Molly’s 1st Birthday ~ Part II: Peace be with you.

by Kathy on June 26, 2009 · 11 comments

in Baby Benson, Bob, Healing, Loss, Milestones, Molly, Sean

This Sunday, June 28 is the first anniversary of Molly’s estimated due date (EDD) last year. Had she been healthy and born close to when she was due, we likely would have recently held or be soon having her first birthday party. Also, five years ago this week, when Sean was just nine months old, Bob and I decided that we were ready to start actively trying to expand our family. We wanted our children to be close together in age and our dream was to have at least three or four kids. It is hard to believe all that we have been through on our journey trying to expand our family since that one night over dinner in late June 2004 when we talked about trying to conceive again.

We will never forget our three angel babies that went to Heaven in December 2004, August 2005 and November 2005 and we will continue to honor the life and memory of our second child/our first daughter Molly Marie who was born and died on April 17, 2008. I will always remember the hopes and dreams we had for each of those four precious souls and our life together with them. Though it is painful for me to think about what might have been and who they could be today, I will be forever grateful for all that I have learned and the good that has come from each of our pregnancy and neonatal losses.

It has been over two months now since Molly’s first birthday and our celebration of her short, but very special, life. I have been promising to return here to share about our celebration with family and friends in Molly’s honor and memory on Sunday, April 19. Thank you for your patience. Here is my recollection of that wonderful and bittersweet day…

We began our day by attending the 10:00 a.m. mass at our parish being said for Molly. We were very moved when we arrived at church that morning to see the many family members and friends who chose to be with us there, in honor and memory of our baby girl and to show their love and support for Bob, Sean and me. We were also grateful to know that those of you who couldn’t be there with us in person, were holding us close in your thoughts and prayers as we remembered our daughter/baby sister.

As I mentioned in my “Part I” post last month, our pastor, who was with us and baptized Molly before she died on her birthday last year, was not able to do the mass that morning due to a prior commitment. He told us that he felt really bad about not being there and asked one of the others priests at our church to say the mass in his place. Our pastor told the priest about our journey with Molly and when we arrived at the Easter Vigil (Saturday evening mass) the week before, made a point to introduce us to him/him to us. Bob and I really like this priest, who came to our parish sometime in the past year, and especially enjoy his sermons. So we were pleased to find out that he would be celebrating mass that morning in Molly’s honor and memory.

We didn’t expect the priest to make his homily that day literally about Molly, however we were blown away by how he seemed to speak indirectly to our family, and all those whose lives were touched by our baby girl that were with us. His sermon focused on what Jesus said to his disciples when he returned to visit them, after rising from the dead. He talked about how after everything Jesus had been through with the disciples (both positive and negative) leading up to and through his crucifiction, that there were so many things he might have chosen to say to them. However, Jesus simply and thoughtfully said “peace be with you.” The priest suggested that Jesus could have said things like “where were you?” “what were you thinking?” or “I told you so.” But instead he showed great mercy and his awesome ability to forgive when he said “peace be with you.” The priest went on to relate this story to getting through difficult times in our lives with our faith in God.

I imagine I wasn’t alone that day in feeling like the priest was speaking right to me. I was really touched by the points he made about looking back on hard times in our life and finding ways to forgive those who did or said things that were hurtful. Reflecting specifically on our journey with Molly, there were times when my feelings were especially hurt by the things that family and friends chose not to do or say, including those in our life who, for various reasons, were not with us to celebrate Molly’s life and birthday that very day. I found that hearing the priest say “peace be with you” over and over again throughout his homily that morning to be incredibly healing and inspiring for me. It helped me to take a step back and look at my life and our situation from a different perspective. I felt encouraged to try to forgive those who may not have been here for us in ways that I wish they had throughout our journey with Molly, however in most cases likely had good intentions and do in their hearts love and care about Bob, Sean, me and our daughter/baby sister in Heaven.

During the Prayers of the Faithful, as I had experienced two days earlier on Friday during the daily mass we attended for Molly, I was very moved by the moment with the reader shared whom the mass was being offered for, “Molly Marie Benson,” and we all said together “Lord, hear our prayer.” I was also touched when we all held hands and said the “Our Father” together, a prayer that was very special and helpful to me throughout our pregnancy with our baby girl and especially the day she was born and died. Directly following the “Our Father” was the point in the mass when the priest invites our congregation to “look not upon our sins, but on the faith of our church” and to share “peace” with those around us. Giving hugs, kisses and handshakes while saying “peace be with you” to our family and friends surrounding us in the pews that day took on a whole knew meaning and significance as I recalled the priest’s homily earlier in the mass.

