The Memorial

I asked my husband to write about Charlotte’s memorial. He was the heart and soul of orchestrating it all. He thought about every detail. He poured over every aspect of it. I thought it was only fitting that he describe it here in writing: 

During our time in the hospital, Hannah and I spent a lot of time just waiting.  Unlike the movies, the hospital has an eerie silence about it.  I hate it. But in that silence, we talked.  We cried.  We sat in silence.   One of the things that we had to decide was if we wanted to do some kind of service for Charlotte.  What would that look like?  Who would come?  Where would we have it?   We decided we wanted it to be intimate, so we would do it at our home.  We wanted (and needed) it to be soon for some sense of closure, so we would do it on Friday evening (Charlotte was born on Tuesday).   This also allowed both of our immediate families to be there.  We couldn’t imagine doing the memorial without them.

We didn’t know what the memorial would look like, but there was one thing I knew.  I was going to speak.  I don’t know exactly why I felt so adamant about speaking.  I think part of it was knowing that I was going to miss the opportunity to speak at all of her other life events.  I wouldn’t get to embarrass her in front of her friends.  I wouldn’t get to help her choose a college or a major.  I wouldn’t get to give a toast at her wedding.  So, I was sure that I was not going to pass the opportunity to speak at the memorial.

As we started to plan the memorial service, I was struggling with the point that we had no life stories to share about Charlotte.  I remember saying to Hann, “It’s hard to plan it when we didn’t know her.”  And she looked at me with tear-filled eyes and said, “We did know her.  I remember finding out we were pregnant.  I remember feeling her hiccupping.  I remember you feeling her kick.  We knew our little Char Char.  Just not as much as we wanted to.”  And she was so right.

When we sent out the email to our close friends and family, we had no idea how many would come.  We knew it was a quick turnaround, so we knew it would be hard for a lot of them to come.  We were blown away by the response of those who came.  As people started coming to the house on Friday evening, it was such a joy to see each and every one of them.  Some came from so far, and we were incredibly appreciative to have them there.  They set such an amazing example of what family and friends do in hardship.

The morning of the memorial we called all of our grandparents.  We wanted to a) make sure they were doing alright and b) to hear their thoughts about Charlotte.  I am so glad that we did because each one of them had such encouraging and honest words for us.  We sat on our bed with tear-filled eyes trying to write down their words as fast our hands would write.  I will cherish those words.

We wanted our family to have a role in the service.  We recognized that Charlotte is not only our daughter, but she is also a niece, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter.  We asked our moms if they could welcome everyone and get the memorial started with prayer.  Danny and Holly led worship, which was such a special time for us.  We sang three songs: Great is Thy Faithfulness, It Is Well, and How He Loves.  It may sound crazy to sing words like “It is Well” at a time like that, but there is something about proclaiming words that you know are true (even if you don’t feel it).  Our dads read two Scripture verses that had been special to Hannah throughout the pregnancy, but took on a whole new meaning after Charlotte died (John 14:23-27 and Psalm 103).

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Us before Charlotte’s Memorial.

One of the things I had been looking forward to was to teach my daughter many things.  How to count to 10.  How to kick a soccer ball.   That the Hokies and Red Sox are to be hated, and the Cavaliers and Yankees are to be revered.  But throughout this whole ordeal, I found that Charlotte was doing the teaching.  We learned so much from her. Hannah and I decided to use this as a structure for what we talked about that Friday night.

Things our daughter taught us:

