Sunday, December 29, 2013

Link's Bench

It was a strange mix of emotions today as we pulled into town and stopped by the cemetery. Link died in March. It's' now December and we get to see his bench installed for the first time. 

I was really excited! It's an odd feeling, though... excitement about a cold, hard granite bench to memorialize a warm, soft baby boy. How much more I would rather have the baby boy and not the bench! 
It's taken so long and while his bench makes his death seem more permanent, it is SO much better than the tiny temporary marker that was there before that just reminds me of the day of his funeral. It is a beautiful bench that truly honors our son - his beauty, his life, his uniqueness, and his mission on this earth and beyond. I want to go through the pictures I took and try and give you an idea of why we chose what we did (click the pictures to see them larger). 

We had a couple friends that have done benches & I liked the idea of being able to come and sit and cry or talk for a while, so we decided on a bench. Link's is only a three foot bench, but I think it's perfect. I wanted the base of the bench to be something completely different than anything I'd seen before - and also something that I felt would represent Link. As I mentioned in the Sunrise Baby post, rainbows are what remind us of Link - their color, their beauty, as well as their fleeting lives. We saw a rainbow on the day of Link's funeral - and also on 2 of his monthly angelversaries. I didn't want it to be a full rainbow - just like the one on the day of his funeral - we could only see about 3/4th of it. I have loved that symbolism - we can't see the end of the rainbow, but we know it's there - just as we can't always see our loved ones close, but they are there just the same. It also reminds me that only God sees the big picture & I need to trust in Him.

The poem written on the colors of the rainbow was something I worked on with my sweet friend, Diane. Here is what it says:

A rainbow appeared and brightened our day
Like most things of beauty, it couldn't stay
A blessing from God to show us His Love
You'll now be our "Link"
to Heaven above.

I really wasn't sure which picture I wanted to put on his bench. How could I choose just one? I finally settled on this one because it truly shows the light, color, and happiness that he brought into our lives. I am loving seeing his smiling face next to that rainbow.

The cars. Well, Jason had saved a bag of matchbox cars from his childhood - hoping to one day watch his son play with them. On the day of Link's funeral, Jason selected a white and orange Porsche 935 to give to his son. He lovingly placed it in his casket and sobbed as he told me "it was my fastest racer." That is the car that we have engraved under Link's dates. Friends and family have placed matchbox cars next to his grave since he died and I thought it would be fun to put a track around the cement pad that his bench sits on. The girls had a fun time today playing on it.

It was harder than I imagined choosing a font for Link's name. We wanted it solid, strong - like him. And I also wanted the "links" by his name. 

The saying on the back of Link's bench pretty much sums it up for our family: 'You are truly the "Link" that will hold our family together forever.' This is what gives me hope. This is what our family is striving for - to keep that chain strong and intact - all through our lives so we can all be together again someday. The hearts on either side of the saying are made out of small chain links. 

We had each of the girls draw a picture of our family or of Link and them and we had those engraved on the back. I think it will be fun as the years go by for the girls to see their pictures & remember their ages when their brother returned to Heavenly Father. You'll also notice we included Noelle's name on the bottom right. 

On the sides of the bench are forget-me-not flowers. Forget-me-nots have been my favorite flower since I was a little girl and was Link's flower/color theme at his funeral. They are my promise to him that he will never, ever be forgotten.

The girls were very excited to finally see their brother's bench. I think coming to the cemetery will be much nicer and something they'll look forward to more. I hope to get a better picture when it's warmer. Sorry about their hair -we had been traveling for a couple hours :)


We are so very thankful for all those that donated money to our family to help with Link's bench. It warms my heart to see it and I am grateful that we could really get what we wanted for Link. THANK YOU! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Where are you Christmas?

Taken a year ago today
I heard Where are you Christmas? the other day on the radio & had to really fight to keep my composure. I've heard the song before, though never really understood it until this year.

We decorated our tree a couple weeks ago. Lights, ornaments, an angel on top that one of the girls made a year or two ago. We turned off all the lights and sat down to enjoy it. Only... I couldn't see it clearly. My eyes were blurred with tears. What should have been a sweet, peaceful moment turned into such a painful one that I had to turn away from it all. How badly I wanted to have a 1-year-old boy on my lap - mesmerized by the lights. Determined to pull all the ornaments off the tree. Exploring all the decorations and tasting all the sweets.

We are doing service projects this year & writing them down to put in his stocking. But even this is half-hearted on my part. I don't WANT to do service projects on behalf of my son. I want to buy trucks and cars. Balls and blocks. Dinosaurs and dragons. I want to put THOSE in his stocking and get to watch his eyes light up as he rips the paper and figures out what's inside. I want to hear his first words and see him take his first steps.

And as hard as I try to be here for Christmas this year, I'm not.  I am back in Philadelphia. I am not folding laundry and carpooling and making dinners. I am walking hand-in-hand with my sweetheart down alleyways toward CHOP in the cold. I'm staring up at these amazing old buildings along the way. I'm in the hospital room with my son. I'm watching as Jason reads him books. I'm singing "every little thing you do I do... adore" to him as I bounce him up and down. I'm at the Ronald McDonald House, eating delicious food, talking with amazing people. I'm at CHOP, talking with doctors. Talking with nurses. I'm in the pump room - again and again. I'm looking into his blue eyes and kissing his huge cheeks. I'm hoping. I'm praying. I'm waiting for elevators. I'm hearing Christmas music play. I'm talking to the girls on the phone. I'm walking alongside medical students in an enclosed walkway above the noisy street below. I'm texting friends and family. I'm trying to get him to smile and mimic my sounds. I'm walking the fluorescent halls...

