My dear Sophia,
This is my 52nd letter to you, and my last in this year-long series of letters. I know that I can write you more in the future, but it will be the last of my weekly letters to you.
Of course that means that it’s officially been a year since you went to Heaven. This past Tuesday marked the one year anniversary of your death. Daddy and I spent parts of the day looking at pictures of you, and I finally watched the video that your Uncle Stephen made of your life (I hadn’t watched it since your memorial service last year). That night your grandma, grandpa, and uncle came over and we just had a fun time laughing about nothing and generally having a good time. At first I didn’t know if that was ok—to me laughing on the one year anniversary of your death—but the day in its entirety really summed up what this last year has been for me. Many parts of the year were spent in sadness and spent reflecting on your short, precious life. But there were other parts when my mom and dad (your grandparents) and your daddy helped me laugh and smile again and helped me move on from all those tears.
I think the reason I’m writing you this letter so late in the week is because I really wasn’t sure what to write to you. Since this is the last letter I wanted to make it extra special, but the words just weren’t coming to me.
So I’ve decided that this last letter will be a reflection on the previous 51 letters I’ve written to you. It will be a way for me to see how I’ve changed in the last year and a way for you to see my love for you stretched out over the past 365 days:
Week 1: I didn’t know that the worst part of being sad isn’t the crying, it’s the lack of crying. At least when I cry I feel like I can let some of the hurt go, but most of the time I can’t let it go. It just sits in me as I stare off into space.
Week 2: The day I gave birth to you you were pink, fresh, and so delicate. And just like those roses, your life was all too short. I wanted to keep you so much longer than I was able to.
Week 3: It was during that time that I realized my grief is a lot like those waves. It comes and goes, but it is always there. Sometimes it comes quickly, in waves that are right on top of each other. I feel consumed by it, like I can’t breathe, and for short moments it seems like I am drowning.
Week 4: And why me? Why did I have to lose my first baby through miscarriage and my second baby to heart failure? Why does God think that I am able to handle all of this? Because I’ll be honest, right now I don’t think that I can.
Week 5: It’s hard to imagine being able to have a normal conversation with friends; one where my mind doesn’t wander off to you. I can’t fathom that one day I will actually want to leave the house and go out and do “fun things.”
Week 6: You see, just because you’re not here doesn’t mean that I can stop parenting you—I just have to do it in a different way than the other mommies who still get to hold their babies.
Week 7: I used to think it was really strange when people would leave things untouched after a loved one died. I thought it was weird that they would leave entire rooms exactly how they had been left the day that person passed away. I used to think that, but now I get it. I totally get it.
Week 8: But as quickly as I felt that goodness, it was drowned out with guilt. I felt guilty that I was laughing and smiling again. I felt guilty that I didn’t feel consumed by grief.
Week 9: I never thought that this would be the road my pregnancy with you would lead me. I didn’t think a year ago that the surprise of your life wouldn’t be long followed by the sorrow of your death.
Week 10: Sophia, this life after you is so strange. It’s a strange dance between grief and relief and happiness and hurt and guilt and stress and so many more things. It’s a life that the doe-eyed newlywed, three years ago, would never have imagined for her and her husband. It’s a life that forces mommy to, each day, get up out of bed and try to make something of the circumstances God has given me.
Week 11: It’s in the darkness of night when the tears threaten to never end that I hold the tightest to His promises. It’s in the moments at the store when smiling families are all around me and my empty arms, that I have to force myself to remember: God keeps His promises.
Week 12: I truly believe that in a year I will be able to look back and marvel at the way our Loving Father carried my through all of this. I know that eventually He will redeem these dark days and I will see more of the good than the bad.
Week 13: You, Super Girl, brought together a community of people who might never have known each other if it hadn’t been for you. Their overwhelming love for you caused a bright light to shine in our darkest days. You were so, so, so loved.
Week 14: I used to think about how excited you would have been to meet Jesus for the first time in Heaven, but then I corrected myself: you met Jesus long before you went to Heaven. He was with you every second of your life here in Earth, and I believe with all my heart that you felt Him and knew He was there.
Week 15: I grieve the loss of being a mom to a living child. I grieve the silence in the nursery. I grieve the unused stroller and car seat and all the cute outfits that still have tags on them. I grieve the fact that I am still childless, when all I’ve ever wanted was to have a child.
