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.