Monthly Archives: May 2017

Your “one day” could be today.

one-dayOne day there will be no more sorrow. No more heartbreak. No more weeping.

There will be a day these are permanently gone. There are days in my life now where I am filled with joy and laughter. In those moments, my heart knows no sorrow because the joy before me overwhelms it.

There will be a day or moment after loss (whether it be the death of a child, a parent, a spouse, or even the loss when a relationship ends) in which you will find yourself smiling and have so much joy in the moment that your cheeks hurt from it, and you may even find yourself experiencing a nice deep belly laugh.

These moments are all the sweeter for the heartbreak and sorrow from which they are birthed.

Yesterday was one of those days for me. What a gift. What a treasure.

Keep looking ahead. Keep giving life and love another chance.

Because your “one day” WILL come.

The birth of a dream

The years 2013 and 2014 were life changers. We and our friends became part of this unorganized and unofficial  club no one wants to be a part of, Parents of Loss. While the dreams of life with our children had died, we were hopeful that there was purpose in our individual losses. 

Shortly after our loss, Jon and I took a trip in late July 2013 to the Smoky Mountains in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg TN area with Michael and Teresa. I was personally having trouble with being in public places.  I think social anxiety is a common thing for grieving parents. So, away we went for a little get away. It was a time of reflection, quiet contemplation, expressions of fears, anger, hurt, rejection, and a whole host of emotions. We spent time talking, eating, and playing games in the cabin. We spent time hiking and sight seeing in the great Smoky Mountains. There were moments we cried but there were also moments we smiled and even laughed again. 

That trip was an essential part of our healing process. It reminded us that although there are moments we can’t imaging living without our children, life is still worth the effort of getting out of bed each day if only to see the sunrise or help a fellow parent of loss know they aren’t alone. We were working to help each other find our lost hope and joy.

Once back in central Illinois, we continued to heal, spending time with friends and family. The memories of healing and time spent at the cabin in the Smokies kept us encouraged. 

Shortly after Christmas 2013, our little Yorkie, Phoebe, became very sick. We spent days visiting her at the vet’s office where Randy and his staff were working diligently to make sure she came out of her illness. During some of the visits, we spoke with Randy about our time in the Smokies with Michael and Teresa. That area has always been special to Randy and Gina. We discussed how nice it would be to own a cabin down there and joked about the three couples going in together to buy a place. As 2013 moved into 2014, we continued to discuss this idea whenever we would get together. Once Michael made the comment that it should not just be a vacation home though; it should mean something more, and maybe we could use it as a place to send grieving parents for a short time of healing like we had experienced.

The end of 2014 brought tragedy to Randy and Gina as they lost their twenty-four year old son Danny. He was home for the holidays and the beginning of 2015 found them taking a trip out west to handle his affairs there. While on the road one morning, they saw a rainbow which they received as a sign of hope. The idea of finding some purpose in the loss of our children, bringing something good out of these tragedies, was continuing to take root in our hearts and minds.

By the end of 2014, the birth of a new dream for each of us six parents had begun. The gestational period has been long and full of craziness but here we are boldly daring to dream. We dare to dream that although life can be difficult, there is always a reason to hope. We dream of being able to touch the lives of many other hurting families in the coming years by offering them a place of refuge during their first days of grief. We dream of finding land here in central Illinois where we can build Hope House. We dream of working with other organizations and services to provide the best resources for grieving parents. We dream……

Contact us to learn more and join us in this dream of Hope House.

Painful Endings…..

December 2012 was an exciting and scary month. We were excited to be pregnant but scared of another miscarriage. Nonetheless, our dreaming began. We were hoping for a healthy daughter. Michael and Teresa had found out their twins were going to be a boy and a girl. We imagined all types of shenanigans for them to get into. There was no doubt in anyone’s minds that this was going to be an exciting journey. Teresa’s sonograms and doctor visits showed healthy babies. Jon and I had decided to keep the pregnancy pretty quiet until we were around 20 weeks just to be sure everything was going well. We planned to start sharing in February.

