My last blog regarding my tough spring season was met with mixed reactions. Moms understood and rooted me along. Some even said they cried reading because they were feeling the same. But some of my husband's athletes berrated him with really nasty texts, and well, shame on you dark souls.
And welcome to the world - so many people tell me that this world is terrible. People are terrible. That when they hear stories of my angel work, they wish the world had nicer people in it. And although I am sure there are lots of those nasty texters out there, I really believe there is more good than bad. The flower world has exposed me to so much beauty: to brides who become moms and donate to my angels, to those in grief who reach out asking to help others, to families of angel babies that have been in heaven for over 45 years who come out of the woodwork to help me with tears in their eyes, to an angel-mom florist who literally embodies joy for others in honor of her son in every possible way, to my friends who find ways to sneak in donations because I refuse to take money in their grief, to my grieving families who send me pictures of my flowers next to their babies' urns and memorials and continue to ask if we need any help on the shop or promote my business with such love. They remind me to keep chugging along with absolute conviction to my cause.
My September birthday blog is for all of you beautiful beings. Thank you for making my life feel so full.
The other day, one of my angel moms who experienced many miscarriages and finally cuddles her rainbow baby (baby Gavin) messaged me, and at some point she told me she was sorry for my angel baby loss, assuming the reason why I created my program was because I had experienced this grief firsthand.
But actually, I am lucky to admit I am not part of the 1 in 4 statistic for those broken hearted mamas. The way I explain my drive to others is that I have experienced the joy of those babies and well up picturing that joy ripped from my heart.
The Angel Baby program began when I received my first funeral flowers from a baby. I got word that the flowers that were coming were from 17-month-old Kyleigh Hope, who tragically drowned during a family gathering. I took deep breaths and asked my hubby to give me a few minutes alone before her family came. And I learned so much from that first interaction.
Kyleigh's aunt dropped off the flowers. And I remember asking, "How is your sister doing?" Her glare and crude response was so harsh, but so was my question. What kind of answer did I expect? I have forever learned so much from that moment about really thinking carefully about my words before I let them come out to a person in grief and, of course, how to soak in every detail they tell me so I can honor their babies' stories properly.
At that two-hour meeting, we also discussed cost. I explained they would just pay for materials. Her aunt just yes'ed me and went on her way after leaving the flowers and crucifix from Kyleigh's coffin. I sat on my workshop floor cradling a pink rose, sprinkled with sparkles, with a lady bug glued on it and cried. Those flowers meant something big - to both of us.
The display was done around Christmas; Kyleigh's picture of her sweet smiling face, standing in a white dress is a forever image in my heart, and my husband and I both agreed that we would give them everything for free. I wrapped it up in sparkly silver wrapping paper with a big bow, just the way a two-year-old would want, and the tears during that exchange began the immediate growth of my program. I hope Kyleigh's mom realizes how much her baby girl has done for so many other angel families.
Kyleigh taught me that I had the power to help in a helpless situation.
Years later, I met Kyleigh's mom via social media, but before then, I did see her once in person in passing. I actually knew who she was because I would check in on her family because I worried about her often (yes, creeper). I tell this story to my students all the time to teach a moral. I was at the candy store with my kiddies and she walked in, like a normal person...head held high, asking for donations for a charitable cause/Chinese auction for a friend in need. I was in awe and wish I reached out to her right there. She looked like a regular person on Main Street; no one would ever know what she carried in her heart every day.
The broken hearted walk among us and you might never know. Maybe the person is lingering at the stop sign a little too long because she's in a fog of grief. Maybe you shouldn't blow your horn and throw up your hands. Maybe a person is slow ringing up items at Target because he's in a fog of grief. Maybe you shouldn't tap your foot and sigh loudly and impatiently.
Just this year, another angel mama came to meet me one day. My kids came running outside as we were talking, and I walked her down the driveway toward her car. Cole, my oldest, said, "Mom, that was Moana's mom, right?" (We referred to angel Bella as Moana because of part of the details of one of my projects). Later, he explained he was confused because she smiled. (And believe me, most of our convo involved tear-filled eyes). These mamas are warriors with the best poker faces you could imagine. They also smile to make their babies proud of the life they create here and the love they carry in their heart forever. They have learned the painful lesson that life is short and precious and often live life more fuller than we can imagine, battling through forever nightmares too.
Another angel mom who regularly posts about her depression online was met with a comment that really disturbed me. One man, who is also a father of three, wrote to her after she revealed how much she was struggling with the sudden death of her 4-week-old son, Dalton. Let me repeat - FOUR WEEK OLD BABY. He posted, "If you have the willpower, you will get better," as if she had a curable disease, as if she didn't have willpower. I privately messaged her to tell her that her willpower to choose to breath every day was inspirational, that her heart will never heal, and that I just hope she finds a way to find a way for her light to shine through the cracks in it.
She explained to me that my work often inspires her to get up.
One flower. One bead. One charm. One small gesture. In my eyes, the cost for me is nothing compared to what they are worth to these families.
It's so much bigger, and I well up thinking that I have haphazardly created this symbol of hope and love and life for all these mamas by just listening to my heart and believing in angels. I love being the stranger who elbows through the crowd to reach out and extend my hand to help. I love that I have found my special way to help.
And, I have so much more up my sleeve. So in honor of my own birthday celebration today, I am unleashing a piece of my big vision. Although I often say my two babies are my heart on legs, running vulnerably outside of my body, this vision is also a piece of my heart for all to see. Because, well, love grows, and so does my heart with each of the stories it bears.
My angel. My memorial. My place of solace for these mamas who are in search of life's beauty. For the babies, their stories and their names, who will forever be remembered and acknowledged by DTTB. I have been talking about setting up a memorial for years, and it has slowly evolved into an actual plan now that we are in the renovation process. I can literally feel my angel army behind me every time we get a step closer. I hope they are proud.
And a special thank you to J. Lee Syn for going above and beyond for my rendering, but more importantly absorbing every important detail in my head to help it come to life exactly how I pictured it.
Upon approval by the Village Board, here she is. I hope she feels magical for all of you (sound on).