Stand By Me

Mom calls them God winks. Sometimes I nod my head in agreement and other times I roll my eyes in my lack of understanding. But if I take the time to reflect, doesn’t He have a hand in it all?

God wink

We were in her favorite thrift spot, a little place in Lakeside called Aggie’s Attic. I was holding Mon Amour captive in my arms, surrounded by breakables and looking for kitchenware to cross off my wishlist.

Mon Cœur was with Mooma (Mom) and had found a musical figurine. Mooma came to me and showed me her turkey and other fall decor she found. She was so excited.

And then she put on her serious face and showed me the figurine and told me the story. At first I had a stern face because, “I’ll be damned if one more item to dust comes in the house.” Especially a breakable. And then I melted. I teared up and I gave in.

MC had pointed to the figurine, a little angel sleeping on a cloud with another, older angel standing watch above. She told Mooma, “That’s my sister, and that’s me,” as she pointed to the sleeping angel and then the standing one.

My sister and me

MC got it home and wanted it to be on the pie chest with Millie’s ashes. So I put it there. She asked to hear it, so I wound it up.

MA would hear it from the other room and come and just sit and watch it turn and play. And then he’d sign “more.” A more serene MA I haven’t seen. He listened, then he twirled, then he signed more. More. More. And when my heart strings couldn’t take it any more, we moved on.

The tune was unfamiliar, and a little haunting. I had no idea where to look. Finally I turned the figurine over and spun it looking for a sticker.

Stand by me

The sticker read “stand by me.” My mind immediately went to a beloved oldie by Ben E. King:

…If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
Or the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no, I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me…

I knew this familiar song was not the same tune as the music box on the figurine so I dug a little deeper. I found on the lyrics to a hymn of the same title by Charles Albert Tindley.

When the storms of life are raging,
stand by me;
when the storms of life are raging,
stand by me.
When the world is tossing me
like a ship upon the sea,
thou who rulest wind and water,
stand by me.

Stand By Me by Charles Albert Tindley
Stand By Me Hymn sung by Melissa Schworer

The melody plays from the music box and as the chords play, I’m not sure what it is. I feel all these complex and conflicting emotions come over me. Sadness. Calm. Regret. Peace. Wonder. Gratefulness.

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. I am grateful to have this blog to keep Millie alive in our hearts and to let others know “you are not alone.”

To all who are missing a part of their family, who have a little one in Heaven – I stand by you and see you. Sending you hugs.


Who’s your neighbor?

You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.


Fred Rogers was a unique individual – soft spoken, calm, intentional. He was a Presbyterian
minister and was given special permissions to make his show, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and his audience of children his ministry.

I find this especially interesting, and I don’t ever remember religion being an overt part of the show. Fred was focused on modeling and showcasing what it is to be a good human, to be a neighbor.

I took a deep dive recently into his world through a stack of books available at my local library. Last year as a preschool teacher, I strived to demonstrate patience, to say the right words, and to cultivate an atmosphere of love and kindness like Rogers did. And yet, it was a very daunting and difficult task.

When I found myself failing, I reminded myself that he was looking into the camera lens, talking to millions of children in a one to one scenario; whereas, I can not do the same with a class of eight students who are all tugging at the hems of my skirt for a tissue or to tell me a completely unrelated story while we are reading a book aloud, or ask me a question, or let me know that Susie hit him upside the head with the coffee maker in dramatic play area, or to tell me that Davey is no longer her best friend and he is not invited to her birthday party.


Just for kicks…Anyone else? A widespread meme showing the ups and downs of parenting

Despite not being able to be Mr. Rogers, or to come even close, there are some things I can do…like listen and wait. Be present.

Mr. Rogers was a complex man, and I enjoyed reading and learning about him. Reading these books brought back memories of childhood, memories of Daddy’s graduation from Old Dominion (where Fred Rogers gave the commencement speech). He has so many quotables so I will leave you with a few.

Nobody else can live the life you live. And even though no human being is perfect, we always have the chance to bring what’s unique about us to life.

The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away.

Our advocate will do anything to remind us that we are lovable and that our neighbor is lovable, too!