Yes, I will keep trying to pull myself back, but I keep going there. Remembering. Aching. Wanting the Christmas of last year. The Christmas of bringing him home from Philadelphia. Not being able to sleep on the plane for the joy, excitement, and miracle of it all. Surprising family and friends. Passing him around at Christmastime. Seeing the bright lights, hearing the sweet songs, having my heart overflow with love and gratitude.
This year, the lights don't seem so bright... the songs don't seem so sweet. If I could only ask for ONE thing for Christmas this year - and for the REST OF MY LIFE - it would be to have my son back. Oh... how I miss him.

Friday, December 6, 2013

November Newsletter & Slideshow

We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Top of the list is the gospel and wonderful family and friends. On the 2nd, we got a babysitter & Heidi & Jason went out to dinner at the Japanese steakhouse by our home. It was really great! Jason even had a sushi roll with eel. Just after we got home, we got the news of the birth of baby Grace! We are so excited for the Checketts and can’t wait to meet our new niece/cousin. The 7th was Link’s birthday. It was a hard and neat day. See his section for more details. On the 8th, we headed down to St. George for the weekend. Heidi went to Time Out for Women and Jason & the girls went to baseball games for Payson and Daken. We stayed in Great Grandma’s place in Washington. It was great to enjoy warmer weather and family. Monday was Veterans Day and we let the girls get out of school so we could all go to our big ultrasound appointment. We are thankful to find out we are expecting a girl and she looks healthy J We also dropped off donations at the Jubilee House in St. George by the NICU and went to Iceburg for lunch. While Jason was hunting with Grandpa Dave and Uncle Jeff on the 14th & 15th, we had a girls time! – making pizza, painting nails, and eating sticky popcorn. Daddy surprised us by coming home on Friday!  The 16th, we went to IHOP for dinner & there were amazing “wave” clouds outside our window – it was really neat! Then we watched a Christmas movie at home. It was fun. On the 20th, we headed to St. George again for a temple date. The Hamiltons came along and we were able to do sealings and watch as Jeff and Keeley sealed Grandma and Grandpa Hamilton together. It was a very special experience. Afterwards, we went to cold stone for some yummy ice cream. Thanks Camri for watching the girls!  The 21st was our first big snowstorm and the girls had SO much fun playing in it! On the 22nd, we had Hannah Klassen from the ward come over to do a story and craft time about the first thanksgiving. The Riddles also came & it was a lot of fun! The 25th was our Thanksgiving Family Home Evening and we made our annual Gerald the Grateful Turkey, which was a lot of fun. We left for Richfield on the 27th and left on December 1st. It was a classic Thanksgiving weekend – including too much food and football, but never too much family! The girls had fun going to the park, doing puzzles, singing songs, and just playing with their cousins. Jason also took McKinley & Ireland & they cut down our Christmas tree near Panguitch Lake. On Saturday, we went out to eat in Salina at a Restaurant with the whole family. After some talking, prayer, and a family poll, we decided to name our new baby Noelle Eve. We are all excited for Noelle to be a part of our family.  More good news was that baby Katelyn was born to the Bealer Family on the 20th. She is beautiful!

JASON: Jason’s coworkers were pretty amazing contributing to Link’s birthday service project helping the Jubilee House – he sent out an e-mail & the donations came pouring in – money, robes, food, etc. We are so thankful for their support. Jason enjoyed going hunting with Jeff and Dave this year. It was early morning and cold temperatures, but they were able to help Dave land a pretty good sized elk. Jason has kind of taken over McKinley’s tablet & they argue over who gets to play it. Jason likes a hunting game on there and will play it as much as he can He’s also participated in the “no shave November” – apparently for Prostate Cancer awareness. It’s now a bit into December, though, and we’re not sure if he’s now going for the Santa look or what ;)

 HEIDI:  The beginning of November was a pretty emotional time for Heidi with Link’s birthday and going to St. George the following weekend – she felt like she walked the same steps she walked a year ago (The Hamiltons, Harmon’s, the NICU building, Iceburg). It was surreal and brought back a lot of memories. Time Out for Women was really neat, though, and Heidi learned a lot. Heidi is doing pretty good in her pregnancy. She is feeling Noelle quite a bit these days and her movements bring her comfort and joy. She admits holding Katelyn Bealer brought some anxiety, though, and hopes she can work through a lot of it before Noelle gets here. Heidi finished re-reading the Hiding Place this month and it was like reading a whole new book since losing Link. She learned so very much and hopes that like Corrie Ten Boom, her trial will change her for the better.

