Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ed's Blessing - Same Time, Different Place

So, I just finished typing the previous blog - about my blessings - if you haven't already - read it first "Two Boys, Two Days" then read this one.

Okay so last night when I left for my photoshoot Ed was still at work.  I had planned to have dinner with our friends and then I was going to visit a friend of mine who was in town from Alabama.  It is extremely rare for Ed and I not to see each other or have time to talk to each other every night.  I encouraged him when he got off to go do something since I was going to be out and about.  So when I finished my shoot I touched base with him - he was at his brother's and I told him I'd be late getting in from visiting with Hilary.

When I got home he was already asleep so I didn't get to tell him about my night and the awesome conversation I had with Aiden.  I got up and typed up the blog and then read it to Ed.  He was with me the night before and I had told him all about Levi but he didn't know about what happened with Aiden. So, he walks out of the room and when he returns he handed me a carefully folded up note and said, "Emily gave me this last night to share with you."



I know it's silly, but I can't help but stand in awe of the fact that while we were in two different places in different towns on the same night, two sweet children, had experiences with us that shared their love for Owen.  I mean, really, he's been gone over two months and for a child to remember like that - obviously Emily will never forget the precious life of her little cousin, but for her to still be writing him notes and giving them to us?  It amazed me.  I just can't help but believe that Owen wanted his daddy and I both to know he's with us and he loves us and he always will.

Wednesday night at church Pastor asked us if we ever felt God's presence when we weren't in church.  He asked, if we had moments without other people pointing it out in our lives that we thought, "that was a God moment" or "God is here."  I absolutely know I do - and while it may not be popular to be all about God in our world I don't care - God holds my whole life in his hands why would I care what anyone else thought?  Praise God for his sweet reminders of his grace and his love, and praise God for the connection we still feel with Owen.

Be blessed.

Two Boys, Two Nights

Blesses my Heart

The past two nights I have been unexpectedly blessed by two precious beautiful boys.  Anyone who's ever had any experience with any child knows one thing is for sure - you NEVER know what they are going to say.  Sometimes they bless us more than anyone else ever could - even as the same words cause a parent to cringe.

Two nights ago, Ed and I went to meet some friends at Sonny's.  As I walked to our booth I noticed some of my cousins sitting at the first table we came to.  There were three generations of men - one who watched me grow up, one who I used to babysit - who is now a wonderful young man, and the littlest of the crew - the most adorable (soon to be - I think) four year old.  As usual the "baby" was putting on a show for the people in the booths around them.  I hugged him and spoke and went on to my table. 

As I passed them again headed to the salad bar I had a chance to talk to the youngest - Levi.  I asked him if I was still his best friend as he and his sister had called me last summer anytime I would play with them.  He looked at me like he had NO IDEA who I was but he was still super friendly.  He stood up in his chair and turned towards me - almost face to face - did I mention how cute this little guy is?  My necklace caught his eye - it's beautiful - silver, shiny, and has a precious blue picture of Baby Owen.  He said, "Who's that?"  And I replied "Baby Owen."  His eyes got real big, and he said, "Baby Owen?" He was saying - I KNOW BABY OWEN.  He had this look on his face and I knew he knew exactly who I was talking about.  Levi had been present at the sing we had for Owen at First Baptist Church and he sat right behind us - when we brought Owen in he kept looking at him.

Now that we both knew he knew who Owen was he asked, "Where is he?"  And I said, "He's in Heaven with God."  He said, "He died?"  To which I responded, "Yes, he was very, very sick - much sicker than you've ever been."  I worry about talking to children about it because I don't want them to think if they get sick they will die - but it didn't phase Levi - talking to him that night about Owen was like talking to an adult about him.  He told me he prayed for Owen, and he was still mesmorized by Owen's picture - he kept adjusting it in my necklace.  I asked him if he had a picture of Owen to which he said no but his Dad quickly replied that they did.  I told Levi I would get him his very own picture of Owen to have.  We talked a bit more and his Dad redirected him to his plate (I got the feeling he wanted to change the subject - worried I would get upset).  When I got home I messaged Levi's mom and told her how much he had blessed me.  How can you help but smile when a child so small is sharing his love for your son and for God?

