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Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Birthday Melissa

Dear Melissa,
Can you believe tomorrow is your birthday? You would have been five years old. That is hard for me to believe.

I wanted to write you a letter today, because I know tomorrow will be crazy. We will celebrate the big day with Ann Catherine. She is so excited about turning five!

Oh Melissa, I wish so badly that you could know her. Don't get me wrong - I know you know her. I just wish you could spend each day next to her. She is such an amazing little girl. She has such a kind, compassionate heart. She talks about you often. She knows that she is a twin and that you are in Heaven. That's really all her five-year-old mind can process now. We continue to pray for wisdom that God will give us the answers to her questions. I know He will, as the time comes.

Lily Baker is just a trip. She is one of the funniest people I have ever known. I call her my rainbow, Melissa. After all of the sadness and pain surrounding your death, she was the rainbow that God sent to us to let us know it was going to be okay. She came after the storm and I don't know what I would have done without her.

In November, the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund will celebrate five years. Would you believe that we will hit the one million dollar mark in money raised this summer?! That's one million dollars in donations that have been used to purchase life-saving equipment and bereavement items for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. Your daddy and I don't take one ounce of credit for this. It is all God. To be honest with you, your daddy wanted to start the fund soon after you died and I told him no. I just didn't think there was any way I could relive your death over and over. But, to his credit, he never let up and I eventually prayed and told God if this was His will for our lives, then He was going to have to take over and do it because I couldn't. And He has. Without Him, we wouldn't have been able to do any of this.

Melissa, we have met some of the most amazing people through our involvement with your fund. We have met parents who have also lost children, people we probably never would have known. We have met doctors and nurses, most of whom took care of you and your sister in the NICU. And we have met grateful NICU parents who have graciously jumped on board to help babies and their parents in our NICU. I am so in awe of all of these people and so grateful to them all for their help.

I miss you every minute of every day. If you had told me five years ago that one of my children would have died before me, I would not have believed it. Your death - and life - changed me profoundly. There was the Amy before you were born, and the Amy after. I will never be the same. When you took your last breath on June 1st, 2005, a part of me died too.

The amazing part is that all of me didn't die. Soon after your death, I felt as if I had. I cried constantly and didn't want to get out of bed. I couldn't imagine going back into the world. How in the world did people expect me to ever laugh again when my child, my own flesh and blood and my heart, wasn't here anymore? It just seemed so ridiculous.

But now I see my life, and I realize that we did survive. I do laugh, Melissa. I laugh at your crazy father, I laugh at AC and LB and I think "what a gift!" As we sang in church Sunday morning, I thanked God that our family was okay. I thanked Him that I could stand in church and sing, that I could see and feel his mercies and his love, and that I know, without a doubt, that your death wasn't meant to hurt us. In fact, I know that God had a greater plan.

It doesn't mean I miss you any less. And given the chance, I would want you right here with us. But I know that isn't possible. So all I know to do is keep living. I realized not long after you died that that was the greatest way I could carry on your legacy. If you could no longer be here - if you couldn't live - then it was up to me to live every day of my life to the fullest.

My eyes are filled with tears as I think of how much I miss you. I hope you know that and I hope you know that your daddy and I did everything humanly possible to keep you here with us. But it wasn't our call.

I also know you are so happy. And you are well and whole, something that probably wouldn't have happened for you here on this Earth. You are perfect.

And I know you are here with us. When you first died, I had this mental picture of Jesus holding you and rocking you. As Ann Catherine has grown, I have this new picture of you. On each of our special occasions, I have this picture of Jesus pulling up a chair for you so you can look down and share in our happiness. I think He'll do that for you tomorrow. Of course after your most amazing birthday party up there!

Being your mommy is one of my greatest joys I have ever experienced, and I thank God for choosing me. I will never forget the moments we spent together before you were born and I will never forget holding you as you passed from my arms into God's. I thank Him for allowing me to be there, because I know some mothers don't get that chance.

