21. HONOUR | I think the best way we honor our loved ones who have passed is to keep their memory alive. That is exactly what Dan and I have tried to do since we said goodbye to Emilia. So much of Emilia is in everything we do. It could be a small, trivial act. Something so mundane others barely even notice. For me the easiest way to honor Emilia is to simply just talk about her. Sometimes, however, when I share stories about Emilia with others I feel self conscious. Not because I’m not proud of her or because I’m embarrassed about how things ended up. But because I’m afraid people will judge me. I hope people do not misread my intentions or find me annoying for bringing up her story. The every last thing I want is sympathy. I talk about Emilia because that is one of the only ways I can honor her. I refuse to pretend that she didn’t happen. To refuse her existence would be the fastest way to tarnish her memory. I talk about Emilia because she deserves to be remembered! Emilia is such a huge part of my life and my story andI will love her till the end of time! I will devote the rest of my life trying to find meaningful ways to remember and honor her, while also making a conscious effort to live my own life as beautifully as possible.
22. WORDS | This is my all time favorite quote! I really feel like the words speak for themselves. So please, do read! Take in the words and let them move your own heart in the way it has stirred mine.
“Sometimes in life there are losses. Losses that can never really be replaced. Losing you has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to live with. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I wasn’t ready to let you leave. I would give anything for just one more day, just one more second. But I’ve learned to trust in unconditional love. Because the one profound thing about death is that love never dies. Some bonds cannot be broken. Because even though you’re not physically here, your heart is – it lives on within me. I carry your heart inside mine. I carry it on days when I discover something new. I carry it on days when beauty unfolds in the most unexpected places. I carry it on days when I find courage to heal and to grow. I carry it with me – always. Someday we will meet again – and we will no loner be separated by time or space. But until that day, I’ll find comfort in knowing that you are still with me. Your heart safely tucked inside mine. Some hearts just belong together and nothing will ever change that. I loved you then. I love you now. Always did. Always will. Forever in my mind. Forever in my heart. I will carry you.” – Bryon Anthonys
23. TATTOOS/JEWELRY | Have you ever heard of an Urn necklace? A necklace that holds a small portion of your loved one’s cremains? That is exactly what my Emilia’s necklace is. I hold Emilia close to my heart every single day – from sunrise to sunset. The gem is cradled within a pair of angel wings. The gem is Emilia’s Birthstone – Aquamarine – the official birthstone for March. I love this necklace! I get stopped quite frequently in public by strangers who tell me how much they love my necklace. Little do they know, the necklace actually holds something much more precious inside than the jewelry itself! The backside of the necklace is engraved. It says Emilia 3/15/2017 and has a pair of baby feet laser-etched into the metal. Dan has the exact same necklace, but instead of footprints, he has an infinity sign etched into the metal.
24. ARTWORK | We have tons of artwork that remind us of Emilia, but this one is perhaps one of my most favorites. Feathers and Angel wings are very special to me. The remind me of Emilia and when I saw these pair of wooden Angel wings at Michaels, I knew I had to have them. The aquamarine dots represent Emilia’s birth month, March, as aquamarine is her birthstone. The purple peony that conjoins both wings is one of the flowers from my wedding bouquet arrangement. It is extra special as it is purple which was the color scheme for Emilia’s nursery. The quote displayed on the wall about the wings is 100% true. I want everyone who walks through my doors to know that another little girl lives within the walls of my home. Physically she may not be here, but spiritually she still exists and always will. This piece hangs in our kitchen where we can see it each and everyday.
25. #SAYITOUTLOUD | One of the biggest things I have learned in the past almost five years is that each of us placed here on earth is on our own paths with our own stories. Some chapters are brimming with wonderfully glowing moments that we would proudly share with anyone willing to listen. While other chapters are dark and devastating… the kind of memories you would much prefer never happened and you maybe wish you yourself could come to forget. It’s really easy to sit back and think your life is awful, while growing bitter and resentful of others because you think you have things in life worse. We think we know people, we think we understand them and the situations that happen in their life. But there is so much more to people than what we see on the surface. People can be so quiet about their pain, that you aren’t even aware that they are hurting. I have learned that you can’t judge a book by its cover nor can you judge it when you only have read just a chapter or two of its story. It is easy to fall into that trap of despair where I feel miserable seeing others being happy. The truth is: life is not always greener on the other side and happiness (like any other emotion) is momentary. It’s fleeting. So when you feel happiness, hold onto it in that moment and relish it. Joy and happiness isn’t always guaranteed. But that’s kind of the blessing too… I also have an awareness that bad times don’t stick around forever. What a horrible world we would live in if our life was forever miserable, while watching others always living the best version of their life. Life ebbs and flows and we have to learn to hold on tight when riding out the hard times and to be humble when life is looking grand.