-McKinley said she wasn’t feeling good at the beginning of the month and had to stay home from school for a day or two.
-McKinley’s favorite saying right now: “I know, right?”
-McKinley really has a heart for service. After we delivered the bags to the Jubilee House on Link’s birthday, McKinley said “I feel the Holy Ghost & it feels so good!”
-McKinley had a lot of nightmares at the beginning of the month. One night, she had 3 in one night! She decided she wanted Ireland to go back to sleeping with her and that’s seemed to help.
-McKinley and Ireland were big into jump roping this month! Our floors would echo with the sounds of jumping to see how many times they could do it in a row. Also – they were big into getting parchment paper & tracing coloring pages.
-McKinley was big into Monopoly this month. We got it out at least 4 times. The last game lasted the longest and we each had houses on our properties. Daddy won pretty much every game!
-McKinley has been quite the cook this month! With VERY minimal help, she made peanut butter cookies, caramel popcorn, and pizza!
-Mom surprised McKinley one afternoon by picking her up from school and taking her out to Panda Express! It was a lot of fun and they had fun visiting & eating yummy food.
-One night we watched a Christmas movie about an elf that used Santa’s time travel compass to go back in time and save Santa. A little while after the movie ended, McKinley said “Mom, I wish that time travel thing was real and we could go back to the day that Link took his nap and I would wake him up and he would still be alive.”
-For Activity Days this month, McKinley made an AWESOME Christmas star – it is beautiful!
-McKinley has been practicing her articles of faith and hopefully will pass them off soon.
-McKinley continues to do SUPER in school and earned the Math Achievement and Reading Achievement awards for the first quarter. WAY TO GO McKINLEY!!
-One night, McKinley shared how the Holy Ghost had helped her. They were playing at recess and some people were playing with a boy, but kind of teasing him, too. She said the Holy Ghost helped her remember her sister Kezia yelling to her before she went to school “Be kind to everyone – even if they’re not kind to you!” and so she walked away.
-McKinley is very excited for her baby sister. She was really rooting for the name Noelle & would walk around singing “Noel… Noel..”
-McKinley enjoyed spending more time with her older cousins over Thanksgiving. She hung out a lot with Camri & Sedona. She liked to stand by Camri and sing while she played the piano.

-McKinley and Ireland were big into jump roping this month! Our floors would echo with the sounds of jumping to see how many times they could do it in a row. Also – they were big into getting parchment paper & tracing coloring pages.
-Ireland likes this little kids’ cook book. One day she was trying to convince mom to make one of the recipes. She said “Look mom! We have all the ingredients but the shaving cream!” (whipped cream) J
-When we were packing to go to St. George, Ireland packed 2 dresses. Mom kept asking her why. She thought about it for a while & finally said “Just in case there’s a funeral, mom.”
-Ireland has had problems with good dreams lately, too. One night, she came into mom and dad’s room and said “Mom – I’m not having bad dreams, but I’m not having the right dreams. They’re not the ones I want.” So – what kind of dreams does she want? Well, it must be what she prays for EVERY night. This is a typical evening Ireland prayer “…and please help me dream of unicorns & rainbows & Pegasusus & flowers & lollypops…”
-Ireland gave a talk in primary this month about gratitude and told a story about a child getting a gift for someone and how they didn’t even look at it & how that’s how Jesus feels when we don’t appreciate his gifts. She did a GREAT job and got lots of compliments!
-One day Ireland asked “how many more years until my birthday?”
-Ireland said to mom one day “I love you infinity hearts!”
-Ireland is very excited for Noelle to come & said “maybe on the baby’s birthday, it will come out!”
-One night, Ireland’s prayer was so sweet. She said “I’m so thankful for Grandma Potts that I’m named after…”
-Poor Ireland really doesn’t want to sleep alone, but she really is a light sleeper. Kezia wakes her up with her moving around & talking in her sleep. McKinley wakes her up with her loud breathing/snoring. Ireland said to mom with a sigh “I really need to sleep with a sister that doesn’t talk or breathe in her sleep!”
-Ireland has lost FOUR teeth so far! She’s got the 2 upper & 2 bottom ones gone – so QUITE a gap! Unfortunately, the tooth fairy hasn’t been very on top of things lately. She took THREE nights to get her her gold dollar!

-Kezia is so good to share. Every time she had a piece of her Halloween candy, she wouldn’t eat the whole thing. She would save part of it for someone. One day, she got a mini snickers bar. She insisted that it be cut up into 5 pieces for every member of our family and put into individual baggies with people’s names on them. J
-Kezia was my big helper getting the bags together for the Jubilee House on Link’s birthday. Mom would give her something & tell her to put a certain amount in each bag. She did really well!
-Kezi really wanted to name our new baby Rose. Mom asked “what if it’s a boy?” Kezia thought & said “then we’ll name him Handsome Rose!”
-Mom often asks Kezi for Kezi kisses & hugs. One day she ran to mom & said “You got it!!” and gave her big kisses & hugs. Mom LOVES that!
-Lately Kezia will say “Mom!” or “Dad!” and when we answer, she says “I love you.”
-One day we were talking about teachers & mom told Kezi that Aunt Keeley AND Aunt Cindy were teachers. Kezi’s eyes got big and she said “Wow! I’m freakin’ out!”
-Kezi really likes to be sneaky lately. When we go to her room to tuck her in or open the door to the car to get her out, she is crouched down somewhere hiding. Also – every time she goes to preschool, she likes to quietly sneak by the door… and then jump in the classroom and yell “BOO!”
-One day at church we were sitting there and a man passed by & Kezia said rather loudly “look mom! That guy is BALD!”
-Not sure if it’s a growth spurt or just that it’s been colder & we’ve wanted to cuddle more, but mommy & Kezi took a lot more naps this month. We love to read books & cuddle up and get some rest in.
-Kezi is big on her “collections.” She has at least 4 different boxes or bags that she keeps her “collection” in (which usually consists of lip gloss or Barbie shoes or a pony or some pennies)
-One day in Primary, Sister Beacham (the Primary President) was in front announcing some things. Kezia raised her hand  and said “I have a question.” Sister Beacham said “yes?” Kezi put her feet up in front of her and asked “do you like my shoes?”
-Everyone in the primary said something they were thankful for and Kezia’s friend Addi said “Kezia!”
-We were at the store & mom told Kezia and Canyon to look with their eyes, not with their hands, so Kezi went around putting her eyes right on everything and blinking hard.
-Kezi and Canyon were so cute dancing at the store. They would spin and spin around. It was so cute.
-Kezi is getting better & better about writing her letters & will often ask how to spell something.
-Kezi is usually pretty good with Rainbow Truck (the bunny), but she and Canyon were playing with it in Grandma’s garage & came running in saying the bunny’s nose was bleeding. After more questioning, we found out that they were playing “flip the bunny.” Needless to say, she was not allowed to hold the bunny again for a while. (Rainbow Truck is fine).


