Thursday, October 29, 2015


So one (and by "one" I mean everyone)  may wonder how I came to be a coffin makers wife. I don't think about it very often, at least not until I have to answer the question of, "So, what does your husband do?".  I have, over time, gotten more skilled about answering this question, as has my husband, but we know it's not the general answer people are expecting.  

When we met at college some 19 years ago, if someone would have told us that not only would we end up married 10 years later but also go on to have five children, lose one, and that my mother-in-law would pass away and my husband would build her coffin, and then others, for a living, I am sure we would have run for the hills! 

Some 10, no 11 years ago for Dan's birthday newly dating...totally innocent and happy! 

As I live more, I am more convinced that I am terribly happy no one has/had a crystal ball and I did not know what the future held. God spared us from knowledge that we had no control over and allowed us to grow to love each other and that love has prepared us, over time, to handle and endure all those things above. I would say, without a shadow of a doubt, that our love has grown leaps and bounds as we have struggled through these tragic events.  I can't imagine doing this with another man and partner.  I wish Jacob were here. I wish my mother-in-law was here. 

My mother-in-law with Allie five days after she was born.  She passed away only six days latter.  Dan started building her coffin three days after this picture was taken. 

And although I still struggle when people comment on how "strong" I am, we are, because I feel so much the opposite on any given day, when I sit and take it all in, I guess I feel humbly strong, if that's even a feeling?  I do feel God gave me strength to make it through each difficult event and when I was not strong, Dan was.  I think that is such a beautiful part of marriage.  There are many marriages that fall apart after the loss of a child. In fact, the statistic is 80%.  Yes, so that gave The Coffin Maker and I a whopping 20% chance of surviving Jacob's death and keeping our family intact. Scary. But, with God, and the hope that He provides, that single thread held us together like nothing else because we relied on it and let it help to heal us.  To me, for us, I'd say that 80% of the time after Jacob died was crazy hard and 20% was just normal life crazy hardness.  

At Jacob's burial service, me holding Adam, Jacob in the the coffin Dan made.

But all this to say, the link below is to an article that the Greensboro paper ran on The Coffin Maker last year.  Jeri Rowe did a great job of telling his story and so I share it with you now. Some of you, if not many of you, may have seen it last year when I posted it to Facebook, but if you are like me and miss a lot that goes on Facebook, here it is.  Jeri Rowe: Ministry of Coffins

Photo courtesy of Scott Hoffmann

As for October, it's been hectic as usual.  This month is Infant Loss and Awareness Month.   This month is the month Heartstrings holds their annual Walk for Remembrance and Hope and although I did not get to be part of the walk committee this year, I was able to participate and volunteer the day of.  Next year I hope that we will be able to go as a family, but there is a beauty in that it was just me that was able to go.  I give all I have to my family every day, sometimes (usually) less than I'd hope, but on the rare moments where I am all alone, on my own, I can have a day like the annual walk day, where I get to just focus on Jacob's memory and how his brief life opened my eyes to a struggle that so many families face.  I hope I've turned up some good things out of this very hard pill to swallow. I'm doing the best I can and so I remember Jacob by loving on other mamas that too have lost.  It's not the group I ever wanted to associate myself with, who does, but the group is not one of broken people like I thought I was joining that dreadful night over three years ago. These women are some of the kindest I know and dare I say, strongest:)  

As families walk together Heartstrings places signs along the walk with their baby's names and many families stop to take pictures next to their signs.  Some of these signs are full of babies from just one family.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Huffman Photography

And because it's Halloween and I could not help myself, being frugal as I usually am, with all the Star Wars hype and that we have small children that I can still decide the costumes for I share this picture. We have Dark Vader (as he's usually called here), Princess Leah, an Ewock and baby Yoda...oh yeah and the handsome fella is the one and only Coffin Maker:)   Jacob would have been Luke for sure! 

Sweet baby Yoda (newly 8 mo.old)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

LETTERS TO MY DAUGHTERS....Realistic and Humbling, but Honest

So, I changed the title of this post....I thought about it and thought this is exactly the type of stuff I want to remember years from now when my girls are grown (and hopefully for a future daughter-in-law).  When my girls reach this stage of life, when they are married and, God willing, having babies of their own, I hope they can refer back to this and see what life was really like for me, as a mom and wife.  I hope to write lots of posts like this one.  Posts that offer a glimpse into the reality of what it was like when they were little, what the house looked like, the hardest of days, what the daily struggles were that are not really post worthy and "pretty" but honest. Stuff  I know I'm bound to forget.  So, here is the first of many letter's to my daughters:)


