Dear Evy:

promising to live a happy and simpler life in honor of my evelyn

Sweet girl, today is the day of thanks. Thanksgiving brings up a lot of memories, but I’m thankful for those memories. Two years ago on this day, your sister announced I was pregnant with you. Ava was around 18 months old and we had her learning everyone’s names. When we pointed to my belly, we taught her to say, “Baby.” So we sat around the table and was pointing to everyone as Ava would say, Uncle David, Aunt Trish, Aunt Joan, ect. Then it looked like Adam was just pointing to me instead of my non-showing belly, and Ava, right on cue, said “The baby!” It was perfect. Everything about you was perfect. It was the perfect pregnancy, the perfect birth, and you were my perfectly happy baby. I will always remember that we announced you on Thanksgiving. Since you lived such a short life, all of the memories are so very important and I cherish them all.

Every night we have family prayer time before bed. We just liked the idea of Ava learning to pray at a young age and it also gives us great family time. We started Ava off simple by praying for 3 people and thanking God for 3 things. After you passed, Ava of course includes you in one of her 3 people who need prayers. I am so grateful that Ava continues to remember you, but I know you do not need prayers. You are perfectly placed next to God and exactly where you should be. Prayers are for someone who is having a hard time or lost or needs something. So we always change it so that we are praying for you to give us strength and to continue to look out for us.

I always include you in the thanks and praises portion of our prayers. I am so very thankful that I was blessed to be your Mom, that I got to spend 10 months with you, and that I have two amazing daughters. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the JOY that you brought into our lives Evelyn Sarah (and all the God Winks you keep sending us.) Love you.

Pictures from last years Thanksgiving and the girls' outfits. 
thanksgiving dresses

Evelyn Sarah Thanksgiving Thanksgiving with Evelyn Sarah

 

Two weeks before you passed, we toured your Great Grandma McCabe’s house. You never met her, she passed 1 year before your daddy and I got married. She has a beautiful farmhouse that is two doors down from our home. It was being rented out on and off for several years, but became available in the spring. While it was empty, we walked through it with a contractor. I carried you around the whole house as I looked on to see if this would be our future. I had big plans. The upstairs main room looked more like a master bedroom, but I envisioned you and Ava sharing it. My two girls with two beds and over each bed, your initials. A beautiful script “A” over Ava’s and a script “E” over yours. Soft blush and ivory colors and elegantly decorated. The side room would be your large play room that would house all of your toys and as you two would grow, eventually would become a large walk in closet. You would be close enough in age to share clothes and shoes. I know in real life that probably doesn’t happen and sisters don’t get along that well in teenage years, but I always told Ava that you two would be best friends.

Two weeks after that day, you died. Huge dreams and our future were destroyed. That beautiful farmhouse that represented our growing family now seemed to look too big for just the three of us left. The house went from being such a positive, to that is no longer us. We don’t have a growing family, but a small broken one. My whole perspective about the house changed.

As we sat at the cemetery, saying our final goodbyes to your beautiful life, I looked at the headstone that sat next to your newly dug resting place. The headstone is your Great Grandma McCabe’s. You are buried next to her and your grandpa and great uncle. As I looked at the headstone, I studied the etching that was so beautifully done on the stone. The etching is of the farmhouse. It just gave me such a feeling of hope, not heartache, for a split moment. Was the farmhouse still meant to be? The contractor had sent us a sympathy card in the mail, which was very thoughtful, and also letting me know that they knew so that I didn’t have to make the dreaded phone call. A week or two later, I called to let them know to continue with the quote.

I felt that this house had a purpose for us, a calling. I know a house is just a house, but that maybe this was meant to be our home and to continue with our dreams instead of running from them. I looked into the process of naming the house. I wanted it to be named Evelyn Manor in a white wooden sign shaped like a historical sign. I wanted a garden out back with a wooden entrance (even though there would be no fence) but with a sign that said Evelyn’s Garden. I wanted to landscape the front of the house in all sorts of pastels. There is a beautiful yellow rose called sunshine daydream that I wanted to plant and lots of lavender. I always associate you with the color lavender so I thought planting lavender everywhere would be so beautiful. It would also give us more room to expand our little farm. You started my “homesteading” phase and I want to continue with my little farm because it is how I feel close to you.

The farmhouse needs a little bit of work. We wanted to gut the inside, open up the kitchen, and knock down a few walls. The dreams of the house kept my mind focused on a project. With the major over haul of the house, it took two months to receive the quote. We were hoping it would be a lateral move – what we would sell our current house for would be close to the quote to remodel the farmhouse. My dreams were crushed. The quote was $60,000 over budget. It didn’t even include fixing anything on the outside or building a garage. My Evelyn Manor died.

Your dad quickly moved on because the price was just too far out of reach. We still haven’t received any hospital bills, just explanation of benefits. So we don’t have a clue if insurance is covering everything or not. I’m sure there are things your dad could do himself to lessen the cost, but his grieving doesn’t crave projects, like I do. I completely understand his perspective. It was a lot of money that we don’t have to fix up a house that would still be an old house. But it was my Evelyn Manor. I still sometimes think about it and wonder if I’m supposed to fight harder for it and if it is supposed to be our home where we live out the rest of our hopes and dreams.  Or is it just a project to bring me temporary joy? I could really use a God Wink Evelyn 😉 And incase your daddy is thinking I’m writing this as a hint to him, it is not. It is just my thoughts and confusion spilling into one. If only I didn’t already name the house in my mind! Oh sweet Evelyn. I am so lost.

Love and Hugs.

McCabe's Headstone Evelyn Manor Farmhouse

Hi sweet girl. It’s been another week without you here. Yesterday was All Soul’s Day. A remembrance day for all souls who have died. That’s sweet, but I don’t need a specific day. You are never not on my mind. It’s also a day to pray for all lost souls. I am incredibly lucky that I have never felt the need to pray for you. I know where you are and where your soul rests. You sit in a special place up in heaven with all the other innocent, perfect souls. Last week was the first day when I really forgot that you were no longer here. We were riding in the car and your sister wanted me to ride in the back seat with her. We were playing loudly and an image of you in your carseat popped in my head. I almost said, “Is Evy sleeping?” because I didn’t want to wake you. Almost immediately I felt my heart tear. I’ve never had a moment like that before. How sweet it would be if I could have really checked on you to see if you were sleeping or if our loud playing would have woke you.

Last Sunday we were invited to a remembrance service at Children’s Hospital. We sent in a few lines about your life and the joy you brought to us. Our biggest fear was walking back into the hospital. We didn’t know what emotions and feelings we would have being back at Children’s. Just your daddy, sister and I went. As we were leaving, Ava randomly said that we should bring the Evy Bear. She has never said that and hasn’t brought it up since. Thank you for giving her that little nudge. I was able to hold it the whole time and it kept my hands busy.

The service was really sweet and well done. They listed all the babies and children who had past recently. Each name was said and the parents could place a candle in a memorial stand. They compiled all the sweet messages that each parent wrote about their child. Each message was so sweet, but laced with heartache. I sat in a room full of people who knew exactly what I was feeling because they all felt the same way. It was nice that Children’s offered this service so it felt like some closure. Not just, oh well, your baby died, goodbye. They offer a huge grief support system for almost all circumstances.

The drive up to Children’s was harder than walking in. The chapel is right off the elevator from the parking garage, so we didn’t even have to go into the hospital. We did pass the UDF that was just down the block though. Your dad and I walked to it the day before you died. We needed a break from the hospital walls and some fresh air. I was craving ice cream and your Nan was holding you, so down the block we walked. The service was so great at UDF. A young boy gave us a coupon and we were all smiles as we ate our double dipped cones. Just getting out of the hospital refreshed us.

It was our last happy moment. We never in a million years thought that you would die the next day. As we left the remembrance service, we decided we would do all the hard things that day. We went to the same UDF and got our double dipped ice cream cones. If only we could go back to that day. When you just had a “virus” and we were waiting to hear good news that we could bring you back home. Sweet Evelyn, if only.

UDF Ice cream

I think every May 20th, we might have to go to that UDF to get our double dipped cones. May 21st will always be a hard day, and I think it’s best to eat through our emotions 😉 

5 months is such a hard number. You’ve been gone for 5 months. That is half of your age. You were only here with us for what seems like a moment. A moment that went by too fast, but yet the years I have to spend without you seem like an eternity.

It’s a fine line between living and dying when grieving. I walk it and think of both sides. Living: I’m going to live the life you didn’t get. I’m going to do something great with your memory. Your life will change lives. You have big plans for us. I’m going to cherish every moment and make new memories to hold on to while I live my life on Earth.  Live Simple. Be Happy.

Dying: I get you back. I get to be with you in Heaven when my time comes. I get to be with my girl and see that you are in Jesus’s arms. My heart will be whole again. I get to see the Land of Glory. I’m no longer scared of death. After I have lost you, how can death be scary?

How do I live my life on Earth while in the back of my mind I’m being told how wonderful Heaven is and that you are there too? It’s a fine line. It would be easy to go too far over that line in the wrong direction. This is where God comes in and you too Evelyn. I know my time on Earth is needed. I have to be here to carry out your memory. I have to do something great with your beautiful name that I fell in love with. God has a wonderful plan for me. I have your sister to raise and hopefully God will bless your dad and I with more children. So as long as you continue to be present in my life and hold the pieces of my heart together, I will wait patiently until I see you again.

 

Yesterday morning was awful. I hadn’t slept well. When I finally went back to sleep at 5am I had dreams of you. My dreams were so vivid until I woke. I tried to remember what they were but I could only remember pieces. I didn’t know if you were alive in my dreams or if it was reality and we were just thinking of you like always. I just know that when I woke my heart felt like there was a huge hole, yet my chest felt so heavy at the same time. The reality of you not being here was so painful. I just wanted to scream and cry and hold you in my arms. I wanted you back in your crib waking me at 6am screaming MA MA MA MA instead of my heart screaming in pain. I wanted my mommy’s girl. I felt so empty. I knew I had to go to work but yet staying at home didn’t sound any easier. I wanted to be back to sleep with no dreams and no thoughts of reality.

But you not in my arms is the reality. So as I sat in self pity, I tried to remember you with joy and count my blessings. I am just so lucky that I do not have to be in this reality alone. I can not get over the amount of letters, cards and outpouring of love that I constantly and consistently get each week. This is what brings me so much hope. I need hope to get through each day. And I need you to keep your presence strong so that you can keep me calm and give me strength.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

-Romans 5:3-5

So today is a new day. I hope to have my heart filled with the Holy Spirit and your breath upon my cheek. I’m already smiling thinking of the hope I have for today! Thank you sweet girl.

strength in grief

Sweet girl, tomorrow is a day dedicated to you and all babies who have left the world too soon. October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Not that we need a specific day to remember you by any means, but a day that we get to remember you in a sweet candlelight vigil. I knew nothing of this month and specific day before this year. In my reading and research I have found out how wonderful this day really is. Your daddy and I have never had to hide our feelings, but some parents have no one to share their feelings with or feel they have to keep them hidden. This day lets grieving parents live with and remember their loss, instead of “getting over” their loss for others.

Remembering Our Babies website is where I found most of my information about this specific day. A candlelight vigil will be held at 7:00pm, in all time zones, in remembrance of all babies. Everyone is asked to light a candle so that a continuous wave of light will occur all over the world on October 15th. We started our light tonight so that it would be lit already starting on October 15th. The chances that it is still lit by morning are slim, but we will be at a vigil in Madison at 7:00 pm so we want a continuous light at your gravesite for the day.

Goodnight sweet girl and please give us a little extra strength to get through our tears and heartache tomorrow. Loving and remembering you always. Evy's Light

Sweet girl, I’ve been emotionally exhausted. Between family pictures, your remembrance bear, my busy work schedule and funerals, I’ve been drained. So much has left me emotional without me getting to express my emotions fully. You kept me so calm during the family pictures. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be during the shoot without you present. We have never had professional photos taken of our family before. I usually just took my own of you and your sister, but it never included the whole family. Well I’m not allowing myself to have anymore regrets. So with Evy Bear in tow, we had our first family photo shoot. Our sweet friend, Amanda Donaho, reached out to us and offered her amazing photography skills. I did keep it together during the shoot, thanks to you Evy, but as the day crept by, the hollow aching inched its way into my chest. There are just little moments that I miss so much that it makes it hard to fathom you are really not here.

So as the aching grew yesterday, I laid your sister down for a nap so that I could let my emotions flow. I went out to the mailbox to collect Saturday’s mail. Inside was an envelope from the Aurora Public Library and Mary Alice Horton.

Wherever you are, my love will find you Nancy Tillman books bought for Evelyn

These books were added to the Aurora Public Library District collection in memory of your daughter, Evelyn “Evy” Sarah Legge by Sue and Steve Manford.
Book plates have been placed in the books as they are added to our collection. We are proud to honor her memory in such a special way.
Staff have such great memories of Evy coming to the Library. We miss her visits.
I think of you both, admiring your strength and praying for your continued spirit.

With every good wish,
Mary Alice Horton

I was in awe. So incredible sweet and touching. I have been to two baby showers since you passed. Most now suggest to bring a book instead of a card. So while I was looking for a book for Anola and her baby Bryce, I found the book “Wherever You Are my love will find you” by Nancy Tillman. I cried while reading it in Barns and Noble. I had to buy two. I wanted a copy for myself. It could fit so many situations, but to me, it was written for you Evelyn. It doesn’t matter where you are, near me, in heaven, in the clouds, buried, dust to dust ash to ash, or in my heart, but that my love will always find you. I then bought it for the next baby shower, Aunt Leah and baby-to-be Bentley. It will forever be the book I buy for all babies coming into this world.

My heart melted to see that these were the books chosen to be named in your memory. The note seemed like a message sent straight from Heaven, from you, to me. It was just what I needed to end my crazy emotional week and to start a new week. Thank you to the Library, Mary Alice and Sue and Steve Manford for this God Wink.