In late January, Michael and Teresa’s dream came to a devastating end. Teresa’s water broke early. They rushed to a local hospital where she was evaluated and flown to Champaign NICU to give the babies every possible chance of survival. They were unable to stop her labor, and Samuel and Selah were born at 23 weeks on January 23, 2013. They were fighters. Samuel lived on this earth for three days and Selah for eight days. Our hearts were broken for our dear friends. This was not the end we had in mind for our dreams of parenting together.

I could not imagine Michael and Teresa (especially Teresa) wanting to be around us following the passing of Samuel and Selah. I especially did not want to go to the visitation with my little baby bump pushing my shirt out even though it was slight at the time. How do you face your friend who has just lost her children and you have not? In fact, your dreams are still very much alive, yet so altered. There was such a sadness and loneliness to my pregnancy the next few weeks. This was not the plan. This was not the dream. I was not supposed to go through this late in life pregnancy without my friend Teresa by my side going through the same thing (although, yes, she is a bit younger than me). I very much wanted to have our baby but it was not going to be the same without Samuel and Selah. Through tears of grace, our friendship remained constant through the tough first stages of Michael’s and Teresa’s grief.

9BC85B6B-As our pregnancy progressed, it was finally time for our sonogram around 20 weeks when we were to find out the sex of the baby and check the growth and development. Although we received the exciting news that we were expecting a little girl, we were told they could not view her heart as clearly as they wanted, so we were referred to another facility and provider for a more specialized sonogram. I lost my 5-year-old sister to a heart condition years ago. Hearing there was a question about our little girl’s heart was like a black knife of fear being birthed in my soul. I fought it. I celebrated with my family at the gender reveal all the while hearing those words echo over and over: “We can’t view the heart clearly. Her heart. Her heart.”

9C7AC66C-On March 4, 2013, after being on a bed for over 2 hours with a sono probe pressed to my belly here and there, I had a few beautiful 3-D photos of our little girl’s perfect face with a little turned-up nose and probably 8-10 photos of her feet which she continued to press against the probe no matter where it was. She definitely did not like it invading her space! Once the tech was finished and the doctor spent another 30-60 minutes reviewing the images, the doctor came into the room. She wanted to check just a few more images. Being a nurse, having had the genetics counselor talk prior to the extended sono, and having the fear grow inside me the longer it took, I had a dread of what was coming next. We were told our daughter had significant heart issues, a herniation in her diaphragm which was allowing her abdominal organs to go up into her chest cavity and cause an issue with lung development. All of this was further complicated by her small size for gestational age and the excess of amniotic fluid. Chances of carrying to term were considered highly unlikely and her heart and lungs were not compatible with life outside the womb. Basically, I was not expected to carry to term and she would not live long once she was born. To say we were devastated is an understatement. I am not sure how we even got to the car. I think we had to stop somewhere so I could throw up. I had so many missed calls and texts from Jon’s mom and my own mom. How were we supposed to tell them this news? How were we even supposed to deal with this?

Before we got home, I had plans to go shop for a pretty little premie outfit to bury our little girl in. I was trying to talk about who would do the funeral service and where she would be buried. Jon was having none of that. He was not giving up. God did not bring us this far to leave us with no hope. We weren’t even supposed to be pregnant so we had to keep hoping until there was no reason to hope.

We got through the first devastating days of the prognosis and continued to see different specialists including fetal cardiology in Springfield and then St. Louis Children’s Hospital. We were at one place or the other every 2-4 weeks for repeat sonograms to check Lucy’s development and weight. Honestly, at every sono and doctor’s visit, something positive was reported. The best day for us was when the fetal cardiologist at St. Louis Children’s told us that although the left side of her heart was smaller than the right, it was functioning properly. We were just dealing with lungs and diaphragmatic hernia now. There was hope.