 Happy 1st Birthday our sweet boy. It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since you’ve come into this world. You’ve truly changed us forever since that day. Mom did an entire blog post about your birthday, but we’ll try to sum it up here. The morning was very difficult. Writing your birthday letter was the hardest thing mom has done in a long time. It hurt not to be able to do all the traditions with you that we have done with your sisters. We decided to donate to the Jubilee House in honor of you because of our experience at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia. SO many people donated, Link. So many wonderful people – in honor of you and your special day. Liz Powlaski even got a brick for you at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House that says “Our Link to Heaven – Linkin Hamilton.” Your family in Salt Lake went to McDonald’s and the Ronald McDonald House up there.  Down here, we were able to donate the bags to the Jubilee House, release balloons at the cemetery, go to McDonald’s and donate there, and come home for cake and ice cream and watching your slideshow. Oh, how we wish you were there to eat your cake – to make a mess – to be a one-year-old little boy. We missed you sweet boy. We love you. You made the day sunny. You sent us a gorgeous sunset. You kept us close. Family & friends came to support us & to honor your life. We hope the angels in heaven made your birthday extra special up there and you were able to feel our love as strongly as possible. Ever since your birthday, the memories have flooded back with your time in the St. George NICU and Philadelphia. Mom talked to Dr. Carroll and Enyo and both of those phone calls were emotional. Dr. Carroll said that he would be lying if he said he remembered every baby he took care of, but he said he would never, never forget you Link. You are just that kind of kid. You have affected so many people and we feel so very blessed to have been a part of our journey here on earth. Happy Birthday, our beautiful boy. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sunrise Baby

I was pretty darn sure we were done having children after Link. I even suggested to Jason that we do something about it permanently, though he said we should give it a year before we made any permanent decisions. However, I put away my pregnancy clothes with a ceremony of sorts - it felt final & I felt good about it.  I hadn't prayed about it, but with all the drama of the NICU & having to fly to Philly - not to mention, four kids was a good number and we finally got our boy! - I felt confident we were done.  

.... God had other plans. 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isiah 55:8-9

Almost from the day that Link died, my thoughts swirled with incomprehension - I looked at our three children on earth & said "this is not how it was supposed to be. We always wanted more than three. This is not right. What is the plan now? Are we really done?"  In addition to those ceaseless thoughts, just the added grief of imaging that I would never get to see those last milestones - like someone had taken a huge pair of scissors and just cut me off from all those last firsts - made my heart ache even more for that answer as to if we should have another one or not. 

I brought it up with Jason a few times. We talked about it. We prayed about it. Finally, one day I woke up and said "I have to know. If we are done, I need to accept that and move forward -  focusing on the girls. But... but, if the Lord has another child to send, even if it's not right now... I need to know. A woman needs to know."  So - Jason & I headed to the temple. It was only the 2nd time we'd been since Link died and I was emotional the whole time. I prayed that above all, if we were to have another baby, that Jason would absolutely, positively know. Because, I knew that I would be a wreck and I would need his support. Thankfully, he truly got that absolute confirmation and we both felt strongly that the Lord wanted us to try for another baby & not wait. 

Finding out we were pregnant in August was different than our other pregnancies. It was more solemn than excitement. More thankful than elated.  Actually, I've had a lot of guilt, too. Just guilt that maybe we wouldn't have had this child if Link hadn't died. And on the other end of the spectrum, guilt that it seems like we are trying to "replace" him. Altogether, this pregnancy has been so very different than my other ones. Including my fears and anxiety. It is a constant battle between fear and faith with this pregnancy. Anyone that has lost a baby will tell you that your innocence is gone - you have that actual reality that a child can & does die and as one angel mom said -  while you don't expect that to happen again, you don't expect it not to happen, either. 

Speaking of angel parents, I hope they will forgive me as I choose a different symbol for this new baby. 
Most babies that come after a loss have the term "rainbow baby." I know that it is trying to change an understood term into a something completely different that no one will recognize, but I will try & explain myself. I LOVE the symbolism of the rainbow - the light and hope and color after the rain and stormy grief - and I associate that with Link. He was technically my "rainbow baby" - I had a miscarriage right before we became pregnant with him. Whenever I see a rainbow or hear about rainbows, I think of Link - of the brightness and color he brought into our lives while he was here - and also of how fleeting they are & his life was. His memorial bench is actually a rainbow and the poem (which is above in my header) is going to be on it. So - I am using the term "sunrise baby" for this new one. Just because, it has the same idea - light and hope after a dark night - but it's something I can count on. I can count on seeing the sunrise every day - just like I want the hope and reliability of being able to see my new baby live every day.  I have absolutely NO problem with angel parents using that term or even referring to my new baby as a rainbow baby. I will just be doing something different, and I hope that's okay. 