Happy Birthday, my sweet angel. And know that one day, I will be there to celebrate your birthday with you. Until then, please continue to watch over us and send your love to us. We feel it every day.

I love you more than you'll ever know,

Your Mommy

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Four Weeks Later

We finished swim lessons this weekend. I am very happy with how it all went!

By AC's last lesson, her instructor was throwing dive sticks in the shallow end and she was going underwater to get them. She is swimming underwater without any reservations and loves it.

LB did good too. She's not swimming by any means, but she's not quite as fearful. That was one of my goals. She also learned how to kick and do other things and isn't afraid to go underwater anymore.

Now it's time for us to hit the pool and put it all into action!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sweet Friends

When you get older, you have a choice in who your friends are.

When you are 4 & 3, not so much.

Except for your preschool friends, your friends are usually the children of your mommy and daddy's friends. You are all thrown together, like it or not, because your parents are friends.

Luckily, in this case, it worked.

That's Reid, Annalyse, Riley, LB, AC and Lucy. Reid and Riley belong to our friends Ken and Jammie and Annalyse and Lucy belong to Brooke and Nathan (who also claim the precious Charlotte in the post below).

Aren't they sweet? Jammie snapped this picture the other night while we all went fishing in the lake near our homes and I absolutely love it! Poor Reid - he's the only boy! Our kids have actually gone from playing next to each other (as they did in the beginning) to playing together.

We all live in the same neighborhood, attend the same church and are in the same small group at church - which means when we meet on Sunday nights, the kids get together too. They have no choice but to be friends :)

The other night they all came over to roast marshmellows and make smores in our backyard. So much fun!

My prayer is that my girls will be blessed with good friends as they grow. So far, they're off to a pretty good start. :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Big Helper

I didn't have a "big kid helper" when Lily Baker was born.

Ann Catherine was only 17-months-old. She had just started walking, and still ate in a highchair. In essence, I had two babies for a while.

But I realized this week that if LB had been born now, AC would be a HUGE help!

Tuesday we watched Charlotte, my friend Brooke's baby. She is absolutely precious. And she LOVED Ann Catherine. (LB was napping for most of the visit.) Charlotte's two sisters are actually AC and LB's ages, but Brooke split them up and sent them to our friend Jammie's house. So we just had Charlotte.

It was so fun having a baby around. And AC was so much help, running to get Charlotte a blanket, baby dolls and other toys. She even helped me feed her and if Charlotte started to cry, AC would jump up and dance. Of course, AC is such a mommy anyway so I wasn't at all surprised.

While we were feeding Charlotte AC said, "Mommy, I wish we had a baby sister" to which I replied, "Tell your daddy that when he gets home."

She did, and he answered, "Just pretend Charlotte is your baby sister."

Ha - that funny guy. I could have told AC that would have been his response.

But it was much more fun watching her put him on the spot. :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On Any Given Day... our house, you can open the door and find this:

a beautiful princess.

Then two minutes later, you hear that beautiful princess say,

"Mommy, can I squish that bug?!"


"Sissy, come look at my poopy!"

All of which happened in the span of two minutes at our home today.

Don't let that princess dress fool you. Lily Baker is one cool kid.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Graduate

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine," they sang as they marched into the room wearing their blue gowns, blue hats and gold tassels bearing the year "2010."

It was one of the sweetest things I've ever seen.

Ann Catherine graduated from preschool Thursday. These almost-five years have flown by. And nothing makes you realize that like seeing your child walk across the stage in her graduation gown.


There was a time, as Chris and I sat by her bed in NICU, that we wondered if she would ever walk. Or talk. Or run. Or play.

Yet here she is. Leaving behind this first stage of childhood and getting ready to enter a new one.

Yes, most of the parents - and grandparents - at graduation shed a tear. But Chris and I carried a certain heaviness in our hearts on this day.

This milestone in Ann Catherine's life also brings a realization that Melissa isn't here.

In our mind's calendar, this day has been circled for a long time. We've known it was coming. And for all the happiness and joy that would accompany it, we've known it would also be bittersweet.