Then last night I had a photoshoot with a close friend of our family.  She had invited myself and my parents to have dinner with them after the photoshoot.  I usually don't wear much jewelry when I'm shooting because the glare off of my shiny necklace (with all it's jewels) could reflect into my image and I ran out without putting on my other (less sparkly) necklace of Owen - I almost always have on one or the other. 

I did this shoot with the sweetest little brother & sister.  Aiden is just six (I think) and his little sister Ashbey is 4.  Ashbey was very interested in most of what I was doing from the time I got to her house until the shoot was over.  Aiden couldn't care less about what was going on.  He was busy hiding in his room.  We did the shoot and the most Aiden and I really discussed was me telling him what to do and where to stand.  He didn't have a whole lot to say - except to tell us how much he loves Justin Beiber.  The shoot went great and he was so ready for it to be over - he retreated back to his room while the rest of us waited and finished preparing dinner.

The kids were in their rooms behaving while the grown-ups (yes me too) ate dinner.  We were almost through with dinner when Aiden came up right next to me at the table and out of nowhere said, "Do you miss your baby?"  It came out of nowhere but wasn't as shocking to me as I think it was to his mom - I honestly think she could have spit her drink out as he was saying it - but it was fine.  Without skipping a beat I said, "yes baby I miss him."  He said, "I miss him everyday."  My mom chimed in saying, "Yes, everyday we miss him." I asked him if he prayed for Owen and he said he prays for Owen everyday and he misses him everyday.  He was walking back towards his room and then he was gone as if it was the most natural thing ever.  I smiled and looked at mom - afraid she would crumble but we were both okay and we finished dinner. 

After I got home last night I couldn't help but think about what Aiden had said and remember my conversation the night before with Levi.  Usually it's the girls who are so much more talkative - but in the past two nights I had profound conversations with two young boys about my son.  I couldn't help but think that in some weird way these boys were Owen's tool to say, "Mommy I love you and I think about you too everyday and I'm okay."

And while the tears are pouring now as I put it all in writing - I couldn't help but smile - knowing I will always be connected to him - and I believe so will all of those babies who prayed for him faithfully - like Aiden and Levi.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Road to . . .

I suppose I will be on the road to recovery from here on - maybe I've been on it my whole life who knows but tomorrow we will be on the road for sure.  I know I haven't been very faithful in my writings the past couple of months but perhaps I will come back later and share some of what's happened in the past couple of months.  But what I wanted to share tonight is what God has in store for us tomorrow!

Ed and I are BOTH off and we're on the road!   I can't tell you how excited we both are.  No special vacation, or concert, or festival, not to the beach or the mountain or any other travel destination. We are headed to Gainesville on a very special mission - and while I'm sure there will be a million emotions we are both very excited about the trip!!! 

Thanks to all of you who generously donated stuffed animals we have the opportunity to witness to families and share our love and your love for them!  I spent a little time tonight counting bears (well maybe more than a little - I had to start over a few times) but my final count was around 553 teddy bears!  Most of them are brand new which is really great because we are strictly visiting kids in the ICU units at Shands this trip.  And while we appreciate all of the donations for the sick children we can only use brand new animals because of all of the potential dangers that come to children with damaged immune systems.  If you donated a gently used stuffed animal we will find a special home for those too (we will either donate them to a woman's shelter or find an equally suitable way to make your donation help a child).

So after I counted this is what I did . . .


