Tag Archives: family

…still in the family

Five years ago today, we met our firstborn.

It feels like a thousand years ago, and yesterday, all at once.

This past weekend, we celebrated Hudson’s beautiful but short life with close family. I want for Hudson’s brother and sister to always associate July 11 with celebration instead of grief, so every year, I make Hudson an elaborately decorated birthday cake and share it with those who shared those three awful/wonderful days with us in Spokane.

We have very large pictures of Hudson on the walls of our home, and have never been shy about talking about Anson’s big sister. Now three years old, Anson is beginning to have some small concept of mortality. While decorating Hudson’s birthday cake this year, Anson asked who the birthday cake was for. I told him it was for his sister.

“Baby sister?”
“No, this cake is for your big sister, Hudson.”
“When is she coming over?”
“Oh honey, Hudson isn’t going to be coming over.”
“‘Cuz why?”

Ugh. I quickly contemplated the various forms of response that I could serve up to my 3-year-old to explain where Hudson is and why she can’t come to her own birthday party. She’s in heaven crossed my mind as perhaps the rosiest of responses, but instead I just shot him straight.

“Because, Anson. Hudson died.”

No sugar-coating or fairytale-ing it.

Anson looked at me for a moment as if he knew this meant something important, then returned to decorating the frosting patch I had given him to distract from decorating the real cake.

During story time before his nap, Anson looked up at me and said “I’m so disappointed that Hudson died.”

Me too, buddy.

At bedtime, it felt important to include Hudson in our night-night tradition of “With — in the family, happy happy home”. A heavy-lidded, PJed Anson interrupted me mid-verse:

“Hudson’s not here anymore, but she’s still in the family.”

Well put, my wise little man. While Hudson’s not here anymore, she is still our first-born, the first to make the Hubs and I parents, a true heartbreaker who didn’t get much time with us, but somehow still managed to change the world.

My sister-in-law has a grandmother who is turning 101 while we celebrate what would have been Hudson’s 5th birthday. Think of what Hudson could have accomplished with 101 years. She moved mountains in just 3 days.

And while she’s not here to blow out the candles on her rainbow layered birthday cake, to rule the house and boss her little brother and sister around, to sass and dance and skin her knees and sneak a lick of frosting from the bowl, she’s still in the family. I see her in the beautiful blue eyes of her siblings. I hear her in their belly laughs. She’s the extra squeeze in our goodnight hugs.

She’s in those moments when we stop doing what we think is important and focus on what is truly important.

Happy birthday, girlie.



The week after Hudson died, the Hubs and I went for a drive. We needed to get out of the house, we wanted to be distracted, and as the Hubs put it, “I kind of hope some good country song that reminds me of Hudson will come on the radio.” As we drove through the wheat fields of Walla Walla in the summer sunshine, a few duds came on (“She Thinks my Tractor’s Sexy”, for instance) before Collin Raye’s “In this Life” started playing.

If it all falls apart
I will know deep in my heart
the only dream that mattered had come true…
in this life I was loved by you.

Well that one got me going. Like, right now, as I typed out those lyrics.

Some songs that you wouldn’t think would be sentimental really tug at our heartstrings. Like “The One that Got Away” by Jake Owen. Something about the lyric “She set my world on fire on the fourth of July…” gets me. And the chorus, “She was the one that got away, the one that wrecked my heart…” or even the bridge:

Every summer rolls around,
I’m looking over my shoulder
wishing I could see her face,
wishing I could hold her.

What was supposed to be a catchy ditty about long-lost summer love is, for the Hubs and I, a poignant anthem highlighting so many things we are missing. Every summer that rolls around for us, I’ll be remembering the days leading up to Hudson’s birth, all that anticipation on the 4th of July, and I will be wishing I could hold her.

There’s a lyric in Zac Brown Band’s newest song, “Goodbye in her eyes“, that never fails to get me choked up. These guys are true musicians, and I love to belt along with their songs, but when I get to this lyric in the bridge…

He’s gonna love the way you shine…
So did I.

…I have to sing through that throat-clenching warble that makes your voice go all pitchy and off-key, because I’m thinking of how Hudson is making Heaven shine,  how bright she made our lives for those three days (and the nine months leading up to them), and how much that light is missing now.

There are some songs that just get me because they’re pretty and contemplative, like Thompson Square’s “We are Glass” and The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young”. And there are some songs that I immediately change the station for, like Carrie Underwood’s “All American Girl” and Tim McGraw’s “My Little Girl” and Trace Adkins “She Thinks We’re Just Fishin'”.

I don’t need to torture myself.

Last weekend, the Hubs and I went for another drive, this time through snow-kissed unmarked roads in the blustery Walla Walla hillsides. And on this fateful drive, an old Brad Paisley song came on, one I hadn’t heard in eternities. “He Didn’t Have to Be” – country music fans, you know where I’m heading with this one?