  1. We are not in control: Despite all the planning that we do, in the end, we are not in control.  We had the nursery all ready, the diaper bag packed, and the parenting books read. But all that changed in an instant.  Just a reminder that we can think that we can plan this and that, but in the end, God is the One who is in control.
  2. Our prayers may be answered, but not always in the way we expect them: All throughout the pregnancy, we had prayed for Charlotte.  We had prayed for the doctors that would deliver her.  We prayed for the birth experience, that it go smoothly and painless (relatively).  We prayed that our families would get along when visiting us.  And although Charlotte’s birth looked so differently than we thought, God answered all those things.  We could not have had better doctors and nurses.  The birth went so smoothly.  And our families were in a house together for a whole week (and at the end, there was talk of vacationing together. WHAT?!?!).
  3. In times of sorrow, accomplishing simple, daily tasks gives you a sense of accomplishment: I never thought folding laundry or building shelves would be so satisfying.  But after Charlotte died, I found that the menial tasks of life became a healthy outlet.  They were something where I could start a task, and see it to completion.  The sense of accomplishment is something that God gives us to help us cope with grief.
  4. Enjoy the little things in every season: Hannah and I both long to be parents.  And so naturally, we look forward to the day when we are running off to soccer games and piano recitals. I find that it is so easy to want the next thing.  But by doing that, you miss out on what is right in front of you.  So here are some of my favorite “little” things that I experienced with Charlotte.
    • Finding out we were having a girl
    • Charlotte kicking and hiccupping
    • Ultrasound pictures
    • Holding my daughter in my arms
    • Signing as her father on forms

Our pastor closed the service with a few words and then had everyone gather around Hannah and me, lay hands on us and pray.  It was so hot in our house with all the people, so I’m just glad we didn’t pass out.  After the service ended, we were able to visit with everyone.  It was hard though because we had so many close friends and family there but under such terrible circumstances.

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Everyone gathered at Charlotte’s memorial

We were so thankful that we were able to share Charlotte’s story that Friday night.   We were also grateful for our family and friends that were willing to enter into our grief with us.  We know that each one of them (and many more) would have had a role in raising our little girl.

As Hannah and I continue to navigate life without Charlotte, we keep seeing that joy and sorrow often live together.  And we’re learning that’s okay. Through every season of life without her, we trust that God is in control.  And that is a good thing.

Family Time

The week after Charlotte’s death, our home was filled with our closest family members. It was comforting to me that we weren’t alone. Yet, I longed for us to all be gathering for a fun holiday or vacation or something. Something else, just anything else but this. I wanted to close my eyes, shake my head and snap out of the nightmare. But the new reality wasn’t going anywhere and it still isn’t.

Having both of our families under the same roof for a prolonged period of time was a first for us, let alone under these circumstances. I really wasn’t anxious about it, though. It went so beautifully. God knit us all together and I think it all really glorified Him. Everyone weathered that stormy week so well. Everyone just did it. It wasn’t by our own strength; it was of His. God used each person’s giftings to minister to Pete and me in incredible ways. With vulnerability, some explained that they didn’t know what to say/not say, or what to do/not do. But by being WITH us, they were and did just what Pete and I needed. I can’t quite adequately express my gratitude.

I learned that though it felt uncomfortable at first, it was good for me to provide jobs for our family members to do. That may sound odd but we could only talk and cry so much. There’s this human phenomenon to it; it’s like we all want to do something to make it all better but no one can. Instead, God provides us comfort through doing accomplishable assignments. Peter and I found that there was something healing about having tasks to do and it was no different for our family members.

My dad has always been a “fixer.” I knew he ached to fix the pain and loss we were experiencing. But he couldn’t. But he was so present. He asked me if there was anything tangible he could do for us. Knowing my dad was always a great painter, I hesitantly asked him if he wanted to paint our master bathroom. His face lit up. Mind you, this was after my parents came up just that weekend before to help us paint our bedroom before the baby arrived. Nevertheless, he wanted to keep helping us. He did an amazing job and blessed us beyond words.

My mom spent time with me and took me shopping for some new outfits. We also shopped for bedding for the nursery that Peter and I were planning to eventually convert into another guest bedroom. We strolled through Marshalls and SteinMart. We didn’t always say much but we were just together. She listened. She was present. That was the best gift of all.

