The Angel Tree is complete.
When I started out with the idea of the Angel Tree, I wasn’t sure how many parents would allow me to honor their child. There are 140 baby names on this tree. I am so happy (is that the right word?) to do this in memory of their children during this holiday season. Yet when I stand back and look at this tree, and look at each unique ornament, I will admit – I get overcome with overwhelming sadness.
All of these babies – gone. All of these parents – devastated. Hopes and dreams utterly crushed. For me, knowing that I will never be able to spend a Christmas with my son brings me to my knees. Each year for the next 50+ years, I will always wonder what it would have been like to have him here. I will always wonder what it would have been like to have him wake up on Christmas morning to see if Santa’s milk and cookies are gone and to open his presents. We will never know. A piece of our hearts are missing. I know I’m not alone in this and that every parent of the babies remembered on this tree feel the exact same way. Although we can’t be with our babies each Christmas, it is so meaningful to have them remembered. And that is the purpose of the Angel Tree.
I’d like to share a few stories of these sweet babies.
I learned of Cullin when his mom, Ginny, commented on some of my posts on Instagram. I quickly learned Cullin’s story. Cullin was six months old and passed suddenly due to SIDS in 2012.
He has inspired his mama to create a charitable organization called Scared Sidless for families who have endured the loss of their child. One thing that I love about Ginny is that each day, she posts pictures of hearts that she sees throughout the day. They can be hearts as clouds in the sky, a leaf shaped like a heart or a raindrop on the ground shaped as a heart. They all remind her of Cullin. So I knew when she asked me to honor Cullin that I had to include hearts. This heart contains a picture of a map. I found it very fitting – Cullin is a map directly to her heart.
I know Sophia’s mom Alison from an online support group for those who have lost a child with Down syndrome. Sophia was an incredibly beautiful baby. Alison shares pictures of her and every time I see her I can’t help but smile.
Alison openly shares her grief and the love for her daughter on her personal account on Facebook. I really admire her because it takes courage to do this. Alison said that clouds remind her of her sweet daughter.
I have come to know Alonzo’s mom Kristina on Instagram. Alonzo was stillborn around 38 weeks this past April. I distinctly remember a picture that she posted on Instagram which showed a pair of baby shoes. She purchased those baby shoes the day that he died. She went to the doctor’s for a checkup where she learned that Alonzo’s heart had stopped beating. When she got back into the car, she saw those shoes in the backseat and realized he would never get to wear them. When she wrote about this, it just broke my heart because I know that deep sinking feeling.
Alonzo’s mama said that rocket ships remind her of Alonzo.
I learned about Emilia from her mama Jillian. I met Jillian through a grief group on Facebook, and she mentioned that there was a large community of angel parents on Instagram. This was only a month after Jensen died and I was seeking out support via every avenue that I could. Because of Jillian, I was able to connect with so many people who have lost their baby through IG. Jillian posts pictures of Emilia and they are breathtaking. She was absolutely beautiful. She was born last November via emergency c-section. She lived for 5 days. Strawberries remind Jillian of Emilia. And to be honest, every time I see strawberries I am reminded of Emilia. 🙂
I was honored to include the name of a precious baby named Alaina. I know Alaina’s mom through the online support group I’ve talked about for children who had Down syndrome who are no longer with us. Alaina’s daughter was a heart warrior – she had congenital heart disease with open heart surgery at 5 months old. Jensen was supposed to have open heart surgery had he lived. He had several heart defects as well.
I also created three ornaments for two separate family members and one friend of mine. I’d like to share their stories below.
I know Mackenzie’s mom through work. Mackenzie’s mom, Melinda, reached out to me soon after Jensen passed. When I received her text with her condolences, it hit me. Of course. Melinda knows this pain. Melinda knows what it’s like to lose a child. And she was reaching out to me because she knew what I needed – to talk to another parent who lost a child.
Mackenzie struggled her whole life with medical issues. She had pulmonary hypertension. She passed away on December 1, 2009 at 5 years old. Melinda and Mackenzie have been on my mind lately. Christmas is hard. But losing your child right before Christmas… I have no words. I keep thinking about how strong Melinda is. She has another young daughter, and so Melinda most likely still celebrates Christmas with her other daughter. But I keep thinking how hard that must be. Melinda is one of the strongest people I know. She has shown me what it’s like to have faith and to take the pain and do something positive with it. (This last statement is also true of my Aunt Lisa and Uncle Randy).
Rose and John
My grandparents have 6 children on earth and 2 in heaven. I am ashamed to admit that I know very little about Rose and John. They were children of my grandparents – my mom’s sister and brother. I do know that they were both stillborn. They were not twins – they were born years apart. I keep thinking about how my grandparents must have felt when this happened. Back in those days, things were different. I don’t know if my grandparents were able to hold them, or even see them. I sure hope so. I want my grandparents to know that I am remembering their children… 50+ years later. One item on my to-do list is to visit them over Christmas. I really want to learn more about Rose and John.
I honored them on my tree and hung their ornament up next to Jensen’s.
My aunt and uncle have 2 children on earth and 3 in heaven. They were triplets. I don’t know many details, but I have been thinking of my aunt and uncle often. I had never known that carrying multiples is high risk. I had no idea until after Jensen died when other parents shared their stories of losing twins, triplets, etc. Unfortunately, there are so many things that can go wrong.
I put the Auger triplets’ ornament next to John and Rose’s ornament. John and Rose are the triplets’ aunt and uncle. Jensen’s butterfly is near the top as well. And my cousin Sarah’s ornament is also up at the top below the angel. I like to think that they are all together in heaven.
I always knew having a baby was a miracle. And it still is. But it is also truly a miracle when babies are born alive – and born healthy.
These are only a few stories, and there are countless more. I added 40 new ornaments to the Angel Tree Gallery today. You can check out these latest ornaments and all of the ornaments by going to the gallery.
I’ve included a few close-ups of the tree below. This tree contains so many stories, and is so full of love. I am grateful that I was able to honor so many children this Christmas. Each name on this tree has a story behind it. As I look at each ornament, I think about each life. I think about how excited the parents must have been when they found out they were expecting a child. I think about how excited they were buying baby clothes, setting up the nursery, or if they were far enough along – – to have a baby shower.
I sent a picture of an ornament to a fellow angel mom today, and she wrote me “Love, love, love this. Thanks so much. This couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I received the design for her headstone yesterday in the mail….it has been a “raw” few days. Thank you again… this lifts my spirits.”
Even if it has been years, if you know someone who has lost a child, or grandparents who have lost a grand baby, one simple act of remembrance will warm their hearts.
Some simple things you can do are:
1) write “remembering (insert child’s name) this holiday season” inside your Christmas card that you send to the parents/grandparents
2) give a remembrance ornament to the parents/grandparents,
3) donate to a charitable organization in memory of the child,
4) write the child’s name in the snow (or sand if you are lucky enough to be somewhere tropical over Christmas) and send a picture to the parents/grandparents,
5) put an ornament on your tree in remembrance of the child, and
6) light a candle in memory of the child and send a picture of it to the parents/grandparents.
The parents or grandparents may just need that simple act of kindness to boost them for a moment. They may be suffering silently in grief, especially if it has been several years since the child has passed. As time goes on, I’ve heard that it becomes less “acceptable” for parents to openly grieve or talk about their child who died years ago. The truth is, there is no moving on from the loss of your child. You learn to live with it and accept it, but they are always a part of your life.
I know Jensen is a part of my every day life. He is always in my thoughts, forever in my heart and soul, and loved for all of eternity. I made a promise to him – that I would love him always and I would never forget him. I intend to keep that promise.