Wednesday, December 31, 2008

more to come...

It has been far too long since I have updated. Lots has happened...traveling, christmas, family time, ladybugs, deployment scheduling...and I want to update you. But, right now, Bryan and I are spending some important quality time together as we ring in the new year as a family of five. Tomorrow you will get the post of a lifetime. It will be long. Rest those eyes tonight, for tomorrow will be lots of reading and looking at adorable pictures of my family.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! May your night and your new year be filled with lots of love and peace as He shows us daily how He is perfecting you and me together.

...until later

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My candle is lit...

Our candle, in memory of our sweet Natalie, is burning bright. I hope you have joined us, whether to light one for our Natalie or a child of your own.

til later....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

forgiveness and grief

I am attempting to write this as I play Wii bowling with my family. Bryan, Emily and I are playing and Alie is on the floor watching. Bryan is a competitive soul…he is hard to play with. Anyhow, today Emily played her first real game of bowling and LOVED it! It was so fun to watch her and her little friends see just how many pins they could knock down. And if they got them all? Pure bliss. So now we are bowling at home, and I am having a great time with this.

We are having a fun-filled day. First, a birthday party at the bowling ally. Then, off to Shannon and Brian’s home for a Christmas party for the kids. Finally, we headed home for some more quality time together. Bryan will be deploying soon. We are doing our best to enjoy the time we have. Emily’s favorite part of today was bowling with Alex and Santa at Shannon’s (according to her she gets 2 favorites).

I know I have not updated since Tuesday. I am sorry for that. This week has been hard, similar to the weeks of anniversarys and birthdays. We decorated the Christmas tree. It is so hard to put all the ornaments on for Natalie. I would never leave them off, but I cried with the placement of each one. Last Saturday, I worked at a craft fair. One of the booths was an ornament booth. And they had a ladybug ornament. I got one. How could I not? I had Natalie’s name written on it. I think that we will look for a special ornament each year for her for our tree.
Tuesday in court went well. I spoke in court, requesting that she not serve any jail time. I told the judge of how we have forgiven Sue for what happened. The judge heard our request, acknowledged that we hold no animocity and therefore the court won’t either, and suspended a 12-month sentence. We are pleased. We are glad this part of the healing process is done. But as we left court, I grieved for the child that I spoke for. I missed her a bit more during that moment.

A reporter from the local NBC station, WAVY 10, was in court covering the story. He approached me after court with a request for an interview. I immediately responded stating that I would only do it if it was about water safety. Andy looked at me, told me no and explained that he wanted to do a story on forgiveness. He promised that it would be a good piece, true to our story and that others needed to hear it. Sue and I talked, agreed to do it and met him about 2 hours after court let out to do the interview. There were 2 segments shown that night, both showed mercy, forgiveness, and love. Andy gave us what he promised. If you would like to see the first one, go to and search my name, Hillary West. You will find the story. Click on the video tab above Natalie’s picture and press play.

I have grieved so much this week. I have spent a lot of moments crying. I have spent so many moments wishing things were different. It is the same story that I have lived for the last 13 months and 14 days. It is the same story that I will live for a long time to come. This week, I contacted the woman who plans the Compassionate Friends meetings in our area. I think I am ready to work through this more. I have heard that they help, these meetings. I am going to see where this leads.

I have another request, dear friends. Tomorrow (Sunday, December 14th) is Worldwide Candle Lighting to remember children who have died at any age from any cause. It is at 7pm your local time. Simply light a candle in honor of the sweet children that are gathered at Jesus’ feet. There will then be a wave of light that circles the globe in honor of our babies. We will be lighting many candles here, remembering our sweet Natalie. I hope you will join us. Please light a candle in honor of Natalie. If you take a picture of your candle, I would love to see it.

Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Matthew 5:4
Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.
Lamentations 3:32

Good night all.
Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel baby Natalie, and Allison

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Friends, I ask for your prayers. Not for me, but for my dear friend Sue. You all know Sue. She is a big part of my life, both when my children were in her care and now as my friend. Today, we return to court for sentencing. I know Sue is scared and anxious. I am too. Please, keep her (and us as well) in your prayers today. Pray for understanding from the judge, leniency, and peace for her. I do not know what today will hold for us, but I do know that He holds us and will be by our sides. We will accept the decision of the judge, whether it be the decision we wanted or one that he choses.

I am anxious right now. I am scared for my friend. I am hopeful for her children, that they will see their mother this afternoon when they return home from school. And I am praying so diligently for each of them. Will you join me please?

til later...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Seeing Stripes

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. I am doing better, dealing with this season. Bryan is wonderful, supportive, caring. My friends are close by my side, helping me every step of the way. I am so grateful to have an amazing support system here, with so many all over praying for us consistently. Thank you.

I have not posted about thanksgiving. I should have done one of those posts on everything that I am so thankful for. But I feared that you and I both would cry way too much over that one. As I was uploading pictures today, I saw the photos of Thanksgiving. They are so hard to look at. I see where Natalie should be. I think of all the foods she would eat, as opposed to the ones her sister won't eat. It makes my heart so heavy. But ultimately we had a good day. There was lots of good food and lots of good friends. And we do have so much to be thankful for. I do have a beautiful family!

Yesterday, my friend Maria and I went to the outlet malls to get away for a few minutes. While we were there, we checked out the sales at the Gap. Usually they have pretty good ones. Not yesterday. But...I did get the cutest outfit EVER for our sweet baby girl! There was a matching dress for Emily as well, but it was not 40% off so I will have to wait until it goes on sale to get it. Today, I put Alie in it while Em was at school and tried to get some cute shots. But she keep performing instead...

Everytime I would put her on her belly, she would roll right over. She has been doing this since about 6 weeks old. But she would never do it consistently, only when she really wanted to. Today, it seems that she only wanted to roll over. That is, until Daddy got home. Then she stopped again! Isn't this outfit absolutely adorable? It has a cute hood as well. When I picked up Emily, she was asleep in it and everyone was saying how cute it is. I felt like I had the cutest baby on earth! Oh wait, I think I do!

