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).

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.

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.


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.

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.”

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.