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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have heard this phrase many times. I never truly understood what it meant. I mean, I knew the definition – but I never felt it.
Until Norah died.
But here I am… finding what serves me (us, as a family). Shedding what doesn’t.
Our surroundings did not serve us.
Our lifestyle was too hectic.
Hank’s career was peeling away his soul, layer after layer; it was affecting his health; leaving too many gaps in the non-monetary needs of our family.
Each and everyday I thank Norah for enlightening me. For enlightening us. For continuing to work with us. Her gifts are vast. Her light shines so bright. She has saved us in so many ways. It’s a hard concept for me to grasp sometimes – that our daughter’s death saved our lives, especially when there was a time when it seemed totally opposite. But now I realize that it is her life, on Earth and in Heaven, that’s saving our lives.
I’m proud of her. I’m in awe of her work. I’m blown away by the strength and power of a tiny human. Our tiny human. I’m grateful. Grieving, yet grateful.
I now sit atop of a mountain, closer to God and Spirit and nature…. and Norah. I’m wiggling in and figuring out how to recognize and utilize the things that serve us.
We still cry.
We still ache.
We still struggle.
We still long for the one who is forever (physically) missing.
But, we have plans again.
We have visions again.
We have hope again.
My hope is to do whatever it takes to continue to help my family. To help others. To help myself.
The age-old phrase that we, as humans, often say in an attempt to comfort ourselves as we’re offering “comfort” to others who are grieving. It turns out, for a grieveing mother, this phrase is not at all comforting. But there’s another side to it. A deeper side.
I believe that even the most broken things can change over time, but no, not ALL wounds fully heal.
I’ve found hope, however, in discovering something different that can occur over time – if we work hard and use time to do something specific – to discover, to ponder, to soul-search, to live within a deeper realm. So for me, “time” has given me the gift of enlightenment.
I’m only at the beginning of this journey, with Norah and God right by my side. For me, pushing away the connection with my daughter, leaving memories behind, and losing my faith would have taken me to my breaking point. If I had turned my back, I’m certain that my life would have ended. But I wanted something bigger. I have too much goodness surrounding me, even in the most extreme darkness. I saw my other two girls and knew there was so much ahead of us – so much more light ahead; my hope deepened. I felt God’s presence more than I ever had in my life; my faith deepened. I looked into my husband’s deeply aching eyes and knew we had to change how we were “using” time; my love deepened.
We’re now in the process of beginning a new life, and what we consider an adventure of a lifetime. We’re moving from the fast-paced “city/suburbs” life with insane schedules and limited quality time together, to the mountains where we feel closest to God and to Norah. Where we will have so much quality time, so many new hobbies, so much healing work on our land (both physical and spiritual), and opportunities in nature that will continue to enlighten us throughout our remaining days on this Earth.
No, we have not hit the lottery – in fact it’s quite the opposite. We’re giving up half of our income simply for time and togetherness; to sit in our grief and to deeepen ourselves; to find hope in the stars and a love we didn’t know existed.
I can assure you that money means nothing. It’s useless when your dinner table has someone missing, when your heart and soul are not full, and when your spirit is not enlightened.
We will soon be able to fully embrace each other and the new life we’ve been gifted, in nature, closest to God and to Norah. We’ll soon be able to see the sun shining… in a different light.