to be here amongst the evils of the world, while those we love and have lost are already experiencing the riches and glory of Heaven.

It's been a weepy day here. I'm struggling emotionally, and lacking motivation to do most anything. Brent is dealing with the frustrations of home repair and maintenance. (But I know the basement will look amazing when you're done, honey!)  As a result of both of us feeling frustrated and down, we decided to order Chinese food for dinner and take a break from our healthy eating. Yes, it's backwards. Yes, it's counter-productive in reaching our goal. But it's what we wanted, and neither of us had the energy to come up with a different solution.

After our lo mein and fried rice, and maybe a won-ton or two, I moved on to the fortune cookie. I'm one of the three people on earth who loves the taste of fortune cookies. I don't care for the ridiculous paper contents, but I genuinely like the cookie itself. Today I read my "fortune", expecting a bogus cliche phrase as usual. Instead, what I read made me tear up. Seriously - a cookie fortune made me cry? Yep.

"The quality, not the longevity, of one's life is what is important."

Thirty-seven weeks. From start to finish, Harlynn's little life was 37 weeks. She had it all. She had warmth, comfort, songs from her sister, conversations from her daddy, back rubs from her mommy, and even a daily dose of chocolate. She went to church every Sunday with us. She got hugs. She got tickled. She heard us pray for her. She heard music. She heard laughter. She got a lot of exercise. She was showered with as much love as you can possibly give someone, despite never seeing or holding or kissing them. She had a good life. She had a good life.

Shortly after our comfort food indulgence, and my fortune cookie cry fest, the day brightened. The sun came out (at bedtime, go figure...), Harlynn's namesake couple stopped by, and I had a good tickle/giggle fest with Haley. She's currently practicing her elk call from her bedroom right now - at least that's what her high pitch squeals remind me of.  

All of that to say this: As much as this sucks, (and there is no scale big enough to measure how much this sucks) as much as this hurts, as wrong as this all seems, there is a brighter day. There is a radiant hope. There is a warming of the soul. There is a just and righteous end. There is.

Harlynn, sweetie, I wish I could have spent more time with you. Every moment of every day I wish you were here. But I praise God for the time I had with you, and for the fact it was, truly, quality time