Important Changes

Featured

We are sorry to announce that Carol Cacchione will no longer be managing our group, or available for local events.  Carol will be moving to be closer to her grandson and is looking forward to being his after school caregiver.  Therefore, all Empty Arms correspondence, including donations to the group, should be sent to:

Angela West, 10160 Loomis Lane, Lake City, PA 16423.

I will be updating the brochure and distributing it to the local hospitals with the current contact information.  If anyone needs brochures, or has suggestions of where some may be needed, please contact me at the address above, or call me at 814-774-7064, or email angela@mapsofmastery.com.  As always, this is our blog, and contributions from members are welcome and encouraged!

Carol, we wish you the very best, and will miss you dearly!

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Donations

Thank you to Bob and Rose Day for their Thanksgiving donation in memory of their grandson, Tristin Xavier Day.

I would also like to thank Jay Cilladi who donated the materials for this year’s ornament in memory of his mother, Eleanor Cilladi, and his sister Maxine Cilladi, who died at age 9.  I’m preparing the ornaments for mailing, and I think they are extra meaningful, having been made with materials that belonged to another loss Mom.

I am still checking to see if St. Vincent’s will be willing to help us with mailing, but am doubtful that they are still able, as the hospital system has changed hands.  If you’d like to help the ornament mission continue, please consider sending a donation for postage, or just a donation of stamps to me at:  Empty Arms, c/o Angela West, 10160 Loomis Lane, Lake City, PA 16423.

Last Things

There’s a football in my gift closet.  I know it’s there.  It’s been there since three years ago when my husband and I both went holiday shopping and, unbeknownst to each other, each bought a football for our nephew.  That’s okay, we thought.  He must really go through them; he puts one on his list every year.  We didn’t know that would be his last Christmas.  How could anyone know it would be his last Christmas?  Last year, the football took me by surprise, when I opened the closet to put in new purchases.  Every time I went in there over the last year, it’s given me an extra jab.  This year, I remembered it before I even bought anything.  I know it’s there.  I keep thinking maybe we should donate it to Toys for Tots.  Do we know another boy who loves football?  One who would really enjoy it?  Is there a better place to put it to use?  But I’m not sure I’m ready to take it out of the closet.  I know it’s silly to let it sit there.  Someone could be using it.  It hurts to know it’s there.  I apologized to my husband ahead of time when I asked him to get the wrapping paper from in there, knowing he would see it, too.  Knowing it would hurt him, too.  But I think it might hurt more if it wasn’t in there.  I don’t want it to leave the house.  Not unless it’s going where it belongs.  I know I can’t give it to the person it belongs to.  I know keeping it isn’t going to make him miraculously available to receive a Christmas present.  And yet.

Last things are hard.  It’s why we keep the ashes instead of burying or scattering them.  It’s why we don’t pack away the baby clothes.  It’s why we put off ordering the tombstone.  It’s why that football may stay in that closet forever.

Three Years

By Amy Kemp Hall

Three years ago today I found out I was pregnant for the first time. The happiness I felt that day was better than I could have ever dreamed. The next 54 days were filled with excitement and planning and announcing to loved ones. Life was so sweet. And then on Christmas night, an ER physician told me my baby had died. Life changed that night, and has never been the same since. I have been blessed with 2 rainbow babies, but I definitely don’t deserve them. How could I have been given these two beautiful girls and still feel sadness every day? And they deserve much more than what they are getting from their mother at this point. My life has been unraveling since losing my baby, and I hate myself a little bit more each day for not being able to put it back together. I never could have imagined how deeply and extensively this loss would impact my life, and the fact that I am letting it impact my girls breaks my heart. I pray someday they will have a mother who can provide them with the joy and happiness they deserve, the same joy and happiness I felt 3 years ago today.

Empty Arms Program

Some of you may have seen the report on the news yesterday about the Empty Arms Program for infant gowns.  While these ladies share our name, they are not directly affiliated with us, and were unaware of our name.  We are thrilled to hear about their mission.  If you are interested in donating a gown or want to learn more about them, you can find them on their facebook page:  www.facebook.com/emptyarmsprogram.  We have also worked with Karen from Small Things Angel Baby Gowns for many years, who has done a wonderful job of keeping our local hospitals supplied with gowns and wraps for even the smallest of our babies.  Karen’s web page is:  https://angelbabygowns.wixsite.com/smallthings?fbclid=IwAR31mwtOGeDXvuhvxQ-C1SQaEt95g88Z9mS_YGzesrCE3R7sbr9tKo4GcCg

Donations & Flower Project

I’m afraid I’ve been behind in posting.  It’s been a long winter, and my migraines have been making life difficult.

Thank you to the following members for your generous donations:

Bob & Rose Day, remembering their grandson Tristin Xavier Day at Easter.

The Devine Family, in memory of Baby Peebles.

An anonymous donor.

I’d like to remind everyone about our annual Mother’s Day Flower Project.  We will meet in the parking lot at Liberty Family Practice on Saturday, May 12th, at noon, to distribute flowers to parents who would like to place them on babies’ graves around the area.  I will also have some bulbs available for those who could not bury their babies.  All are welcome to place flowers, whether your baby was buried or not.

Our May/Mother’s Day meeting will take place this Tuesday, May 8th, at 7:30.

Donations and Holiday Ornaments

Thank you so much to our members who sent donations over the holidays.

In memory of Tristan Xavier Day at Thanksgiving and Christmas, from his grandparents, Bob and Rose Day.

In memory of Angelica E. Booth, from Rick & Cynthia Ferrese.

I hope everyone liked this year’s holiday ornament.  I was pleased with how mine caught the tree lights and sparkled!  If you did not receive one, please update your address by emailing me at angela@mapsofmastery.com.  Every year, I worry about what to do for next year, but every year a new idea seems to present itself right before the current ones are finished.  This year, the idea came along with a donation of materials from a loved one who also lost a child, making it extra special.  I look forward to starting on them soon.

 

I Remember You

Anyone who knows me knows I’m more than a little obsessed with Dr. Who.  It’s not surprising that many of the episodes push my baby loss buttons.  There are episodes about babies being stolen, torn away before your eyes.  There are episodes about the power contained in lives that should have been lived.  Today, on the thirteenth anniversary of what would have been River’s birthday, and the day Aidan was torn away from us, I’m watching an episode about the power of remembering.  About crying without knowing why.  About loving someone so hard that you can bring them back from never existing at all.  If that’s not an episode tailor-made for us, I don’t know what is.

Our babies don’t leave much physical evidence behind.  Most people would never know they existed unless we tell them.  They often don’t get memorials in cemeteries.  There are often no photographs.  Some people would have us think they never really existed at all.  But we remember them.  Our bodies remember them, even years later, enough that sometimes we find ourselves crying without knowing why, before we remember the date on the calendar.  Before we realize consciously what was going on at this moment, so many years ago.  We remember them, and we keep loving them.  If we could love them fiercely enough to bring them back, we would.

Sometimes I wish the powers that work in fictional worlds would work the same way here.  But, whether it can bring you back to me or not, I remember you.

Three

Remember when your loss was new, and pregnant women were everywhere?  You couldn’t seem to escape them, no matter where you went or what you did?  Lately, it seems like everyone is having their third child.  My young nephew and his wife.  Distant friends on the internet.  The British royal family.  My mailman, for heaven’s sake.

Three was the magic number.  Three was the family I wanted to have.  Never mind that we only have three bedrooms in our house.  Never mind that we struggle sometimes to make ends meet with only two.  Never mind how supremely grateful I am to have two healthy, living children, when so many are not even blessed with one.  I still grieve for the family I wanted.  The one I will never have.

No, I don’t begrudge these people their third children.  It’s not like the pregnant woman you see engaging in risky behavior who makes life seem all that much more unfair.  I have known my fair share of people who have had ‘accidental’ and even unwanted third children.  But none of these recent have been in that category.  There is  no reason to resent them.  I’m happy for them.  But their joy still hurts me a little bit.  And then I feel guilty and ungrateful because it hurts.

It never ceases to amaze me how many new ways there are to grieve for our babies.  Whenever I think I’ve come to some sort of peace with it, something happens to remind me that it still hurts.  It will always hurt.  Losing those individual souls hurts.  Losing the family we would have been with them hurts.  Not being able to tell everyone that it hurts hurts.  Seeing others who seem to effortlessly gain what we wanted so much hurts.

Owning Every Moment Is Still Not Enough

I’ve been neglecting the blog this summer.  When we are raw, sometimes words don’t come readily.

In July, we lost our 17-year-old nephew, Brian, in a car accident.  He was driving home from a friend’s and crashed within hearing distance of home.  We assume he swerved to avoid a deer.  Because he was close to home, his parents and sister heard the crash and were able to be with him until the helicopter arrived to take him to the hospital.  We are eternally grateful that he knew he was not alone.

I thought I was experienced at grief.  I thought I knew what to expect, and how to handle it.  Funny how life can always prove us wrong.  Losing our babies so early, one of the hardest things is how little of them we ever had.  I never understood, and still don’t, why anyone has to lose something without ever really getting to have it.  It seems easier to find meaning in a life lost later.  It seems easier to have more to hold on to, rather than less.  Maybe it is, in some ways.  But it certainly isn’t enough.

Brian’s football coach gave his eulogy.  He talked about how Brian embraced life.  How he lived every minute to the fullest.  That’s true.  All of it.  And it was meant to comfort us.  And it did.  But it wasn’t enough.  This beautiful, loving soul will never get to touch enough lives, no matter how many lives he touched in those seventeen years.  He won’t get to fall in love, to get married, to have children.  He won’t get to see his sisters get married or have children.  He won’t get to be a funny, fantastic uncle.  He did the summer before his senior year.  He won’t win another championship.  He won’t be Homecoming King.  He won’t get to wear a cap and gown.  He won’t become more of whoever he was destined to be.  He won’t get to drag his Grandma to his senior prom, as he insisted he would.

