Friday, October 24, 2008

The Story of the Bereavement Boxes:

As you might imagine, the day I left the hospital and I went one way and DeLanee went another was undescribably hard. Every mom plans on leaving the hospital with their baby. My arms were empty - except for a box. A box that contained all of the contents of my baby's belongings. I had DeLanee in January, so the nurses found a leftover Christmas box and put DeLanee's stuff in it. I clung to that box as they wheeled me out of the hospital and for the next several weeks that box remained near to me where I would open it and go through the reminders and memories of what I had left of my little girl.

It was that Christmas box that was so special to me, which gave me the idea of the "Bereavement Boxes". The following year on DeLanee's birthday I wanted to do something to honor and remember her so I attempted my first try at the boxes. I wanted to donate them back to the hospital where I had DeLanee - Banner Desert Medical Center. It was definitely a labor of love as I was preparing them. I remembered how I hung on and embraced the box that had been given to me and worked in hope that the boxes that I was preparing would help to give another mom something to hold on to as they too left the hospital without their precious baby. I also wanted them to be well-designed, tasteful and special enough that each mom would feel like it would be something they cherished for many years to come.

They looked very different that first year than what they do now, but over the past five years they have developed into a service that has helped me see that good things can come from less than perfect circumstances. The project has developed into something bigger than what I imagined and I still have dreams of it becoming even bigger! As I receive letters or phone calls from women who have received a box, I have been humbled by them and their strength in enduring their trials and feel so blessed to have met so many wonderful women. Although the circumstances that have brought us together has not been one I would wish on anybody, I feel blessed to be amongst them.

Suzanne Helzer is the Bereavement Director at Banner Desert Hospital and does such a wonderful job. All hospitals should be so blessed to have someone like Suzanne to work with grieving mothers at the time of their loss and then for quite some time afterward. It really does make a difference. Ocassionally I'll receive a call from her telling me about how she witnessed a mom arranging her baby's items in the box and then taking them out and arranging them again, or, she'll tell me how the CD has effected the women as they deal with their grief and reconfirms to me that I need to continue with the project. There are so many times that I tell myself that the only person this is helping is me until I receive a note or card from a mom or one of Suzanne's calls.

I used to only donate once a year on DeLanee's birthday but Suzanne and the Bereavement department now calls me when they run out of boxes and requests more. I am embarrassed to admit this, but the run we just did came from a request that Suzanne made to me last June! With my pregnancy and other things I have had going on I just couldn't seem to get them done. I've felt terrible as I've thought of all the women that did not get to receive one of DeLanee's boxes.

We had such a wonderful time doing this batch of boxes. We ate, laughed and assembled the boxes and it was such a wonderful experience. I feel so blessed to have wonderful family and friends that support me and help me with the boxes. Thank you so much to everyone that donate time, money, love and support as we do this! Pictured below are some of my nearest and dearest friends from high school. This was the first time I had the opportunity to do this project with them. It was so special to me to be surrounded by those friends I have known forever and feel so blessed to remain close to the girls I grew up with! I love you guys so much!

Finished girl and boy box:
Contents of inside of box includes: CD, disposable camera, journal, photo brag book, necklace, journal, pen, candy and kleenex.

A special thank you to Erika and Heather for donating all of the cameras and brag books and additional items for our next run!

Thank you Mom Sherwood, Kathryn Hallsted for helping with the items below: Journals, pens, candy, kleenex and cds:

A really big thank you to Heritage House'76 located in Snowflake, Arizona for donating our necklaces that is included in each and every run we've done. We appreciate it!

Ready for delivery:

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Tender Moment of Confirmation with Taryn

I was blessed to be pregnant again just 6 short months following DeLanee's death. Taryn joined our family in May, 2005. She and DeLanee would be just 16 months apart. I will forever remember my sweetest moment with Taryn. When she was just a few weeks old (too young to smile on cue yet), I was nursing her in the middle of the night. When she was finished, she was staring up at me with these serious dark eyes. She always seemed so serious - in fact, I was beginning to wonder if she would always take life so seriously. (The picture below is a pretty accurate picture of what her face always looked like.)

