Generations of Strength and Love

Shortly after Norah’s death, an older, wiser cousin (once removed) sent me a message that said,

“Look to those strong (generations of) women who poured their strength into you.”

The message fills me up. His words have followed me, and even carried me a bit, as my thoughts around them have evolved several times on this journey of child loss.

As Norah’s 2nd birthday was approaching we faced some new challenges. During that time, I began wearing my maternal grandmother’s original wedding band and my paternal grandmother’s medal of the Blessed Mother. The very first day I wore the jewelry I realized I felt different; safe, protected, a sense of peace that I hadn’t felt in a long time, and a different level of connection.

I couldn’t figure out, at first, what exactly I was experiencing. But after a few days, I realized that these feelings are the strength and the love that both of my grandmothers freely gave to me for the 24 and 37 years I shared with them.

At that moment I remembered, again, the words that my cousin had said to me.

I knew I had to continue to be the example that our two living daughters need, in order to provide them with the strength and love that has been passed down from many generations.

The experience has led me to embrace these 111 days, and go on a journey of intentional focus, greater strength, inner peace, restored hope, and renewed health.

They’ve let me know that their struggles and experiences with child loss have prepared me for what I must endure during this lifetime.

They’ve provided me with reassurance that they walk in Heaven with Norah, and can still remain by my side. They’re my connection to our girl and I’m certain that they’re providing her with the same strength and love that they gave to me.

Who better, besides God, could I have chosen for this role in my daughter’s eternal life?

The Man on the Catamaran

February 1, 2020

Norah’s birth month.

The introduction to the chapter where she was alive.

Norah’s first photo

Norah’s last photo

Today we went on a catamaran cruise.

We took pictures with my phone.

Norah’s prayer card, with her photo, is on the back of my phone.

There was a crew member named John.

He noticed Norah’s photo.

He asked me if that was my baby.

(He didn’t know this was a prayer card).

I told him yes.

He told me he has a daughter who is 2.

He asked me how old my baby is.

I told him she would be turning 2 this month.

He looked at me with sincerity.

I told him she died.

His look deepened.

He asked me her name.

He asked me when she died.

He asked me how she died.

He listened.

He spoke few words.

He spoke powerful words.

He made tears.

He walked away.

He stared out to the sea.

He came back.

He sat.

He looked at more photos.

He smiled.

He grabbed my hand.

He told me he wears heavy shoes that will never come off.

He told me that February is his hardest month.

He told me that his birthday is on the 9th.

He told me that one year ago, on the 11th (the eleventh), his brother died.

He told me there was an accident.

He told me his parents cry.

He told me they’ll never be the same.

He walked away.

He gazed at the horizon.

He came back.

He gave me a fist bump.

He sat.

We sat.

He gave his empathy.

He opened his emotion.

He didn’t tell me to be OK.

He didn’t offer platitudes.

He told me this will never go away.

He told me to keep going.

I’m grateful for John – the man on the catamaran.

Thank you, Jamaica.

Thank you, John.

Thank you God and thank you Norah for putting us both where we needed to be on the first day of February.

One love.

Project 111

This year, during the month of February ~Norah’s birth month~ we’re hoping to honor her life and keep memories alive by creating something extremely special for our family. We will be building a memorial rock garden in our yard and we would be honored if all of you could help create it.

Those interested in participating:

1. Must be age 0-111 to participate

2. Find a small river rock

3. Use acrylic paint to paint something that reminds you of Norah (acrylic won’t wash off and paint pens may be easiest).

4. Write your name and location somewhere on the rock.

5. If you’d like, send a photo of you with your memorial rock. Tag us and #norahslight

6. Deliver to us or mail the rock to us (our very kind post office lady has given permission to have them mailed to the address below).

7. Reach out to us privately if you need cost of supplies and/or shipping costs covered.

8. Feel free to share this post.

Thank you all for your continued love and support. We’re grateful for the strong and faithful army that walks beside us.