But, alas, after all that playing and rolling, we came home, got some lunch, played a bit more, then it was time to nap. Alie rarely sleeps in her crib, but when she does...well, she can't sleep in a normal position. She likes to be sideways! I am loving the stripes. We will use and abuse this outfit! It is too cute to put in a drawer!

Good night all!
Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel baby Natalie, and Allison

Monday, December 1, 2008

a powerful truth

I have learned something…the truth hurts. This is something that I already knew. But it has become more prevalent for me in the past few days. I have become very good at hiding lots. I can fake a mood, looking as though things are just fabulous. I can adjust my answers to portray what I think someone may want to hear, allthewhile ignoring the truth that is in my heart. I have learned how to convince myself of a truth even when I know that it is not true and I am still hiding from myself.

Today, that changed. I have been hiding so much from myself, hoping that my lie would then become the truth. I have been saying, living and doing what I wanted to be real even when I knew that I was lying to myself and in turn lying to everyone around me. But today, I decided that I would face some things head on and hopefully be able to live the truth. But that truth hurts. The first thing I had to do was to give something a voice. Although I would love to spell it all out right here, I must keep a bit of this private simply because I do not know all my readers. So, although I must remain a bit vague, know that the vagueness is totally truthful!

Today, I gave the one feeling that has not changed in months a voice. And now I feel like I can really address it and face this truth fully. I have to admit. It was hard. I was scared to voice it. I was scared to begin this process. I am still scared to admit to others. But, I told Bryan finally about how I was feeling. That was big for me. Even though I know he would never be anything but supportive, I still worry just a bit. True to the husband that I love and adore, he is supportive and understanding. Although I don’t feel like I can divulge all to you now, please keep me in your prayers as I deal with this, learning how to live though it.

My truths have been more than just this though. The truth of seeing just how much I have changed in the last 10 years, since Bryan and I were engaged and having our first picture taken together for our church’s directory to the photo that I received in the mail today, was heartwrenching. The fact that Bryan looks the same, just older is wonderful. The fact that I look older and bigger was hard to see, hard to say, and hard to swallow. I have a bit of work to do.

Yesterday, it was hard to know that Natalie had been gone 13 months. There I go again, counting things. But what was worse was realizing that in about 6 weeks, Natalie will have been gone as long as she was with us. And in 12 months, Alie will have been with us longer than Nat was. These have been so hard to swallow. I have not gotten over these yet. I don’t really know that I will. I wonder how I will make it through those milestones. I wonder how I will make it through the next holiday. Last year, we were still in shock. This year, it has totally hit us hard that someone is clearly absent. Thanksgiving was hard. Keeping up that front was so hard. Thankfully, now, I can let down my wall. Christmas will be….I don’t even want to think about it yet.

I have been thying to figure out how this fits into God’s word. I wanted to see what He had to say about how I have been feeling. I found my answer in 2 Corinthians 12. I came across this verse yesterday. Somehow it fits me right now. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” I am weak right now. But His grace is sufficent. His grace is what brings me here, to confess to you and to confess to myself. His grace gave me the courage today to face what I had been hiding from. I can rest in this. I will rest in this. He is sufficient for my weakness. I can face the truth and all the hurt that comes with it because His power is perfect.

Good night all.
Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel baby Natalie and Allison

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

the business of grief

I'm sad. It has been a very hard week. It continues to get harder as we go. Tonight is pie night. All 6 pies will baked into their yummy glory and delivered tomorrow morning. Kim, you are the lucky recipient of our 6th pie. After we make them, adjust the receipe to reflect what we really put in it, I will post it so you all can enjoy the yummy goodness of the pecan pie we enjoy each holiday.

I had a revelation yesterday. I was on the floor playing with Alie. She is so good at playing and making me smile. I just have to look at her and she grins from ear to ear. This, in turn, puts a big smile on my face. Which, then, puts a big smile on her face. Do you see the pattern? It is a vicious, fabulous cycle. But, as I was smiling to my daughter, I realized just how heavy my heart is right now. I am missing Natalie so desperately right now. Emily is too. And so are Bryan and Corey. But Alie does not know yet what grief is. She just smiled right on through. One day, I will have to introduce her to grief. It will be different for her. But she will be exposed to it much sooner than she would have otherwise. I am unsure about this. How do I introduce sadness to my little one? I guess it will just happen during the conversations about her sister. I don't like this though. She should not have to be exposed to it so soon. I love the fact that Natalie never really knew hate, or sadness, or grief. But Alie will. This is hard for mommy to accept. And I am not doing it too well right now.
I wanted to post a few pictures of my girls. Yesterday was Emily's preschool Thanksgiving Feast. She was a pilgrim girl. And she made a beautiful pilgrim girl. But, of course, after everyone was dressed, she wanted to be a Native American. Most of the other children were Native Americans. The good thing about the feast was that they served Chicken Nuggets, Em's favorite! She says she will try turkey tomorrow....we will see.

Of course, as Alie and I were playing on the floor yesterday, I couldn't help but grab the camera and snap a few shots of the smiling baby. She is quite a ham already, both with the camera and the fact that her thighs are so chunky and adorable. There are so many yummy rolls that I love to squeeze. And her can see for yourself!

Monday, November 24, 2008


I don't think I will ever stop counting. I have counted the number of day Natalie was with us, the number of days in the hospital, the number of days until we had her funeral, and I even know the number of days that she has been gone. Today is a number too. Today is the 24th...13 months since I saw my Natalie's smile. Thirteen months since I held her. It crept up on me. Yesterday I was in a bad mood. I could not pinpoint why. I honestly thought it was because I have not been faithful to my devotional time in the morning. Or maybe it was hormonal. Or maybe I was stressed that today is going to be so busy. Maybe, it was just because the baby has been fussy and I am not sure why. Now I know. It is all of these things, along with the counting.