Yep - that's about 200 of the over 500 stuffed animals - covering a full-size bed.  In some places they are 3 or 4 high.  I'm so humbled - there aren't words.  As I touched every single stuffed animal tonight I remembered moments over the past few months, conversations some of us had, the funeral, many of the stuffed animals you guys gave us were some that Owen had and Ed and I talked about that.  His godmother gave him a stuffed bear with angel wings that said the "Now I lay me" Prayer and there were two of those - one for a boy and one for a girl.  There were stuffed animals that were personally designed for this cause - embroidered, or handmade tags attached with care - I truly am reminded in a huge way how much you guys loved us (and I know you still do).  Our whole purpose of going on this journey is to love on others like you guys loved on us.  I'm not sure I can even put it into words what its like to be a parent of a child in an ICU.  And I can't tell you how many women, girls even, who were there alone with little or no family, no husband, no boyfriend, and maybe just maybe a parent or sibling would show up on the weekend.  I was very fortunate to have Ed by my side almost every single day that we were there - and even on the very few days he wasn't physically there he was there for me.  We had our family, our friends, our church family, our pastor, even distant friends of friends in Gainesville who called, visited, and checked-in on us.  I can't begin to express how loved we knew we were.  We had many supporting us financially to enable us to stay through donations and fundraisers and all the while we had people physically there loving on us too.

Now, there were sometimes that Ed and I would go a week or so without any visitors but we NEVER for a moment felt alone.  I know without a shadow of a doubt how incredibly fortunate I am because I watched day after day, month after month, girl after girl, woman after woman, who had little if any support.  What's worse is there were babies in the ICU who had NO visitors the entire 3 months we were in the NICU - if that doesn't hurt your heart then nothing ever will.

Our mission - our goal - is to love on everyone in the ICU's at Shands tomorrow.  To share with them that there are people they will never see and never know who care deeply about them.  To share the gospel with them that there is a God in Heaven who is in control who knows all and sees all and has a divine plan for their families.  To share with them the healing powers of our Lord - that NOTHING is impossible for God.  And yes, I still believe with all my heart that God can heal any hurt, pain, disease, aneurysm, cancer, anything - with all my heart I know that God is the ultimate healer and that will be our message tomorrow - a message of hope and encouragement.  I pray that God opens doors wide open to us that maybe couldn't be opened otherwise.  Last night after Wednesday night service pastor prayed with us for our safety and for God to use us - and I liked what he said, that when we leave those stuffed animals that we leave the spirit of the Lord to dwell in those rooms.  I'm so excited I don't know if I'll even be able to sleep tomorrow.

We've created some postcards to share with the families so that they know our hopes and our mission.  Hopefully we will be able to minister to some parents and put some huge smiles on some precious children's faces! 

{ The front of the postcards}

We had several friends who created their own tags and "in memory" notes for the teddy bears and we've left those on the ones they created too - here's one that inspired our own writing for the postcards.

{From Dianne Keel & Amanda McCoy - who also have an angelbaby in heaven}


So tomorrow we will set off to Gainesville and we will be able to share these stuffed animals (thanks again to you) with about 75-80 precious children in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) both of which Owen was a resident for a period of time.  He spent 3 months in the NICU and 2 trips about a week each in the PICU.  There are usually about 50 babies in the NICU and the PICU can house up to 24.  We are carrying about 90 stuffed animals this time just to be sure we have plenty and we can't wait to come back and share with you all what a difference your contribution is going to make in some family's life.  Thank you all for this opportunity to share our son's legacy & testimony with so many families.

One question people ask me all the time is "Are you still accepting teddy bears?"  Yes, yes, yes.  As long as you have it in your heart to give them to us we will make as many trips to hospitals to give them to the little children.  We are hoping to create an annual event to collect them but we haven't set that up yet but for now whatever you have to give we are happy to accept.  Please, please, please, and I say this with nothing but love in my heart, please remember when you are making a donation of teddy bears or other stuffed animals they MUST be brand new for us to give to these children - they have compromised immune systems and cannot be exposed to risks that used stuffed animals may present.  We have to take great care in storing them in sealed rubbermaid tubs to make sure that they don't collect any dust while we have them (not that I have any dust in my house . . . bahahahaha).  So I hope you all understand.  As for the gently used items we have received already I can assure you they will find good, deserving homes, in Owen's honor too.

Thanks again to you all. Wish us luck and if you have a chance say a prayer for our travel, the words we will speak, and that God's will be done on this trip.

We love you all and we wouldn't have made it through all this and certainly wouldn't be able to do this tomorrow if it wasn't for all your love and support.

~ Jerica