On The flip-side… the notion of telling someone that they have it easier because… (insert scenario), is absolutely ridiculous! I often hear this phrase said when people are offering a condolence and trying to make the grieving individual feel less suffering. “I’m sorry you are hurting. I know such and such who had this happen to them. Can you imagine what they are going through?” This does nothing to support someone who is hurting and only makes them feel like their pain is unvalidated. “Saying someone can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse is just like saying someone can’t be happy because someone else might have it better.” Do you see how this doesn’t add up? I think a problem we all generally have as members of our society is understanding what are own words are truly conveying. How will my words be interpreted and are they actually helpful or will they just add to someone’s grief? It’s inevitable that we will all say something wrong at least once in our life. I’m sure there are several moments that I inserted my foot in my own mouth and didn’t even realize it. The real test is recognizing when we have crossed a line and that we make a point to change our behavior so we aren’t knowingly hurting people in the future.
26. COMMUNITY | I talked about community in a previous post in this challenge when discussing support. I feel like these two prompts really go hand in hand. My greatest support has been attending my local Pregnancy and Infant Loss support group, KC HOPE MINISTRIES. HOPE provides support and healing for those who have lost a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. HOPE meets once every month in an informal small-group setting and they spend time on topics of interest before opening up for discussion on where each member is currently in their grief since the previous meeting. Topics of discussion include: the grief patter, fear, anger, emptiness, guilt, sadness, depression, difference between men and women’s grief, marital stress, and healing and acceptance. If you are struggling to cope with your loss or just need a strong support system behind you, consider finding a local support group that caters to your specific grief. I don’t know how I would have survived the grief after loss if it had not been for KC HOPE MINISTRIES and the women I have met throughout the years who have helped carry the burdens. https://www.facebook.com/KC-HOPE-Ministries-150410678348598
27. SIGNS | I believe there is a Heaven or something very close to what our world widely considers Heaven. I have had several signs sent to me throughout the years that have left me with no doubts that there is indeed life after death. The sign I am sharing with you today may lead some of you to think that I have fallen off my rocker! 😂 It was one month after Emilia had died. My parents had driven to Kansas City from Nebraska and my older sister had flown into town all the way from Connecticut to show me support and to spend the holiday (Easter) with me and my family. The month of April in Missouri can be extremely wet and the weeks following Emilia’s death were just that – drab, wet, and rainy. Luckily, the weather was perfect during their visit and all the rain and mud that dried up by the time they arrived. When I was pregnant with Emilia, I would take walks each day just to stay fit during pregnancy. After she died, my walking route around the neighborhood became a peaceful routine for me. I’d walk to feel Emilia and to know that she was still close. While visiting, my mom and sister would join me for my daily walks. One evening while out on our walk, I was partially staring down at the sidewalk as we made our way along the route. At one point my eyes caught ahold of something on the ground and I literally stopped in my tracks, turned around, and picked it up. I had found a piece of mud that had dried up. To any other person this sign was just a random chunk of formed dirt. But for me it resembled the outline of a little bunny. Do you see it in the photo or have you hit a point where you are beginning to doubt my sanity? 😂
The hospital where Emilia was born gave her a little yellow bunny named, Grace. Grace had her hands placed together in prayer and wherever Emilia went, Grace went too. I actually kept this clump of dirt and still have it today. Call me crazy, but I can still see the outline of what looks exactly like Emilia’s Bunny (minus the yellow fur) with its pointy ears, short and stubby tail, long legs poking out, and its arms and hands pointing upwards while praying. I know in my heart that this piece of dirt is a sign from Emilia, telling her mama that she is okay and in Heaven and that she knew that I would eventually be okay too.
28. SPECIAL PLACE | My special place is Autumn’s Garden of Hope. When Emilia died, the nurses told us about a garden located just outside the entrance of the hospital. The garden was created in memory of all babies who passed away and who were delivered at North Kansas City Hospital. The garden was established to provide a peaceful space for families to grieve, reflect, hope, and heal. That is exactly what this garden is to us. A safe place for our family to come and honor Emilia, while grieving her loss. Over the years we’ve come to call it our Emilia Garden. Within six months of Emilia’s passing, we were fortunate to use donations given to our family to purchase and donate a statue and a floral vase for the garden. If you have ever been to the garden, you may have noticed that it is shaded by multiple trees, but one of the trees grows directly alongside the center of the garden. After a year and frequent visits to the garden, we noticed a marking on this tree that looks like the outline of angel wings! How special is that?! I think this is just another reminder that those who pass are still with us, sending us signs whether we see them or not. Emilia’s Garden really is a holy, sacred place for us and I am sure it is for others too. How could it not be sacred with a pair of angel wings naturally marked into one of it’s trees!
