I have been struggling with Christmas this year. Not just because of our grief journey or our re-energized faith, but because this is the first Christmas Ava will really remember. I want to start her out right. I do not just want it to be about toys and getting gifts. We bought her an Elf on the shelf last year for Christmas so that she would have it for this Christmas season. I struggled with getting it out. I hated the idea of bribing her to be good just for the chance of getting more gifts from Santa. I really want her to understand the meaning of Christmas. I have been teaching her the last couple of weeks about advent and Jesus’s birthday. But I really wanted more. Enter Facebook. Last night, just hours before Day 1 of the 25 days of Christmas, a post showed up on my feed. The Kindness Elves.
The Kindness Elves are an alternative to the traditional elf on the shelf. Here is the link to where I found the idea. These elves love to help and notice kindness in others. So instead of getting gifts, we are rewarding people who have been generous and kind. I loved the idea that we would be doing a lot of giving without getting anything in return. A great lesson for Ava. The Kindness Elves help us come up with ideas. At the end the Kindness Elves will reward her with gifts (but she doesn’t know that yet!)
We thought we would name our elf Kindness. It seemed appropriate. This year we thought we would pick 25 people who have been so kind to us during these last 6 months that we would return the kindness. It has been a tough 6 months, but there are so many people who deserve a great thanks for all that they do for us or for some who work at keeping Evy’s memory alive. So I started a list and in about 5 seconds I was over 25 people. How lucky are we that we have so many people who love and care for us? To go over our 25 people (one per day) might not be so simple and would go against my new life motto. So other acts of kindness might be given throughout the year so that we can thank everyone or we’ll just keep an ongoing list for every Christmas to follow!
For our first day of Kindness, we chose an aunt who’s birthday was yesterday and she is the epitome of kindness. She isn’t even a blood relative but has adopted our family as her own. I’ve never seen her do a selfish deed and she is such a great role model. She is someone we can always count on if we truly need anything.
Judy received several phone calls from me while Evy was in the hospital (mainly because she hadn’t upgraded phones to receive my constant flow of text) but she was just a calming voice. I remember calling her on Evy’s final day letting her know how bad it really was and once in the middle of the night to let her know our precious angel didn’t make it. Phone calls in the middle of the night are never a good thing. I just knew I didn’t want to make any calls in the morning and she was one that I wanted to tell. I knew she would have good prayers to help Adam and I through because she has such a sweet heart.
So to honor Judy, Ava made her a birthday card and we baked her blueberry cobbler butter bars. (Recipe here.) Ava and I had a great day together and had so much fun. We were in no rush and just really enjoyed the day. Hand delivering the gift was the best part. We love you so much Aunt Judy (and Uncle Dave!)
Day two of Kindness is for Pete and Andrea Brown. We are so fortunate that they came into our lives. They expressed so much kindness to us during the first days of our loss. Within 12 hours of Evy passing and making funeral arrangements, their foundation offered to pay for the funeral expenses. Their kindness gave us so much hope when our world seemed to be crashing around us. They experienced the loss of their 4 month old daughter last year and started the Ellise Brown Foundation. Not only did they offer financial support, but they gave us friendship and emotional support. They new exactly how we were feeling and we could ask them tough questions. They even offered to name the 10k portion of their yearly fundraising run in honor of Evy. Ellie and Tyler’s 4 miler and Evy’s 10K. 1 kilometer for every month she lived.
For our gift of kindness, we opted for fudge. They are addicted to our fudge at work and we thought they would appreciate that more than cookies. I wrote the note of thanks because I had so much to say to them. Thank you Andrea and Pete for your sincere kindness and friendship.
Day 3 has brought me to tears before I even start typing. It brings me back to the first day we woke up without Evy. My uncle was the first person to come to the house that morning. He had no words, but he did give me a big hug. Just showing up to show his support was all I needed from him. No words at that time was needed. What could be said that would really make anything ok? We left mid morning to go make the funeral arrangements. We just wanted a plan and to do something. When we came back home, my aunt and cousin had cleaned our house and did some laundry. We hadn’t been home in a week and they knew visitors would be coming over the weekend. Again, what could they possibly say? There actions were all that mattered. They were doing whatever they could to feel helpful.
Over the days and weeks and months, they have continued to be there. My aunt has stopped by to check in, she put an Evy remembrance sticker on her car and continues to leave items at Evy’s grave. My uncle, gives us produce from the garden and beef from his farm. They don’t know what to do, but we know they are trying and remembering Evy. That is why we love them so much. Thank you Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Dave for being great neighbors and family.
Ava has the best preschool teachers. How do I know this? One, because Ava pretends to be Ms. Wanda all the time and I’m Ms. Joyce and someone is the helper and sometimes we talk about Ms. Shar (sp?) who helps out from time to time. Second, Ava loves going to preschool. She is pretty clear on what she likes and doesn’t. Third, Ms. Wanda teaches them great manners and they sing songs about Jesus. God is allowed in this school. I couldn’t imagine sending my child to school where God isn’t allowed to be present and openly discussed.
Ms. Wanda has such a kind heart. After Evy passed, she sent us a card with a sweet message. She didn’t know what to do for us (like everyone else) but she did what she could and offered a week of preschool at no cost. It was a sweet gesture and we appreciated it. Thank you Ms. Wanda for your kindness. You are so loved!
Day 5 is for a family who I have known since I was a kid – Roger and Debbie Fehling and their daughter Shelby Baxter. They have always been sweet, caring people, but I can feel their love and outpouring of kindness even more in the last 6 months. Roger and Debbie planted their own Evy tree. How amazing is that? Debbie wrote her own Dear Evy letter to me. The heartache and love that she poured into it was so sweet and genuine. I hope by now people realize that eventually everything sweet will end up on my blog 🙂 So as an fyi, if you don’t want it published for the world to see, then keep it to yourself! On infant loss/remembrance day they lit three candles instead of one. Here is the note she sent:
“Beth, Our three candles were still burning this morning. We lit one for you, Adam and Ava…looking up to Evy. Love & prayers, Debbie”
Shelby has been such a great friend. She is someone I could count on for anything. She ran Evy’s 10K, sent me a God Wink, and loves Ava to pieces. I will always think of her running to Hollaback Girl because she knew Ava loved the song. She sends me random text messages that make me smile. Her love for my little family makes me so happy that she is in my life.
Our little gift of kindness that we sent to them, doesn’t even express how thankful we are for their friendship. Thank you Roger, Debbie and Shelby for being so kind as we grieve for our little angel.
Sweet Aunt Joan is Day 6. I can remember her every emotion Evy’s last day at the hospital. She came to the hospital in the afternoon to visit little Evy. Evy had already crashed once, but we had so much hope. It was so great having a room full of family and friends that last day. I would report any updates to all of them in the waiting room. I remember getting to share good news when Evy had a gag reflex and was breathing on her own. The look of joy on Aunt Joan’s face was wonderful.
Aunt Joan has been a wonderful support pillar through our heartache. Her strength and faith hasn’t been shaken. She sends us wonderful notes and letters and text messages whenever she feels our hearts are heavy.
“I love you sweet Beth. GOD will put you in a place in His arms and carry you through. It might not feel that way now, but His promise is to hold onto us. NEVER will He leave us. I lOVE YOU BETH. I am here for you.”
This is just one of the many text that I receive that is so meaningful and deep. She does nothing out of selfishness. She is a rock. I asked one day for the Holy Spirit to be with me and she sent me a card with the Holy Spirit on the cover, that she painted, with sweet words written on the inside. She gave us to apple trees to plant in memory of Evy. She find random little gifts, like a turtle that says Live Simply, on it’s shell and buys it for me. She painted a beautiful watercolor of me and the girls from a picture she took when Evy was just weeks old.
Thank you Aunt Joan for always having the right words to say.
Valeria and Mariah. These two are our sponsored children from Madagascar and Honduras. They humble us and show us grace. They need so little to feel as though they have so much. We received Christmas cards from both. The time and effort they spent on the cards was amazing. Ava colored two pictures and we wrote them a letter. We inserted some stickers in the envelopes for a little gift to the girls. We give them so little, but we get so much in return. These girls truly inspire us.