The most important part about communicating is the listening we do beforehand.

Anything mentionable is manageable.

Anyone who has ever been able to sustain good work has had at least one person – and often many- who have believed in him or her. We just don’t get to be competent human beings without a lot of different investments from others.

Do any of these quotes speak to you, or do you have a Rogers quote to share that’s not included here? I’d love to hear from you!

Family stockings

The thought occurred to me after I saw the Christmas card picture we took this year. Chouchou and I were seated in front of our Christmas tree- he had Mon Cœur on his lap, and I had Mon Amour on mine. Our four stockings hung neatly staggered on the wall behind us.

And then I saw the wooden angel MC decorated earlier this Christmas season – it was hanging from the window…Chou Chou had put this there for the picture, and I said to myself, “This is Millie – he put this angel here for her.”

And I realized that aside from a beautiful tree ornament that had been given to us, there is no representation of Millie’s spirit in our Christmas decorating.

Trouble signing cards.

Every Christmas card since we lost Millie, I have signed with our family name only, and no first names.

It’s been an internal struggle as to how to sign the pictures because we want to include “& Millie,” and yet we know some people won’t get it or won’t understand, or it would just be awkward.

And then I read about Ashlee’s Christmas tradition for her son.

And a lightbulb clicked. The Joyful Morning creator, Ashlee Proffitt hangs a stocking for her son. What better way to keep a child close to your heart than by including them with the physical presence of a stocking?

The kids’ stockings were a gift from their grandmother last year, for MA’s first Christmas. They are pretty, have lovely appliqué and beadwork, and their names are embroidered on the cuff of the stocking.

I decided that this would be a way to include Millie in our hearts and minds and not worry about how to sign the card. I took a quick look online at stocking options – I wanted something that was different, and yet had some similarities to her siblings. I didn’t find anything I liked.

So I went through my fabric collection and I found my favorite white appliqué fabric, some grey fabric, a few buttons, a bottle of beads, and some crochet thread to make her name.

I used MC’s stocking as a pattern and went to work cutting and preparing. Each cut, each stitch, each button, and each bead gave me an opportunity to reflect, remember, and cherish Millie.

Explaining to MC.

MC has recently mentioned Millie and says she misses her. We talk about her together and we say how we can’t wait to see her again, but Heaven isn’t a place you can just visit and then come home again, so we have to live our life here first-what a tricky concept. This has taken many conversations for her to understand, and she told me the other day, “…But we can’t go visit.”

I feel like for all of us, Chou Chou, MC, and me, we needed this reminder of Millie’s presence in our lives. It was therapeutic to make this little labor of love with MC’s help, and to talk freely to each other about Millie. I appreciate the honest truths and questions that came from MC.

The empty stocking was a reiteration in a way of an advent idea that I had read to MC. We were to set an extra place at the dinner table -“to remind us of Christ’s presence in our life.”

Making this connection for MC made it a little easier for her to understand, because she was super confused at first that Millie would have a stocking – “But she’s in Heaven. How will she empty the stocking? Can I have what’s inside?”

So I reminded her about the place we had set for Jesus. There wasn’t any food on the plate, and Jesus never physically came to dinner. It was a symbol, a reminder, a place holder.

Second or third? Third or fourth?

More than anything, I am trying to navigate the many truths about our family.

It seems so straight forward for me -we are a family of five, with one child in Heaven. Then, while in the middle of a conversation, I realize the delicacy and complications in trying to explain.

When talking about MA’s fierce spirit and energy, I hear a lot of, “Oh the second child…” And yes, what we see are two children and he is the second. What lies behind this seemingly simple family dynamic is the truth that our second child is in Heaven while MA is our third.

Sometimes people ask, “Will you try for a third?” It is both true that it would be our third earthly child and it would also be our fourth.

I always just say, “We haven’t decided if we’ll try for another.” It’s just easier for me to not assign a number.

I often tell my students, when they try to correct me, I gently explain that there are different ways of doing things. I tell them, “My way is right and so is your way – they are both correct, just different.” I try to remind myself the same when I have the urge to correct someone. We are both correct, in different ways.

