I had great plans for this month. January is Emma’s birthday month and I planned to share a myriad of Emma stories and lessons I learned from her five years of life.

But something else happened. Something I didn’t fully expect, even though this dance of grief and hope has been the rhythm of my life for quite some time.

 
 
Does love end with the final breath?

Does it stop when one no longer walks the earth?

This question twirls and spins about my mind of late. Not because I’m about to breathe my last. No, I’m thinking about my precious little girl, my Emma. Her birthday is near and thoughts of her life crowd my waking moments.

 
 
She would have turned 17 this year.
I can’t imagine the length of her hair or the hue of her eyes anymore. The sound of her voice and things that would make her heart beat fast elude me, this sweet girl's mama. Would her face resemble mine or would age have morphed her into someone I never got to know?

 It’s been far too long since I last held her sweet frame, but I’ve learned so much since she breathed her last. Healing. Hope.  Redemption. Lessons about God’s character I may not have learned any other way, though I still would’ve chosen a different path for my life, for hers.

 
 
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I’ve decorated the tree for eleven years. Standing just under 3 ft, it’s adorned with white lights, pink and purple ornaments, butterflies, My Little Ponies, and may just be my favorite Christmas decoration. But it’s also the most difficult one to set out. This tree is filled with memories of a little girl who once twirled and danced and sent giggles reverberating throughout our home. It represents love and peace and hope, but it also reminds me of death and sorrow and loss.

My Emma tree. 

 
 
PictureEmma Jo - age 4
My great-great-grandmother’s portrait hung in the university up until the Revolution. By then, the truth of their romance had been reduced to a simply fairy tale. And, while Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived.” - Grand Dame, Ever After

Tears fill my eyes every time the end of the movie, Ever After, rolls around. The point of my tears aren’t so much because Cinderella and her prince get to live happily ever after. No, it’s the words the Grand Dame shares in the final moments of the film:


The point is that they lived.

Every life is worth celebrating but so often we miss celebrating life when we stare in the face of death and grief.

My child died. 



 
 
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I wish you knew. 

I wish you really knew just how much you mean to us, those of you who stand in the gap when our worlds fall apart. I wish you knew how we, the ones with broken hearts and shattered dreams, those of us who feel like we’re losing ground with each breath, forgotten, and lost, I wish you knew how we really feel about you.


 
 
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there’s a ratty old hoodie i think about throwing away. the cuffs are stained from bleach spray. the sleeves no longer reach my wrist. more than once a kind soul points out the small stain just right of the zipper. i’m quick to explain its origin, and just as quick to dismiss the notion that it shouldn’t be there in the first place. the hem is fraying and it no longer holds its original shape. i’ve had it for more years than i can remember and while i know black sweatshirts are easy to come by, i just can’t get rid of it. why?


 
 
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It was the limp that caught my eye.

It was the limp that caught my eye.

In a bit of a rush, a common state of being for me as of late, I grabbed a shopping cart, quickly tallying my purchases against the quickest route through the store. Eyes on my phone, I almost ran into him.

The man with the limp.

Frustrated at the interruption to my pace, I slowed down enough to avoid nicking his heels. Pausing to increase the space between us, I watched him move. There was something about his gait, the slouch of his shoulders, the tilt of his head as he meandered down the aisle that tugged at my heart.

He must’ve lived quite the life.

Unbidden, the thought brought tears to my eyes. What was wrong with me?


 
 
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Today is Emma's birthday. It’s her day, my youngest daughter. Fifteen on the 15th. Her golden birthday. Driver’s permit. Freshman year of high school. A full-fledged teen. My thoughts slip back to her birth, two weeks early but full of life. Beautiful. Dark eyes that seemed to peer to the depths of my soul. Emma completed our blended family that day, belonging to each of us. 

I think, too, of the last time she heard us sing happy birthday. She was five. My sweet girl died in a fire that destroyed our home almost ten years ago. (read that story here)

Ten years. I’ve struggled with this day every single year. How do you celebrate someone’s birthday who is no longer alive? Who no longer breathes and moves and grows? How do you sing happy birthday with no one to blow out the candles?



 
 
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i remember the moment.

my youngest daughter and her dad had been admitted to the hospital in critical condition. a matter of life and death. staring at the carpet, the weight of reality pressed deep in my soul, squeezing my heart.

the morning started as usual: a quick walk., the older girls off to school, our littlest snuggled next to her daddy. the scene I left unfolded like most days.

a few minutes into my short commute to work, i realized i’d forgotten something at home. headed back, i mentally checked off tasks to be done while the recent sunday message played through my speakers. normal. expected. ordinary. until i turned down my street and gazed toward my home.

smoke. smoke poured out, seemingly from every window, every nook, every cranny.