Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Six months later

My sweet Harper,

It has been 6 months since I held you for the first and last time. It was the most difficult day of my life, to go through the pain of child birth, knowing there would be no prize at the end. No screaming baby, just silence. Your tiny body was so fragile, I could not bear to hold you for long, fearing I may break you. Instead, the nurse dressed you in a beautiful Threads of Love gown and placed you in a tiny basket. Daddy and I held you for hours in the basket, kissed your cheeks and forehead, studied your perfect hands and feet.

I hate that we are separated from you, and from God. I hate that we live in this fallen world, with pain, sickness, hurt, violence, hatred, war, and poverty. But, I rejoice that you will never know any of these things. That the only thing you will ever know is love and joy. I rejoice that you are safe in the arms of Jesus, and that we will all be together again someday.

Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of Jesus. An event that changed this world forever. I am so thankful that Jesus chose to humble himself and become man, to suffer and die for all of us, that all who believe in him would not die, but have eternal life in paradise. I rejoice that God knows my pain, the pain of death, but that the death that we know is not the end. It is the beginning. I can't even begin to wrap my head around what Jesus endured, and how much God loved us, to sacrifice his son for us,  for Jesus to take our punishment for us on the cross.

I rejoice that even though I can never be "good enough" to get into heaven, I am saved by the grace of God. The sacrifice of Jesus, and my belief in my savior and his sacrifice means that even though I am a horrible, wretched sinner, I will see him, and you, my daughter, someday.

I am thankful for the word of God and for his promises. God told me when I was pregnant with your brother that I would have a son and should name him Joseph. And we did. I was completely unaware of the meaning of your brother's name at the time, and did not learn it until much later. Joseph was the first-born son of Jacob and Rachel. Rachel was infertile, and saw Jacob's other wives have many children. When the time was right, God blessed Rachel with a son, whom she named Joseph, which means "May he add" (Genesis 30:24).

I trust that God will bless us with more children someday, children that will live here with us on earth. I believe that was what he promised us when he told us to name your brother Joseph. We have been reading passages from the Bible all month, one for each day. When we read Luke 1:45, I was again reassured of that promise: And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.

I read stories of women who became pregnant again soon after they lost a baby, and hoped that would be me. But it is not. We are still waiting. As painful and heartbreaking as it is, I know that the plans of the Lord are always a million times better than anything that I can think of. Your daddy is a testament to that. I went through many years of loneliness, heartache, and sadness before God blessed me with him. It was worth every single second of waiting. And I know this season of waiting will be worth it, too. Whether we are blessed with children that are born from my body or grown in our hearts, it will be so much more awesome than anything we can imagine.

Harper Pauline, you have blessed us in so many ways, even though you never took a breath on this earth. Friendships have been made, others have been served, ministries have been started, compassion and empathy have grown. I trust that this is only the beginning of your legacy. We love you so much, and can't wait to meet you in heaven.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013


With this being our first Christmas since Harper went to heaven, and the first Christmas that Joey is starting to understand what Christmas is about, we are trying to create some family traditions.

One of the things I most enjoyed during the month of December as a child was our Advent calendar. It was simple, made of fabric and felt, and had a little mouse that we moved every day. While I don't have the calendar (I think my sister actually does), I wanted to re-create that for Joey. We did a short 12 day devotional for Thanksgiving, and he really loved "doing numbers" each day. I found this calendar at Dillard's,

(Joey takes the ornaments out of the pockets, and points to where he wants them to hang on the tree)

and we read a short Bible passage each day.  

For our Christmas card, we bought a Christmas outfit for our Harper bear at Build-a-Bear, and took her picture and Joey's picture, and tried to get one of them together. One of the decisions we had to make was how to sign the card. Do we sign everyone's name individually? If so, do we include Harper? I hate having to make these decisions. In the end, we signed it, "The Cottrell Family" and left it at that.

Harper bear in my childhood rocking chair.

How I wish this was him hugging his 4 month old sister, and not a bear.

My sister made ornaments for both kids, and I love them! My sweet friend also bought a special butterfly ornament for Harper.

I'm sure we will add more things as time goes on.

 One of the other things I agonized over was decorations for the cemetery. I hate going to the cemetery. Before today, I had only been twice. Once to see her marker, and once to put decorations up. I was at Hobby Lobby earlier this week, and thought maybe I should try and find something for her. I spent way too long wandering around, but I found some flowers and a wreath and a bow. We went to put them out this morning, and am so glad I decided to do it. It is a beautiful, sunny day, and you can see her grave when you drive up. We were pleasantly surprised that all of her things from the summer were still there and looked great. We replaced the summer-y flowers and moved her angel and wind chimes to make room for the wreath. Joey ran right up to her grave. He knew exactly which one it was, which makes me both happy and sad. 

Joey is playing with her wind chimes, and couldn't be bothered with looking up! The bow is actually purple, but looks kind of blue in the picture.

Christmas eve will be 6 months since her body and mine were separated. This Sunday will be 6 months since she went to heaven. We are planning to do a Happy Birthday Jesus and Harper cake on Christmas eve. I am glad that my parents will be here with us, but missing my sister and my nieces in New York terribly. It's just not the same without all of us together.

Monday, December 2, 2013


It's been a few weeks since my last post. I think I've been ignoring my grief. I was so immersed in it during October with the capture your grief posts, that I needed a break. However, now that the holidays are upon us, I can no longer hide from it.

We started decorating the house for Christmas yesterday. This is the first house we have ever spent a second Christmas in as a family, so the decorations are still a work in progress. The most challenging part, thus far, has been to figure out how to include Harper in our celebration of the birth of our Savior, when she is with Him, and not with us. I bought an "H" ornament, and a Christmas outfit at Build-a-Bear for Harper bear. I hate that I have to buy an outfit for a bear instead of an outfit for my would-be 3 month old daughter, but it can't be changed, and I refuse to pretend that she didn't exist. I am going to attempt to take a Christmas card picture of Joey and Harper bear, and go from there.

Now that Joey is 2, we are trying to create some family traditions. This year, we did a thankful tree. There were 30 leaves, 1 for each day of November, and Steve and I took turns writing things we were thankful for. Our hope is that this is something simple that we can do every year, and Joey will be able to help with in future years.

In no particular order, here is what was written on our 30 leaves:
God's love
God-given talents
God's promise keeping
Clean water
Warm beds
Dada's work
Safe cars

There are so many more things that we are thankful for, I am sure we could do 1 leaf for every day of the year, and still not cover it all. We are so blessed and want to teach Joey to be thankful in all circumstances.

One more thing that I am especially thankful for is a friend of my sister. She is a professional photographer, and took a few of the not-so-professional photos that we had of Harper, and edited them for free. She has a family of her own, with little ones, and took a big chunk of time away from them to help someone she has never met. I now have a couple of photos of my baby girl that are gorgeous, and do not look like a picture of a dead baby, but of a sleeping newborn. She made her look so beautiful that I may actually share them someday.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18