When the time came for us to share in communion with the members of our church, our family and our friends at mass that morning, I noticed that there weren’t enough Eucharistic Ministers on the alter. I often serve in our parish as a part of this ministry at masses. Though my emotions had been up and down throughout the mass, at that moment I was feeling strong and decided to go up to the alter and help. It ended up being another wonderful experience that day to be able to distribute the Eucharist to some of our family and friends, as well as our church community as a whole, that day.

After church we spent some time with those family and friends who let us know that they would not be joining us at the cemetery and/or our home for the reception later in the day. We thanked them for coming and told them how much it meant to us to have them there with us at mass that morning in honor and memory of Molly. One of Bob’s uncles commented, knowing that we are pregnant and things seem to be “normal” and going well, that he hoped the next time he came to our church for a mass with us, that it would be for our new baby’s baptism, instead of another memorial service. We appreciated his sentiment and do hope and pray that is the next event that we invite our extended family and friends to join us for a special mass at our parish. Though of course you are all welcome to join us for mass at our church anytime! 😉

After we left church we headed over to the cemetery where Molly is buried. About half of the people who were at mass for our baby girl joined us at the cemetery. I may not have mentioned, that unlike Molly’s birthday that Friday, the weather on Sunday was not ideal. It was overcast and rained off and on. So when we arrived at the cemetery most of us had umbrellas to try to keep from getting too wet. One of the first things we did when everyone who we knew to be coming had gotten there, was to light the first birthday candle, that we had placed by Molly’s grave on Friday and sing “Happy Birthday.”

It was moving for me to hear the voices, young and old, of many of our family members and close friends singing in honor and memory of our baby girl. We had to keep my umbrella over the candle as we sang, to keep the flame from going out in the rain. Then Sean blew out Molly’s birthday candle, as he had also done for us on Friday. One of our close friends and her daughter arrived a few minutes later and thus Sean told us that we should sing “Happy Birthday to Molly” again so that his friend could participate. So again we lit the candle and I held my umbrella over Molly’s grave while we sang “Happy Birthday” to our daughter/baby sister in Heaven.

Though we didn’t ask for or expect anyone to bring anything to place at Molly’s grave that day, we were touched by the pretty flowers and a shimmery purple butterfly figurine that Bob’s brother, our sister-in-law and our two nieces brought in honor of Molly’s birthday. One of our good friends and her daughter also brought some beautiful flowers for Molly’s grave that morning, which meant a lot to us.

It was bittersweet, as so much of Molly’s birthday/celebration of life was, for me to be at our baby girl’s grave with dear family members and friends and it was also very comforting and healing for me to be surrounded by those loved ones whose lives have been touched by our daughter and whom have been so supportive of Bob, Sean and me on our journey with our baby girl. I have special memories of looking around that day at Molly’s grave and seeing our family and friends visit with each other and reflect on Molly’s life and memory. I especially was touched by watching Sean show our nieces and some of his friends that were with us how we had decorated Molly’s grave and then sharing what he likes to do when we visit the cemetery and how he talks to his baby sister in Heaven. At one point I look over and saw Sean standing in front of Molly’s grave and heard him say, “I love you Molly! Happy Birthday! Mommy is going to have another baby, but we haven’t named her yet, so for now we just call her Baby Benson!”

After the cemetery we went back to our home for a reception. Most of those who were at the cemetery were able to join us, some who were at the church that didn’t make it to the cemetery also came to our house and there were also a few friends who weren’t at the church who were able to come for the reception. The party at our house that afternoon was really just that, a party. Which was just how I wanted it to be. Though I will always mourn the loss of our Molly-girl, I do believe that so many good things came from her short, but very special, life here with us on earth. It gave me a lot of joy that day to watch our family and our friends, including many children, in our home hanging out, chatting, eating yummy food and playing together. Though it certainly wasn’t the same as a birthday party for a living baby girl who was turning one would be, it still meant a lot to me that our loved ones, whose lives were touched by Molly’s, had this opportunity to be together with us and celebrate life.

Though we didn’t do a lot to decorate our home for the reception that day, we did have some special things available for our family and friends to look at in honor and memory of Molly. Over the past year we had two photo books made with pictures of Molly and our family on her birthday. So we had those out on tables for those who wanted to remember how precious our baby girl looked the day she was born and went to Heaven. Some of our close neighborhood friends thoughtfully and generously had sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers (pictured above) on Friday for Molly’s birthday and it made a beautiful centerpiece in honor of our baby girl. A few of the family friends that joined us for the Molly’s birthday/celebration of life that day also brought us bouquets of pretty pink tulips. Tulips are one of the many things that will always remind me of Molly now, as they seemed to be blooming everywhere in our neighborhood around the time she was born and died last year. I also made a birthday cake (pictured earlier in this post) for our celebration of life in Molly’s honor and memory.