There are lots of days when I don't want to count. I simply cannot help it though. As much as I try not to, it always creeps into my thoughts. I suppose it always will. But does it have to hurt so much? Do I have to cry when I think of her 5 1/2 days in the hospital? Sure, it is now part of me.

Bryan and I were counting the number of pies that we have to make this year. Every year, Bryan makes a yummy Pecan Pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you are one of the lucky people who has tasted this tiny piece of heaven, you understand. We have one, we make an extra for home because it is just that good. We have to make one for a few special friends, and of course there will be a pie that makes its way to the PICU. Have I ever mentioned that I love to feed them? Don't really know why...maybe because food can make anyone happy. Last year, we made 5 of them. This year the number is the same. But this number then reminds me that last year we had Turkey with my sister and her family. And Nat was not with us. It reminds me that we will be taking a pie to the hospital. We only know the staff there because we spent 5 days with them while Nat fought. Somehow, numbers have become something I don't always want to remember.

Anyhow....we have time this year to make one more. If you are in our area and you want one of these yummy pies this year, leave a comment. Give me a really good reason why you should get this tasty treat. Bryan and I will pick the most deserving comment and bring it to you either Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

til later....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I had a post all written. I lost it. And it was a good one! I am crying over that right now. But, as I was frantically searching for it, I came across this post from the caringbridge site that I wrote 1 year ago. It made me smile to read it. These are things that I remember but are not always in the forefront and I wish they were. Life is busy...and I need to slow down. Here is the post from last year, so you can remember too! If you want to send me your memories, I would love to remember with you. I am going to spend my day today remembering. Maybe I will include time for that during my devotional time in the morning...

What is your favorite memory of Natalie? Is there only one, or are there more? I have hundreds of thousands. Every moment of everyday of the 14 months and 12 days that I was able to hold and kiss and love my baby. But there are so many that stand out to me...thank you to my friends today at workshop who remembered with me. Those 7 women shared my child, my love with me. They cried with me and made me remember how much I do love her. Thank you! You have done more than you know for me. I needed today to be a good day and you gave that to me. I am honored to call each of you my friends. Share these memories with me....
Do you remember how Nat would smile...all 6 teeth gleaming! She had the most fabulous smile. Do you remember how she would talk? She would make this grunting noise…ooohhhh! I have a picture of it. I love that picture. Do you remember how she would run to the door the minute someone would walk in? Was it you? Can you see her, arms back as if to help propel her forward? I can see it. I miss it.
Do you remember asking her for kisses? Do you remember how she would walk up to you (with a big old smile!), turn her face so her check was towards you, and move so you could kiss it? I loved that…I asked her to play that game every single day, as often as I thought of it. I miss it.
I would love to know what your favorite memory of Natalie is….no matter how big or small. Each memory is so very important. You can put them in the guestbook so everyone can share these memories. You can email them to me if you prefer. Help me remember my baby…help us remember our family of 4. Natalie lives with us in our memories, in our dreams. I have big dreams….please make them bigger, for all of us.
Good night all…
Hillary, Bryan, Emily and especially our angel baby Nat Nat

til later...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Alie loves her ladybug mobile!

Alie does not love her carseat!

Emily did not want to eat dinner. We were making her (oh, the horror!) eat what we were eating. But, the thought of the cupcake she would get if she ate one piece of chicken won over the thought of eating Mommy and Daddy's yucky food that she "can't like".

til later....

Friday, November 7, 2008

New Normal

I read this somewhere....seems appropriate for my mood today and the last few days...

Normal is having tears waiting behind every smile when you realize someone important is missing from all the important events in your family's life.

Normal is feeling like you can't sit another minute without getting up and screaming, because you just don't like to sit through anything.

Normal is not sleeping very well because a thousand what if's & why didn't I's go through your head constantly.

Normal is reliving that day continuously through your eyes and mind, holding your head to make it go away.

Normal is staring at every baby who looks like he is my baby's age. And then thinking of the age they would be now and not being able to imagine it. Then wondering why it is even important to imagine it, because it will never happen.

Normal is every happy event in my life always being backed up with sadness lurking close behind, because of the hole in my heart.

Normal is telling the story of your child's death as if it were an everyday, commonplace activity, and then seeing the horror in someone's eyes at how awful it sounds. And yet realizing it has become a part of my "normal".

Normal is having some people afraid to mention my baby.

Normal is making sure that others remember them.

Normal is that everyone else goes on with their lives, but we continue to grieve our loss forever.

Normal is weeks, months, and years after the initial shock, the grieving gets worse sometimes, not better.

Normal is not listening to people compare anything in their life to this loss, unless they too have lost a child. NOTHING. Even if your child is in the remotest part of the earth away from you - it doesn't compare. Losing a parent is horrible, but having to bury your own child is unnatural.

Normal is realizing I do cry everyday.

Normal is a new friendship with another grieving mother, talking and crying together over our children and our new lives.

Normal is not listening to people make excuses for God. "God may have done this because..." I love God, I know that my baby is in heaven, but hearing people trying to think up excuses as to why healthy babies were taken from this earth is not appreciated and makes absolutely no sense to this grieving mother.

Normal is being too tired to care if you paid the bills, cleaned the house, did laundry or if there is any food.

Normal is wondering this time whether you are going to say you have a child, because you will never see this person again and it is not worth explaining that my baby is in heaven. And yet when you don't say you have her to avoid that problem, you feel horrible as if you have betrayed your baby.

Normal is knowing I will never get over this loss, in a day or a million years.And last of all,

Normal is hiding all the things that have become "normal" for you to feel, so that everyone around you will think that you are "normal".