You see, when you lose a twin, you don't just grieve the loss of that child. You grieve what you had imagined, what you had hoped for, what you had envisioned for your family. I remember shortly after Melissa died, Chris told me, "I can't get this picture out of my mind of the two of us sitting at our dinner table, both of us holding a baby and trying to eat." You grieve the realization that the things you had dreamed of will never happen.

Instead of your two children standing side by side at graduation, there's only one. And that's why I knew this day would be tough.

And while I knew I would carry some sadness with me, I so badly wanted this day to be full of joy. To be about Ann Catherine. To be a day where we celebrated the miracle of her life.

As I drove to graduation, my heart started beating heavily. I was praying the whole way, but at one point, I felt my heart was going to leap out of my chest. So I called my friend Brooke, and she prayed with me. Among other things, she asked God that this would be a day of joy for me and Chris. That had been my same prayer all week. I wanted this to be a happy, wonderful occasion.

God is so faithful. Because after we prayed, I felt a calmness - a peace that it was going to be okay.

And it was.

As Ann Catherine marched out, I was beaming with so much love, pride, joy and happiness that I could barely stand it. There was absolutely no sadness.

She sang her heart out. She walked across the stage like a big kid, shook hands with Mrs. Amy and accepted her diploma. It was absolutely precious. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

As she marched out, I did begin to cry. And I had this overwhelming feeling that I had to get to her. I needed so badly to put my arms around her, hug her and let her know how much I loved her. We filed out into the lobby and we found her. After Chris, Lily Baker and Mimi and Poppy hugged her, it was my turn. I grabbed her, hugged her, and through my tears, I told her that I was so proud of her and that I loved her more than she would ever know.

The best part of all? I did enjoy Ann Catherine's graduation. It wasn't a time of sadness. It was a time of joy. I didn't dwell on Melissa's death. I celebrated Ann Catherine's life.

I learned something else on this day. During tough times like these, I realize how badly I need Lily Baker. She's like a life preserver to me, keeping me afloat when the storm waters rise. After we dropped Ann Catherine off at school that morning, she came home with me and we got ready together. I can't tell you how much it helped me, just to have her with me. On this emotional morning, I wasn't alone. I had her.

As God has shown me so many times over the last four years, I am so blessed. Yes, I have experienced great loss. But I have also experienced tremendous joy.

Thanks to God's love and mercy, Ann Catherine's graduation was one of those days.

Accepting her diploma

Marching down the aisle

AC and her teacher, Ms. Sharon

Lily Baker with Mimi and Poppy

Class of 2010

After graduation, we went to AC's favorite place in town - Peggy Ann Bakery - for some thumbprint cookies and petits fours.

Once we arrived home from Red Robin, the girls wanted to send their balloons to Melissa.

Here's LB watching hers float to the Heavens.

And let me tell you, as we watched them float into the clear, blue sky it did look like they were going to Heaven. We watched them until they were no longer in sight. And you know what?

I'm not so sure Melissa didn't get them.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Another Year

Today I celebrated another glorious year of living.

When Chris got home tonight, I told him I realized something about birthdays today. As you get older, they lose a little pizazz.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I had a wonderful birthday. LB started off my day by crawling into my bed this morning and snuggling with me. My precious Ann Catherine woke up and the first words out of her mouth were, "Happy Birthday, Mommy!" I couldn't believe she remembered!

But here's the funny thing. Remember when you were little and you thought the world revolved around your birthday? You grow up and realize that even though it's your big day, it's still just that - a day. A day to run errands. A day to buy groceries. A day to get the kids where they need to be. The world keeps turning and you still have things to do.

Maybe it's because it was on a Monday this year, but I laughed as I told Chris about my exciting day. First LB and I dropped AC off at school. Then we ran a laundry list of errands, including the grocery store, the bank and the cleaners. After we picked up AC, we went to gymnastics.

Once we got home, I looked at my dirty floors and realized they needed to be vacuumed. At first I thought, "I am not vacuuming on my birthday!" Then I realized I couldn't stand the dirt any longer, and broke out my vacuum.