Week 16: Sophia, baby, it was such a wonderful dream. While I was dreaming it, it was so vivid, and I felt right there in the moment. When I woke up the next morning I didn’t remember it right away though. It wasn’t until about an hour after being awake that the memories of the dream came flooding back to me, and I relived them with a huge smile on my face.
Week 17: No matter the time, no matter if God blesses us with other children, no matter the changes that life has in store for me…you will always have my heart and my love. And I will never stop cherishing the moments that we got to spend together—especially the moments you spent in my arms.
Week 18: I can’t tell you how many times I had visualized carrying you out of the PICU and bringing you to a regular hospital room; one where we could be with you 24 hours a day. That day never came, and the fact that it happened this week with another baby was surreal, wonderful, and devastating all at once.
Week 19: I’m thankful that even though I daily lose my faith and trust, He is always there gently pushing me on and reminding me of His goodness. Sophia, He is so, so good to us all.
Week 20: Having Champ here is so bittersweet. It’s so wonderful to have a baby to care for and a little one to hold in my arms. But it’s heartbreaking that that baby isn’t you. It’s hard to not question why God couldn’t have allowed you to come home from the hospital.
Week 21: Sophia, I know the exact number of people who actually got to meet you in person (besides the countless nurses and doctors). 13. Only 13 people ever breathed the same air as you, and got to feel your soft skin. And do you know how many people knew about your life, and prayed for you? Thousands.
Week 22: Last Christmas I was feeling your kicks for the first time, and buying you your first outfits. I was praying for your healing several times a day, and I was believing that this Christmas you would be home with us.
Week 23: It’s amazing to think that even though we got to see some beautiful works of God’s hand, they are nothing in comparison to the beauties you get to see every second in Heaven.
Week 24: I know there are no years or even time in Heaven and I know there was not a big 2014 celebration with the angels. But I want you to know that even though you don’t feel the ache of each year that passes while we are separated, I do. I feel it so deeply and heavily.
Week 25: I want to be the same mommy to Champ as I was able to be to you. I see now that all the times people commented on how strong I was, or complimented me on my calmness, they were really just giving glory to God…because it all just came from Him. Without Him I am so frail, and worried, and weak. I need Him so much, Sophia, and that’s a lesson I should never forget.
Week 26: Today marks the one year anniversary of your daddy and me moving to Taiwan, and tomorrow marks 6 months since you passed away. I thought that this week I would write about those last days with you, something I still haven’t really done…but I’m still not quite ready to go back there.
Week 27: God is going to keep redeeming my darkest moments, and I know He will keep showing me more places where His grace is.
Week 28: These numbers make me think about the endless sea of faces I pass by each week. Statistics prove that some of those people are putting on the same mask that I did. They are trying to appear normal while inside they are screaming.
Week 29: My brain knows that your sickness wasn’t my fault and that I did all that was humanly possible to keep you alive. But my heart has never really let me stop believing that somehow…somehow…there was something else I could have done to help you.
Week 30: Since your death I have joined an exclusive club—the “parents of dead children” club. It’s one that you would never wish to join, and you don’t have a choice as to whether or not you’re admitted as a member. It’s the worst club in the world, yet at the same time there are beautiful kinships that are found there.
Week 31: Just because you died, that doesn’t mean that I have a “get out of another baby-death free card.” And just because we struggled with infertility before you, it doesn’t mean that now another baby will come as soon as I want it to be here. Those things just aren’t promised to me.
Week 32: So here’s to the many more adventures that I can share with you. Here’s to the experiences that I am learning not to shy away from, but embrace, knowing that I carry you with me.
Week 33: There are little to no surprises about your life anymore. There isn’t any fact about your health, or the events of your 47 days of life that I don’t know. There will never be any new milestones in your life, new stories to tell, or any new photographs to share. Except for the new stories that arise that are connected to your legacy, there will never be anything that I could learn about you that I don’t already know now.
Week 34: It still amazes me how God chose this specific little boy to come into our home. He chose a baby that had so many similarities to you, so that we’d be able to experience some of the things we never got to do with you—even if it’s a surgery.
Week 35: I told the nurse about how we knew you would be sick before you were born, but we chose to love you anyway. I told her that your face didn’t look “normal” either, but that you were the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. I told her how much we loved you, simply because you were our daughter and a gift from God.
Week 36: When you go through a big loss, like we did when we lost you, it’s easy to think that God is going to take it easy on you from then on. You want to believe that pregnancies will come easy, babies will be born healthy, and life will be smooth sailing because you’ve been through the roughest of storms and surely that was enough. I’ve learned that isn’t the way things work.