Monday, November 3, 2008



Today is so bittersweet. This morning I left my sister’s home to come back to Virginia. Anna Kathryn was sound asleep in one of the cutest nurseries I have ever seen. I blew kisses through the door and told Kimmie to give her hugs and kisses from us. Today, my sister’s daughter turned one! I am so happy to say it, much less celebrate it with them last weekend. Anna Kathryn ‘s birthday party brought tears to my eyes. It was a sweet reminder of what is to come as we all grow with her. And it was a bitter reminder of what we will not have with Natalie. Today is one year since we gathered with our friends and family to celebrate Natalie’s life in her funeral service. Honestly, no parent should ever have to witness that. It is unnatural. But we now know that Natalie was not only looking over us that day. She was looking out for Anna Kathryn as well. Each year, I will remember both AK and Nat together on this day. It is a special day for each girl. Their stories intertwine here, with an end and a beginning. In fact, AK was born just as Nat’s service was ending.

He gives and He takes away.

It has been one year…today is the last day I get to say that. I remember meeting someone who lost their son three years before I met her. I remember thinking, “Three years is a long time.” Now, I don’t agree. It is so short. One year has flown past, yet felt like an eternity. One year. We had just barely spent on year with her.

I want to say so much more…but my words are jumbled. I have been in front of this computer trying to make sense of them. But I cannot get my thoughts into clear sentences.

I am going to bed. I am going to remember. I am going to relive those amazing moments that Natalie gave me. I am going to try to not be upset that the first are over. I am going to do my best to honor my girls. I am going to start the second year without Natalie. And I am going to celebrate with my sister that her daughter is one. I will remember what He took from me while rejoicing over what He has given us as well. I think this day will always be bittersweet. But with its bittersweetness come the memories and stories of two sweet girls.

One He gave us as He took the other one away.

Good night all,
Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel baby Natalie and Allison

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween fun

Last Wednesday, at school, Emily had her harvest parade. She had a great time. The kids all had fun. It was very hard to get the whole class into one picture but I got it!! The best part was that I spent all morning at Em's school and Alie slept right through it.

Getting ready for her halloween party at school

All of the cutest kiddos that I have ever seen...well really there were more super cute ones too. You can see Emily at the end (she was the caboose that week!) with her teacher Ms. Doris.

Friday morning we headed out for our trip to Monroe to my sister's house. I did not really think that we would make it. Everything was going wrong and we were not getting out the door when I wanted to. I was so frustrated. What's a girl to do? Head to Starbucks, get some yummy coffee, go back home, wait until the baby is ready for her nap, put kids in the car, head out on the road 3 hours late! But we got here safe and sound. Then we headed to Allison's house for dress up with the girls. I had not planned on taking Emily trick-or-treating. She has never been. But all of the sudden there was a wagon with another princess, Miss Maggie, in it and she was gone!

Of course, there were a few other cuties that I cannot forget. Anna Kathryn makes the cutest Sunflower! I was originally going to get this costume for Alie, but when I found out that Kimmie had already bought it I changed my plan. I then found a CUTE dragonfly costume. It is adorable. But...Alie is not always the happiest of babies at the end of the day. And Friday was not different. She was tired and irritable. (I was too!) The result was a mad dragonfly, cute but mad!

Emily went to the first house and was stunned when the woman gave her some candy. She gave a look like, "I don't know why you are giving this to me but I will take it!" After that, she was hooked.

And the cutest sunflower EVER with her mom!

We head home tomorrow. Please pray for safe travels for Emily, Alie and I as we make our way home. This has been a short trip, but such a good one. It was tons of fun to share these milestones, including AK's birthday party yesterday, with my sister and her family. I love that my sister is close enough for a weekend visit. And I love that we are close enough to share that visit. I have spent many moments crying silently for all that is missing from this trip. Natalie is visibly absent. But I have spent many more moments smiling and enjoying lots of firsts with Anna Kathryn, Alie and Emily. I am grateful for the firsts...they bring joy to my heart again.


Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel Natalie and Allison

Saturday, November 1, 2008

it is time....

...for the disclosure of the order of the pictures.

Many of you were right...some were close. I am impressed by how you all can tell them apart. I sometimes have to do a double take to tell. But here is it...

This is our sweet Emily, the oldest. She is the baby we learned all we know about raising children. Sometimes I wonder how she will really turn out in spite of all of our mistakes.

Next, Natalie made her appearance. She is our baby that we worried came too soon. At 10lb 11ozs, I could not have carried her any longer. It was really too bad that I did not discover the book "The Happiest Baby on the Block" until she was 4 months old. I could have used that one! But seriously, she was my cuddliest baby. She was always wanting to cuddle, nurse, co-sleep...really be close in any way she could. I miss her cuddles. I miss all of her. (the red hair gives this one away too!)

And finally our newest member of the family, Allison. At two months old, she is our easiest baby yet. There is only fussiness when she is dirty, hungry or sleepy. Oh, and I learned yesterday that she is not a fan of being awake in the car. The last 30 minutes on I-85 were rough! Alie is also our smallest baby and still proves to be that way. She has not even hit 12lbs yet. I am amazed. She likes to cuddle too. We will see if that lasts.

So...who got it first? The order of the pictures on the original post was 1. Nat 2. Alie 3. Em.

My sweet friend Kim P. emailed me shortly after I posted and got it right. She gets bragging rights officially. But I am very impressed with those that have never met me and still got it. You are amazing people. Kim, I have something for you next time I see you. It is a mere thanks for loving us, following us and praying for us.

Thanks to each of you. This week has been so hard. It has not totally cleared yet. I began crying last night as I was driving to Allison's house last night and saw a sweet Tinkerbell out with her mommy. She was probably only about 18 months. Natalie was going to be Tinkerbell last year. I never even took the time to put her costume on her. Had she lived to Halloween, we were going to bring it to the hospital and put it on top of here just so I could get a picture. Now, it is retired into the Natalie box at home. I doubt Alie will wear it next year. I think she will be a peacock instead.