We are a party of five, although you may only see four. At least with the stockings we can share our love for Millie and our complete family unit when sending our Christmas wishes.

National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Day

October 15

Today, October 15, is National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Day. The whole month in fact is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness. I learned about this day last year, at a bereavement group meeting.  (See related blog post here.)  

Last year was different.  We were four months into living our new reality, missing Millie, and trying to continue on as a family with Mon Cœur (MC) propelling us forward.

This year, we are 16 months missing Millie, carrying on as a family with MC keeping us on our toes, and we are 14 days from an induction to meet our baby boy.  This year is harder in many ways than it was last year, perhaps precisely because we are expecting, and in just two weeks.  I believe it is the home-stretch anxiety, knowing how close we are, and also knowing that it could all slip between our fingers.

Throughout this pregnancy, we have had our ups and downs of emotions – excited, skeptical, hopeful, anxious, excited, scared.  We are all anticipating his arrival, and yet some severe anxiety clouds our joy.  We know the potential outcome.  We know we aren’t in control, and little things can trigger thoughts or feelings of “what if?”

Gifts and conflicting emotions

Our village exudes enthusiasm for us – they don’t see or feel the apprehensions that we do.  We have had more people shower us with gifts prior to baby boy’s arrival than Millie’s, which is confusing from my perspective. I hate to sound ungrateful or ungracious, I simply can not mentally process the gifts that have been given us…We are scared.

When it’s just us, and we aren’t putting on a face for others, we are in fact very aware of what could or couldn’t be. I have hid all of the gift bags away and out of sight until we are back home with baby in arms.  I would rather be exhausted, have my hands full, and have to process gifts and write thank yous once I know he is here instead of looking through them now, getting hopes up, and maybe not be able to put these gifts to use. Silly? Maybe. I am trying to be strong while also protecting our family from potential emotional anguish, and it’s a fine line to walk.

Every time we receive a gift, I flashback to the day that I received a gift from my sister, and then Chouchou came home that same afternoon and had forgotten a quilt at work which had been made by a co-worker.  “It’s no big deal, baby – you can get it tomorrow,” I told him.  

That day was the day before the morning I woke up and didn’t feel Millie, that I naïvely believed that although I wasn’t feeling any movement, since I felt contractions, everything was okay.  Everybody kept saying, “Babies move less and less right before labor.” “Okay, she’s ready then,” I incorrectly thought.

The morning I woke up and Chouchou was busy preparing a dinner feast in the kitchen, and MC was running around laughing.  The morning I planned on “just running up to the hospital for a quick check-in” while Chouchou felt much more ominous about the situation.  The morning we placed my hospital bag and the car seat in the car, expecting to come home with a baby bundle and at the doctor’s office learning that would not be the case.

Managing this pregnancy

Although I feel like we’ve managed well throughout this pregnancy, the one thing that we have refused to do is set up anything baby related or open any baby gifts.   We just can’t bring ourselves to do it.  Instead, I have begun a wish list of things for my mom to do when she comes up.  I am grateful for her help, support, and understanding. What gets done, gets done, and what doesn’t get done, we’ll figure out once we get home. Anything is better than coming home and having to break down a no-longer needed nursery, and reallocate no-longer needed gifts.

Everyone keeps saying that this time it will work out, this time will be different. While I want to believe them, I can’t help but know that it might not work out, it might not be different this time.  When I hear those phrases it makes me itch inside, like there’s a rash that can’t be soothed. When I hear that, I just want to hit fast forward to the day when we are reassured by his arrival, his cry and his physical, squirming presence.

Remembering Millie

Today especially I am reminded of Millie Bonheur, our darling who did not come home with us.  I think of her every day.  I remember her every day.  MC sees a butterfly and says, “Hello, Millie!” She is remarkable at her timing to notice Millie’s urn and ask to hold her or speak to her. Just this past Tuesday, she asked to hold Millie. She talked to her, held her, then we put her back.

Today I am remembering our Millie, and all the moms whose hearts ache for their baby angels.

To read more about our pregnancy journey, check out these previous blog posts: