Thursday, November 02, 2006

Forest Through the Trees

I believe in the divine. I've experienced it a handful of times in my life, primarily in the more recent years. The most obvious of these encounters was the birth of my daughter. There is something about experiencing new life and death, beauty and tragedy, almost simultaneously that reminds you you're not the one pulling the strings.

Consequently, Elena has been the cornerstone of most of the other divine experiences I've had. Because of her short life, I have met and befriended some amazing, compassionate souls who enrich my life every day. The boldest example of her influence came upon meeting the grandparents of another angel baby named Elena. About three years ago, they had called me to get a bracelet for their daughter, who had just given birth to her own child, a stillborn baby girl. They arrived and entered my home very tentatively, unsure of what to expect, still overcome with grief themselves. After about an hour or so of sharing stories of loss, they rose to leave. I hugged them both goodbye, but my hug with Elena's grandfather was no ordinary embrace. It was a powerful experience and turning point for the both of us. From him I felt the release of anger, a return to hope. And for myself, a new understanding of purpose.

Divinity struck again recently, appropriately enough on Make a Difference Day this year. October 28th. It was the end of a very packed month for the Fund and for our family. I had been feeling like I was trudging through weekdays just to make it through each event-filled weekend. Each day that passed was another mark on my checklist. And then came the unexpected. We had packed everything up having had a great gathering of volunteers, family and friends. Jon even wrapped up the flowers that had adorned the tables. We decided we would take them to Elena's grave.

Arriving at Babyland in the cemetery, I saw several parked cars and then the distinct green tent came into view. A funeral was in process. From where I parked, it was clear the funeral was happening very near to Elena's gravesite. Not only that, it was set up facing her direction. My first instinct was to leave and not disturb the family. But the next thought I had was, "I want to know about that baby." Jon was having the same thoughts, so we elected to walk to the rear of the funeral and listen in. Immediately upon seeing that tiny white casket, I fell apart. It was Elena's funeral all over again. The pink flowers, the white satin, the looks of pain and confusion on every face.

It was a short service, everyone started to head back to their cars. Jon pointed out that the flowers we brought for Elena were in two bunches. I wanted to give one to the mother of this baby, but wasn't sure it would be good to approach. Instead I tracked down the minister who had performed the service. "Excuse me...I don't know this family. My husband and I just came to bring flowers to our own baby's grave. But I'd like to give them to the mother." The minister responded, "Come with me. She is my niece." He walked me right up to Sarah and introduced me. "This woman has lost a baby too." Sarah and I hugged immediately and wept openly. "I'm so sorry," I told her. "So, so sorry." She thanked me profusely, said she was overwhelmed to be approached by a stranger that way. I told her I didn't want to keep her but gave her the flowers for her baby, Rachel. And then I stepped back to Elena's grave where I had placed the second bunch of flowers.

It was in that instant that I realized how significant the placement of Elena's place was. Her headstone was immediately adjacent to the burial set up for Rachel. The green indoor/outdoor carpeting was laid so that it covered all of the headstones near Elena's, but her's was in plain view. It was as if she were sitting right there, watching over this new little one being ushered to heaven. I knelt and cried, felt a little like I was outside of my body for awhile.

Within a few minutes, someone walked up next to me. I turned to see Sarah there. She said, "I wanted to talk to you before you leave. I...don't know how to feel." I stood up and hugged her and we talked for quite awhile. She asked questions, I learned about her family. I found out Rachel was born at 26 weeks and lived for 5 days. Sarah had spent a good deal of the pregnancy on bedrest. She was feeling guilty that her body did this to her baby. She had this look of desperation, needing to reach out to something or someone. She introduced me to her husband and said she wanted to call me. I gave her my card and said, "Anytime." I hugged them both before they left to join the rest of the family. And then I stood there, in awe, still not totally in touch with what had happened.

This was clearly my reminder. It was God saying to me, "Remember I always have a plan. Remember I'm always working. Even when you feel exhausted, run down...I'm there. And I love you." It was exactly the message I needed. It was a crystal clear view of what the whole month was about. It was divine.

I think divine opportunities come up at different times for everyone. The sad thing is that when we're focused on the wrong things, we miss them. I'm still overwhelmed when I think about this recent encounter. We could have arrived minutes later and everyone would have been gone. The funeral could have been set up completely covering Elena's gravesite. The minister could have been non-responsive to me. The flowers could have been in just one bunch. But we didn't, and it wasn't and he was and they were. And that's what it's all about.

Thanks for listening.


Anna said...

I read this during work and now I have to go dry my eyes. Such a touching post.

Anonymous said...

Carrie, My name is
Kelly Campbell and I don't know how to order one of the bracelets and I was hoping you could help me put one in for me? I would love one in Ruby and Blue Zircon. My address us Kelly Campbell
40 Bittner st apt 202
Rochester, Ny 14604


Francesca said...

Your tragic experience and loss of your beautiful baby brings tears to my eyes. You are a very strong woman to have gone through so much. I know that your daughter is with you all the time and that is what is giving you the courage and the strength to go on without her. God bless you and your family always. I would like to request 2 bracelets - one in emerald (for myself) and one in Peridot (for my daughter Christabel).


Francesca Polacco
5 Massey Square
Toronto, Ontario
M4C 5L6

Anonymous said...

I am really sorry to leave this on your blog but I didn't know how else to contact you. I lost a daughter (still birth) and was attempting to request one of the beautiful bracelets but the "contact us" wasnt working.
If you could help through this I would appreciate it. Her birthstone would be aquamarine and mine is garnet.
Katherine list
6702 Forestview Lane
Lakeland, Florida 33811
thank you so much and again, I apologize for leaving this on such a heartfelt post.

Amanda Pickman said...

Your entries are beautiful. I have been wandering around the PAIL Community since my sweet Madden grew his wings on April 28th, 2012. I walk purposefully, graciously and completely aware of my environment while welcoming newly bereaved parents to walk with me along the way. I simply wanted to say Thank You for using your beautiful voice to shine light on our the existance of our Angels, and the loving Mommies left behind.
I didnt notice much for activity, but if you are still making bracelets, I would love one and would be happy to gift back to you in return. You can reach me at and also check out my blog here as well, Finding Faith: Blessed By Madden.