I remember this certain song came on while we were shopping. It was Rise Up by Andra Day. I really like the lyrics. Here are some of them: “And I’ll rise up. I’ll rise like the day. I’ll rise up. I’ll rise unafraid. I’ll rise up.  …  In spite of the ache. I will rise a thousand times again.” (Rise Up by Andra Day) I realize this isn’t a Christian song. But I think of how with Jesus and because of Jesus, I am an overcomer. It’s not because I am so strong but because He is. A verse many people have referenced shares this sentiment that, “…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 NIV

Music has a way of triggering my emotions. After hearing the song while shopping, I stopped dead in my tracks, trying to catch my breath, and then broke down in tears. My mom held me. She told me how deeply sorry she was. I needed that. I needed her.

I asked my mother-in-law and Holly to take care of the decorations for Charlotte’s memorial. I gave them my vision that I wanted all white accents with soft lighting from candles and sweet, little bouquets throughout our home. I knew they’d get it. Boy, did they ever. They nailed it. The memorial looked even better than I’d hoped. They even weeded in the front of the house (something I hadn’t done being pregnant in 90 degree, Virginia weather) spread some mulch there and put a hanging basket of white and pink flowers in the front garden bed. Our home looked warm and inviting for our kind guests that’d be arriving soon for Charlotte’s memorial.

Over dinner one evening, I asked Danny if he would be willing to lead worship at Charlotte’s memorial. Danny has this incredible voice and plays the guitar like it’s second nature to him. Peter and I thought it’d be so meaningful if he’d play. Danny accepted the invitation with great humility and honor.

During the hospitalization, I had the song, “It is well” stuck in my head. I grew up singing that song in church and it kept playing as if on repeat in my mind. God did that, I know. Peter told me that he had the song, “How He Loves” playing over and over in his head when we were at the hospital. Thus, we thought it made sense to have those two songs at her memorial. We also wanted to affirm our trust in Jesus, so we added, “Great is Thy faithfulness” to the list, too.

I remember one day, I want to say it was that Thursday before her memorial but I may be getting my days mixed up, but I hadn’t seen Danny for awhile. He and Holly were almost always at our place that week. Holly told me that he was back home in Williamsburg practicing for the memorial. He practiced for like eight hours! I was so honored and humbled by that. Holly practiced a lot with him too, I later found out. She even sang with Danny at the memorial. I’d never heard her sing before but Danny told me she had a good voice.  He was right. Wow. Later hearing the two of them together at her memorial was amazing.

My father-in-law drove three hours to pick up Lizzie at college. She had just started her first week of classes at Iowa State when this all happened. He, Lizzie and Caleb then turned around and drove another seventeen hours to Richmond, all in one go. They arrived at our place first thing the Friday of Charlotte’s memorial, August 26th. Their selflessness and devotion to family were amazing. Again, just having then WITH us was so comforting.

After taking a little nap, Caleb mowed our lawn in the sweltering heat. Josh blew the leaves, cleaned off the deck, and made Peter food (Peter isn’t the best at remembering to eat). They were all so thoughtful.

Funny enough, Peter and I bought a new bed for the guest bedroom that week. Crazy, for sure. He really wanted to have a bed for his parents to sleep on instead of an air mattress. And we were working to convert the nursery into another guest bedroom, so we figured, why not. The bed arrived the morning of Charlotte’s memorial and all the guys helped out with that.

My father-in-law also helped troubleshoot our fridge that conveniently stopped making ice. My dad helped Peter build shelves in the garage. Everyone was so great. And our house never looked better. On the other hand, it had never looked worse to me.

My cousin, Todd, flew in from Colorado to be at the memorial. He arrived Friday afternoon. Pete and I were blown way. Todd has always been a special influence in my life. We’ve always been close, even though we don’t live close to one another. It was just so unbelievably kind for him to fly so far on such short notice to be with us. Words really don’t do this justice.

Mike and Morgan came back down to Richmond after just being with us when I delivered Charlotte three days earlier. It was amazing of them. Mike and Todd helped string these cute, bistro lights on our back porch that I had wanted to be done for awhile now. They did this all in the oppressive, Virginia humidity. Gosh, it was so hot.