I vacuumed the house on my birthday.

Riveting, isn't it?

Once Chris got home, he and the girls took me to Rosie's where we had dinner and they gave me my gifts. It was great! And the rest of my day was great, too. It's just funny because birthday or no birthday, you still have things you gotta do.

And in the end, none of that really matters. Because my birthday means that God gave me another year to be a wife to my wonderful husband and a mommy to two little girls that I am absolutely crazy about.

And that's what makes this day special.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Moving On

My girls are close.

Really close.

It's not just that they are so close in age. It's more than that. I just believe there's a bond there - especially for Ann Catherine - that even I don't fully understand. The best way I know to explain it is that Lily Baker just feels a giant void in her heart.

The other night at the dinner table, we were talking about AC starting kindergarten next year. We explained that it meant she would leave her preschool. That's when it clicked. I've been waiting for it, and it finally happened.

"You mean I won't be with Lily Baker anymore?" she asked, and she immediately started crying. Make that sobbing. With giant, crocodile tears streaming down her face.

"But I don't want to leave Lily!" she cried. And she cried. And she cried.

I started crying, too. I just couldn't help it.

And as he always does when I am at a loss, Chris stepped in. He is my rock who always knows when to take over.

As only he could, he started reminding AC of all the things that LB does that make her crazy. "Are you really going to miss that?" he asked. And she immediately started laughing.

I didn't recover so quickly. As everyone began eating again, I just stared off into space.

As I told Chris later, it wasn't because AC was sad over being away from LB.

It's that she isn't supposed to go to school alone next year! Melissa is supposed to be right there with her.

It was NEVER supposed to be this way. She shouldn't have to worry about being alone next year.

She's a twin, for crying out loud! And her twin should be there!

And that's what hurts the most.

I know AC is going to be okay without LB next year. But it's just another painful reminder of what should have been.

And sometimes, that's the hardest part of all.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Unexpected Gatherings

(our new hummingbird feeder)

One of the things I love about summer is how a normal night turns into a backyard gathering in a matter of minutes.

We love our neighbors. We all "wander," meaning if someone is outside, we just wander over. And before you know it, you have a full-fledged gathering.

Last night after dinner, Chris was outside putting up the hummingbird feeder we bought. As I washed dishes, I looked outside and saw our neighbor in our backyard. The girls and I walked outside and before I knew it, the two families who live behind us were on our back porch. We told stories, the kids played, and we laughed out loud until I suddenly looked at my watch and realized it was 9 p.m. and my kids were filthy.

So we dispersed and said, "See you later," knowing in a day or so we'll be back in each other's backyard doing it all over again.

No invitations. No preparations. Just hanging out.

My mother always talks about her childhood and how, each night after dinner, everyone in the neighborhood would go to someone's front porch and they would sit out there until bedtime. This was before television took over everyone's lives. You just sat and caught up with your neighbors. I always thought that sounded so wonderful.

In the winter, we hibernate just like the animals. We finish dinner, put the kids in the tub, put them to bed, watch TV and go to bed. We have to really work on our relationships with other people.

Not in the summer, though.

Not when you have good friends and good weather.

I love this time of year.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Swim Lessons

I had posted previously that the light bulb recently went off for AC where swimming is concerned. She was swimming all over the place on our last trip to the beach. So I decided to strike while the iron is hot and enroll her in swim lessons this month so she's good to go this summer.

She and LB started had their first lesson this weekend and did awesome. AC has lost her fear and is just so eager to learn. I was mighty proud of LB, too. Our past two trips to the beach she didn't want anyone but me to touch her in the water. So I was a little apprehensive of how she would do with lessons. Luckily, she went right to the instructor and did everything she was asked to do. My hope for her is just that she'll lose her fear and know what to do in the water. I realize she won't be swimming all over the place this summer, but I do want her to learn some technique and feel comfortable in the water. So far, so good!