It was then that I began to talk to her about her sister. The second I mentioned the name "DeLanee", her face absolutely lit up! A smile spread across her face and her eyes twinkled! I knew that the memory of her sister had not yet left her mind and the veil, although thin, had not yet been lifted. I realized I was rocking an angel sent to me straight from heaven where she had lived and just said goodbye to her sister. I couldn't help the tears that flowed. I felt so very blessed for Taryn and her little way of telling me what I believe is true, that our Savior and DeLanee live again and send they're love to me through her confirming smile.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy 4th of July Lanee

When we visited DeLanee's grave today, I was thinking back about how hard it used to be to come here when it was so fresh. Picking out her headstone was such an excruciating process for me. I changed my mind a billion times before finally deciding on one. It wasn't until about a year and half later that the headstone was finally set and everytime I would go before that I felt so terrible that there wasn't a marker for her grave. When I saw it in the ground for the first time it was such a mixture of feelings. One was relief that we finally got it. Sometimes I wondered if she felt like we had forgotten her because it took so long. Some of the feelings you feel from grief are so weird. It was also another "finality" to that phase in our lives. Yes, it was already final, but seeing it there "set in stone" was like pouring salt in the wound.

Although I still long to hold her and wonder all the time what she would be like and feel all of those worldly selfish feelings of wanting her here with me rather than where she is, the raw and tender heartbreak has softened. Going to her grave is much different now. After 4 years, I now look forward to going and love making it look pretty. We celebrate the seasons with her and I find myself looking for things for her grave for my next visit. When I go now I think of the work she is doing on the other side which makes me so proud of who she is. I have a completely perfect little girl waiting on the other side for me to raise. How many mothers will be able to do that? I feel so blessed for this and so blessed for the gospel in my life that gives me the knowledge of eternal families.

The Fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday. Each year I look forward to celebrating the birth of our country and the freedom we enjoy as Americans. Today as I arranged these flowers on DeLanee's grave they symbolized to me how I was celebrating her birth and the freedom our Savior gave to us, through the atonement, making it possible for us to see our loved ones again!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Brotherly Love

Garrett was only 3 1/2 when DeLanee was born - he called her "TeLanee". Although he was so young, I have always felt that they have such a strong bond with each other. He has always prayed for her, remembered her when people ask about our family and taught his new little sister, Taryn, all about her. His love for her is very evident to everyone. This first picture of them is so dear to my heart. It just felt so good to have them both on my lap and to wrap my arms around both of them. Garrett was so happy to finally hold his baby sister. This picture was also taken around the time that she passed away.

Garrett is such a blessing to our family and I often think that they must have gotten together in the preexistence and had a talk about how things would happen. He has always seemed to have such a understanding of everything and also an over abundance of love for parents that needed his hugs and kisses so much during this time. What a wonderful reunion it will be between the two of them!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tommy's letter to DeLanee

I was so excited when I found out that you were coming into our family. I could not wait to hold you in my arms and feel your soft skin. When we found out that you had several problems we had a very hard decision to make. The doctors wanted us to abort, but even with the problems you had and chances you had to make it we did not abort. You are my daughter and I love you no matter what. I was surprised you made it as long you did. Six months in you mommy’s tummy! Then it was time for us to bring you into the world. When you were born the room lit up. I knew then that Heavenly Father was there. The spirit was so strong. I was so happy when you were born! A proud daddy! I was able to give you a blessing, and that was our first time together. That was so special for me to feel the spirit flow though me and give me the words to say. When they handed you to me I just held you. I knew that our time would be short. All I could think about was “this is my daughter – look how beautiful she is”. You looked so much like your big brother. I know that you would have had thick black hair which is your Daddy’s trademark. Now my arms ache to hold you, and my heart is broken. For the next time we hold each other is when we meet in heaven. I long for that time. To see, hold and kiss you. I try to be strong for your Mommy but sometimes I just cannot help but to let the tears fall. When I think of all the time we were going to have and memories we were going to make. To see you and your big brother play together. You are and will always be my little princess. I know that the pain will never go away, but I will learn to deal with it. I will long to hold you in my arms and watch you grow. I know that you were too perfect to live in this world so Heavenly Father called you home. What gives me comfort is knowing that we will be together again. I love you and always will.