Today we are at my sister's celebrating Anna Kathryn's 1st birthday. I am so happy to be here, excited to share this milestone with my sister. We will have a blast. AK is the cutest little munchkin. And the sounds she makes...priceless! Emily and AK are playing on the floor right now and it is precious. I am off to get my camera!


Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel baby Natalie, and Allison

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Beautiful Scars

I always hated anytime I ended up with a scar. I have lots of tiny ones on my arms from having the chicken pox 4 times as a child. I have one next to my knee from the time I cut it in band class (yes, I played the saxophone) in the 8th grade. I have three on my other knee from surgery 11 years ago. I have one on my left hand next to my ring finger where I burned myself on an iron while visiting my sister 10 years ago. I could go on and on…I have lots of little ones everywhere.

But I now have a few scars I am so very proud of. I have lots of stretch marks to show how my belly grew as the girls grew within me. I did not like them at first. They are still not my favorite. But they are a daily reminder of the joy and pure bliss of feeling a child kick you from within, roll over, hiccup and push a little foot outward to make a bit more room. I have a c-section scar that shows that my girls were born. It is not healed yet from Alie’s birth, but it will be a beautiful scar. It will remind me daily that I carried all three of them, that they were taken from my womb and given to us to love, care for, and watch grow.

Now I have a scar that is not so tangable. I have a scar on my heart reminding me daily that, although Natalie grew within me and she was born, she stayed with us for only 14 months 12 days. Somedays it is not as visible, hiding just beyond the view of the naked eye. Somedays you can see this scar. It manifests itself as my quiet demeanor, tear stains on my cheeks, or the inability for me to focus on things as I should. There are many days now that I can only do one thing at a time when I was a good mutli-tasker before. Natalie takes up at least one “task” at all times…my thoughts are never far from her memory. But this is a scar that I happily wear now. I am not happy she is gone, but I am happy that I am her mom, that I held her even if it was for a brief moment, and that she loved me. I am so grateful to have memories, lots of memories. I can’t even begin to count the number of pictures we have of her smile, personality and love. We thrive on those. I know I can take out my albums or just open Memory Manager on my computer and I can remember all those moments. They are some of the most precious memories we will ever make.

One year ago today, Natalie was given a scar. At 1:39 in the morning she left our world. But as she left she gave what she could to help another. She was given a scar when her kidneys were removed. And somewhere in Central Virginia, a 42 (now 43) year old man got a new scar…one that gave him Natalie’s kidneys and a new opportunity to live. These have to be 2 of the most beautiful scars that I will never see. But I know about them. I know the sacrifice my girl made. I know the sacrifice we made. And I know that it has forever changed me.

Last night, we ventured up to the PICU. As you all know well, I like to take them yummy goodies. My heart pounds when I pick up the phone in the hallway to gain permission to enter the PICU. I feel as though it is going to come out of my chest as we walk through the door. And usually I begin to sob as we say hello to the staff working that day. We have been fortunate to visit (the last 2 times!) where there have been no children in the PICU. It is a bit easier when I do not hear the machines dinging. Bryan and Emily always walk down to room 5, where Natalie fought for her life. Each time we go, I run into someone else that was intregal in Nat’s care and several others who know of us even if they did not specifically care for our girl. Last night was no different. We arrived with coffee and a Pumpkin Pie (yum!). I picked up the phone and a familiar voice was on the other end. C.A., one of Natalie’s nurses, was working. We have not seen her since we left one year earlier. CA was Nat’s nurse on the 29th last year as I cut Natalie’s hair, as we bathed her, as we took her footprints and handprints so we could forever remember her and have a few tangible things in the years to come. It was so nice and comforting to see her face. We were able to share Alie with her. She even commented on how much Alie looks like Nat. Although I know that the circumstance was not good, we certainly made several sweet friends during our time there. And I am grateful for each one. I am grateful for each one we reconnect with on our visits. And this was my first visit there that I did not cry. As we left, my heart felt full. I had walked out the doors and down that hall one year ago. Our girl was going home to be with her Lord and we were going home to mourn her. But I felt like she was with me as we left, hugging on me and telling me that she was ok. One day I will be able to look into room 5. I know I will leave with tears streaming down my face. And I know it will get easier each time I visit.

I miss her terribly. Tonight has been so difficult. Events of the day have not gone how I wanted and that makes me anxious. I am not packed and I am supposed to leave in the morning, bright and early. Our departure will be delayed so I can sleep tonight. And packing will take place in the morning. The grief, the heartache, is real tonight. It is strong and making it hard to breathe. I spent a little over an hour cuddling with Alie after she fell asleep. Bryan and Corey had to run out and it was just me and the girls. I cherish that time, no matter which of my girls is curled up with me. Those moments allow me to remember the scars each one of my girls gave me. They make me smile and cry all at once. They are beautiful scars.

It has been one year. This year has flown by and yet it has seemed as though we are living in slow motion. I know that the coming year will give me more ups and downs, more heartache and more moments to cherish. I know it will add a few more scars.

They will be beautiful scars.

Good night all.
Love,Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel Natalie, and Allison

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Can you tell which is which?!? I have to check the date on the picture. Each one is 2 months old in the picture...each one is so beautiful. First one to get the order right will get bragging rights to knowing my kids the best. Maybe something else will come your way as well. :)
I will have a bigger post tomorrow (praying that the baby lets me get it onto the computer) but for girls!

Daddy's first night with the girls alone (for 6 hours!!) was Monday night. I had a meeting. He had it all together when I walked int he door. He rocks!!!

And my pretty princess...ready for her harvest festival at school!

til later...