So, yeah, this has been a rough week. Well a rough few weeks.  What does one's house look like after a rough few weeks?  Well, in case you are curious, I took pictures!  I hope one day I'll post pictures of what my house looks like clean, oh how I love it when it's clean (or as clean as I can realistically get it), but for now these are the real pictures.  The ones that I want to look back at years from now when these sleepless nights are a distant memory and I romanticize everything.  I want to remember and I want to share for any of you out there that might be reading, read other blogs like me, look at Facebook pictures and feel bad about your reality.  Your non edited perfect "like" worthy pictures.  Well, I guess I'm hoping my reality is not so unlike others reality.  Sometimes there just simply is NO TIME and keeping children fed and alive is the only real goal and the only accomplishment for the day.  I keep telling myself that those days are okay, but honestly I beat myself up about them all the time.  I know it's okay and I'm growing a little/big family but there is something hard as a mom about looking all around you and seeing nothing but work, hearing crying in the background and smelling something funny you can't necessarily find, sigh.  So here is the reality of our life, the humbling reality and I just hope the coffin maker doesn't kill me for sharing these pictures:)  (Sorry honey!)

The cool Joovy my friend let me borrow that I'm using as a clothing organization  apparatus...I did put Ella in there once hoping she'd have a safe place to play without be attacked but in a few minutes Elena jumped the side and so now it's the above!  (Vanessa, I promise all the clothes are clean and I'm keeping it damage free!)

Could be worse, I've seen it worse, but the bottom middle is a pile of clean clothes that din't make it out of the room in time...I'll probably throw them back in the below baskets and just wash them again, lol

The three full baskets I thought were all the laundry...then Adam brought down the below:( 


Cool office that I've not seen clean in longer than I'll admit...also why I am writing this on my couch and not in that mess of a space...this the the "adult" room where we are supposed to go to escape the kids.  Well, maybe one day right!  We can hope.
My sweet Elena, depicting exactly how I feel about 25 minutes into each day!  (She had her first lunch bunch today....was tuckered out:)  Too cute...wish I could pass out like that!) 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


I don't even know what happened?  We have dear friends that just found out their daughters cancer is back.  She's not even three.  I just had dinner with her mom who had just gotten back a clean report for Alice.  It was just a headache the following week that lead to this. They thought they were in the clear.  They already endured two years of treatment for her.  It just breaks my heart.  And sadly when it's your friends living it, there is so little you can do when it comes to little ones with cancer.  An isolating situation becomes even more isolating for the family.  I do not know what living that nightmare is like. As I've gotten farther from losing Jacob, I've come to appreciate more and more the blessing that he never suffered and we never had to watch him suffer.  That was indeed a blessing and I know so many parents that have endured so much more than we did when Jacob died.  I truly can't make sense of children with cancer.  There just are no words.  Please please pray for Alice and her family. Tell everyone you know to pray.  Add her to every church prayer list you know of. It always seems so small to me in thought, to just pray, but I know that it works because otherwise I wouldn't have survived burying a child.  It's the only explanation I have.  People prayed us through it. I felt it and know God's immeasurable grace and love is what gave us the strength to keep living after he was gone.  

As we've been trying to adjust to our unexpected homeschooling endeavor, I have found it very hard to find time to actually write, much less sit anywhere long enough to write, but I've had oodles of time to ponder things. One thing in particular kept nagging at me.  It was something that was said at the dinner I recently had with Alice's mom and some of our other girl friends.  I've known these girls since the coffin maker and I began dating.  One of my friends said to Alice's mom and I, "I don't know how you all do it. You are so strong."  It stumped me.  Literally, I didn't have a response.  This statement always stumps me.  What is the correct response?  "Yes, I am strong", that doesn't seem right. "Thank you?" no, that doesn't seem right either and on the other hand I can't deny it.  I mean yes, I did find strength in time and that I guess explains why I am still here.  