Your Loving Father,


Becky's letter to DeLanee

My Little Angel,

I write this letter with my arms just aching to hold you. You were gone from me so quick that I struggle to remember your face. Those moments you were inside me were so precious and treasured. We were one and I came to know you, my little girl. I felt as if my hand was in God’s as we both worked to develop you tiny body and spirit. You were a little fighter and you stayed with me as long as you could. I think for a moment you had forgotten our Heavenly Father’s mission for you too and wanted to stay as badly as I wanted you to. You tried to stay for me, and even proved so many wrong, but in the end he called you home.

In the short 6 months you were with me, I dreamed of our days together. I dreamed of rocking you for hours as I studied every little feature on your dainty face and every wrinkle creviced in your tiny hands. I dreamed of the pretty pink clothes I would dress you in and then re-dress you just for fun. The pretty hair ribbons and bows you would wear in your thick dark hair would show off the gift from your father. Well, you would just be the envy of every mother. I would have been there for every moment of your life. Your first words – your first steps. As you grew older I would get to share things such as teaching you to throw a softball and riding a horse. I dreamed of us shopping together and giggling over our favorite movies on our “girls night”. And then me being more nervous than you when your first date arrived knocking on the door. I know I’d have to keep your dad in tow on this night. Your first dance, your first boyfriend, your first break-up, your first drive in the car, your first prom, and graduation and college. The day you were married to the love of your life would be one of my happiest. I dreamed of the beautiful woman you would grow into and also the best friend I would gain. We would have many, many years to make memories together.

But my dreams were just that – dreams. In reality I was being forced to give you back. Those dreams seem so far away right now but they are not gone – just tucked away. You and I will do all of this and more and I will wait. As you drifted in and out of my life you stayed long enough to rescue me. You opened my eyes to the truths I’ve always known and deepened my conviction. I will be worthy to have you placed back into my arms that have been aching for so long and I will get to give you all the love I have inside. Thank you DeLanee for showing me the way. Thank you for what you have contributed to our family – without you we may have never known. I know you will always “tug” at my heart as a reminder to me so that I may be worthy of our reunion. DeLanee, you are my treasure laid up in heaven and there my heart lies also. I will come my little angel. I will!

I love you,


Our poem for DeLanee

Two weeks after we had DeLanee and as we were contemplating what to put on her headstone, we felt like a poem would be a good way to honor her and came up with the following:

She came into this world, far more perfect than you and me,
She could not stay long, though her spirit we could see.

Heavenly Father called her home for there was work to be done,
A calling meant for her - not just anyone.

Though her body was small, her spirit was so great,
Heaven needed her now. No, it would not wait.

A daughter of God - a precious angel indeed.
She will help find and teach lost spirits in need.

Though her work is not centered on just heaven alone,
She calls to us each day and beckons us home.

A reminder for us to live faithfully,
so when resurrection day comes, together we'll be.

Our Heavenly Father's plan sometimes brings us sweet sorrow,
Though in his arms today. . .ours tomorrow.

February 16, 2004

The Aftermath

After burying our daughter, we had a road ahead of us that consisted of ups and downs and twists and turns. The days that followed the funeral were the hardest. The first thing that happened was my milk came in. I felt this was such a cruel reminder of what had just happened. I had enjoyed breastfeeding Garrett so much and to know that my milk was available to a baby that would never taste it broke my heart. Although everyone's hugs were so welcomed, as they pressed their body to mine, it hurt me more than just physically. After all the business of planning the funeral and well wishers slowed down the reality of it all set in. I wasn't sure how to go forward when my mind was set to go down a different path than the path I now walked. I tried in many different ways to distract myself from the sorrow and grief that was constantly knocking at my door. I could only sleep if I had successfully drained myself that day to a point of complete exhaustion that I could fall into bed without allowing my thoughts any time to take over. I would often stay up until the late hours of the night and sometimes morning working on a scrapbook for DeLanee. This took me several months to complete which was such a blessing. I was so grateful to have so many pictures to work with. I also was very blessed to have a job at the time that allowed me to bring my son. Before, I had primarily been a stay at home mom. I think if I had not had the opportunity to get out of the house and turn my focus to something else, it would have been much harder. I returned to work within a couple of weeks for this reason.

