A Celebration of Life

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3

Home Sweet Home

Twenty-four days have passed since my last blog update and so much has happened since then! A few Facebook updates have shown Gabriel’s progress, the turning of 1 month old, and the much anticipated NICU graduation and journey home at 1 month and 1 day! Gabriel has brought so much healing to our hearts since being home for exactly 2 weeks now. He is now a little over 6 lb. and is so laid back and precious. Adam and I had forgotten just how tired and delirious you really are when you wake up every three hours during the night! I also forgot about all the little things that melt your heart- the sweet baby sounds, baby breath, the warmth of a soft little face and head against yours, and the weight of a tiny baby on your chest. These things come and go so quickly, and we are soaking them in each and every day.

You may remember from a previous post that we switched rooms for Aaron and Gabriel. I’m so glad that we did because it gave Aaron more space in the bigger room and Gabriel is now in a room that is smaller and more nursery-size. Aaron now has a big-boy room for his big-boy bed and LOVES it! There is room for toys, his desk, comfy chair, etc.

In addition to heartfelt cards, flowers, meals, breastfeeding items, and monetary gifts, we have been blessed with some beautiful gifted keepsakes. A stunning teddy bear, weighted to be Caleb’s birth weight, from some dear family members; Austin, Taylor, Ramona, Kelly, and Joni. A basket of beautiful faith-based books for the boys, a journal for writing to Caleb, cardinal figure, bird feeder, and remembrance hanging decor, and cardinal bracelet from Amber Fitts and family. An angel figurine and garden heart chime from our St. Louis family. A gifted necklace of Caleb’s actual footprint scanned and etched in a silver pendant from Danielle Cleaveland. All of which will be cherished for the rest of our lives. You’ll see some of these items in various photos in this blog. ❤️

Coins for Caleb

My wonderful third grade team at Florence Elementary joined together and decided to create a school-wide fundraising/awareness drive. We were so humbled by the amazing support and love surrounding us from our Florence family. The students, parents, and staff have overwhelmed us with the outpouring of generosity. We feel thankful for the chance to share awareness of CHD during heart month in February and throughout each year.

Celebrating Caleb’s Life

I never imagined planning for an event such as this. I’ve planned events for others big and small, I’ve planned my own wedding. There is no guide for how to plan for a Celebration of Life for your son. Sharing in grief and sorrow isn’t easy, and celebrating loss is something so foreign. How do you even plan for that? I decided to keep things simple. It means more that we could come together with loved ones to acknowledge this journey. It was a chance to talk about the unimaginably beautiful place that Caleb now calls home.

Adam’s aunts from St. Louis and his brother who lives in Florida flew in to help and be apart of this day. Thank you so much! We were so blessed to have Pastor Don Miller, the lead pastor at Westover, call us and not only share such kind words of condolence, but to also help us with the planning of our Celebration of Life. He was kind enough to ask Pastor David Harrop to speak at this service. David did such a wonderful job sharing God’s word about seeing Caleb again one day and His plan being for everlasting life. After he spoke, I shared what I wrote for Caleb.

I never would have imagined that one day I would be standing here, speaking about the passing of my own child. This isn’t supposed to be the order of things. The hurt runs deep, and the loss is impossible to fully comprehend. How do you let your child go?

These words of pain and grief will likely always linger in weak moments. The sight of twin boys running around, a keepsake stored away, or a cardinal flying by. This journey has been harder than anything we have ever been through. However, in these moments of weakness and in each step on this difficult path, we have never been alone.

God stood with us in the doorway of fear and doubt. He sat with us when we heard news that brought us to our knees. He wept with us when we were told that Caleb would not be continuing this journey with us. He held our hands as we prepared to let him go. He met us to carry our sweet boy home. And He held us as we did the hardest, yet bravest, and most selfless thing we could possibly do- hold our son as he passed into the arms of Jesus.

You see, Caleb and Gabriel were always meant to be a part of our story, along with Aaron. Each son given a wonderful plan, a purpose in life. We believe that through Adam and I, Caleb’s purpose is revealed. Eight days may not seem long to many, however this boy changed our lives forever. Life is so incredibly fragile. It’s precious and significant. If this love we have for Caleb is a fraction of the love our father has for us, can you fathom what we mean to Him?

I will forever remind myself of the things that Caleb has taught me.

– True strength is only possible with faith.

-There is always hope. Even when the outcome isn’t your plan.

-Prayer is the act of faith, in spite of fear and doubt.

-Every single day of your life, be open to seeing His hand in things, in unexpected ways.

-People are good, loving, gifted, compassionate, and are sometimes angels on Earth.

-We are not in control, and surrendering that is so necessary.

The impact that can be made, even in 8 short days of life, is lasting. Once we realized that Caleb would never leave that Cardiac ICU room, I remember feeling desperate to have this child be known to others. I couldn’t imagine that room being the only place, besides our hearts, that his memory would stay. What I didn’t realize, is that through sharing his story, his life and the impact it has made, would reach hundreds of others. He never left that room, however he touched so many. This is a testament to what God can do through us. I am encouraged to share my life, and my love with others from now on in a different kind of way. I am encouraged to think of others in a different light. We were so humbled by the overwhelming love, support and kindness of others and it has forever changed how we see the world around us.

Thank you for loving us and for wrapping your arms around us in our desperate time of need. For walking with us on this path and not leaving our side. Thank you for loving Caleb, and for believing in him during his brave fight here on Earth. We hope that his legacy will be the importance of leaning into your faith to find strength, to deem what is truly important in life, and to look for God’s hand in everything around you. We are stronger now in so many ways because of this strong, brave littler fighter. We are at peace knowing that he is healed, wholeheartedly, in the arms of Jesus and that we will see him again one day. May we honor his life in our daily walk and in our love for one another.

We now want to give Aaron a chance to come up and to release a balloon for Caleb. Afterwards, we would love for you to come and take several carnations to be tossed in the water. We want to take time to see the beauty in the life around us and reflect on what a wonderful blessing Caleb has been to us and what we are to each other.

Aaron released a balloon to honor his sweet little brother. Afterwards, we cut carnations to toss into the lake and reflect on Caleb’s precious life. It was a perfect day, a perfect celebration of a life that made a bigger impact than we could have imagined. I thank God for the chance to honor Caleb and to celebrate what he meant to me and to our family.

I want to thank every single one of you who said a prayer, read scripture, lit a candle, talked about his story, etc. in honor of our precious son, Caleb. I can’t tell you how much it meant to see the candles lighting up my Facebook feed with beautiful words of love and support. I pray that this brings awareness to congenital heart defects and encourages others to support the research and funding for the care of these precious babies and for finding a cure. It has meant so much that you have walked on this journey with us. We felt each of your prayers as you celebrated with us on this special day!

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