My Aunt Missy came down from Ohio and was so loving. She brought all these delicious pastries and cared for me and Pete so well. She and my mom, Morgan, my mother-in-law, Lizzie and Holly did such a great job getting our place reading for Charlotte’s memorial. Everyone did. Morgan gave me this sweet plaque in honor of Charlotte that I hung up before our guests arrived. I loved that. I know there are countless labors of love our family did for us that I am sure I am forgetting and countless more than I’ll never know about. There just really is nothing like family. Thank you, Jesus, for family.

Facing Home

Going back home was odd. We walked outside from the hospital holding a pillow, duffle bag and a plastic patient-belonging bag containing all of the sweet mementos of our Charlotte. That felt wrong. We were holding all of these beautiful imprints of our daughter but not her. I hated it. I was sore, obviously bleeding and empty-handed holding a trash bag. Wrong is an understatement but it’s one of the only words I can often come up with. Wrong.

The first thing I did when I came home was go to her nursery. I had to face it. I couldn’t do anything until I faced that space. I remember walking upstairs and lying on the floor beside the pretty things Peter and I had all ready for her. I remember weeping on the floor and muttering some sort of prayer to Jesus. This aching and longing for her were raw and literally painful to my core. It actually hurt.

Peter and I spent a lot of time upstairs in our bedroom, just the two of us. It was interesting to have all of the people I love so much in our new home yet not engage with them like I usually would. Typically, I’d be hosting, cooking, cleaning, and socializing. But nothing about this was typical. Instead, Peter and I were in our room calling funeral homes.

The hospital social worker had told us about a bunch of funeral homes. We just couldn’t process picking one while there. So, when we got home, we called two different funeral homes that had good reports. We had prayerfully decided to have Charlotte cremated. Truthfully, I had never been a fan of cremation. I myself want to be buried when that day comes. Who knows, my mind could change on that.

But we thought, how could we bury Charlotte because where in the world would we bury her? We are twenty-five years old. Who knows if we’ll move. Who knows what will happen. Who knows. The loss of our daughter has taught us, really taught us, that we don’t know a thing about what tomorrow holds. What twenty-five-year-old couple should even be thinking about this? God, it was so wrong. It is so wrong!

We called the first funeral home together. We could barely even get out words to explain the situation to the funeral home director. God was so faithful though because when one of us could not speak, the other rose up. The bond with my husband had never felt so strong. That verse about the strand of three cords was being lived out in our home.

Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:11-12 NLT

The first funeral home we spoke with was professional and kind. He then quoted us a price with the breakdown of expenses. It felt so wrong talking about money in conjunction with the death of our baby. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that these things cost money and people have to make a living. It was not in the least disrespectful of the funeral home but to me; it simply felt wrong to have money in the mix.

We then called the second funeral home, which was also compassionate and cordial. When we asked about finances, the funeral home director said, “It’s all free.” We paused. “What do you mean, free?” we asked. We felt like there must be some sort of catch. This has to be too good to be true. Who would just do that? Nevertheless, the funeral home director reiterated that they would take care of everything. However, they did need us to meet with them for paperwork reasons. So, we set up a meeting with that funeral home director for later that evening.

Having previously worked as a hospice nurse, I was a bit more familiar with funeral homes than my husband. There is a distinct odor to them and this funeral home was no exception. The funeral home director was beyond caring. He told us that he would try to speed things along as much as possible so we did not have to be there too long.

He handed us paperwork to sign in which we had to identify our relationship to Charlotte. Signing above the “mother” line made me so proud and simultaneously so sad. Choking back tears, Peter, too, signed above the “father” line. Trying to break the ice, Peter said, “Hannah, you have to remember that I don’t have as much experience with this whole ‘emotion’ thing.” We chuckled. And that was good.

Then, the funeral home director handed us the financial document. He said for legal reasons, they’re still responsible for us to sign it, even if the cost is zero dollars. The spiritual metaphor for this experience is uncanny. Through every cost that we would normally accrue, the funeral home director slashed through it and wrote in, “$0.” The page was filled with zeroes!

Then, all we had to do was accept their generosity and sign our names. On the cross, my Jesus slashed through every sin! He paid every debt I owe. All I have to do is say “yes” to Him with an open heart and worshipful lips. The same goes for you.

