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