Friday, October 24, 2008

She walks with me

We did something special today. We did something that will remind us every single day for the rest of our lives that Natalie was here. It will be with us no matter where we go, what we do, no matter our age, no matter our situation. We have been talking about this for months. I was pregnant and not able to do this yet though. But now I can. Bryan can. We will share the bond of our girl and our memory forever. Today, we each had Natalie’s footprint tattooed onto us. With every step we take, she will take the same step. For me, her footprint is on top of my foot. She walks with me. I love that. For Bryan, it is on the side of his leg. She is there with him as well. And Bryan and I share her footprint between us. The same print on the same side of the body. She will walk with each of us every day we are on this earth, and when we are no longer here we will be with her in Heaven. I am so happy I did this. I am still in shock thought. In fact, as the artist began it, my words were, “My dad is gonna kill me!” Bryan laughed, the tatoo guy looked at me a bit strangely but we kept going. I keep looking at my foot, thinking, “Did I really do that? I can’t believe it.”

After it was done, we went by my old office. Can I just say that I worked with an AMAZING group of people? To this day, I do not feel like an outsider there. I walk in and am greeted by my friends. I am asked when I am coming back or if I miss working there. It still feels like I just took a few days off. And yet, it has been a whole year since I called Krissy to tell her that I would not be in because Natalie fell in the pool and I did not know what was happening. I could hear the fear in her voice that day. I knew that they were all praying for me, supporting me, hoping with me. Many came by the hospital. They brought by gifts, food, cards, and hugs. They are another branch in my family tree. It was wonderful to see them today, talk and share my girls with them.

We ran a few more errands today, visited a few friends, and ate yummy Mexican food for dinner. Now we are home, remembering and having a pretty good night. Tears still fill my eyes constantly. My thoughts are constantly on my girls, my Natalie, how my life has changed and where we are now.

It has really been a pretty good day, all things considered. I have done all I wanted to. Here are a few photos from today and the last few weeks that I am loving tonight (just downloaded my camera!). Please keep us in your prayers over the next week. It will be hard. It will be full of tears, sorrow, joy, wonder, and time with my Lord. We need each of you, no matter how we met. You help us get through each day. And we thank you.

* * * * * * * * * *

One year ago today, I was in Iraq thinking everything was fine. I had not talked to Hillary in a day or so, but I was getting ready to call later on that night. For me, it was early in the morning on the 25th. I was sitting there with every body talking about things like we always did. Hayli was talking to Jason and things just didn’t seem right about it. She talked to him longer than usual and didn’t tell me about the conversation. This was unusual, for her not to tell me anything. She also looked a little off and stunned. I tried to figure out what was going on. Then a couple of minutes later my Senior Enlisted Leader and my Officer in Charge walked in together and asked to see me privately. I knew this was not good because I had been through that before. But I could not think of what it might be. None of my family was sick. Immediately I was scared. When they told me what happened, I could not believe it. I was in shock. I would like to share with you, something I have never shared with anybody. That night, I started a journal of sorts in my notebook that I have kept for the last year. It has work stuff, but when I need to, I have written in it. I want to share the first entry of that night with you.

25 Oct (Iraqi time) Just found out Natalie fell into the pool and that she is in critical condition. This is the worst day of my life. I can not begin to describe how I feel. I am numb and can’t believe this has happened. The last time I saw her, she was a very active and bubbly 1 yr old. Now I can’t imagine her lying there with tubes in her. I am struggling with this because I keep having images of her playing and then falling the pool. I try not to because I have a long trip and I need to be strong to get back home.

These were my thoughts the day I found out. I then had to get on several planes and try to make my way back home. I can never say enough for those I was deployed with. They were amazing and so supportive. They did what they needed to get me home and get me there quickly. I was home the next night. It was amazing and I will never be able to thank them enough. I will share some more of that journal with you all soon. It has been a year and I am ready now.

After Hillary told me what she wanted to name the blog, I wrote this poem.

My heart bleeds
in a Downpour of Rain;
I look up
but all I see is pain.
Getting through
is a Daily Task;
Love and peace
one day at last.
I’ll see my little girl;
Then and only then will I have no pain.
For we will be together and there will be no Downpour of Rain.

Thank you all for your support over the last year. We could not have done it without you.
Good night all,
Hillary, Bryan, our sassy Emily, especially our angel baby Natalie, and our ever growing Allison

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Oh my…if someone told me one year ago what we were about to experience, I think I would have run screaming in the other direction. If someone told me that tomorrow I would hear quite possibly the worst news of my life, I would have laughed at them in fear of the possibility. If someone told me to enjoy every hug and kiss and moment because it was just about the last one, I would have told them I do even when I knew that I flew through them because there was always something more to do. And I would have thought, “Yeah right…it won’t happen to me.” Unfortunately, it did.

The hurricaine is here. The wind is blowing today, literally and figuratively. I have been in a yucky funk the last few days. I have avoided the phone, I have avoided seeing people. I have avoided life. I can feel the darkness that surrounds the next few days. I find myself surrendering to it, even when I don’t want to. I want to be happy. I want to remember her life, not just wallow in the sorrow of her death.

For the last week, I have been able to remember what happened one year ago on that date. For example, on the 23rd I went to work, the kids when to Sue’s, we came home and met Stacy and Brayden for dinner at Chick-fil-a. It was kids night…kids get a free kids meal with each adult combo. It was the cheap way for us to go out. Natalie ate some of mine, Emily’s was free. Stacy held Natalie a lot of the time. I should have. It was our last meal together. We then went home and began our nightly routine. I was tired. I contemplated whether I should call in to work the next day. And I decided that I would decide in the morning. That was it…our last day together, my last goodnight to her. Natalie always co-slept so we snuggled that night. If I had only known…I would have hugged her tighter. If I had known this would be the last time she was in our home, in our bed, in our lives awake. If I had only taken one more picture of her, I would have just one more memory that would not fade in time.

