We were able to honor Caroline on Sunday, March 9th. To describe it as "perfect" is an understatement in our minds. The church was simply and beautifully decorated. We had a table up front displaying shadowboxes of the girls mementos - their gowns, their blankets, their caps, the birth certificates provided by Baptist, their ultrasound pictures, Caroline's leg band and booties, the bunny from Finley's pictures. Framed in brushed nickel, Blake and I were able to share a few photos we had taken of Caroline. One was of her perfect, little feet in Blake's hand; one of her feet in mine. One shows her hand, the size of Blake's fingertip. The final photo was of her left ear and the blonde hair that covered her head. All are precious gifts we will treasure for the rest of our lives.
The graphic on the screen...
The table at the front of the church...
Shadowboxes and footprints...
A dear friend from our small group, Lesley Thompson, kept a journal. It was intended to someday let Caroline know of the daily events that occured during the hospital stay leading to her birth. As we discussed plans for the service, Lesley told me of the journal and offered to share it as a part of the memorial. God has placed special people in our lives. Lesley is one of them...
Then in October, Danielle told me the exciting news that she was pregnant again. Things were looking very positive for this pregnancy. But on Monday morning, February 25th, Blake called me with the shocking news that Danielle had gone into labor with Caroline. I spent a lot of time at the hospital that week and kept a daily journal of what Blake, Danielle, and Caroline were going through. I want to share my perspective of the love, courage, faith and perseverance that this family demonstrated.
Your parent’s began the fight of their lives this morning. Your mom and dad love you so very much and are doing all they can to help you enter this world. The medicine your mommy is taking makes her feel pretty bad and she hasn’t been allowed to eat anything. She has to lie very still and she is hooked up to so many machines. She was given a steroid shot that will help you grow (she hates needles by the way). As I watch your parents, I am in awe of their strength and their love for each other. Baby Caroline, you have so many people praying for you and longing to meet you!
Today was a little more worrisome. Your mommy started bleeding some last night and the nurses were in and out all night. Your parents were not able to sleep very well…but I didn’t hear them complain. Your mommy will do whatever she can to keep you safe. Do you know how much your daddy loves and takes care of your mom? Whatever she needs, he is there to help her. Your mom got another shot of steroids which will keep helping you grow. Still no food for your mom. She is so amazing. You should be very proud of her! By the evening, things had calmed down some. Hopefully your mom and dad will sleep better tonight.
You all had the best 12 hours of the week so far! Your mom and dad were able to sleep well through the night. Your mom’s contractions have almost completely stopped. The bleeding has gotten better and your parents seem encouraged. So many people are praying for you guys. People you don’t even know. It’s wonderful to see how the body of Christ joins together in prayer for the needs of others. Your mommy was allowed to eat some jello and broth today. I bet that tasted wonderful to her! The doctors took your mommy off the magnesium and she is feeling much better. You have been doing great. Your heart rate is really strong and you keep kicking your mommy.
The doctors did another ultrasound this evening and it looks like you still have all the fluid you need around you! God’s hands are on your little life. He is taking care of you and your parents. Your mom and dad’s faith is unwavering.
Tim asked that we write out a few of our thoughts to share at the service. There was and is so much to say. To try and get things out on paper seemed impossible to me. But Blake was able to sit, and type. I never knew he was a writer. Clearly, he has a hidden gift. Our thoughts, in his words, are below.
Typically, memorial services allow for reflection upon a life full of stories of mutual experiences and memories. Earlier this week, Danielle and I sat down with Tim and discussed our desire to have a memorial service for Caroline. Clearly, the brevity of her life does not allow for contemplation on specific anecdotes about her earthly life. However, we do wish to spend this time celebrating Caroline’s impact on our lives, acknowledging this community’s shared sorrow, and discussing the role of our Faith in the grieving process.
Length of life is certainly an inadequate measuring stick for importance. Caroline’s life was measured in minutes, yet this baby girl carries great significance in our lives. Her reality was acknowledged months before her birth in the form of typical pre-birth preparations. While Danielle and I pondered potential names, we experienced her. As Danielle chose the details of how Caroline’s room would be decorated, our baby was impacting our lives. Nightly, we would feel her movements as she typically became more active around our bedtime. Even since her birth, more examples of her life have come to form. Danielle and I treasure the tiny hand and footprints, the pictures, the clothes, etc. that we possess.
The greatest evidence of the magnitude of Caroline’s life is in the way that we have been changed as a result of the 3 or so hours that we spent with her. Danielle and I were instantly “head over heels” for her. The effect of the birthing process on her immature body was present, but God somehow allowed us to see the beautiful creation that she was. She was perfect in every aspect and her impact on our lives is eternal. The peace that her face displayed told us that she was with God, and forced us to ask God for that same peace. He provided and continues to provide us that peace daily.
It is important that Danielle and I acknowledge that many others were greatly affected by the loss of Caroline. Our immediate families were anxiously awaiting her arrival. As was the case with Finley, Caroline was to be the first grandchild in the Lipscomb family and the first granddaughter on the Malone side. Our small group had already begun to offer their services for babysitting. I even foresaw bickering amongst the group over who would be called upon first. People from Otter Creek visited, sent cards, and prayed with fervor over this child. Friends and strangers, alike, posted messages of encouragement on the computer. Danielle and I appreciate the fact that Caroline meant so much to such an extended group of people. Right or wrong, it is comforting to know that our grief is not our’s alone to bear, but that it is shared amongst a community of people who love us and our two daughters.
As previously referenced, our time spent with our daughter was very special. While alone, we cried over her, loved on her, talked to her, and prayed over her. This time, however, was made even more extraordinary by the people we shared it with. Our family was able to spend time with Caroline, and each member, in their own way, expressed their love for her and grieved her death alongside us.
Faith is dynamic; altered by life experiences, both good and bad. Our Faith was changed after the loss Finley, and has already begun to be molded as a result of Caroline’s death. Faith is not logical. It is experiential. It cannot be explained through empiric reasoning. Faith is often explained in terms of personal meaning. Because Faith cannot be proven, it inherently opens itself up to questions; especially during times when your Faith seems to have let you down. This past Sunday, Tim mentioned that our Faith is robust and can handle tough questions and periods of doubt. These words were comforting to hear and ring true in our lives. Danielle and I have had and will continue to have questions for God. Where was He on April 4th, 2007? Where was He last week?
Many folks have informed Danielle and me that their Faith has been strengthened through Caroline’s story. It is simply amazing that God can take two sinners who have endured a devastating blow and turn it into a witness for Him. We are honored to be instruments of God in this way.
We have heard such positive feedback from Sunday's service. As parents, hearing this makes us proud. It was everything Blake and I envisioned. This was all we could physically share of our daughters and it was necessary for us to do so.