I'm almost certain the comment "You're so strong." it's one of those comments that all parents hear after surviving a child's death.  I'd also venture to guess it's a common comment most parents get that stand by their children as they endure painful and lengthy cancer treatments. But think about it....I mean really think about it. Strength is an option in so many other aspects of life.  You want to be strong, you go to the gym.  You tell your kids when they lift a chair or some small object, "Wow! You are so strong!"  Those are things that we ourselves control.  We choose to workout and get strong to do "strong things".  We choose to train for a marathon so we can be strong enough to run that marathon (I'm not speaking from experience of course...the last time I tried to run I thought my uterus might actually fall out). Strength, in normal life, is usually an option and something we choose and work towards so that when we are faced with said challenge we are strong and ready.  But when it's something you are forced into, like surviving your child's death, strength is not mysteriously imparted upon you.  You are forced to endure a nightmare without preparation, without adequate strength, without warning.  What I felt was the complete opposite of strength.  And to this day, strength is not the word that I would use personally. I think I understand the sentiment, but it still stumps me none the less.   It is indeed one of the most, if not the most, devastating "event" I think a parent can endure, burying a child, but in no way was I "strong" enough to endure it when it happened.  I survived it.  I continued on in weakness.  In a humbled personal understanding of the preciousness of time and of life.  Most days are still a challenge for me, mainly because I have four kids under the age of six and a half and it's loud and there is usually someone always asking for something, crying, upset, hurt, requesting yet another snack, or looking for a missing shoe or pacifier.  The heaviest of days were in the year following Jacob's death and they were by far the hardest of my life and my weakest days.  Truly, sometimes my only goal was to make it to the next minute, and the one after that and so on.  And like another loss mom I know said recently, no mother ever wants to hear that it was "God's plan" that her child die.  It is unnatural and devastating to put it mildly to be separated from your child by death.  I still am not sure that God's "plan" justifies Jacob dying or makes it any less painful...I just cringe inside every time someone says that.  This does not mean that I don't believe in God or have faith.  To the contrary.  I don't know how I would be surviving still without my faith in God's ultimate plan that one day we will be reunited when He returns or I die whichever comes first. But, I truly believe it was the prayers of so many of you that I know and ones I've never met that heard what happened and prayed for us that gave us/me the strength to get through each painful minute.  I truly could feel those prayers and in a way we can't understand or see, I know those prayers worked.  I still feel the residual effects of those prayers and believe they continue to get me through life after Jacob's death and all the naturally hard days that come with motherhood in general.

There are days that bring me to my knees regardless of having lost a child.  And I don't put down any mother that has a day like that who has never lost a child.  I think all moms have truly humbling, weak days where it seems the next day may never come and the tantrum may never end and you may have just used up all your patience just surviving whatever your little one has chosen to dish out at any given moment and in any given location (grocery store anyone??!).  But, having lost our Jacob and now knowing sweet Alice will again begin to endure another long road of treatment, isolated from all of us, I am reminded in my humbling mom moments, that I am blessed to have the humbling, bring me to my knees moments.  These kids God gives us do not come with any guarantee, or warranty.  This is a broken and fragile world and I thank Jacob and our Godson Silas who also passed away about a year ago, and now for Alice as she begins this arduous road, for reminding me to stop and be thankful for the chance I have to be frustrated at my kids who are playing outside by cleaning our dirty car with their hands and clothes, because, you know what, they can be outside.   Alice can't.  Amidst the crazy tantrum Elena had earlier this week where I truly wondered if indeed she was possessed and waited with slight concern that I may actually see a demon depart from her (this started because we asked her to stand up before Dan picked her up and that was NOT what she wanted to hear), amidst the tantrum, I was reminded and immensely grateful for the simple fact that she was able to have her tantrum at home, on her bedroom floor, in her pajamas, without any IV's inside her.  She was not stuck in a sterile hospital room and neither were we.  She would calm down and crawl into her bed with her sister and get to go to sleep (maybe an hour later after the crying stopped) but we would also leave (eventually) and go to our own beds.  These hard days are blessings if we can remember to be grateful for the mundane hardness of just being a family. It's one of the biggest gifts and even I take it for granted still sometimes.  

Sometimes it takes our own experiences to put things into perspective, and sometimes we see things more clearly through witnessing others endure their own experiences.  I know losing Jacob gave me perspective on life in a very meaningful way.  I am reminded now, by Alice, that time is so precious and to be cherished.  

So to sum up, pray for Alice and her parents and family.  If you are already praying thank you so much!  As for our personal life, in the last few weeks I have found struggles in homeschooling but true blessings too.  I feel tremendously blessed to have been given this time with Adam and I cherish it regardless of my increased lack of time to write and do "me" things.  To see him learn and to help him learn are things I would not have experienced had he stayed in school.  I didn't think I could do it, but you know, God did and He's helping us each day and Adam is really happy too and despite my disbelief he's actually learning!  We joined a homeschooling group and he is learning, among many things, Latin declensions??  I don't even know what a declension is!   I don't know what the future holds and quite frankly I don't want to, but for now, I'm very grateful for my time with my family and Alice has all my prayers and Jacob's from above too.   Go hug your kiddos!

From these past few weeks...

Just fun times in the kitchen:) 

Allie got a big girl bike from a neighbor and is very excited! 

My sweet Ella, almost seven and a half months:)