I know. I cannot dwell in the what-ifs. I have so many of them. But they always creep in when I remember. Most of the time I prefer to keep them to me. The what-ifs make me cry. Really anything makes me cry right now. I miss her. Plain and simple, I miss my Natalie. I cannot even describe the depth of my hurt. It is dark and it hurts like a heart attack. It does not go away if I lie down and take a nap. It does not go away when I dive into some project. It does not go away. It just hurts, badly. No matter how the outside changes, no matter how much we grow and change, I don’t think my inside will ever forget. Even years down the road, many more that the mere year that we have lived through, the pain in my chest reminding me of my sweet girl will remain.

We will get through this. With God’s grace, we will survive. His grace is perfect. He is my hiding place. I know I am safe in His embrace, shielded by his love and peace. And I am spending lots of time with Him these days. Every morning on the way to take Emily to school, when I get home while Alie is napping, before bed, these are my moments with Him. I have worship CDs in the car, two (yes, two) bibles next to my chair, and study books in my bedroom. I have thrown myself in to this, drinking in all that I can. I keep looking for all the answers. I know they are there. I know He will reveal them to me. I just have to wait for His timing.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
And of course I am LIVING on my verse, John 13:7.
Jesus replied, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Monday, October 20, 2008

A glimpse of what is to come

She visited me last night. It was an amazing dream. I loved every minute, every moment that I held Natalie. I loved every conversation I had with her. I did not want to wake.

About 1 week ago, I realized something that was very difficult to accept. I had just joined facebook and reconnected with my best friend from elementary school when we lived in Kentucky. I am so happy to have found her and we already have plans to meet up at christmas. When my sister was directing me to her profile, she described it by using her name listed (she is married now) and the picture on her profile. It is a picture of her 3 beautiful blond babies! They are not really all babies, but you get the idea. I found it, was looking at her kiddos, and I realized that this is a picture that I will not have. I cannot take a picture with all three of my children in it together. I am having a hard time grasping that there is no way for me to make this happen. I can put things of Natalie's in the picture, I could photoshop Nat in or Alie into a picture, but we wil never have all three girls in front of a photographer fighting to get them to smile all at the same time. I have cried over this revelation. I am sure the emotion is a combination of the truth, my hormones, and the time of the year. But wow...I was floored by this. Bryan calmly hugged me and told me that we would do our best to get all three girls in a picture together. He tried...but the truth is still there.

So back to my visit with my girl. I was holding Natalie and Bryan walks into the room with Emily and Alie. That's right, in my dream I had all three girls together. It was amazing! Of course what do I do...pull out the camera! We took lots of pictures of the three girls and I woke up right after this. There is a piece of me that wishes it was real. That the picture of my three children was real. This morning, I am happy. I held and loved on my girl. I go to take the picture of my dreams in my dreams. I was able to share Alie with Natalie. We had another moment together as a family. It was a good dream. And I have now seen a glimpse of what is to come. One day, I will get to have all of us together...and I will get my picture.

till later...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

When fear and faith collide

We are in the midst of the last firsts. I don’t know how I feel yet about this. I am comfortable (if you can call it that) with the firsts. First ___________ without Natalie here…you enter the event. I guess it is because it keeps it fresh. It makes it seem as though she has not been gone long at all. But really…a year is a long time. I have always thought that Bryan’s 6-month deployments were long. They are NOTHING compared to this! A year, it just seems so long, so final. One year ago, on October 14th, Bryan left for that deployment. You know, the deployment where he had that horrible conversation that told him of Natalie’s accident. I remember the day he left perfectly. We took lots of pictures. Our last family picture as the four of us, Bryan, Hillary, Emily and Natalie was taken that day by us squatting down and resting the camera (with a timer on it) on his bags. We said our goodbyes, and then the girls and I followed his bus out of the base gate towards the airport. We turned off to go to the zoo (it was military appreciation day and therefore free) but never made it because the girls fell asleep in the car and I had the wrong shoes on. I wish now that we had gone to the airport with him. I wish now that we had a bit more time…that day and with Natalie.

The Pumpkin Patch trip went well. It was HARD to be there this year. The memories are still so vivid for me. Last year, I took a day off from work. Bryan was off as well. It was Columbus Day. We met some friends there. We took hay rides, we played on the hay bales in the middle of the play area. We played on the swingsets. We petted the animals at the petting zoo. We picked out pumpkins. We took LOTS of pictures. This year was no different. Except that Natalie was not here. She was so missed. When we got to the playground area, the swing that she got on last year was still there. I have great pictures of her swinging on that swing. Thankfully, the tire swing was not there. I think it would have been very hard to see that. She loved the tire swing last year. When we were on the hay ride, I could picture the photographs that we took of the kiddos as we were riding around. All I could think was that we should have been taking similar pictures. We should be watching Julia and Jackson and Natalie run around and terrorize the chickens. But we were not. Alie slept in the Maya Wrap on me the whole time. She was a happy girl. We took a picnic lunch. After, we picked out pumpkins. Really, Emily picked out pumpkins. And we came home with three, one for each girl. We made it through the first trip back without Natalie. Somehow…

We have also received our Newborn photos back from Jessica Riehl. They are fabulous as always. I am so thankful for them and for her. Jess’s eye is amazing and captures everyone perfectly. She even made my eyes sparkle in one picture. I did not know they had any sparkle left in them. But she found it. I am glad we took these…I don’t want to miss a single moment.

We are preparing for the next few weeks. The days get harder as they come. My hurricaine is strengthening sooner this month. I cry more. I remember more. I wish for lots more. I fear her angel-versary. I fear how it will go. I fear how I will feel. I fear how we will each react and how we will survive as a family. But I have faith. And I have learned that my faith will get me through. It has gotten me this far and I know I have a ways to go! He will hold me when my fear and my faith collide. And He will hold me up so my faith will prevail. I know that we all will be in the palm of His hand.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my rightous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Good night all. I leave you with the very last family picture we took as Bryan was heading to the plane for Iraq last October. This is one of my favorites!


Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel baby Natalie and Allison

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oh, Please....get me through this day

I went to wake Emily up this morning.