In the time leading up to Molly’s birthday/celebration of life I decided that I wanted to have something to give everyone who was able to be with us that day to always remember our baby girl, a party favor of sorts. I chose to have magnets made with a beautiful picture of our daughter/baby sister’s name written in the sand on them.

As some of you may know, back in in October of last year I found out about Carly and Sam Dudley at “Names in the Sand” and requested that they write Molly’s name for us. In early November I was so pleased to find out that they had written and taken a photograph our baby girl’s name in the sand and I was very moved the first time I saw the picture. It is an awesome and healing labor of love that they offer families like ours, all over the world, that have been touched by angels.

If you have time today or sometime soon and haven’t been there before, I encourage you to visit the Dudley’s blog, http://www.namesinthesand.blogspot.com, and say a prayer for their angel baby Christian (who inspired their ministry of writing the names of children that have died in the sand) and all the children whose names have graced the shores at sunrise and sunset in Australia (where the Dudley family lives). Today I send healing thoughts and prayers to all of the families whose children’s’ names have been written in the sand and again I say thank you to Carly and Sam for their wonderful ministry! If you weren’t with us for Molly’s birthday/celebration of life and would like a magnet with her name written in the sand on it please let me know and we would be happy to give/to send you one, as we have plenty left to share. I for one know that every time I pass our refrigerator in the kitchen and see Molly’s magnet I smile as I think about our baby girl in Heaven.

Though I know we made it clear on the day of Molly’s birthday party/celebration of life, I want to say again that we are so grateful to those of you who were able and chose to be with us to honor our baby girl’s life and memory. Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping us to remember our daughter/baby sister and what she meant to us and so many of you. Thank you also to those who were not with us in person, but held our family close in your minds, hearts and prayers that day. Thank you also for the many emails and cards we received during that time letting us know that we were in your thoughts and prayers and that Molly will never be forgotten.

Thank you again to those who have made donations in Molly’s honor and memory to the Heart Institute for Children Foundation and Hope Children’s Hospital since Molly was born and died last year and most recently in honor of her first birthday. We have received notices throughout the past year from the Advocate Charitable Foundation (that oversees these memorial donations) letting us know about your gifts. Your thoughtfulness and generosity means a lot to us. We find comfort in knowing that those gifts in Molly’s memory will be able to help other babies and children with congenital heart defects in the future.

I would like to leave you with one last story, that once again shows me that God seems to work in mysterious ways and that there are signs all around us, if we pay attention, that can help us to still feel a connection to the love ones we have lost. The day after Molly’s birthday party/celebration of life, I went to Christ Hospital (where Molly was born and died) for my monthly perinatal bereavement support group meeting there, called “Caring Connections.” This support group has been an incredible resource and outlet for me and so many others to work through our grief and begin the process of healing after losing one or more babies to miscarriage, stillbirth and/or neonatal loss.

I got to the hospital a bit early, as I wanted to stop by the gift shop there. Bob’s mom, Molly’s paternal grandma, had given us a thoughtful gift the day of Molly’s birthday party/celebration of life to honor her memory. She knows that I really like Willow Tree figurines and had picked out the “Angel of Remembrance.” She wasn’t sure if I already had it and told me that if I did that I was welcome to exchange it for another one. I was honest and told her that I did indeed have it already, but told her it was one of my favorites and how much it meant to me that she bought it for us.

It was only the second Willow Tree figurine that I ever owned. I bought it after our first miscarriage in December 2004. The figurine holds three fern leaves and after our second miscarriage in August 2005, followed by our interstitial ectopic pregnancy in November 2005, I decided that the three ferns the angel is holding represent each of our three pregnancy losses. The figurine sits on my dresser and I often look at it and think about our angel babies in Heaven. I also told my mother-in-law that it is the figurine that I have given to many of our family and friends that unfortunately have also had miscarriages in recent years.

Sadly, at the time of Molly’s birthday celebration, I had recently learned of another friend who had a pregnancy loss and had been meaning to get an “Angel of Remembrance” for her and her husband. I asked my mother-in-law if instead of exchanging this one, if I she minded if I gave it to my friend and then I would still look for something to replace this one that she had gotten for us in honor and memory of her granddaughter. She said that was fine and I promised to let her know what I found to remember Molly in place of it.

So that evening, just three days after Molly’s first birthday, I wandered into the hospital gift shop to check our their selection of Willow Tree figurines. I had found one online earlier that day with an angel holding a butterfly on her hand and thought if they had it, that I might choose to get that one. However, they didn’t have that particular figurine and there weren’t any others that really spoke to me that night. So I figured I would just window shop a bit, until it was time for Caring Connections to start and that I could always order the butterfly one online another time.