Now - onto the details... this sunrise baby is due April 10th. On Monday, we found out we are having another girl. I would be lying if I said that it hasn't been difficult to think that it's likely that I will never get to raise a boy on this earth. At the same time, though, it's amazing how your perspective changes. Before Link, I went to the "big ultrasound" - just not being able to wait to find out the gender - to now,  just wanting them to tell me that I will get to keep my baby. Doesn't matter if it's a boy or girl. Doesn't even necessarily matter if they are completely healthy. I just want to be able to keep my baby. I know even this is not a guarantee - and yes, there is a possibility that she could have what Link had. But the odds are 1 in 50,000 - and even if she did have hyperinsulinism, according to the autopsy reports, Link simply died in his sleep. Her ultrasound looked great - she looks healthy and strong at this point.

We are thankful to be welcoming another girl into this family. Her sisters are SO excited to have another sister - and being the sister to 3 other sisters myself - I have to say that sisters are pretty awesome & I am excited for her to have that experience.  Growing up with 3 other sisters wasn't always pretty, but we are now all best friends and I can't imagine life without them. The thing that's even more awesome is the knowledge that all four of my girls  will have their brother watching over them night & day. I always wanted to have a boy first because I never had a big brother growing up. So - when I had a girl first I thought I'd have to give up that wish. But now I know that Link is effectively their "big brother" & I know that he watches out & protects them - more than even a brother here on earth could. I am also so very thankful that he's got to spend some time with his baby sister - to prepare her to come to our heartbroken family. 

So - I waited a while to really "announce" this pregnancy. For a number of reasons, I think. But a lot because I knew some people might think we are just "replacing" our lost baby. Or they might think "Oh good! Now she'll be happy and have 4 kids again!" I just need to say here that we will never replace Link - any more than I could have "replaced" McKinley with Ireland. Each child is unique and different and Link will never EVER be replaced. Also - while I am VERY thankful for this opportunity - SO grateful for this new baby girl - it does not, can not just automatically take away the pain, grief, sadness, ache of losing Link. That will be something I will carry with me a lifetime. And I will never have "4 kids again" - this is our 5th child and that's what I will always say if you ask. 

Also - if you ask if this is our last, I will say what I should have said with Link - "We don't know until the Lord lets us know." 

A month or so after Link died, when I was praying about the idea of another child,  I heard this song and felt like the Lord was speaking to my heart:

Mindy Gledhill

Did you ever wonder who you are
do your ever wonder as you stare into the stars
Where you began
And how you got this far
from home?

Have you ever walked along the shore
Have you ever seen the water dancing back and forth
Did you look inside
To see if there was more to life

Theres a dream taking wings
Theres a voice that wants to sing
Even in the deepest darkest night
The Torch is raised to the sky
There are hands that hold it high
You were born to keep it burning bright
You were made to fly you were meant to shine
Child of light

You will never ever stand alone
You were never called to bare your burdens alone
Where there is fear
Love will take control

And lead you on

Theres a dream taking wings
Theres a voice that wants to sing
Even in the deepest darkest night
The Torch is raised to the sky
There are hands that hold it high
You were born to keep it burning bright
You were made to fly you were meant to shine
Child of light

We are looking forward to meeting you, our child of light, our sunrise baby. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Link's Birthday

Sorry it's taken a few days to post this... we were out of town till yesterday evening (and THAT is a whole other post).

I knew that Link's birthday was going to hold the complete spectrum of emotions for me - and it did. Overall, though, it was such a neat, special day.

The hardest part was not being able to do all the birthday traditions that we've always done with the girls - waking them up to the happy birthday song, letting them push the button on the happy birthday dog, tracing their hand on their birthday tablecloth, birthday crown, etc. All those silly little traditions that we take for granted. I woke up early and wrote him his birthday letter - like all the girls - yet, definitely NOT like the other girls. That was a difficult, messy thing to do. 

Honestly, though, for as many tears as I shed at the heartache of not having him here, I shed just as many for the love, generosity and support of all of YOU. I was absolutely floored by the giving in honor of my son. It was really good for me to have the Jubilee House project to work on during the day of his birthday. I had something to do that was meaningful. Kezia was my big helper and we took all the donations and put them into bags or baskets & organized them. Here is what my living room looked like after the drop offs:

This picture doesn't even do it justice. I thought I would put all the kitchen donations into a cute basket, but NOPE! There was just too much! I had to put it into a laundry basket and 2 overflowing bags. We had so many wonderful donations, we were able to put together 8 individual bags for the Jubilee Home here in Cedar & 12 bags for the Jubilee Home in St. George - by the NICU. It was completely awesome!! Here's what it looked like after we had put together the bags & organized things:

I mean, people just kept coming by! More & more stuff piled up! Jason's co-workers were AMAZING! He just kept bring home bags & bags of donations - food, socks, a robe, movies, books. I wish I could sit and list all the people who donated, but I'm afraid I'd miss someone. Just know that we appreciate ALL that donated. It meant so much. Each bag had this tag stapled to it:

So - his birthday festivities started at 5 - we dropped off the donations at the Jubilee House here in Cedar. They, too, were completely in shock at all the things we brought. I underestimated the time it would take to bring it there & put it all away - almost 45 minutes. They just kept saying how awesome it all was. I loved that we could be there & see the people we were helping. 

We saw an amazing sunset as we left (love note!) - and then we headed to the cemetery. Two big bummers here - #1, it was already pretty dark by the time we got there. I'm going to need to push things back by an hour or so next year so we can have some light. #2 - my camera battery died :( I tried to use my cell phone, but it was just not working well in the dark. We had a bunch of balloons & we all wrote on them, sang, and sent them up to heaven. It was hard and neat. Wish I had better pictures...

And then, McDonald's. Oh, the love!! To see so many people there & the kids going up and putting money in the RM House box - it was incredible!! Here's a bunch of awesome people who showed up at our local McDonald's to support us. THANK YOU!