Guerke Family

2963 National Pike

Box 206

Chalkhill, PA 15421

Symbols of Remembrance

The holidays wound down and Norah’s birthday is approaching. Days feel very heavy.

Grief hangover flows right in to grief anticipation.

Every single aspect of our lives is affected. Things I could have never imagined.

On the toughest days, I’m grateful for all of the signs that Norah sends to us from Heaven, and all of the ways we all continue to remember and honor her, as her light shines so bright upon all of us.

Today, an amazing organization, Avery’s Garden, provided this remembrance for us.

https://www.averys-garden.com

Avery’s Garden is a non-profit organization in memory of a sweet little boy, Avery, who was taken from this Earth too soon. His parents are dedicated to raising funds to help other bereaved parents through their journey of loss. To achieve this, they create beautiful, personalized works of art in memory of the beloved children who have died.

View this post on Instagram

Avery's Garden has added Norah Claire
to the Grief Journal. Norah is remembered with 111, Light (her name means light), tiny feathers, the color yellow, butterflies and a Hallmark guardian angel stuffed bear. In this drawing we made a replica of the Hallmark bear the main star along with light coming in from the background. Sending @aguerke
lots of love and support. ❤❤❤ Copies and Donating:
To receive a PDF copy of this drawing, please visit my website Www.averys-garden.com. Under the Request a Drawing section there is a link for the PDF request. 2020 entries: The suggested minimum donation of $25.00 or more will receive a black and white copy of the drawing. ❤❤Any donations of $50.00 or more will receive a digital colored PDF copy as well. All donations help us provide complimentary books, random acts of kindness to bereaved families and our ongoing efforts to build Avery's Treehouse Retreat. 😇😇😇 New Requests:
For those wanting a new entry, please visit my website and click Request a Drawing. #averysgarden #averysgardengriefjournal #griefjournaling #loss #grief #honoringangels #creativegrief #adultcoloringbooks #childlossjourney #averysgardencoloringbooks #childlossgrief
#pail #pregnancyandinfantlosssupport #miscarriage #stillbirth #childloss #childlosssupport #childlossawareness
#angelmom #bereavedmother #bereavedparent #pregnancyandinfantlossawareness

A post shared by Pregnancy Infant Loss Support (@averysgarden) on

We’d like to invite all of you to join us in remembering and honoring Norah in a very meaningful way, during the entire month of February – her birth month.

Stay tuned for details.

She’s Still Gone

Life is excruciating.

Loneliness abounds.

Another year is coming to an end.

Grief and gratitude surrounds.

Recently, I decided to “unpack” Norah’s belongings and place them in a cupboard next to my bed until I can find a more suitable location. Within this cupboard is her entire life. The only physical items we have left of her.

The last, unwashed pjs she wore the night before she died, spit up included. (Left)

The romper she was wearing when she died – cut off of her by the heroic first responders, and salvaged from hospital biohazard by a dear friend. (Right)

Bottles that stored the milk that nourished her sweet body.

A blanket made by her Nana.

A baptism gown purchased by her Bia.

A nightlight given by her Godmother.

A cross that hung in her room – with prayers for blessings and protection.

A jewelry box with her birthstone – Amethyst 💜

An unused beach towel with her name.

Shoes to match with her sisters – that she never grew in to.

A Christmas outfit that she never wore.

Her binkies.

A wet diaper.

Her tiny socks.

The tragically beautiful pall that covered her tiny, lifeless body in the casket – smelling of formaldehyde, no matter how many times I wash it.

I feel guilty for holding on to all of this when I know there are babies in need. But I can’t let it go. It’s all that I have left.

Time has exhausted me.

Tears have burned my skin.

Platitudes and dismissive jargons have worn me down.

Loneliness has left me feeling abandoned.

My chest continues to ache and burn.

I can no longer relate to much.

Grief has changed me.

Life will never be the same.

Praying for a very gentle 2020.

Addendum:

As I finished unpacking, I walked over to my computer to see why my music was no longer audible. My screensaver had changed to double rainbows above the ocean! Jai Jagdeesh’s “In Dreams” was playing, while displaying a still image “You are Loved” – with 111 likes displayed directly underneath. I smiled.

