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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Big Splash for Tiny Miracles!

This post is way overdue, but I always hesitate when blogging about events for Melissa's Fund. Maybe it's all of the emotions soaring through my body. Maybe it's a fear of leaving any detail out. Maybe it's a sense of dread of how to do justice to a truly magical weekend.

I'll try anyway.

Here are the official numbers: This year's Swim for Melissa and Miracle Bash raised more than $181,000 for the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund!!! To raise that kind of money in this kind of economy is truly astounding!

More than 500 people came to the Davidson Center to enjoy Miracle Bash. We had more than 100 silent auction items and seven live auction items. Our biggest hit was an autographed Taylor Swift guitar!! The Undergrounders played (hello college, anyone??!) and everyone had a great time. It was a fantastic evening!

On Saturday, we rolled out of bed bright and early to join close to 200 little swimmers at Hampton Cove Pool. These kids take my breath away every year. They make Swim for Melissa the wonderful event that it is. It warms my heart to see them jump into the pool and swim with all the energy they can muster.

(Lily Baker's team "Melissa's Rainbows")

The coolest part for me this year? Lily Baker finally got to swim! Last year was Ann Catherine's first time to swim in the event and, as you can imagine, it was a very emotional time for me and Chris. But adding Lily Baker this year was just the icing on the cake. It just truly brought it full circle for our family. To see both of our girls swimming in memory of their sister? It gave me a feeling that I truly can't put into words.

(Ann Catherine's team "Melissa's Miracles")

I will tell you this. On this day each year, maybe more than any other, I feel Melissa's spirit and her presence so strongly. I am reminded of the fight and courage she showed during her short time on this Earth, and that gives me the energy and determination to keep going. Each year at this event, I see other moms and dads who have survived this NICU journey and I am inspired by their efforts to give back.

To those of you who came to Miracle Bash and/or Swim for Melissa, to those of you who volunteered your time and to those of you who made generous donations, thank you doesn't seem adequate. Regardless, I will say it. Thank you for all you do to support the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund. Thanks to you, we can help make life better for premature infants and their families.

Before I end, allow me to share one story that to me personifies Swim for Melissa. A lady walked up to me at the pool that morning and introduced me to her son and daughter. They were both taking part in Swim for Melissa. She had explained to her children that this event was to help the babies in the NICU. To further bring it home, she and her children prayed every night for those babies in the weeks leading up to the event. How awesome is that?! What a wonderful mom to help her children grasp why helping others is so important, and then to go the extra mile with her children to pray for those precious babies!

Each year at Swim for Melissa, we hear stories so similar to that one. These children know why are swimming (ask any of them and they'll tell you they're "helping the tiny babies") and that means more to me than anything. So many of our children have everything they need and it's good to remind them that we are expected to help others.

I love that part of Swim for Melissa. And I love each of you who made it such a inspiring weekend!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why Do You Call Me the Rainbow?

We have called Lily Baker our rainbow from almost the time she was born. Just as God sent the rainbow to promise Noah He would never flood the Earth again, we felt He sent us Lily Baker after the worst storm of our lives to promise that our family would be okay.

Lily Baker knows she's the rainbow. She tells everyone. I've been wondering when the day would come when she'd ask why we call her that.

It came this morning. At the breakfast table. Don't you just love how some of our children's biggest questions come when we're least expecting it?

I forget how it came up. Someone said something about Lily Baker being our rainbow. And she looked at me and said, "Momma, why do you call me your rainbow?"

I looked at Chris. How do you boil this story down for a four-year-old? The word "rainbow" just carries so much weight for us because of the promise it holds. How do we explain this to our little girl?

Chris started it out. "Remember how God sent Noah the rainbow to promise He would never flood the Earth again?" She nodded yes. She knows that story well.

"Well," I continued, "when Melissa died, it was very painful for Mommy and Daddy. It was like a terrible storm for us. And we missed her so much." It hurt just remembering it.

But then the rainbow came...

Then I began to smile. "But then, He sent us you. And you were our promise that our family was going to be okay. That's why you are our rainbow."

She smiled, satisfied with the answer. And I smiled, just thinking of how much joy that rainbow brought into our lives.

But that wasn't all God had planned for this breakfast.

Talk turned to Melissa, and Ann Catherine starting asking questions about her death. As she grows older, this happens more and more. But on this morning, she asked me something she had never asked before.

She asked me if God knew when Melissa was born that she was going to die. I told her yes, that God knows everything and from the moment He created Melissa that was his plan for her life.

It's hard to describe the look that was on her face. I could tell that her 6-year-old brain was grappling with how this wonderful, loving God would create her sister only to allow her to die. She looked as if she might cry. She asked "Why?" and as Chris and I both fumbled for an answer, Lily Baker said so matter-of-factly, "Because Ann Catherine, God's ways are perfect!"

Chris and I were speechless. Once we recovered, he piggy backed off Lily Baker's awesome explanation to explain to Ann Catherine that yes, although sometimes God's plan makes NO sense to us, that his ways ARE perfect. He never makes mistakes and one day we will understand.

Here's the coolest thing about that answer. Lily Baker didn't learn that at home. She learned it last month at church. That was her verse for the month. How amazing that God used that simple message that she learned at church last month to help explain to Ann Catherine why her twin sister died. How amazing that she provided the answer when Chris and I had none!

I am constantly in awe of God's love for our family and how He - at each turn - gives us the words to help Ann Catherine try and understand her twin sister's death. I just never dreamed he would also use Lily Baker to do it. But then again, the Bible is full of God using "unlikely" people, isn't it?

And to think, it all happened over breakfast :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Playing for Preemies

One of the neatest things about starting Melissa's Fund is the people we have met.

Rusty Bates and his wife, Kristin, are two of those people.

Rusty is the Athletic Director and Assistant Principal at Ardmore High School. 18 months ago, his wife Kristin gave birth to their beautiful daughter, Lauren. She was 12 weeks early and weighed just two pounds. She spent a lot of time in a Giraffe OmniBed purchased by the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund.

Lauren went on to spend 51 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. She is now a very energetic and healthy little girl. And pretty adorable!

Last year, Rusty started "Playing for Preemies" at Ardmore High School. They sell t-shirts and raffle tickets - three lucky students get to the throw a pie at the principals! At the football game, NICU nurses are the honorary captains and get to go on the field. It's such a neat event!

Last year Chris and I went to the pep rally to talk to the students about the NICU and Melissa's Fund. We had such a great time, and decided we wanted to take the girls this year!

They had such a blast! It was their first pep rally and they loved watching the cheerleaders dance and listening to the band. And it was so neat seeing all of the cheerleaders and so many of the students wearing "Playing for Preemies" shirts with the Melissa's Fund logo.

But most importantly, I loved that they got to see *firsthand* how generous people are. I love that they got to see an example of how Melissa's Fund is helping babies. I just so love that they are now old enough to go on this journey with us!!

Thank you Rusty and Kristin Bates for your passion for our NICU!! And thank you students at Ardmore High School for supporting Melissa's Fund!

***A post on this year's Swim for Melissa is coming soon! I have been waiting for the official total - and it's so good!! Can't wait to share :)