Up North, in SLC, my family also went to McDonald's & donated there, and then headed to the Ronald McDonald House to sing and do crafts and bring smiles to the children there. 

They said that even though there weren't a lot of families that showed up for their activities, there were a couple that were neat to get to know. See that little boy in the upper right hand corner? His brother has been at Primary Children's for over 4 months. His name is Lincoln. Coincidence? Surely not. When I told Jason about it, I could barely choke out the words. What a tender mercy.

After our McDonald's trip here in Cedar, we headed home for cake, ice cream & watching his slideshow. 

In between all of this, I was getting FB messages, e-mail messages, text messages, phone calls, etc. So much support and love. Cards in the mail. Another sweet SIDS mom & friend sent a picture book and angel.  My sister, Trisha,  sent a "link" necklace, earrings, & bracelet that I LOVE and wore on his birthday.  It had a link for every member of our family. My visiting teacher brought flowers & the cake. I got e-mails letting me know donations had been made in Link's name. I got messages about friends signing up for Amazon Smile & choosing the RM House in Philly to donate to. I found out about people who went to McDonald's &  contributed that way. And... to top it off, you won't even believe it but a member of my family (Yes, Liz - you ARE my surrogate aunt :) just up and got a brick for Link at the Philly RM House! Here is the e-mail she sent:

Dear Heidi & Jason,
With all the love in my heart for you and Jason, your children and your whole family, I have donated a brick to be placed in the walkway of the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald in Link’s honor.  It will say, “In Honor of our Link to Heaven, Linkin Hamilton”.
I know I don’t get to see you or talk to you because we are not in the same circle, but know my heart is with you and I love you all the same.  IF there is ever anything that I can do please know that if it is in my power, I will absolutely to it for you and all of your family.
With Love.

Umm.. can you say TEARS - and more tears?  And it's even more impossible to believe, but a friend from High School sent me a check to get another brick for him here locally. Isn't it amazing? More tears and feelings of unbelief at the generosity of so many. 

Today, I went to the cemetery. I knelt at his grave and I told him about ALL of it. I spoke your names & I wept as I talked of your generosity and how SO many people love him and have been touched by his life - enough to move to action and help others in the same need we were in when he was here. I even printed the e-mails and pictures and left them there for him. I told him how much I loved him. How proud I was of him. How much I missed him. I knew he heard and I felt SO sure that he was telling me that our gifts of service were the BEST gifts he could have ever received on his birthday. So THANK YOU. Those two words are so inadequate to express what's in my heart, but they will have to do. THANK YOU. From me, from Jason, from the girls and from Link. Thank you. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

October Newsletter & Slideshow

Below is the slideshow for both October & McKinley's baptism pictures, as well as the newsletter. Enjoy!

October was full of cooler temperatures and changing leaves. It was a busy, beautiful month. We had 2 big, fun events – McKinley’s baptism & Kezi’s 4th birthday, and one very sad event – the death of our friend, Andrew Strand.  The first weekend in October was spent enjoying conference. The girls had fun coloring big pictures while we listened. The 12th was McKinley’s baptism, so that was a wonderful time for family & friends to come support her. It was a full, crazy, wonderful house & so fun to visit with everyone and feel their love for McKinley. She was truly beautiful. The evening of the 12th, Grandma Potts threw a Halloween Party/Kezia’s birthday party. The cousins all dressed up and had a lot of fun with the games & activities. Aunt Cindy made Kezia an adorable Mario/Luigi birthday cake that Kezi loved. The Simons, Grandma Potts, and the Edwards went to church with us on the 13th and that was wonderful to have them there. On the 15th, there was a wave of light event for the international infant loss day. We joined with about 100 other families to honor our babies that died by lighting candles, talking about them and letting go of balloons. It was really neat. On the 16th, Heidi & Jason went to the funeral of their friend, Andrew Strand. It was a sad day, but we were thankful to be able to be there for Jen, Anna & Ella. The 18th to the 21st was the girls’ fall break. We had a good time going to 5 little monkeys, the park, and playing with friends. On the 19th, we went to some pet shops in the morning, swimming in the afternoon, and the Judd Pumpkin Patch in the evening. We went to the pumpkin patch to get some pumpkins and pet the farm animals, but we ended up not getting any pumpkins because most of them were rotten. We did get to pet the farm animals & run into our friends, the Daniels, but instead of getting pumpkins, we got a pet bunny! Kezia had been wanting a bunny for her birthday for such a long time (or a kitty or guinea pig) & we had been looking that morning & there was a purebred Dutch bunny there at the pumpkin patch– the last one left. So cute – black & white. So… after some thinking about it, we decided to go ahead & bring him home. Kezia originally named him rainbow (even though he’s black & white), but after mom reminded her that the bunny was a boy, she changed it to “Rainbow Truck.” We have had a fun time with Rainbow Truck since he’s joined our family. He entertains us with his crazy jumps and sprints (binkying), and we love to cuddle with him and his soft fur. We are still working on potty training him & he does make lots of messes, but overall he’s been a lot of fun. Mom had to put a bell collar on him because he would get out & no one could find him! The 26th was Kezia’s big day! She turned four this year, so she got to have a friend party. Read her section to hear all about her birthday fun! On the 30th, we carved our pumpkins, which was a lot of fun! McKinley was old enough to do hers all by herself this year & the other girls drew the plans for what they wanted & mom & dad helped. Dad did a really gross puking pumpkin this year. The girls had fun on Halloween – they got to wear their costumes to school this year! Ireland was a queen, McKinley was a rock star and Kezia was a mermaid. After they got home from their fun school parties, they got to go to the Klassens in the ward, where there was another party with homemade root beer and games and book-reading. It was a lot of fun. Daddy took them trick-or-treating this year. It was cold, but they each came home with filled buckets!!