The funeral home wasn’t obligated to help us. They didn’t owe us that. Similarly, God doesn’t owe me anything. I’m not entitled. But now, through Jesus, I owe nothing. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

Before leaving the funeral home, I asked the director, “If you don’t mind me asking, why is this free?” He proceeded to explain that they have been around for a while and starting to notice couples, often young couples, coming to them for services, just like we were. Paraphrasing, he said something like, “A lot of these couples are just starting out and what they’re going through is so horrible. We just figured this is something we could do behind the scenes in the community to help.” Wow, I thought. Just wow.

The thing about this funeral home was the humanity of it all. We could have gathered up the money but the fact that we didn’t have to was beyond humbling.

But there is no way that I, as a selfish, sinful person, could ever scrape up enough good works or right behavior to pay my debt to God. Only Jesus! Thank you, Jesus.

The Acute Aftermath

After Charlotte was delivered, we then started to re-invite our family members into the room to see her and hold her if they felt comfortable. With each wave of family members and friends came new tides of emotion. I felt proud to have each loved one see this baby Peter and I created but I also felt so grieved that we weren’t getting to introduce them to her. Everyone held her so lovingly yet with such a longing for more. I remember Peter standing over her as she lay in the bassinet they prepared for her and him saying, “I’m broken. I’m just so broken.” That snapshot in my head is forever etched in my mind. I hurt so much for my husband. The aching in body was so deep…and still is.

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Mom, Dad, Charlotte & me

My brother, Mike and sister-in-law, Morgan, were able to come down at the drop of a hat from Pittsburgh that day, which meant the world to me. They were able to see sweet baby Charlotte, their first niece. It was so much driving for such a short time and turn-around. My brother hugged me like never before. Words weren’t needed. Time seemed to stop. His love for me was beyond evident as well as his heartbreak.

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Mike & Morgan. This was taken the weekend we broke the news we were pregnant.
Time ticked along and I was soon up and walking. I felt so light, so little and also so empty. My body wasn’t use to not carrying my sweet baby girl. I hated not being pregnant with her. I never wanted to be pregnant so badly. That day after was a bit of a blur. The details of the day before when receiving the shocking news and of the delivery were all so vivid to me down to the color of the bow tie one of the important looking doctor (hunter green). However, I certainly do remember my husband being sick, very sick, that day. Given that he had barely eaten anything and that he hadn’t slept for 24 hours, not to mention the obvious, he started throwing up and didn’t stop for a long while. I felt so badly for him.

Our nurse, Stephania, gathered mementos for us of Charlotte. She told us if we had any desire to have a remembrance, to go for it so that later, we would have it because we could never go back and change our minds. So, we got a clipping of her beautiful brown hair, hand prints, her footprint in clay that Stephania laid in a beautiful shell, pictures, her hat, blankets… Our nurse really went out of her way to gather every little, sweet piece and it was comforting to have something to hold when we would later walk out of the hospital and drive home empty handed otherwise.

The same daytime doctor came back and greeted us. She told us that she heard how well Charlotte’s delivery went and she seemed amazed. God had been so good to us. I had no tearing, no excess bleeding, no infection, and minimal pain. And because of the lacking of complications, this doctor told us we could go home as soon as we were ready; we did not need to stay for 24 hours of observation. I was so thankful. When we first entered the hospital for Charlotte’s induction, I couldn’t bear the thought of going home. The thought of seeing the toys and clothes purchased for her broke my heart. But after the day and a half or so at the hospital, I was so ready to get out of there. The confines of the hospital now felt like a prison to me, some sort of torture chamber. Again, I don’t know why I felt like this but I just did.

