Baby girl,

When did this happen? Like lightening, really. You are ONE. An entire year has passed since that magical night when we first met!

I’ll never forget the joy on your momma and daddy’s faces. They were smitten, head-over-heels in love.

We all love you so much Haddie, and we thank Heavenly Father every day that you are in OUR family. We won the lottery with you, little one. Yes.we.did.

Happiest first birthday!

Love,

Aunt Nat

. . . and Uncle Richie, and  Raleigh, Cardon and Lincoln, and Grandma and Grandpa, and all your other aunts and uncles and cousins. . . we all love you, Hadley, times a hundred-million-zillion.

 

 

 

A fog has rested upon us all.

We want to rejoice, we want to be merry and bright. Yet we find ourselves facing a largely unfamiliar solemnity, a collective ache, an inescapable undercurrent of pain. . .

Because their stockings are still hung by the chimney with care.

Because their gifts still lay wrapped tenderly beneath the tree.

And there will be no eager footsteps in their hallways come Christmas morning. . .

_______________

Felix’s brave momma, Jenna, elected to give birth to him at home. . . with the help of only a midwife and a few trusted friends. (Her husband, Brian, was away on deployment and took part in the experience via Skype.) When I arrived at the home where Jenna was preparing to welcome her son into the world, it was the middle of the night. The stars burned bright in the Scottsdale sky (I mention it only because it was the kind of sky you never forget your entire life through). The lights inside were dim, and there was a tangible tenderness in the air. A room full of women. . . Jenna in the middle. . . slowly, confidently breathing her way through the excruciating pain. As the night wore on, and Jenna’s pain increased, there were moments when it was nearly unbearable to watch. Tears spilled from my eyes, and I wanted nothing more than to wrap my arms around her. I would have done anything to help bear her pain, and I know my feelings were shared by every other woman in the room that night.

And things went on this way.

For hours.

The intensity of pain Jenna was experiencing lasted all through the night and well into the afternoon of the next day. All the while, there was nothing any of us could do—except for love, encourage, support and stay by her side. All we could do was make certain she knew we loved her and that we weren’t going anywhere.

After Felix was finally placed into his mother’s eager arms, I listened to her genuinely and adoringly thank every woman for their presence through her pain. I listened as she told every one of us, individually, that she couldn’t have survived without us. We had done nothing to ease her pain. Nothing. She brought that baby into the world on her own. She suffered through every breath of anguish. And yet, somehow, our love, our simple presence had made a real difference for her. Jenna’s gratitude was unforgettable, unbelievable and extraordinarily sincere.

So, where do we go from here?

There are so many in this world who are writhing in emotional pain, laboring through overwhelming fear, sorrow, horror . . . and loneliness that cannot be described.  For many, and certainly those of Newtown, CT, Hell is a matter of every day life.

Where DO we go from here? I’m afraid I don’t have a perfect answer. I can only explore the question right along with every other member of the human family. . . But I imagine the answer lies somewhere near the region of LOVE. A love that is more complete, more open, more unconditional—a love that is not bound by pretext or restraint.

We need to be kinder with one another, more gentle and forgiving. We need to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We need to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. In short, we need to love one another with the pure love of Christ, with genuine charity and compassion and, if necessary, shared suffering, for that is the way God loves us…. We need to walk more resolutely and more charitably the path that Jesus has shown. We need to ‘pause to help and lift another’ and surely we will find ‘strength beyond [our] own.’ If we would do more to learn ‘the healer’s art,’ there would be untold chances to use it, to touch the ‘wounded and the weary’ and show to all ‘a gentle[r] heart —Howard W. Hunter

May we come together, as members of the human family, irrespective of race, political affiliation or creed, and let each other know that we are here for one another in complete charity (love) —and we aren’t going anywhere.

 

 

On Friday morning, Richie’s little sister, Chelsea, and her wonderful husband, Ben, welcomed their first child—beautiful Hadley Michelle—into the world. We are all SO THRILLED over this new addition to our family. She is perfectly perfect in every way. We can’t wait to love all over her and watch her grow into a generous, playful and kind-hearted woman, just like her mommy with a wise, committed and happy heart, just like her pop. We love you, sweet Hadley girl. Welcome to our family.

Two weeks ago, I photographed the funeral of a beautiful, strong, sensational 16 year old girl. “Coincidentally,” she died 2 years after my sweet son, to the day. I arrived to the funeral early and had the opportunity to spend some time “with her” in private before the family arrived. I looked into her radiant, peaceful face, and I asked her to find my brother. To please find him and to tell him I love him and that I’m doing my best to really LIVE my life for him. I held her mother in my arms as she cried. I comforted her in a way that only a mother who’s “been there” ever could. It broke my heart wide open. SHE broke my heart wide open. I learned so much from this girl. This beautiful girl I had never met. I left the funeral that day knowing, deep in my heart, that I had been exactly where I was meant to be.

Exactly one week later, I stood helpless and watched a man die after being struck by a truck while riding his motorcycle (without a helmet). I held the man who hit him in my arms while he cried, over and over, “I don’t want to kill anybody; I don’t want to kill anybody.” I prayed with him as they covered the victim with a sheet and loaded him into the ambulance. Then I took his face in both of my hands, looked him squarely in the eyes and told him, with all the energy of my heart, “THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. THIS IS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED. THIS IS NOT SOMETHING YOU DID. YOU ARE GOING TO GO ON WITH YOUR LIFE, AND YOU ARE GOING TO REMEMBER, THIS.WAS.NOT.YOUR.FAULT.” We held each other tightly as I offered one last prayer. . . and then I got in my car, and I drove away. Changed. Knowing that for whatever reason, I had been in the right place, at exactly the right time.

A day shy of a week later, I found myself here, watching Chelsea give birth to her first child. A beautiful little girl. She was born 5lbs 6oz, with dark eyes, and a beautiful head full of hair. It was awesome—in the literal sense of the word: as in, I was full of awe at the beautiful miracle God was bringing to the Earth. After Baby J was born, she experienced a bit of distress, and Chelsea wasn’t able to hold her for long before they whisked her away. At that moment, Chelsea and I locked our tear filled eyes and she thanked me, in very few words that were full of every ounce of her heart. Again, I knew, there was nowhere else on Earth for me to be in that moment but there.

I don’t share these things from a base of egotism. Quite the opposite. I am humbled by the gifts God has given me in such quick succession. Gifts that have changed my heart, completely, and reminded me that THESE are the moments that life is all about. Moments of true, significant love and contribution. Moments where we let our guards down and simply love one another as God so freely loves us. Moments where we are able to see into the Heavens and to KNOW that somehow, someway, this is all part of a greater plan.

I hope these images touch you as much as they do me.

Like I said, when Baby J was born, she was quickly taken away from her mom to be checked by the “nursery team.”

She didn’t love them. Obviously. ;)

My favorite image of the day (times a million):

Chelsea simply watched her new daughter from afar, with so much love written all over her face you could smell it in the air.

Her mom showed her cell phone pictures of Baby J, so she could see close ups of her new daughter! I love this image, so much. Look at Chelsea’s face! RIGHT?!

I did a guest post on Kitchen Corners! Candied Pecan Salad. Check it out here.
My Making Things Happen post is up: The ART of Living. Read that here.
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