Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Memorial Service

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 program...

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...

I met the Malone's in December of 2006, only a few weeks after they found out that they were pregnant with Finley. As I got to know this sweet couple, I immediately saw their love for their daughter. Blake and Danielle were so excited about becoming parents. Five short months later, they lost their precious daughter, Finley on April 4, 2007. Over the next few months, I witnessed the amazing strength and faith of this godly couple. In the midst of the darkness, they strove to find hope through Christ.

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.

February 25th

Baby Caroline,

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!

February 26th

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.

February 27th

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.

February 28th

Sweet Caroline, I met you today. You are such a beautiful little girl. Your parents looked so happy to hold you and touch you. Your mommy held your hand and stroked your blonde hair. You are so precious to your mom and dad. They will treasure the time they spent with you. Your mom let me hold you and she showed me your cute little ears. You should have seen the way your mommy looked at you with such love. I don’t think any mom has loved her baby more. Your daddy told me that they were going to name you Caroline Grace Malone after your older sister Finley. I am honored to have known you.

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.

Caroline’s reality:
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?

Tim also reminded us that God knows the loss of a child. God is not a distant, unemotional being. He grieves with us and shares our burdens. Our Faith allows us to know such comforting characteristics of our God.
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.

Thank the Lord for our Faith and its provision of strength and endurance through this valley.

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.

One could say it is unfortunate we have walked this path twice. I won't disagree. But we have learned and we have grown in this journey. When we lost Finley last April, we wanted so desperately to share her life with others but didn't know how. There is no textbbook to describe the proper way to handle the loss of a child. I was left with guilt and regret. For me, for us, Sunday was about Caroline and Finley. While healing will take time, Sunday was a step in that process for us, in more ways than one.

Thank you to all that were able to attend. Thank you to those who were there in spirit. Thank you for the calls. Thank you for the cards. Thank you for the flowers. Thank you for the prayers. Thank you for loving our family...all four of us.
Danielle & Blake


Brittney said...

Hello. I do not know you or your family but came across your blog and have been deeply touched by your story. Things like this just do not seem fair and we will not fully understand why they happen in this life. However, I do know that families can be together forever. This life is such a short amount of time compared to the amount of time we will spend with our familes in the next life... eternity! I know this to be true and I know that your 2 sweet little angels are safe and happy, waiting for the day they can see you again and spend eternity with you.
This is not the end. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us and have a plan for us, an eternal plan. And you will all be together again!
I am not of your faith but I just wanted to send my thoughts and prayers in your time of sorrow.
We may not fully understand this but always remember "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understandings. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct they paths." (proverbs 3:5-6)
Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.
I hope you do not mind me commenting on your blog.
PLEASE visit this link http://www.mormon.org/mormonorg/eng/ (you may have to copy and paste it) so many questions are answered here that can help you through this time.
(you can visit www.lds.org or www.mormon.org if you would like to know more about my beleif in eternal families. I am not in any way trying to solicit my faith to you... just wanted to share what has been the biggest blessing in my entire life.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the pictures, setup, journal entries, and Blake's letter from the memorial service. I hated not being able to be there. But you have given me an opportunity to experience to participate in the memorial service...Finely and Caroline's presence will forever be felt and known in your family. The photos of Caroline's teeny feet in your hands was so powerful and touching (my computer keyboard is sopping wet from tears).... such a creation. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing. You two continue to be in my constant thoughts. Love you and miss you. Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

Danielle and Blake -
I do not know you personally but feel like I do. I keep up with you thru Corey. I have been praying for you on a daily basis and have shed many tears over your struggles. You have made an impact on so many lives. Your testimony reaches further than you could ever imagine. You have helped me to strengthen my faith and taught me to not take life, friends and family for granted. I have a friend that lost a child the same week that you lost Caroline. I have passed along your blog and think it will be a sense of comfort for that family. I will continue to pray for you all. Much love - Dawn Curtis

James 1:2-4 (NKJV) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Anonymous said...

We continue to lift you in prayer and love you. Thanks for sharing the text of Blake's letter and Lesley's journal. Many people will be uplifted and encouraged by your words. We are proud to be your friends.
See you soon!
Jaclyn and Adam

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting about the memorial service. I wanted so badly to be there. We are still praying for you and Blake, and all of your family. love, sybil

Shellie Salza said...

I found your blog through a friend's. Just wanted you to know that you are not alone. We also lost a little boy (last June) and a little girl on February 16 in very similar circumstances. Thanks for sharing your story on your blog. Your thoughts and hearts are a blessing.

I'm around if you ever need someone you can identify with.

Shellie Salza

Karen said...

I am praying for you as you go through the rush of emotions I can only imagine you are facing. Or maybe you are just a little numb. I don't know, but the only thing I can do is pray for you. And please know I will. You have made me look around at my blessings today, and just be thankful. Thankful for the little annoyances that usually might trip me up, but not now.

I will also pray for those around you to have wisdom and discernment to love and support you and your husband in all the ways that you need.

Ginger said...

Dear Ones,
I continue to ask God's healing for you and your family in dealing with such crisis.