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Peter, Gee & Charlotte
Before we could be discharged, we did have to meet with some hospital staff to discuss how to proceed with Charlotte’s remains. Did we want to have her buried or cremated? Did we want to have a formal funeral? Do we do an obituary for her? Do we do an autopsy? Pete and I couldn’t handle the thought of making most of these decisions yet while still in the hospital. They told us that was totally fine but did need to make some decisions within 48 hours for the funeral home we decided on. The social worker gave us a bunch of resources and we combined those papers with the hand full of other documents we had received. This included information on support groups for parents who lost children, our discharge summary, local funeral homes and crematoriums, prescriptions, what to expect when we get home and the list went on and on…

Pete and I really wanted to say goodbye to our baby girl by ourselves. But before doing so, we asked that our family and our friends who had been with us, Abby and Steve, circle around Charlotte and pray. It was like a dedication, a surrendering of our child we never met. So when the time was right, Peter held our baby girl and we all gathered in a tight knit circle and prayed. Who knows what we said exactly, but the sentiment was full of joy and mourning -what good friends those two emotions are. We proclaimed our trust in God in the midst of our pain and we thanked Him for the gift of Charlotte Raye. I’ll never forget it.

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Our family and friends then trickled out of the hospital. I recall my brother, Mike, walking slowly out of the hospital room and pausing by Charlotte in her bassinet. He then gently placed his hand over her little, lifeless body and let it linger there for a few seconds. It was like his sweet way of saying, “See you later, Charlotte. I love you.” I cherish that snapshot.

Then, it was just me, Pete and Charlotte in the room. We held her a lot and cried and prayed. We took pictures of each other holding her. How I will hang onto those photos. We spent a lot of time with our girl as the hospital staff got everything situated for our discharge. When we both reached the ambiguous point of being “ready” to say goodbye to her, we let Stephania know that she could take Charlotte out of the room. Pete and I held Charlotte and kissed her and said our goodbyes. We both agreed we felt as ready as we could. I went into the bathroom and when I came out, she and her basinet were gone. I remember feeling like the wind was knocked out of me and I fell over onto my knees. It was like I couldn’t breath. I just wanted to die. I don’t mean that in a scary, suicidal way at all. I just wanted it to all go away. I wanted to hold my child! I wanted to hold my living baby. I looked at my husband, who was weeping, and he said that they came to take her away. The void in the room was unbearable; it was so empty. I had to get out of that hospital.

A bit later, our daytime doctor came in to officially discharge us and said something to us I remember so clearly. She said, “I always give this same spiel to each family I care for going through what you’re going through. First, you did nothing wrong. You are not to blame for the death of Charlotte. Don’t put that on yourselves; there is nothing you could have done to prevent this. Secondly, you are both parents. Hannah, you are a mother and Peter, you are a father. Even though you are walking out of this hospital empty handed, you are parents to your daughter. Don’t forget that.”

With that, we hugged our nurse and walked out of the hospital hand in hand. I remember as we walked through the main area of the hospital through a sea of people who didn’t know us, who didn’t know about Charlotte, Peter said, “You just never know what the people around you are going through.” Sure, you hear that phrase thrown around but when my husband said it with this new type of conviction, the words rang more true then ever. You really never know what the people around you are carrying with them and how much each one of us needs a kind word.

Expecting

On January 10th, 2016, we found out that we were pregnant. We were so excited! Six months has passed since we miscarried our first child. The heartbreak from losing our first was inexpressible. Though we were thrilled for this new pregnancy, we were cautious. I wrote in Charlotte’s baby journal three days after finding out we were pregnant, “I’m filled with both overflowing joy and fear. Jesus, hold this baby in Your hands, have Your way, bind Peter and I to you more.” How He has answered this prayer and in ways I could begin to imagine.

On February 2nd, 2016, we had Charlotte’s first ultrasound. Shortly before the ultrasound, my dear friend, Sarah, texted me the verse I decided to claim for Charlotte’s pregnancy, John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Jesus spoke this to his disciples after explaining to them that He soon would be taken from them. His disciples would be losing the physical manifestation of their friend and Savior in this world. Jesus wouldn’t be physically walking with them for much longer. Soon, Jesus would conquer death on the Cross and through His resurrection. A few verses earlier in verse 19, Jesus expressed, “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live.” Jesus was promising his followers the Holy Spirit, the Great Comforter, to be with them in their earthly loss of Jesus and that “whoever believes in Me [Jesus] will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12). Jesus’ words cover me with peace.