JASON: Jason was furloughed for about 2 weeks out of the beginning of the month. He sure took advantage of the time! He built the stairs off the bottom deck with Jeff, stained the deck and the stairs, fixed our garage door opener (we had to order a new part & he installed it), fixed the stove (it wasn’t heating properly – we had to order 2 expensive parts to fix it), and worked on the retaining wall & drainage for the backyard. So – needless to say, he stayed busy & didn’t get bored. We were thankful for that extra time, even though it was stressful, not knowing if he would get back pay. Thankfully, he did and is now back at work J In scouts, their focus has been on indexing. Jason stayed up many late nights putting in names & information. He got up to 200 names. Great job!!!

 HEIDI:  Most of the last half of October was spent nonstop working on Link’s birthday book. Some days, she didn’t even get dressed! She was a bit obsessive since Link’s bench wouldn’t be done by his birthday & she knew if she worked hard, it could be completed. It was about 220 pages long, but she did complete it & can’t wait to see it! She enjoyed seeing family & friends for McKinley’s baptism & having them come to church. She started re-reading the Hiding Place & has already learned so very much that is helped her gain perspective and makes her want to be a better person. She has tried to help & support Jen through the shock and grief of losing her husband. She knows it isn’t easy. 

-During conference, McKinley had a part of butcher paper – about 4 feet long. She decided to draw a fairy town – complete with tree fairy houses, fairy businesses, and fairies “walking” their flying pets. It was so creative and cute!
-McKinley’s baptism was really wonderful. She looked so beautiful in the ruffle white dress that Grandma Devenish gave to her & the flower made from mom’s wedding dress that Grandma Potts made. Everyone on dad’s side came & everyone but the Checketts came on mom’s side (Aunt Tiffany was really pregnant & in Minnesota!) – also the Benson’s & Bealers & Price’s came. We first went to the stake center where there was a talk and song and then her baptism. It was such a beautiful experience to see her walk into the water, have her daddy take her hand and baptize her. She said that was the very favorite part of her day – when her daddy’s baptized her. We went back to our church and daddy confirmed her (it was a wonderful confirmation & daddy even mentioned about a mission) and Aunt Cindy & Michael gave a talk on the Holy Ghost. Kalli, Tiarra, & Camri also sang “Come into the Water. “ It was so neat. Brother Pearson also spoke and Jocelyn Barnes. The primary presidency gave McKinley a thing of notecards with everyone’s testimony on it and everyone signed a frame for her. Then we came back to our home & had yummy food and McKinley got LOTS of gifts, including a hand-stamped necklace with her baptism date on it & “I promise” from Aunt Trisha, a “faith, hope & charity” necklace from Grandma Tew that belonged to her when she was younger, a Holy Ghost plaque from her Primary Teacher, sister Bybee, a Liahona from Aunt Cindy, a soft blanket from the Bensons, a journal from Aunt Kim, and of course her scriptures & CTR ring from mom & dad.
-Since she was given the Holy Ghost, she’s had a couple neat experiences, including a reminder to write in her journal about her baptism day and a reminder to be nice to a boy that others were being mean to.
-McKinley had her first “lateover” this month with MJ (Mary Jane). She got to go over & watch movies with her & drink punch & have pizza. Mom & dad let her stay over till 11 – by that time, MJ was asleep J
-McKinley has done so well in school! She consistently gets over 100% on her spelling tests (bonus words), and she got called down to the office to go with a few other kids and Principle Whittiar to walk to the gas station and pick a treat!! She got to go because she was such a great leader.
-Grandma took McKinley shopping for her birthday & she picked a crochet project. It took a while & some youtube videos to figure out, but she learned the basic crochet stitch! She said “How do you feel now that you have a daughter that knows how to crochet?”
-McKinley spent a lot of time writing thank you notes for everyone coming to her baptism J
-When we were looking for a pet for Kezia, we went to IFA & saw the white rabbits there. The lady told us they were meat rabbits. On our way out, mom said “those rabbits are for eating” and McKinley said “yeah…they just eat & eat & eat and then they just get too big to play with.” We just let her think that J
-McKinley continues to love activity days – this month she made a ghost pillow, and a popcorn hand J
-McKinley was a rock star for Halloween. We even spray-painted her hair purple & pink!
-McKinley lost a molar this month!

-Ireland’s big news this month is that she lost her first tooth!! Daddy sure helped out J She was REALLY excited – jumping up and down. We had to call everyone. She had to wait over a year longer than McKinley when she was her age. She was pretty excited to get a gold coin from the tooth fairy!
-Ireland is into drawing mermaids lately. During conference, she was drawing lots of great mermaids. She held up her paper & said “Look mom! I’m an illustrator!”
-Ireland is still really cute about drawing & giving I LOVE YOU cards. She makes them for members of our family a lot. The other day, mom found one that said “I LOVE ME!” So cute!
-Ireland is doing terrific in school as well. We had SEP conferences and her teacher talked about what a good friend and artist Ireland is. Mom got to go to 4 different “centers” and got to do some projects with Ireland. It was a lot of fun.
-Ireland is also doing great with “Lime tickets” – tickets that they get for being a good leader & friend. Also, one day she came home with candy in her backpack. Mom asked her where she got it from & she said “I got it because I was famous in my class for doing all the sight words” J
-Ireland has been saying a lot lately that her tummy or her head hurts L
-A sweet woman from our ward, Brooke Schoppman, went to Ireland for a couple weeks. She was so kind and brought back a beautiful, thick, green scarf that says “IRELAND” on it for her, as well as a bumper sticker & magnet. She is so thoughtful. Ireland just LOVES her scarf from “her country.”
-Ireland originally wanted to be a ballerina for Halloween, but while she & mom were scrolling through costumes & she saw this pink queen dress & said “NO –mom! Wait! That’s the one!” and so we spent too much and bought a beautiful pink queen outfit, complete with a crown and wand. People would say what a beautiful princess she was & she would say “I’m NOT a princess! I’m a QUEEN!”
-She had such a fun party at school & brought home lots of candy. She had a great time trick-or-treating with her sisters & daddy, tooJ