29. HEALING | Speaking out is truly what is helping to heal my soul. I refuse to not talk about Emilia. I refuse to pretend that she didn’t exist. If you want to know the real Charmel, then you are going to learn a lot about Emilia, because she plays a significant role in my life. Creating Emilia’s Wings has opened a door where I can share Emilia with the world. It is truly the greatest gift I have given myself (aside from my own four children). Emilia’s Wings has provided me with an abundance of healing. I’m not quite sure I would be where I am today if it weren’t for Emilia’s Wings. It has allowed me to face and sift through my own grief while honoring Emilia. I really do believe that Emilia’s Wings has provided a more impactful change on my own life, then it has on any of our followers. My encouragement for anyone who has been through something traumatic, is that you should share your story. If you are feeling up to it and want your voice to be heard, then shout it out or write it down. Take up blogging or give speeches. You may have no idea how much somebody may need to hear your story. You may have no idea how much you needed to hear your story said out loud. Not everyone is going to like what you have to say or will even understand it. But that is okay. In life, we need to do what heals our own individual soul and if embracing your story and sharing it with others is what provides you with healing, then follow that path and do what helps you.
30. GROWTH | I told my husband multiple times after Emilia died that I felt like we both had aged over night. I was 26 when Emilia died. a 26-year-old should never have to experience the things that my husband and I have… the death of a child, the experience of handling after life preparations, the loss and continual betrayal of family (while also trying to juggled the the tremendous amount of grief)… These circumstances all made me feel like I had aged 50 years over night. In the course of a few days, I had done and seen things that most people don’t have to see or do until they are well into their 60s or 70s. It definitely gave me a different perspective on life that has helped me to grow into the person I am today.
I have learned that beautiful people do not just happen. As the quote says, there are “those who have known Defeat, known Suffering, known Struggle, known Loss.” And despite it all, they grow to have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with a gentleness and a deep loving concern. Traumatic experiences are often the catalyst that pushes everyday people to become inspiring people. Painful events are what change us and force us to look at life through a different lens. We become more empathetic and more understanding of other world views. Life isn’t just about us anymore. We have the realization that life isn’t always grand and we are more aware of the feelings of those around us. For me the death of Emilia was definitely the turning point in my growth. Her birth and death irrevocably changed me for the better.
For one, she taught me how to be a better person. She made me learn to love in a way I never knew possible. I have so much love for Emilia and I have no where for it to go. Because I have all this built up love, I think the warmth and passion does pour out into other areas of my life. Making me a friendlier and more well rounded person towards others. After loss, we learn to be grateful for the things that we do have, because we know that life is fleeting and nothing is ever permanent. I’ve realized through my own growth that life is complex and few things are solely black and white. This has greatly impacted the way I view the world… the way I approach politics and also the handling of basic human rights. I think it is really easy to only be concerned with your corner of the world. We make sure that ourselves and our family are taken care of and as long as we are staying afloat, we really don’t care how the system is unfairly treating others. Emilia opened my eyes up to all of this. The world is too short to not stand up for ourselves and for others. The least we can do is try to make it a better place for everyone while we are still here and able to make change.
Secondly, I have grown as an individual at the hands of others and how they have treated me. When Emilia died, my husband and I knew people would not know how to address her death. We knew we would undoubtedly be given really stupid, naive, and inconsiderate advice/condolences. However, I wasn’t prepared for my mother in law to be the one who would deliver the most hurtful and insensitive of words regarding Emilia and her death. What made the situation worse was my MIL’s actions after realizing she had deeply wounded us. Instead of genuinely apologizing to us, she responded by verbally attacking us. To this day, my MIL continues to spread lies about my husband and I, while playing the role of a martyr to gain sympathy from her friends. Over the last 4.5 years, my husband and I have reconciled and come to accept that we will never receive the apology or be treated with the respect that any human being deserves.
Growth for me is learning that I can do better. Growth is knowing that I don’t have to subject myself to verbal abuse just because that person is family. Growth is having someone degrade your character on the basis of fabricated lies and learning to close that door because their lies and toxicity have no place in your life. Growth is taking a horrible situation and actually gaining a lesson from it. I have learned a lot from my mother in law! She has taught me the kind of person and parent that I don’t want to be! She has taught me to really listen to my children, to not be dismissive, or condescending, or controlling. She has shown me that no matter my age, I as a human being am always capable of being wrong, and I am never exempted by age or authority from having to say “I’m sorry.” Nancy, you certainly succeeded in deeply wounding your son and I in a way that we never could have imagined. You were ruthless towards us during a time where we were already struggling to find strength to carry on. We will both carry the pain of your abandonment with us forever! But despite all of this, you have personally made me into a stronger woman! You taught me probably the greatest lesson there was for me to learn in life. That no-one is allowed to treat me less than I deserve and if someone threatens my happiness, then I am not obligated to keep them present in my life. So thank you, Nancy, thank you for the very valuable lesson! Thank you for helping to mold me into the better person that I am today!
31. SUNSET | Among all the hubbub of Halloween, I missed my opportunity to take a photo of Halloween’s sunset. Instead I was playing Halloween games with three of my favorite people! My husband, daughters, and I celebrated Halloween by playing glow-in-the-dark Halloween themed activities in our backyard. We followed up with a glow-in-the-dark halloween candy hunt! Great memories made with my sweet family and a wonderful way to close the month of October!