Unexpected Challenges

Before I was forced onto the front lines of the biggest battle of my life, I didn’t fully understand the depths of grief. I had no idea about the ancillary challenges that would arise.

One of my greatest challenges has been focus and concentration. My personality-type requires me to be on my game in order to thrive. I require organization, order, and accomplishment in order to feel content. My job requires focus and attention to detail in order to succeed, yet there have been days that I can’t even remember names, or something that someone told me just a short time ago. It’s not because I don’t care, but because the “Rolodex” that existed in my brain has been shaken and disorganized, and many things have been lost.

However, through a lot of therapy and prayer and meditation and mental work, and grace (still working on this one) I’ve discovered some things that have helped me:

Essential oils: diffusing peppermint oil during my work day can increase my focus and concentration tremendously. I also love lemon and frankincense for this.

Breathing techniques – “smell the hot chocolate, blow out the candle.” This is a technique that I use with Addy and Sydney during their challenging and difficult times. Slow, intentional inhalation through the nose, fill the lungs, slow, intentional exhalation through the mouth. Just 10 seconds can do wonders.

Tapping – our brains can trick us into thinking dark thoughts, especially during times of struggle. By taking the index finger of one hand and tapping on the pinky-side of the other hand (we call it the “hi-YAH” area of the hand), you can trick the part of your brain (the amygdala) that’s responsible for stress responses. The amygdala hijacks the frontal lobe and forces a fight or flight response, which leads to panic, anxiety, fear, traumatic memories, invasive thoughts, etc. Regaining control of this area can help return rational and calming thoughts.

Meditative sitting – (along with the breathing techniques mentioned above) – we recently dug out the original Wii Fit to teach and challenge our girls to some old school Mario Kart. Haha! Turns out there are some useful balance games that I didn’t pay much attention to before. “Lotus Focus” is a new favorite of mine. Even just 1-2 minutes (good posture, eyes closed) can change your day.

Music – I’m a music lover. I relate to lyrics and feel rhythm. I could narrate the timeline of my life with songs from many genres. I’ve discovered the need to play music all day, during my workday, to help with focus and concentration, and to be able to multi-task and remain productive. This is one of my favorites: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EwCXTa1ZKNU

I’m setting my intentions today for hope, love, light, and rest to be bestowed upon those struggling with grief, anxiety, depression, PTSD, hopelessness, loneliness, and any other challenges you may be facing.

As a dear friend recently said to me when I needed to hear it most: Keep going.

Sunday, May 13, 2018 We snuggled and tickled and gazed into each other’s eyes, as the sun came up at camp and everyone else was sound asleep. I’m grateful for the bond we shared.

“Code 111”

The pain experienced in this second year of grief is deep, unexplainable. It’s no longer like the acute pain – the screaming, the audible weeping, the nightmares, the constant panic attacks. It’s now the yearning, the missing, the crying in silence, the reality, the isolation, the forever. I love the toddler years so much and man, am I missing my (would-be) toddler right now.

I’ve also been down and out physically, due to a foot injury last fall. I’ve gone through multiple doctors, multiple treatments, thousands of dollars, and still feeling so unhealthy due to lack of movement and constant pain.

Yesterday, I had foot surgery. I had been so nervous in the weeks leading up to it. I’ve feared that there was no fix for this. I was worried I’d live in more pain than I already do. I was stressing over my activity and ability to get healthy again. I was so uncertain going in to this, but knew I had run out of options.

As I was being wheeled back to the OR suite, we passed a nurses station with a huge dry erase board, filled with many hand-written medical notes. Right in the center of the board was a hand-drawn “bubble” with the phrase “Code 111” written inside. At that moment I smiled and a tear ran down my face. I felt instant calmness and relief. I knew that Norah, my toddler, was right by my side.

I’m happy to say that I’m already pain-free. I know things will improve for me soon and my health will return. Here’s to 2020, with my little “Code 111” standing by.