Week 37: He is a really, really great daddy. And it breaks my heart that he only got to be your daddy for 47 days. It breaks my heart that you didn’t get to know him more, and that he didn’t get to live out his daddy dreams in you. My heart breaks for the relationship that could have been that died on July 22, 2013.
Week 38: Thank you, Sophia, for giving me a chance to experience love and gain empathy in an area of life that I might never have. Even though you have been gone for almost 9 months you still continue to teach me lessons and shape my life.
Week 39: When I stop to reflect on all these changes I realize that I am different. I am not the same.
Week 40: If I just keep moving, maybe grief will never catch me. But the thing is, I know that’s not healthy. That is an unsustainable way to go through life, especially life that has been slathered in grief. I know that I have to dig deep, sift through the pain, keep remembering the precious things, and not let Satan rob me of my hope that is found in Christ.
Week 41: I think the biggest reason why I’m so torn up about Mother’s Day is that it is so much bigger than just the loss of you—it’s a reminder of the loss and unfulfillment of my biggest wish, to be a mother.
Week 42: Living life with you would have been very, very hard, but I would still trade anything for just one chance to experience life with you outside of the hospital.
Week 43: Everything in the PICU felt as if no time had passed. So many of the same smells, sounds, and people. I walked past one room and heard “Wow, Sophia’s mommy!” as another one of your nurses smiled at me. It was such a surreal moment. Being there gave me a sense of closure to a piece of my grief journey. It gave me a chance to feel like I was near you again. And there are very few chances that I get to feel that.
Week 44: But God has been trying to show me that it hasn’t all been in vein. He has been trying to show me that in my weakness His power and strength shine through. He’s been trying to show me that His grace is all that I need. He’s been trying to get me to understand that even if I don’t have all the desires of my heart granted, He is still good and my life is still full because He is in it.
Week 45: So I guess, Sophia, there is not more fitting way to end your birthday letter than the way we began your birthday one year ago…trusting in the Lord. In this last year He has shown Himself to be compassionate, forgiving, comforting, grace-giving, and good. I’m so glad that you are celebrating this first birthday with the Heavenly Father who loves you so much.
Week 46: The rain remains in the fact that I still miss you. It remains in the fact that I still have no child to call my own. It remains in the fact that Champ has gone through trial after trial after trial with little to no rest in between. In this storm Christ has been my umbrella. He has protected me from the worst of the downpour, but that doesn’t mean that there’s still not a deluge around me.
Week 47: I was a mess this past year. I fell apart in pieces, and had to be put back together again. Some of the pieces came back together the same way they always had, but some of them just didn’t fit like they used to. And because of this I was forced to sort of mod-podge myself back together, trying to make the new me, the Real me, as close to the Old me as possible. But, I look different now. I am not as shiny and new as before, I have so many more scars and tears. However, I like to think (now) that this new me, this Real me, can’t be ugly. It simply is just different. Real.
Week 48: So, Sophia, that’s what I’m choosing for this next year. I choose joy. I choose to find that joy in the fact that God loves me, and has my best planned for me. I choose joy because no matter the trials and tribulations that this world throws at me, Christ has suffered more, and because of that suffering, He has allowed me to have the hope of Heaven.
Week 49: I guess I just want to look back and remember you this week, because I know that after your fourth week you started to get really sick. I know what is coming in 19 days. I know how the story ends. But for now I just want to remember you before the edema and all the heart breaking news.
Week 50: I hate that I had to let you go. But I love that I got to love you.
Week 51: After you died I locked away my grief into different rooms in my heart. Some of the doors I could easily open and I could enter the rooms without fear. Other rooms stayed shut for longer, and only after time was I able to go in. Then there were the rooms that were tucked the deepest into my heart, with the strongest locks. This week I feel God is giving me the strength to unlock the doors of the scariest rooms of my grief, and enter.
Wow, baby girl. What a year we have had. What changes I see in myself and the world around me.
These letters to you have helped me to process my grief and in turn heal from it. They have allowed me to feel connected to you and to hold on to being your mommy for another year.
God only knows what this next year holds for me and daddy, and only God can provide the strength and grace we will need to live out each day without you.
As I’ve said hundreds of times before, I love you Sophia Faith. The love in my heart for you will never fade, and I will never forget all that you have taught me.
All my love, forever and ever,