All of a sudden, oh, it seems so strange to me
How we’ve gone from “Something’s missin'” to a family

I did my deep, slow, stave-off-the-tears breathing exercise as long as I could before blurting out, “Damn you, Brad Paisley!” The Hubs was startled, with reason.

“What, you haven’t heard that song before?”

“Not like this I haven’t.”

We’ve gone from “Something’s missin'” to a family, and back to “something’s missin'” so fast it doesn’t seem fair. More often than not now, I am used to the fact that we aren’t parents with a five month old, and that we have a while to wait before we get to be. But every once in a while, we’ll be driving along and some old country song will start playing and bring that reality front and center and make me curse at a country singer who, as far as I can tell, is a pretty nice guy.

After my outburst, the Hubs just reached over and silently held my hand. And you know what? Something is definitely missing, but we are still a family.

And my husband is twice the dad I had always dreamed he’d be.

How’s that for a song lyric, Brad?

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Count your blessings

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. I recall a much different kind of Thanksgiving last year – a secret-keeping, meaningful-glance-throwing Thanksgiving with the Dub clan, the Hubs and I both well aware we were expecting and trying to hide it from the rest of the gang.

This year will be much different.

We thought we’d have a baby by now.

A lifetime has passed. We’re different people. We were both there when our daughter was brought into the world. We were both there when our daughter left the world.

And this week, we are supposed to think about being thankful.

All over Facebook, people are doing this “Thankfulness” exercise, posting something they are thankful for every day. I missed the memo on this whole idea, but I do like the concept. Unfortunately, it has been a pretty emotional month – a hard one, to be frank. More friends are pregnant. The OtherDubs (Auntie K and Uncle M) are expecting a girl. It’s the first in a lifetime of holidays without our daughter. I have had a few really good cries – the puffy-eye kind. I want to be pregnant, and I’m not.

But we do need to give thanks, to count our blessings, and my number one blessing of 2012 was this: we had a beautiful baby girl this year. She died, but she was born and she was amazing and wonderful and her life taught me an important truth: This is all you get – this life, this day – and we should be thankful for and show our appreciation for all the blessings we are given in this moment. There is no time to waste.

I am thankful for our daughter. Everything is more important now, every person, every connection, every opportunity is different because of her.

I am thankful for my husband. Watching him love our daughter, seeing his strength as we’ve navigated this loss together, feeling his support in all the ways I’ve needed it, makes me realize what a once in a lifetime love we have. And I get to spend my life with this man. I am truly blessed.

I am thankful for my family. For a sister who runs with me, hugs me, gets nostalgic for the things we are missing but never in a way that sounds like whining. For a brother who is so sweet, who loved our girl so much that he wrote a poem for her (that I really need to post here), who plays a #3 golf ball inscribed with our daughter’s initials (“HRW”) in his tournaments. For a mother who prints off every single blog post, who shows up when I need her, who sells her photography to raise money for the Forget-Me-Not Foundation. For a father who texts me email-length notes about Hudson and football and love and politics, who keeps in touch with my father-in-law so they can talk grandpa-stuff, who always reminds me that I have the strength to handle this.

I am thankful that Uncle M and Auntie K are having a baby in March, a little girl who will bring so much joy to our family, a world of experiences we missed out on with Hudson. I can’t wait to meet her.

I am thankful for my in-laws. The concept of dreading a visit from the in-laws is completely foreign to me – I hit the jackpot in that department and my husband’s family is my own, a wonderful support system who raised such a gentleman for me to marry.

I am thankful for my dogs, for sunshine, for baked goods, for good books, for clothes that fit and for access to the Internet.

I am thankful for my body. What an amazing thing the human body is! I can run for miles after having a live human baby (almost 8 pounds!) pulled from a 6 1/2″ incision (I just measured) in my abdomen.

I am thankful that an elderly pediatrician was able to get my baby girl’s heart beating so that I could spend the best three days of my life with her.

I am thankful for time, for a future, for hope, for comments on my blog and for notes from people who never even met Hudson whose lives have been impacted by her story and ours.

I am thankful for my friends, this amazing group of people from different stages of my life who have stuck around as I’ve grown up, who have seen me in my wildest and my tamest of moments, who have listened through failed love stories and disliked people on my behalf, who let me talk about Hudson and ramble a stream-of-consciousness riff of emotion and never tune out, who let me feel how I need to feel and sometimes go there with me. These are the people I want in my children’s lives.

I am thankful for this moment. For the next. For five minutes and five years from now, if I am so lucky.

Count your blessings, one by one. You’ll find that life given you millions of things to be thankful for, and that your life is beautiful if you let it be.

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