-Happy 4th Birthday Kezia! We celebrated Kezia’s birthday early when everyone was here for McKinley’s baptism. She had fun shopping with Grandma & enjoying her Super Mario Brother’s cake that Aunt Cindy made. Her actual birthday (the 26th) was on a Saturday, which made it perfect for her party! We had everyone wear their costumes & we piggy-backed onto the library’s Halloween activities. There was a cardboard maze, a sucker-ghost craft, a mask craft, a book walk, and pin the tail on the jack-o-lantern. Afterwards, we headed to the park next to the library for cake, ice cream & gifts. Grandma Devenish, Hayden, Canyon, Aunt Keeley, Daken, Mahina Vogt, Kyla Johnson, Paige Hillstead, Laura Spencer, Addison, Brecken & Jaxon Bealer, Rachel Corry, and Anna & Ella Strand (& your family!) came! She got so many wonderful gifts – lots of My Little Ponies (mom & dad even gave her a pony castle!), pretend make-up, nail polish, stuffed animals, a puzzle, books, & her sister McKinley even spent $10 of her own money to buy her a stuffed pony. It was a beautiful, perfect day for an outdoor party. Everyone played at the park afterward. She wanted pancakes for breakfast (daddy even made a #4 for her J), macaroni & cheese for lunch, and Taco Bell for dinner. Grandma & Grandpa Devenish, Hayden & Canyon, Aunt Keeley & Daken and our family all went to Taco Bell after the party & then we came home to play with gifts! It was a great birthday! Earlier in the day, daddy even took her swimming J
-Kezi’s preschool called to say she was missing an immunization. We had to head to the dr. the next day to get the shot. She was pretty unhappy about going & nervous about how much it was going to hurt. In the end, she cried for a minute, but was fine! – and happy to get her sucker J
-Kezi was coughing quite a bit this month. One day she said “I almost coughed out a booger cough.”
-Seems like everywhere we go, Kezi meets a new friend. And within a few minutes, she comes over to mom wanting our phone number for a play date (even when the “friend” is 10 years old J)
-It seems like every time we need to go some place, Kezi can’t find her shoes. One of these times, we were running late & mom was trying to get her to pick a pair of shoes. She looked over them & sighed “none of my shoes are clever.”
-We’ve had to try and talk to Kezia about being a better friend. When her friend Addi comes over, she runs from her and closes the door & says “I need some alone time!”
-Kezia doesn’t usually want to say her prayers at night L
-Kezia loves her new bunny. We really have to remind her to be gentle. She loves to squeeze it and love it. She also likes to take Rainbow Truck upstairs & dress it up.
-Kezi was telling one of her friends “Do you know what boy died in our family?”
-Kezia has really started getting good at writing her letters this month! Yay! She can really write her name and most names of people in our family. Way to GO Kezia!!!
-Kezia is constantly looking for someone to play hide & seek with her.
-When Kezi opened one of her birthday cards and found cash inside, she held it up and yelled “LOOK! I got tithing for my birthday!”
-One of the girls was saying “duh” & mom said there is never a time where “duh” is a nice word. Kezia paused & then said “Yes it is if you say duh! You can have my toy.”
-On Halloween we were talking about what the bunny was going to be. Kezia said we should spray it with the hair spray paint. Mom laughed & said “Hmmm – not sure that’s a good idea. How would we clean it off?” Kezia thought & then said “In the dishwasher!”
-Kezia wanted to be Princess Luna for Halloween, but we just couldn’t find the costume online. Instead we found a mermaid costume & she was pretty excited to wear it. She got to wear it to her birthday party & her preschool party. She had a lot of fun trick-or-treating!


 Hello our sweet son. Mom re-lived the entire journey of your life – from the minute she found out she was pregnant with you, to the day you died while she was putting together your birthday book. And it was hard. Beautiful, sweet, miraculous, and so very painful at the same time. She re-lived a lot of the emotions, too, and in the end, she is just so full of love for YOU and gratitude that she got to be a part of your journey. We missed you at your oldest sister’s baptism. We missed you at your older sister’s birthday. We REALLY truly missed you on Halloween. Mom stopped by your grave that morning and sobbed beside your marker. She left you a few pieces of candy. Daddy also visited you that day. We both wish you were here to dress up and take trick-or-treating. We know you have been a part of helping daddy index names and work on family history. We know you watch out for your sisters and help protect us and guide us. Grandma Potts says you have been a part of her decision to serve as a temple worker. She has been working on family history as well & tells mom “I spent some time with Link today!” We still talk about you every day, our precious baby boy. We talk about what you’d be doing. Kezi draws you pictures & is starting to write your name. As we near your birthday, please please be with us. As the memories come over us and the emotions come, too, please be with us and help us to see the miracles and blessings instead of what wasn’t. We love you. We miss you. We are so thankful for you.