Although when I did begin to leave the house that meant I now had to learn how to "deal" in public. There are quite a few instances I remember that I handled terribly. On one occasion I ran into an acquaintance in Wal-Mart as I was getting some Valentine's Day candy for Garrett. She had her baby around the same time I had DeLanee. When I saw her little boy I made a comment like "you got your's huh?" That poor woman. I'm sure she didn't even know what to say. Another time my mother picked me up at work to take me to lunch. I couldn't even begin to make it through my sub sandwich without everyone else staring at us and wondering why on earth I was sobbing so hard. I also remember going to the park, the grocery store, or restaraunt and seeing women with a blanket over their shoulder breastfeeding, or, holding their newborns and I'd just want to blurt out everything about my baby and how I'd just lost her to all of them. Answering the question of "how many children do you have" was another detail I had to learn.

These challenges were not met with much support though. During the pregnancy and especially after DeLanee's death, the spirit that was in our home was heightened to a level that I believe will never again be matched. It is impossible to put into words the feeling that resided with us. Whether we were feeling the prayers and love from those around us, ministering angels watching over us, or, both, the spirit was so incredibly strong and carried us through many, many hard days. In fact, I remember when that overwhelming feeling left. It came a couple of months after and it was as if it was saying "you can do this alone now". When I realized this, I wanted to beg and plead with my Father in Heaven to not let it leave. I wasn't ready to do this on my own!

I had a particularly hard day when this happened. I was consumed in the reality of my situation and was literally falling apart. I felt as if I had burdened my close friends, mother and sister enough and that I DID need to learn to handle this on my own. It was then that I said a prayer that something, or, someone would lift the heavy feeling I had that would allow me go on. It wasn’t 10 minutes later that a sister from our ward knocked on my door and stopped by to see how I was doing. She stayed for about an hour and we chatted as our boys played. Her prompting to listen to the spirit saved me that day. I was so thankful that she was in tune with and took time to listen to the spirit. There is a scripture in D&C 84:88 that says: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” This sister was my angel that day. It was through her that my Heavenly Father was gently urging me on and telling me "yes, you can do this on your own".

As we were learning to deal with our new circumstances, I noticed the "sweetness" that Tommy and I's relationship began to take on. The weeks and months following her death we were inseperable and we clung to each other. There was but only one person on this earth who knew EXACTLY what each of us were going through and that was each other. There were times that when I was falling apart he would come to my rescue and vice versa. Our marriage had not only adapted but had taken on a sweeter and deeper love because of what we were experiencing. What a blessing this was to us!

It was also during this time that the spirit talked to me several times regarding the passing of our daughter. It was confirmed to me that not only was she happy and doing what she was supposed to be doing, but she was called home to be a missionary to much of our family who had not yet had the opportunity to receive the gospel. Tommy is the first in his family to be baptized and receive the blessings of the temple. Garrett was the first of his posterity to born into the covenant. There is not a doubt in my mind that this is what keeps our DeLanee busy. I also received confirmation that there were many reasons for DeLanee's passing and that we would have the opportunity to learn of them in the years to come.

Day by day and week by week the "normalcy" began to return to our lives. We were so thankful for the blessings that came to us during this particularly hard time - sent to us by our Father in Heaven. Our knowledge of the plan of salvation and the blessings of the temple that we have a forever family and that we'll be reunited again someday is what carried us through then and what continues to carry us through now. We are so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father that created this plan and for his Son that makes this possible.

Friday, April 25, 2008

DeLanee's Story (the spiritual side)

There are definitely two sides to this story. The doctor's point of view and then our Heavenly Father's point of view. We had so many spiritual experiences during our time with DeLanee to which our testimonies were strengthened so much. I feel it is important to try to remember them so that they don't get forgotten as the years pass by. I will try my best to remember and write them here.