Through all of this, Michael and Teresa were two of our biggest supporters and sources of encouragement. Randy reminded us of his and Gina’s own daughter’s health issues early in her life. Everyday we had encounters with people or physicians who encouraged us to keep our hope and faith alive. I remember a friend who years ago had struggled with infertility for years and finally had gotten pregnant telling me that she was going to enjoy every minute of her pregnancy no matter how long it lasted because it was a miracle she was even pregnant. I adopted her mindset. With every doctor visit, every kick of Lucy’s little feet, and yes, even every episode of morning sickness (which never ends for me during pregnancy), I was thankful for every pound I gained, every cramp I felt, every day that I got to keep my little girl inside me one more day.

C0B4A5FE-We made it to 35 weeks and four days. The plan was to not let me go past 38 or 39 weeks as long as Lucy was 4 pounds. We had some time to go as she was still just under three pounds at 34 weeks. I went into labor on June 18 and was flown from St. John’s hospital to Barnes in St. Louis. Lucy was born a little after 4 o’clock in the afternoon. She was so tiny. Her tummy so flat. I got to see her kick her legs once they had her intubated and were breathing for her.  One of my favorite photos of her is when she is wrinkling her nose and forehead as they are placing the g-tube in her nose. They rushed her to the NICU. Her lungs were unable to handle the pressure of breathing and collapsed multiple times. They were unable to keep her lungs working.

Once I was able to be with her, they placed her in my arms, and we watched another dream die.


Dream Boldly

IMG_1782Randy Thompson wrote and shared this at the Hope House kick-off dinner in April 2017.

Years ago, in the days of your youth, did you have bold dreams? I did. I wanted to be a race car driver and win the Indianapolis 500. Oh, the glory that would be mine. Sadly, my Dad wasn’t overly supportive. He told me to hitch up the disk to his Allis Chalmers tractor and race it across the fields. And I did. I spent several race days sitting on that tractor tilling our good southern Indiana family farm ground, listening to the 500 race on the radio. The tractor averaged about 4 MPH, but I have a fertile imagination and could see the track, hear the scream of the race cars, and envision the spectacle of the 250,000 fans lucky enough to be there. I could feel the thrill of side by side racing and of just beating out my hero AJ Foyt to the finish line by mere inches. Maybe your bold dream was to play in the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals, or to be a singer adored by all the world, or even to be president. Most of us had childish dreams that never materialized, but I hope that doesn’t stop you from dreaming boldly. Perhaps life’s experiences have tempered but, I pray, not trampled your dreams. You have been invited here tonight so that three couples, bonded by common tragedy, can share their big bold dream with you.  

Your hosts tonight are Mike and Teresa St. Louis, Jon and Monica Wamsley, and I am Randy Thompson and Gina is my wife. We are bonded in friendship, but also in the agony of loss of a child. Our situations were each different. Mike and Teresa lost twin babies, Samuel and Selah, born prematurely and living only a few days. Jon and Monica lost Lucy, born early, only to live a few hours. Gina and I lost Dan who lived 25 years. Our common response to the loss of our children was of hopelessness. That and doubt. What did I do wrong? Could I have prevented this? Is God punishing me for past sins?  

Our three families have mourned our losses in solitude, with each other, and with friends and family. Good support has proven essential for a healthy recovery. Our pain has diminished but will never go away, nor should it. As for myself, I constantly wrestle with one basic question: How can I turn the awful tragedy of losing my son into something good? We have a dream. We call the dream Hope House. Like my childish dream of winning the Indianapolis 500, this is a big dream. But that dream was self-centered. Hope House is about helping others. Hope House is about helping families who have experienced the loss of a child to find hope again. Sometimes the Hope House dream seems too big, perhaps even impossible. And it would be if it were only our dream. But we three couples believe in a big powerful God that can do anything through His people. Please allow us to share our bold dream with you.

Click here to access the videos and other information presented at the Hope House kick-off dinner.