Charlotte lives because Jesus lives. 

I have hope through the deposit of the Holy Spirit. On February 8th, 2016, I journaled, “Jesus, during this pregnancy and always, allow me to fully TRUST in you by the power of the Holy Spirit and not be a white-washed tomb. Without You, I am unable, unworthy, undone.” I marvel at a God who even orchestrates our prayers.

Jesus was giving His dear friends and followers what they needed to hear before their had a clue they would need to hear it! God did this for me, too. After Sarah shared this verse with me, my other dear friend, Kara, asked me if she could calligraphy a verse for Charlotte’s nursery, a verse I had perhaps claimed for the pregnancy. Frankly, I didn’t give this much thought. I knew Sarah had texted me John 14:27, I liked that verse and really didn’t have another verse in mind. So rather flippantly, I informed Kara that I’d love to have John 14:27 for my baby’s nursery. 

I was reflecting on this with my incredible sister-in-law and friend, Holly. She said when she heard this story at Charlotte’s baby shower (which was the day before we found out Charlotte had died), where Kara gifted the calligraphy to me, Holly thought to herself, “Why peace?” I mean it is kind of funny to have that verse in a baby nursery.

Why would God give that word to me? Why would God have me be reflecting on that Scripture during my pregnancy? The answer is crystal clear now. God gives us words of encouragement – words of peace – before we realize we will need to hang onto every one of them.

On April 16th, 2016, we shared that we were pregnant with the whole Knabe family. We were all together for my cousin, Katie’s, wedding. Everyone caught on pretty quick that we were pregnant. It was so fun.

On Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016, we found out we were having a girl! My friends and co-workers were taking bets on if we were having a boy or a girl. It was such a fun and exciting time. I was craving root beer, pickles, caesar salad dressing and vanilla ice cream. Peter was such an patient supporter.

The pregnancy progressed wonderfully.  I savor that friends and family members were able to feel sweet Char Char, as I call her, kick and move! She even got to wear the most beautiful dress for her Auntie Holly’s wedding! She was there for Aunt Liz’s high school graduation. Sweet Pea, as my mother-in-law called her since we didn’t share a name, brought so many people such joy. And she keeps doing so and I know she always will. She will always bring this mama such pride.

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The whole gang after Holly & Danny’s wedding

We had three lovely baby showers and felt so supported and loved. One in New Jersey, one in Pittsburgh and the other in Richmond. Each was so fun and special.

Charlotte even got to tag along for some lake fun at Findley Lake, NY. It was so fun to share our news with everyone. And just as deeply as our friends and families shared in our delight over being pregnant with our little girl, they have just as deeply shared in our devastation of losing her.

Quickly, her nursery filled up with the cutest clothes and Pete got working on her nursery furniture with his remarkable wood working skills. He built a stellar changing table dresser for her. We now use it as a dresser and it looks lovely, but just not quite right.

During the pregnancy, people asked us if we felt ready? Our usual response was, “We feel as ready for her as we know how.” And we were ready. We were thrilled! We had been praying for a baby for so long. We had the gear, the clothes, the car seat, the stroller, the rocker. I had painted her nursery twice because the first color wasn’t to my liking. As my husband later explained at Charlotte’s memorial, we can plan and plan and feel like we have some sort of control, but that’s all an illusion. We have no control. But we have abundant hope.

Peter’s Papa selflessly gifted us this incredible painting of his for Charlotte’s nursery. She is Nana and Papa’s thirteenth great grandchild. Peter used some of the walnut wood he was planning on using to make Charlotte’s crib to instead create this gorgeous frame for Papa’s artwork. It is now hung in what would have been Charlotte’s nursery. We re-made the room to be a guest bedroom. The theme for her nursery was going to be elephants. We call the guest room the “elephant room.”

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Such a special group of ladies at Charlotte’s shower in Richmond.

Despite losing Charlotte, we continue to expect great things from Jesus. We trust in His goodness. We just trust Him.