My first spiritual experience concerning DeLanee happened the day we found out everything that was wrong with her in our level II ultrasound. I came home feeling so terrible that evening. I had just come from a place where I was feeling the highest of highs having been told we were having a healthy little girl. I know that anyone that has been pregnant can relate with the feelings of this. You feel such hope and anticipation with the promise of new life. It is just so wonderful and as if everything is right with the world. And then to have those feelings replaced with feelings of frustration, sorrow, anguish and even anger is overwhelming. I had just learned that the chance of my daughter surviving were next to impossible and because of this I felt like my heart was actually breaking. I had never felt such intense feelings before. I believe this was the darkest moment of my life. I didn't know how I could go on - let alone deal with what was to come. It was then that my phone rang. My Husband brought me the phone and told me it was Sister Wilkins. She was the Compassionate Service Leader in our ward. When I answered she told me that she wasn't sure why she was calling except that the Relief Society President had felt inspired to call her and tell her to call me. She didn't know of our news yet - there was no way for her to know. I told her what we had found out that day and when we hung up I knew my Heavenly Father was aware of me. I felt as though he was speaking to me through her and telling me he would not abandon me during this time in my life. In Isiah 53: 4-5, it reads: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: … And with his stripes we are healed”. That night I felt his arms encircle me with his love.

The next few months I prayed often. I am so thankful for prayer. I know that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. I had heard someone say that if we’re complaining about our trials because the sorrow is too great and more than we can bear, that perhaps we are standing or sitting rather than kneeling and asking God for strength. So this is what I did. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to endure this trial alone and I prayed that he would strengthen me where I lacked, but I also prayed to know his will for my daughter. So, although we were in and out of hospitals and specialists every week wanting to learn as much as we could about the problems that she had, my greatest enlightment came through answers to my prayers from my Heavenly Father. The doctors thought she would pass away in me fairly quickly. Through answers to my prayers, I knew that wouldn't be the case. But I also knew I wasn’t going to get to watch my daughter grow and develop into a young woman either. The next few months I felt as if I was working hand-in-hand with him as we developed her tiny body.

As we got closer to the end, we had a special family fast and prayer. That was on a Sunday. That night, I knew that the time was soon that she would be born and we would have to say goodbye. So the next day, I got everything at my house in order as much as I could and it was the following day she was born. That day we went to the doctors and they could she was dying inside me, so they advised us to deliver her. We had had several months to prepare for this, but when the moment arrived, at first I was so scared and felt overwhelming sadness. My Husband and I said a prayer and asked for strength and comfort. Those feelings continued with me until they laid me down on the operating table. I wish I could explain the feelings of peacefulness that came over me as they began the surgery. The spirit was so strong and I wasn’t afraid at all. I knew my time would be short with her, but Heavenly Father was giving us the gift to hold her while she was alive and feel of her sweet spirit. That evening in the hospital was so incredibly special with her. As soon as she was born my Husband and Father gave her a name and a blessing and then she was placed in our arms where we had the chance to bath her, dress her and hold her until she passed away in our arms 3 ½ hours later. Many people in our family had the chance to hold her and feel of her spirit before she died.

I know that DeLanee's passing was part of a plan. I believe that she and I and Tommy chose this in the preexistence. I don’t know all the reasons why this happened, but I believe if I could remove the veil between mortal life and premortal life, I would see the whole picture. Before we found out everything that was wrong with DeLanee, I was a happy mother anticipating the birth of another baby. Now, I am something more, a different person. I believe I have a deeper faith in and love for my Father in Heaven. I feel that my soul has been tried by the refiner’s fire and emerged more purified. I know that my Faith was built upon a rock and was not whisked away in the strength of the storm. I have watched my Husband, son, parents, siblings, friends all grow from this experience and deepen their conviction in the gospel. I know I will see DeLanee again if I can live faithfully for her to be placed back in my arms on resurrection morning. I am so grateful to a loving Father in Heaven who has created this wonderful plan. I pray that I can live faithfully to receive the blessings he has promised.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DeLanee's Story (the medical side)