Evy and Nancy Tillman

I added the caption to this picture exactly 1 month before the note arrived in my mailbox.

 

 

Rainbows during the storm. Missing my daughter.

 

 

This weekend I was sitting at a birthday party when my friends’ dad received the call that his brother was declining fast. Watching her dad being choked up and hearing the words “moving him to ICU, can’t regulate blood pressure” rang out loud. Flashbacks of Evy appeared fast and furious.Tears started to flow. I was so mad at myself that I couldn’t control my emotions. This wasn’t about me. It was about them and I felt like I was stealing their grief. I had to go sit in the car so that I could cry silently. They needed to be consoled and I couldn’t get it together.

Life has to move on. Everyone else is moving on. I feel people are ready to move on while I’m not. That I shouldn’t be crying so much still. For those that say “time” will heal your pain. You can give me all the time in the world and it will not take away me missing her, or my tears, or my broken heart. I will learn to live with the grief and her absence and maybe not shed so many tears, but while everyone else has to move on, I will be here. Remember that when you think of your child throughout the day, I’m thinking of mine. When you are holding your child’s hand, I’m longing to hold mine. As your child grows and you have to wipe away their tears from time to time, Evy is silently wiping mine. So while a lot of times I’m thinking of the rainbows, the storm did happen so the tears will flow.

Trying to look for the hope. I felt like it was slipping away. So much sorrow and losing loved one before their time. It’s depressing. It’s hard to have hope. My friends’ mom texted me yesterday and told me to pray for her mother-in-law who was grieving that her son died. This is when the moment of hope came. She followed the text with “The cool thing about it all is [the son’s] pastor came up last evening and talked to [him]. He accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. And today we baptized him with the whole family present and prayed with him – for him and we all prayed together!”

What wonderful news.

Some might say, well why not live the life you want as long as you accept Jesus before you die. Answer: Because you need to be that person praying with the lost soul before he dies. You need to be the guide, the prayer giver, the lover of Jesus so that the sick and dying can look to you. I was lost before Evy passed. I had people who guided me and where there for me when I needed it most. Without them, I would still be lost. Prayers are powerful. Have hope and be that person.

September 29, 2014

Dear Sweet Girl, you have been on my mind all day. Today the organization that we sponsor children through is having their awareness day. They wanted us to take “selfies” with our sponsored child and hashtag it to create more awareness. I was able to take a picture of Ava and her sponsored sister Mariah, but you are not here to hold the picture of Valeria.

I first heard about this organization, Unbound, at Ava’s baptism at our church. Unbound is a Christian organization providing funds to families so they can stay together. This isn’t adoption. These families want to stay together but just need some financial support to do so. I knew right then that I wanted to sponsor one child for every child we would have. So I picked a girl closest to Ava’s age, Mariah. A couple weeks before you passed, I had looked online to sponsor another child, this time for you. For some reason I never did. So a couple weeks later I had thought of it again. Even though you were no longer here, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to fulfill my promise. A little girl Valeria from Honduras was the closest in age to you and just really grabbed my heart. She seemed to have similarities to you. I know that you won’t be able to grow up and write to her like Ava and Mariah, but this little girl Valeria is the luckiest of all. She has you. You will be her direct connection as a little Saint in Heaven.

Here is the first letter we received from Valeria’s mom (translated). It is so touching and just what I needed.

Dear Sponsor: Beth Legge
I am writing to you for the first time with much love and affection. This is Marbeli, mother of your sponsored child Valeria. I feel very happy for you have sponsored my daughter. I thank God and you for having such a great heart as the one you have. Valeria is too young and she is not able to express herself with her own words; but I feel very happy and I do not know how to thank you.

My daughter is very beautiful. She is also very kind and cheerful with our neighbors. She likes water very much and to play with her sister Andrea who is 7 years old. Thanks for the opportunity you have given to my daughter. She will receive benefits such as clothes, food, medicine and some more benefits.

I, as the mother of Valeria, want to send you our most cordial welcome to our humble home. Now, you are apart of our family and you will always be in our prayers of every single day. For God bless and watch over you and all your family. With much love and affection, Marbeli, the mother of your sponsored child. May God bless you always.

Valeria’s mom is wrong. We are blessed to have found Valeria. Her mother’s letter is the epiphany of live simple, be happy. She knows her daughter’s basic needs will be met and that is all that really matters for her happiness. We pay a dollar a day. What would we do with one extra dollar a day? Nothing. It would hardly be noticeable. But to your sponsored sister, a dollar is everything. Sponsoring Valeria will be our constant reminder in fulfilling our promise to you, Evy: living a happy and simple life! I can’t wait to see what Valeria’s family teaches us throughout our journey together. Thank you Evy for bringing us together. Hugs and kisses 🙂