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

Saturday, March 8, 2008


The weather is clearly not on our side today. For those of you who do not live in Nashville, we have several inches of snow on the ground right now. As a result, we have decided to postpone the memorial service until tomorrow, Sunday, March 9th, at 2:00 in the afternoon. It will still be held at Otter Creek Church on Franklin Road (see below). I am sorry this comes with such short notice and I hope that no one will be inconvenienced by this change. However, the safety of those attending is most important right now. We will be checking the site today so please let us know if you have questions. Thanks...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Remembering Our Little One...

Yesterday we were able to finalize plans for a memorial service honoring Caroline. The service will be held on Saturday, March 8th at 5:00pm. The address to the church is as follows:

Otter Creek Church

409 Franklin Road

Brentwood, TN 37027

Please know that we want to celebrate the life of our precious daughter with anyone who loves her and who has been blessed by her story.

As an aside, we greatly benefited from our minister, Tim Woodroof's, sermon this past Sunday. Titled "Lament," he referenced our story in a discussion on grief and sorrow. Words cannot express how powerful and comforting his lesson was. It was truly a gift from above. It can be downloaded online at ottercreek.org for anyone who is interested in hearing. We feel it could be a source of hope and encouragement for anyone struggling through trials of this life. Just wanted to share.

We continue to appreciate your kind words of encouragement. We are still being sustained...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Back Home

It's Danielle this time. Blake and other family members have taken the responsibility of keeping everyone updated thus far. I wanted to be able to talk to each and every one of you so much, but circumstances made it difficult to do so.
I feel compelled to try and say something at this point. I must admit that words are hard to find, but I need to get some thoughts out and this seems like a good place for me to do it. I feel it will be helpful in some ways. I am not one to keep my feelings and emotions inside, as most of you know.
We have been home for nearly 24 hours at this point. Things have been eerily similar to April 5th of last year. Blake and I both had this thought earlier. The weather was cold and gloomy the day we were discharged from Baptist. The next morning we were greeted by the sunshine. My parents were here, and we all sat outside enjoying the warmth and watching our dog Nugget in the yard. Here we are, not even one year later, doing the same thing. The scene is only changed by a new cat, Olive, keeping us and Nugget entertained in the yard. An overwhelming feeling of sorrow exists but we are able to function pretty well. We have cried some but we have laughed quite a bit, too. Best I can remember, it will take a few days for the reality of the situation to sink in. We were given a few days where our heads could just float in the clouds; numb to the depth of the pain to come. For now, we are being sustained.
There have been many prayers answered over the past few days and we acknowledge them. We have felt God's presence, but we are in complete shock of the events of this week. I cannot believe that we are in this boat, again. It was so incredibly hard to let Finley go. But now, to place Caroline in the hands of our Lord, is almost too much for us to bear.
We are okay. We are so thankful for family and friends. We are thankful for our faith. Like Blake said before, there are many questions that may go unanswered. We will try our best to trust in the sovereignity of our Father. We appreciate all the comments we have received. They are very encouraging to both of us.
I am not sure what will happen to the blog. It may actually benefit me to share my thoughts in the upcoming days, weeks, months. We'll see. I do want to let you all know that we are planning to have a memorial service in honor of our precious, little girl. It is tentatively scheduled for the afternoon of next Saturday, March 8th. We will pass along final plans for anyone who wishes to come.
Thanks for your prayers. Please keep them flowing. We need them now more than ever.
Much love-Danielle