As I walked around the store I went over to the new baby gifts section and was browsing a shelf of board books for children. One of the titles caught my eye and I couldn’t believe what I read. The book was called Molly in the Garden. I pulled the book off the shelf and was even more taken a back to see a sparkly and colorful cover with a picture 0f a cute little girl and a beautiful butterfly next to her. I opened the book and began to read a sweet and whimsical story about a girl named Molly who came across a butterfly one day while playing in the garden with her brother. Molly caught the butterfly at one point and didn’t want to let it go. Her brother finally helped to convince Molly to set the butterfly free. Then Molly realized that even though she wasn’t going to be able to hold the butterfly anymore, she could still play and dance around with it as it flew about their garden. Can you believe that? I certainly couldn’t!

What are the odds of someone, somewhere writing a book about a little girl named Molly playing with a butterfly and my finding it for the first time just days after we celebrated our baby girl Molly’s first birthday in Heaven, knowing the connection I felt to butterflies since our daughter was born and died?! So of course I bought the book and couldn’t wait to call my mother-in-law on the way home from Caring Connections to tell her what I had found for her to “give us” for Molly’s birthday! I also found a pretty dangly pair of butterfly earrings that evening in the gift shop that I bought for my mother-in-law to “give us,” along with the book, in honor and memory of Molly, which she seemed to enjoy hearing about when I told her about them later that night. I was so excited to share the book with Bob when I got home that night and Sean the following day! They both enjoyed seeing and reading the story and appreciated the connection to our baby girl. Since then I have bought many copies of it to share with family and friends, including giving one to each of our mothers and my sister/Molly’s Godmother this year for Mother’s Day.

So those are some of the highlights as I recall them from Molly’s birthday/celebration of life this year. Thank you for your continued kind words, support, encouragement, thoughts and prayers. Though of course we would rather have our daughter/baby sister here with us right now and be celebrating her first birthday on earth, your love and care has helped us to find the good that has come from our Molly-girl’s life and death. As Bob’s mom wrote in the beautiful cross-stich that she made for and gave us the day we buried our dear Molly Marie, you touched so many hearts.

Things continue to go well and be “normal” with our current pregnancy. I thank God, our three angel babies and especially Molly for helping to bring our new baby girl safely to us so far this year. Tomorrow she will be 28 weeks gestation which will put her/our family in the “home streach” third trimester. Please continue to send your positive thoughts and prayers our way as we continue to hope and pray that our third child, our second daughter, will be born healthy in the not too distant future, but at the latest on September 17. We look forward to telling our new baby about her big sister Molly Marie in Heaven in the years to come and teaching her about how Molly’s life touched our and so many others’ hearts. Thank you for reading and may God bless you and your loved ones. Peace be with you.

Rest in peace baby girl.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 k@lakly June 26, 2009 at 11:56 am

I can't believe it, 28 weeks! That is so amazing and awesome. Just a few more to go and she'll be home.

I love the molly book, a perfect story for all of you.

xxoo

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2 loribeth June 26, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Reminder to self: must refrain from peeking at posts like these while at work, lest coworkers overhear me sniffling. I'm so glad you had such a wonderful celebration of Molly's life, and that Baby Benson continues to do well!

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3 CLC June 27, 2009 at 7:57 pm

It sounds like a lovely day you had in celebration of Molly.

And, honestly, I find your posts so uplifting and positive. I am striving to be a more positive person, so you are an inspiration to me.

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4 Kristie June 27, 2009 at 8:53 pm

Thanks for sharing about Molly's first birthday. I continue to be amazed by your strength. I love the book you found how awesome is that.

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5 sassy June 28, 2009 at 12:36 am

What a beautiful post. I followed a lonl over here from Melissa at Stirrup Queens and, wow, I am so glad. You sound like a wonderful mother, and I am amazed at the strength and grace with which you wrote this post. Very glad to 'meet' you.

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6 Katie June 28, 2009 at 3:43 pm

What an amazing day, just the perfect way to celebrate your amazing little girl.

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7 A Mom in Jacksonville, FL June 28, 2009 at 7:14 pm

What an amazing story…I especially loved reading about the sweet book you found.

Sounds like a grand celebration to remember your sweet little girl.

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8 T-Mommy June 29, 2009 at 5:36 pm

What a great day and what a great way of Molly and God to let you all know they are right beside you!

I am so happy that everything keeps going well with Baby Benson 😉

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9 Bluebird June 30, 2009 at 8:36 am

Absolutely beautiful. I can just picture it – hear the songs. .. Thank you so much for sharing.

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10 Fertilized July 13, 2009 at 6:49 pm

SO sorry I am so late commenting. Happy 28 weeks and What a marvelous way to celebrate life!

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