AC cracks me up in those goggles, but now that she's going underwater she likes to wear them. And if that helps her swim, that's fine with me! The instructor made them both wear a small flotation device during the lesson, but she said AC would be able to take hers off in a couple of lessons. They're having fun!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Perfect Day

The greatest thing that ever happened to me had absolutely nothing to do with me.

I didn't have to be smart enough, talented enough or good enough to receive it.

It was a total gift from God, a beautiful gift that has brought me more love, joy and happiness that I ever imagined.

It's motherhood, specifically being Melissa, Ann Catherine and Lily Baker's mommy.

I feel so blessed to be their mother every day, but it seemed even greater on this day devoted to mommies.

It really was a perfect day that started at 6:51 a.m. with LB standing at my bedside saying, "Good morning, Mommy." As I pulled her into bed with us, she wanted to watch "Little Einsteins." I turned it on and fully aware of what today was, I began to pray. I thanked God for my kids - all three of them - and asked that this day would be happy, not sad.

And for the most part it was. Yes, I shed tears for Melissa. But God surrounded me with such a peace today.

After church, Chris and the girls took me out for the lunch. Then once we got home, we all got into "comfy clothes" and the girls and I crawled into my bed, snuggled together and watched a few episodes of "Olivia" and "Wonder Pets" on NickJr.

I'm telling you - that was the greatest Mother's Day gift ever. I love having my children around me. And snuggled in bed with me? That's even better!

Chris cooked me the dinner of my choice (shrimp pasta and brownies!). At the dinner table, we went around the table and each person named something they loved about the other three. I alternated between tears streaming down my face (when AC talked about the things she loved about LB) to fits of laughter (when LB talked about Chris and mentioned something hilarious that shall not be written in this blog!). Of course, the girls were having so much fun that we kept going and going. Seriously, do it at the dinner table sometime. It was so neat to see what we all said about each other.

It really was the best day ever.

I had Chris and my two girls with me, with Melissa's spirit permeating everything we did.

I'm telling you - I couldn't ask for more.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you, but a special blessing to those of you who celebrated this day with a gaping hole in your heart because your child is no longer with you. I believe God has a special mercy on Mother's Day for those of us who have lost children. He truly heard each tear that fell today and felt the pain that we carried in our hearts.

I hope, in turn, you felt his comfort today. I know I did. And I am so grateful for it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Happy Half Birthday!

We had quite the week at our house. Wednesday AC got to celebrate her "half birthday." Since she has a summer birthday, her teacher let her have a little party with her classmates that day.

On the way home from school Monday, AC told me she doesn't like cupcakes because she doesn't like the cake part. So instead of the usual cupcakes, could we get cookies from her favorite - Peggy Ann Bakery? Well of course, we could! They created these cute flower cookies for her - pink sprinkles for the girls and purple ones for the boys. AC could NOT have been happier!

Ms. Sonya let her pass them out to all of her friends!

The most precious part was when we were posing for the picture above of the three of us. AC leaned over and whispered into Chris' ear, "Daddy, I'm so glad you're here!" My heart just smiled. She missed her daddy so much last week while we were at the beach and has really wanted to spend time with him these last few days. I just love that my girls love their daddy so much!

Chris walked into LB's room to get her, and she went running to him. It's such an unexpected treat when Daddy shows up at school!

Speaking of AC, that child just makes me feel so loved. I had to shoot some commercials Tuesday afternoon, and when I arrived home you would have thought she hadn't seen me in years. She ran to the door as soon as Chris opened it shouting, "Mommy!!" She wanted to grab my suit jacket and "help" me carry it inside. Then she crawled on the sofa next to me and just couldn't get close enough. Chris kept telling her to go back in the kitchen and finish her dinner, but she wouldn't hear of it. So I told her I would heat up last night's spaghetti and eat with her. That thrilled her! And instead of sitting in her usual chair at the kitchen table, she pulled her chair up right next to me.

We have a special bond. We went through a lot together.

Man, I love that little girl.

btw, I snapped these pix of LB while she was trying to water the plants that morning. I love them!