Me: Wake up sweet girl!
Em: mmmmm....
Me: You have to wake up so we can go to the pumpkin patch with your friends today. We are going to pick out a pumpkin, go on a hay ride...and your friends are going to be there with us.
Em: ...but not Natalie...

What do I do? How will I do it? Pray that I don't cry my way through today....

til later....

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Part two

I am a bit better. I am not quite as sad today. It took a bit to get going, but we got there today. We ran errands. I even got to go to the store and Michaels sans children! That was a nice change. These are the days when I know that my Lord rescues me and heals me. These are the days when I know he is carrying me through this journey. So, I want to share all the pictures that I did not get to the other night. It did not feel quite right to put these in with my ramblings. But it feels right now!

Alie's first crop! She will be a scrapbooker one day too!

My first opportunity to hold my niece. Boy, does that sound nice! I have a niece!!!

Emily playing with Mark's oldest son, Jacob. One of the best reasons to visit Kimmie and Mark...there is always someone to play with. They just aren't always Emily's age. :)

Anna Kathryn and Alie playing on the floor. Anna Kathryn was so intrigued by Alie's ears, but Alie seemed worried by all the ear pulling!

All three girls dressed in their silk Chinese dresses. They were beautiful and we realized then that pictures would not always be the easiest to take!

The first picture for mom and dad of their girls and grandgirls! We are missing one who was so missed on this trip, but we know she was nearby. She is, after all, Anna Kathryn's angel.

The Wannalls...'nuff said. Wish the boys were in it too, but someone had to take the pictures!

And last for tonight, my beautiful amazing grown-up 4-year-old. This was after I got Emily ready for school on Wednesday. She looked so cute and could not pass up the photo op! Gosh, I love her!!

Good night!


Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel baby Natalie and Allison

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Eye of the Storm

As I sit here at 11pm eating Cheetos, drinking yummy sweet tea, and thinking of all that I want to say....I fear it will not all come out tonight. I am finding it hard to find the time to write as I want to. Now my mind is clogged with all that I want to get out of it. I know part of it will come out tonight and there will be a part two to follow.

I feel like we are in the eye of the storm. It was so windy and choppy and rainy and yucky a few days ago. This month on the 30th it was so hard! We arrived home from a fabulous weekend, one that was so happy and full of joy. We arrived home and immediately re-entered reality. We went to court on Tuesday. There is more resolution to the case the state brought after Natalie's accident. I am happy for that. We have asked since day 1 that it be a misdemeanor only. And finally they took our request to heart. The bad part of it all was that we were there on the 30th. It is such a hard day and this made it harder.

The first was not much easier. The story was on the news, on the radio and in the paper. It is hard to listen to her name and what happened. It is even harder in print. Thankfully, it was only for one day and now it has died down again. I really want to tell the media that while I understand their want to pass on news, I wish they could leave my daughter out of it. Just not use her name. Don't tell where we live. After getting through this, I ran into one of Nat's nurses from the hospital. It was so good to see her and I was a bit shocked that she remembered me after a year (I guess I left a lasting impression!). Then I had to go to the dentist and it took 3...yes 3...shots to numb my mouth to get a filling done! Today my cheek is so sore!!
Today has been better. The baby did not nap much this we had lots of cuddle time! I needed it. This evening, the girls and I went to Disney on Ice with Shannon and Jackson. The kids had a blast! Emily was even lamenting that she missed Tinkerbell as we left. She wanted to go back in to see her again. She still does not understand why we can't go back in and see it all over again. Sigh.

Now here I sit....wondering how I will get through this month. Wondering how I can make October fun and happy. Wondering how I will get through the last week of the month. Wondering how I make it through the rest of my life, honor my sweet baby, remember her, and not fall apart several times a day. I feel like I am in the eye of the storm, waiting for the wall to come through with harder rain, stronger winds, and a force that will knock me to my foundation. This is how each month feels, with the first wall coming through on about the 4th of the month (after all the pertinent dates) and the second wall hitting hard on the 24th. We get a hurricaine, the same hurricaine, every month. So far, they are still catagory 5 ones. We live through the devestation every time. And each month we rebuild, hoping that the next will arrive with a bit less wind. I still want the rain. I enjoy the downpour. I do everything I can to look up and drink in each drop. I want to remember her. I don't want to forget anything. But when the wind knocks me down...that is what gets me. Today, one of my best friends asked me, "how are you." My response was, "I got out of bed." That was as good as it got today. The girls were dressed and fed. Emily made it to school. We even went to the park after school and made it to Disney on Ice. Now, here I sit, eating Cheetos and drinking tea, writing all that I have been thinking for days. Here I sit wanting this wall to end so I can live through the month and prepare for the eye to pass. But this month is differet. I don't know how I will make it. I can't figure it out.

We are starting to talk about how we will spend the day. Bryan and I want to make it a special day, to celebrate the life of our special baby girl. We want to spend the day remembering her smile, her laugh, her smell, her spunk. It will be a sad day, a day full of tears. But we also want it to be happy. When we figure our activities out fully we will share them. But not yet.

There is still time for the rain to begin again.

"God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."
Matthew 6:34

"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8

Good night all. I am off to dream, to cuddle, and to find my way out of bed tomorrow.
Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel baby Natalie, and Allison

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Welcome home Anna Kathryn BoDi Kovach!

Here they are....the pictures tell it all. We had an amazing night/morning. They finally arrived home at 12:30am today after almost 30 hours of travel! It was similar to a wedding...takes a lot of prep and planning, then the actual moment is just that, a moment. But what a beautiful moment!

Here are a few picture for you to drool on. We are drooling on her.

Anxiously Waiting!

AK, Kimmie, me and Alie (you can't see her in the sling but she is there)

AK checking Alie out...I think they like each other!

Nana, PopPop, and Emily greeting AK.

Welcome home baby girl! We love you!