In August, 2003, we found out we were pregnant. We were so happy to FINALLY be expecting again. We had been trying for 2 years and had previously experienced a miscarriage - so this was exciting. The day before Thanksgiving of that year, at 18 weeks, we went to our first ultrasound. Although we felt like the technician acted a little funny, she told us everything was fine and gave us the wonderful news that we were having a girl! There were no girls yet in our family at that time and we felt so blessed to be having one. That weekend, it took everything I had not to run out and buy every girl item imaginable. I couldn't wait to do the "girl" thing. The Monday following that long holiday weekend, my regular OB called me and asked me if I was alone or if I had family with me. I told him I was at work but on that particular day my Husband was there installing the teledata system for my boss's firm. He then told me that he believed something was wrong with our baby and wanted to refer me to a high risk pregnancy group for a level II ultrasound. He ended with saying it was either something really bad, or, nothing at all. He made arrangements for me to see Phoenix Perinatal Associates ("PPA") the very next day.

When I went to my appointment the next day, they did confirm that our little girl's fate did not look good. She had mutltiple fetal anomalies which included something called "Dandy-Walker". There are a couple of different levels of this. They also told us that most babies who have Dandy-Walker also suffer many other malformations. Which was true in her case. They confirmed that she had a heart defect (double outlet right ventricle), fluid on the brain (cerebellar hperplasia), micrognathia (recessed chin) and the biggest thing being a cyst (cystic hygroma). All of these malformations were related to the Dandy-Walker and they actually ended up calling her case "Dandy-Walker Cyst".

The cyst our daughter had which was caused by Dandy-Walker was on the base of the back of her neck. And because she had developed this cyst so earlier on in the pregnancy it would result in a severe outcome. This cyst ultimately filled her body and vital organs with fluid and she became so edemic that her little body couldn't take it.

For the next 10 weeks, our days were filled with doctor's appointments. There was a specialist assigned to each one of her abnormalities. A cardiologist for her heart defect, a neurologist for the cerebellar hyperplasia, a geneticist to determine the probablity of recurrence in subsequent pregnancies, a pediatrician at Phoenix Children's Hospital, and of course the PPAs who I saw once or twice a week. The doctor's mostly agreed that there would be a spontaneous pregnancy loss - although I continued to carry her for 10 more weeks.

The longer she held on inside of me, the more the doctor's discussed what kind of medical interventions could take place at her birth. Ultimately, they told us that probably no matter what life saving techniques they attempted, she would probably not survive. It was because of this information that we asked them not to attempt to save her life but that they just let us spend what time we would have with her without medical intervention. It was our opinion that we would rather have her die in our arms, feeling our love, then for her to die on a cold surgical table. We did not come to this decision without much prayer, agnozing and uncertainty. Although, when the time arrived for her to be born, Tommy and I both felt very peaceful about our decision.

We felt very blessed to have a live birth with her. The PPAs knew this was very important to us so they monitored me very closely. On January 27, 2008, the PPAs had referred me to Banner Desert Hospital for a series of steroid shots. It was during this time that they hooked me up to the monitor and saw that our little DeLanee was very close to dying and recommended that we do a c-section immediately in order to have a live birth. We asked them if we had time to go home to get our cameras to which they said "Yes - just hurry". We called Tommy's mom in Texas and she hopped on a flight to Arizona. We also called my dad who was on a job in Whiteriver. We were waiting outside the surgery room when they both arrived 3 hours later.

They began the surgery just after midnight and she was born on Wednesday, January 28, 2004 at 12:54 a.m. weighing 4 pounds, 6 ounces and measuring 13 3/4 inches long. Because we had asked them to not intervene, they immediately handed her to Tommy where he and my dad gave her a name and blessing. My dad later said that it was one of the most inspired and beautiful blessings he had ever heard. They then handed her to me to hold as they sewed me back up. After the post-surgery was taken care of they wheeled us back into a delivery room where we spent the remainder of the night with her. Her little heart beat for 3 more hours.