There’s a song by One Republic that makes me think of Brian, every time I hear it.  The first time I heard it after his death, I was in the ladies’ room at an IHOP on the way home from a trip.  I’d spent the weeks since the accident waiting for it to feel real.  I was more deeply in denial than seemed possible.  We had discovered the news via a cousin’s Facebook post of the news article the morning after the accident, and firmly refused to believe it until we were able to contact my grief-stricken brother-in-law, who was still trying to figure out how to tell us.  Despite attending the largest funeral I’ve ever experienced, and hugging over a thousand people, including the entire football team, it still wasn’t real.  I simply could not absorb that this little boy (yes, I know he wasn’t little anymore) was no longer in this world.  But it hit me in the IHOP bathroom, where I sobbed through the song and returned to the table looking like a blotchy wreck.  And it hit me again in a convenience store on the way to work one day, when a local magazine about high school football caught my eye.  I’m pretty sure high school football will hurt forever.  That’s okay.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  It will always hurt that Brian isn’t here.  It will always hurt that he didn’t get to grow beyond that handsome football player in his high school colors, no matter how fully he lived while he was here.  And this song will always make me think of him:
I Lived

Hope when you take that jump

You don’t feel the fall

Hope when the water rises

You built a wall

Hope when the crowd screams out

It’s screaming your name

Hope if everybody runs

You choose to stay

Hope that you fall in love

And it hurts so bad

The only way you can know

You give it all you have

And I hope that you don’t suffer

But take the pain…

Hope when the moment comes

You’ll say

I…I did it all

I…I did it all

I owned every second that this world could give

I saw so many places

The things that I did

Yeah, with every broken bone

I swear I lived

Hope that you spend your days

But they all add up

And when that sun goes down

Hope you raise your cup

Oh, oh

I wish that I could witness

All your joy and all your pain

But until my moment comes

I’ll say

I…I did it all

I…I did it all

I owned every second that this world could give

I saw so many places

The things that I did

Yeah, with every broken bone

I swear I lived

Owning Every Minute Is Not Enough

I’ve been neglecting the blog this summer.  When we are raw, sometimes words don’t come readily.

In July, we lost our 17-year-old nephew, Brian, in a car accident.  He was driving home from a friend’s and crashed within hearing distance of home.  We assume he swerved to avoid a deer.  Because he was close to home, his parents and sister heard the crash and were able to be with him until the helicopter arrived to take him to the hospital.  We are eternally grateful that he knew he was not alone.

I thought I was experienced at grief.  I thought I knew what to expect, and how to handle it.  Funny how life can always prove us wrong.  Losing our babies so early, one of the hardest things is how little of them we ever had.  I never understood, and still don’t, why anyone has to lose something without ever really getting to have it.  It seems easier to find meaning in a life lost later.  It seems easier to have more to hold on to, rather than less.  Maybe it is, in some ways.  But it certainly isn’t enough.

Brian’s football coach gave his eulogy.  He talked about how Brian embraced life.  How he lived every minute to the fullest.  That’s true.  All of it.  And it was meant to comfort us.  And it did.  But it wasn’t enough.  This beautiful, loving soul will never get to touch enough lives, no matter how many lives he touched in those seventeen years.  He won’t get to fall in love, to get married, to have children.  He won’t get to see his sisters get married or have children.  He won’t get to be a funny, fantastic uncle.  He did the summer before his senior year.  He won’t win another championship.  He won’t be Homecoming King.  He won’t get to wear a cap and gown.  He won’t become more of whoever he was destined to be.  He won’t get to drag his Grandma to his senior prom, as he insisted he would.

There’s a song by One Republic that makes me think of Brian, every time I hear it.  The first time I heard it after his death, I was in the ladies’ room at an IHOP on the way home from a trip.  I’d spent the weeks since the accident waiting for it to feel real.  I was more deeply in denial than seemed possible.  We had discovered the news via a cousin’s Facebook post of the news article the morning after the accident, and firmly refused to believe it until we were able to contact my grief-stricken brother-in-law, who was still trying to figure out how to tell us.  Despite attending the largest funeral I’ve ever experienced, and hugging over a thousand people, including the entire football team, it still wasn’t real.  I simply could not absorb that this little boy (yes, I know he wasn’t little anymore) was no longer in this world.  But it hit me in the IHOP bathroom, where I sobbed through the song and returned to the table looking like a blotchy wreck.  And it hit me again in a convenience store on the way to work one day, when a local magazine about high school football caught my eye.  I’m pretty sure high school football will hurt forever.  That’s okay.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  It will always hurt that Brian isn’t here.  It will always hurt that he didn’t get to grow beyond that handsome football player in his high school colors, no matter how fully he lived while he was here.  And this song will always make me think of him:
I Lived

Hope when you take that jump
You don’t feel the fall
Hope when the water rises
You built a wall
Hope when the crowd screams out
It’s screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs
You choose to stay
Hope that you fall in love
And it hurts so bad
The only way you can know
You give it all you have
And I hope that you don’t suffer
But take the pain…
Hope when the moment comes
You’ll say
I…I did it all
I…I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived
Hope that you spend your days
But they all add up
And when that sun goes down
Hope you raise your cup
Oh, oh
I wish that I could witness
All your joy and all your pain
But until my moment comes
I’ll say
I…I did it all
I…I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived