A Tribute To A Great Man


Our family lost a great man this weekend. After nearly 4 years of battling ALS, my Uncle Tommy took his walk into Heaven.

Uncle Tommy was a kind and happy individual. He was always smiling and when he laughed, you couldn’t help but laugh with him. He was always one to be doing something – fixing or constructing; quad riding on the weekends; playing volleyball and just enjoying life. 

He loved his family – Aunt Denise, Shawn and Brit. His brothers and sisters. He loved his nephews and nieces like they were his own and he was always excited to hear what was happening in our lives, even as we grew older.

Tom was a Steamfitter and was proud of the work that he did and who he worked with. We used to talk about construction projects in and around Pittsburgh. When I told him something our team was working on he’d always say “No way? You guys are working on that?” while he grinned and shook his head. Happy for me.

Uncle Tom loved the beach. Cape May was a special spot for him and we spent many summers there growing up with our extended family. He loved to be out in the sand playing Frisbee or even throwing bags with the guys. Soaking in all the sun and time with his family. I am glad that my husband Dan and brother-in-law Kyle got to experience that special place with him, too. 

When he was diagnosed with ALS no one could believe it. Tommy, the one who was always on the go; always active; always instigating someone to make the group laugh – diagnosed with a disease that literally stops people in their tracks. We all had to know that he wouldn’t go down without a fight or a smile. 

That’s exactly how he was. Every time he had a setback, he and Aunt Denise always found a way to make it work; make him comfortable; and keep him at home.

On the visits when it was warm, you could find him on the deck. “Yeah, Denise moved me outside so I could enjoy this sunshine and warm weather” he’d say with a smile. What an example he set for all of us, that even on the bad days, there’s a way to find sunshine.

The last time I was there to visit him, I brought Zeke. Aunt Denise was so happy to see him and brought him into Uncle Tommy and he laughed and said “Look at all that hair! He’s beautiful!” I cried standing next to them, watching as Aunt Denise held him on Uncle Tommy’s chest so he could talk to him and give him a kiss.

We talked that visit about life and grief, heaven and God. I asked him how he felt and how he managed to be so upbeat and what he said to me, is something I’ve replayed in my head nearly every day since.

I talk to God and pray. I have a lot of time to sit here and think and look out the window. There’s a lot we won’t ever have answers for Kate, but we have to have serenity and be thankful for what we do have.

What a way to look at life and what a strong faith in God and a plan not visible to us.

His daughter Brittany got married, in their home, nearly a month ago. Shawn, her brother, married them. Looking at photos, Uncle Tommy looked happy and brighter than he had seemed in months. I smiled looking at pictures from that day, seeing the happiness and pride on his face and seeing how happy Aunt Denise looked to have everyone home and all together.

Uncle Tommy, Mom, Aunt Jamie, Uncle Ron, & Uncle Jeff at my cousin Shawn’s wedding in August 2014

These last few weeks he was tired, but still “with it” when it came to talking with everyone. My mom and Aunt Jamie told me how he talked about “seeing Daddy” with him, as well as others, on certain occasions. When he started to tell my mom about his experience, she said “I know” and he said, “Did I tell you? How do you know?” “No, Denise told me when I came in,” she said.

Denise! Denise, what are you doing telling everyone? What are you, like, the internet?” Everyone laughed, including him.

I was amazed and proud of how open he was about what he experienced and what he saw. As he spoke about having – he was given serenity in his final days.

I am very proud of Uncle Tommy, in ways words can never express. We all are.

We were downtown for a race Dan was running with his students on Saturday morning when Mom called. I was with the boys and we were about to cross the Clemente Bridge. I had checked the weather before we left home and while rain wasn’t in the forecast, the skies were filled with grey clouds. I talked with Mom for a few moments and then started to walk towards town. I stopped on the bridge to look at the City of Pittsburgh skyline and the ballpark and as I stood there, the sun started to come through the clouds. I was thinking, how fitting that the Pittsburgh Marathon was happening this weekend. Uncle Tommy had run his marathon and crossed the finish line, with Pup (his dad) holding his hand and taking him home.

I just keep wondering what Uncle Tommy, Pup, and Toby are doing now? My son now gets to share his days with two of the best men I was blessed to have beside me as I grew. I really hope they’re all sitting with their toes in the sand now, laughing.

My {Eternal} Birthday Wish


I took this picture two years ago, the morning of my birthday, sitting in Toby’s nursery with him while he napped. I opened these memories up tonight and am just crying looking at them.

I look at this second picture and I long to feel the happiness that was in this moment. I would give anything to have that day back. Anything.

I hold my breath when “Happy Birthday” is sung. Or maybe it’s that my breath is taken away for that moment. In my mind I can see and feel those memories from two years ago. I can actually feel Toby in my arms, hear Luke’s little voice.

Today is so hard for me. Many don’t understand. Birthdays were never big for me. It was just another day. Nice to celebrate with family and always with an ice cream cake. I never cared about the number or had one, in my mind, that was monumental. But that changed two years ago.

Birthday 33 is now my number. It is the only celebration I’ll ever have with Toby in it. It is also the year that changed my life, forever.

I’ve heard it said “each persons story is written from the day they were born.” It makes me wonder if that means by the year; by the milestone; by life’s big chapters – but then how are chapters defined?

How do we prepare ourselves for what happens in life? I don’t think we’re ever really prepared for death, especially a tragic death, like losing a child. I think we adapt. We figure out what works for us in that heartbreaking moment, whenever it happens – be it that day; a month from then; or two years from then – and we succumb to whatever emotions may flow.

I wanted to see Toby today, but I couldn’t bring myself to drive to the cemetery. Last year I sat with him and it was one of the lowest, grief filled days I’ve had since his death. The tears wouldn’t stop and I felt like God wasn’t listening to my pleas.

I didn’t go to the cemetery today. But I started my day telling Toby I wasn’t coming and begging him not to be sad that I wasn’t there. We’ve been traveling the last few days and when we pulled in the driveway today Luke said “Toby, we’re home!” Those words hit me.

We were home. He is home. This is where he was two years ago. This is where he’d be today. Waiting for the song.

I’m sitting on the deck writing this for the past half hour, letting the tears fall and watching the sun set. I love sunsets on our porch. The way the beams dance through our trees and the birds sing. I can close my eyes and imagine Heaven.

I’ve been thinking about that one thing that people say on your birthday “Make a Wish!”

I have my wish for the rest of my birthdays here on Earth. One that I know will never come true, but I will never stop wishing it.

But today, here’s my second wish:

I hope today in Heaven, the sun shines on your face. I hope Angels keep you laughing, reading books and singing songs. I hope Heaven has a ball field, where you can practice your home runs. I hope you are so busy, smiling and having fun, you miss the moments we feel this sad, because we miss you, Son. My birthday wish today, is not for me, but for you sweet one. I hope you fall asleep each night feeling loved and know that I am proud to be your Mom.”

Wave of Light 2017


“You were here for a moment, but loved for a lifetime.”

Tobias “Toby” Graham Stern

May 27 – August 24, 2016 

We love you, Toby. ❤️ We hope you see every candle and flicker lit for you tonight. Your short life has made a bigger difference in this world than some will make in an entire lifetime. We are so proud to be your parents and every single day, we miss you, we love you and we live to carry on your memory.

I love you my angel.



A few photos from the Wave of Light hour in our home. To watch our live feed from 7pm and hear our reading and prayers, visit the Joy for Toby Stern Facebook page.

#PILawareness #waveoflight2017 #october2017 #ourangeltoby #tobiasgraham #imissmyson #sids #infantloss #grievingfamily #joyfortobystern 

Little Angels


I have watched this video multiple times this week, each time my mind thinking – This is us. This is me. Is this me? Why is this us? Why is this anyone? I know this is us because as I watch it I cry and cry because what I hear is what I am feeling. Some of her statements I can’t understand or haven’t come to grips with, maybe because my heart just doesn’t want to.

I see Toby in each of these children. His smile. His piercing blue eyes. I see him intently watching Luke playing. His laugh. Toby’s attentive eyes when he looked into ours. His peaceful expression when we was sleeping in my arms. I see Toby and my heart breaks a million times over.



Our Sincere Thanks



Dan and I are searching for the right words, but there just aren’t any, to express our thanks and appreciation for the overwhelming support for the loss of our baby boy.

There have been so many calls, texts, visitors, food, flowers, cards, gifts and of course prayers. Our hearts are so very heavy and we can’t think but a day ahead, but of this we are certain, Heaven gained the most innocent and beautiful angel that will be with all of us as we continue our journey through life. God has a plan for Toby that is far greater than we as parents could have ever dreamed of for him. I hope that one day we can see or understand that plan, but for now we can only pray for some sort of way for this sorrow to lessen or the heartache to dull.

When Toby was first born, I thought “I bet he will be quieter than Luke and just follow him around with a big smile on his face.” Now I know why I felt that way.

Hold your children tight and as often as you can. Spend as much time as you can with them, doing what they want to do. Sing with them; dance with them; laugh with them; eat dinner with them; talk to them; play outside with them and when you do, be fully there with them. We do not know what the next day holds or what story God has written for any of us. Time is not promised.

As we have only begun to grieve for our sweet boy, we ask that you keep us in your daily prayers in the months to come. We are experiencing heartbreak, emptiness, anger, sorrow, loneliness, confusion and so much sadness. It is only with God’s grace and blessings that we will somehow make it through each day.

Our sincere thanks,
Dan, Katie & Lucas

Week 34


It’s week 34 and we’re only about 4 weeks away from the arrival of Baby Stern! I can’t believe that we’re in the last few weeks of a countdown and trying to keep in mind that it really could be “any time now.” I still feel like we’ve got a lot to do: we need to make a trip to Babies R Us and Target to finish getting the items off our registry we need – and then put all that stuff away; we need to get a plan in place for who is helping with Murray and Theo when it’s “go” time; I have a ton of things to do for work to feel comfortable to be away on maternity leave; we need to finish the nursery and get the things up on the walls; and our house needs cleaned something terrible. So, all of that is on the schedule for this week – think we’ll get it all done? We shall see!

Here’s a 34 Week Update:

How far along: 34 weeks
Baby is the size of a: Cantaloupe
Total weight gain/measurements: 33lbs
Maternity clothes: oh, yes.
Stretch marks: There’s a few small ones starting to show right around my hips, especially if I pull my belly up a bit.
Sleep: Sleep is not happening. It’s been a flip of a switch this week, but I cannot sleep. It’s a combination of being uncomfortable and just not being able to go back to sleep, if I get up for a bathroom break (which is happening more and more during the night). I’m pretty exhausted and would give anything for a good 3-4 hour stretch of sleep.
Best moment of this week: Hopefully getting a lot of “to-do” thing crossed off our list around the house!
Miss Anything? I was driving past the park the other day and there were so many people there. It really made me miss being able to go for a run – looking forward to getting back into a normal exercise routine ASAP.
Food cravings: None. I’ve really lost my appetite this week too. I’m just not hungry – at all. And there’s nothing that makes me want to eat. I’m not experiencing any nausea, but I just have no desire to eat, or no craving to eat anything in particular.
Anything that makes you queasy or sick: No
Labor Signs: Continual Braxton Hicks contractions – at any time during the day. Lots of practicing for the real thing happening the past few weeks.
Belly Button in or out? OUT! It popped out last week and it’s so funny looking and feels weird too!
Wedding rings on or off? Off. Swollen ligaments. 😦
Happy or Moody most of the time: Happy – just trying not to stress, thinking about all the things that need done before it’s time for baby to arrive.
Looking forward to: Drs appointments this week to see if we are any closer to baby’s arrival and finishing up our shopping for baby gear off our registry!

Look at the significant difference between last weeks picture and this week! Baby boy is definitely growing in there cause my belly is continuing to push further and further out over my toes (which I can’t see now, either).


Jersey Shore Vacation


We spent the last week at the Jersey Shore – Cape May, NJ with my side of the family, after my cousins wedding on Saturday. We had great weather and a really relaxing week – and baby boy stayed put like we asked him too 🙂 Although, I do think he may have dropped towards the end of this week – which means we’re moving closer to meeting our little guy. Here are some pictures from the wedding:




The Recker Family – August 2, 2014

And here are some pictures from our amazing vacation week:







Week 33


It’s week 33 and we’re headed to the Jersey Shore for a week with my family, following my cousins wedding. We have added the car seat and hospital bags to our cargo for this trip, but have our fingers crossed that baby boy stays put so we’re not running to an unfamiliar hospital for any unexpected arrivals.

I told Dan that he had to take my picture prior to us leaving for our road trip, just in case this was the last belly shot we got (we’re not nervous about having this guy while we’re away or anything?!). So here goes the update for this week:

How far along: 33 weeks
Baby is the size of a: pineapple
Total weight gain/measurements: 30 lbs
Maternity clothes: yes – sundresses and maxi skirts are my best friends!
Stretch marks: I’m getting the feeling that these are inevitable, with how big this boy is getting, but I can’t see them yet.
Sleep: Sleep has been so-so, but definitely interrupted due to having to pee every few hours.
Best moment of this week: Packing for vacation! We’ve been waiting for this get-a-way all summer!
Miss Anything? My normal shoe size. Thank goodness its summer and I can just wear flip flops because my feet are now fitting into a 9.5/10 size shoe (I normally wear an 8)
Food cravings: juice pops
Anything that makes you queasy or sick: No
Labor Signs: Yes, lots of Braxton Hicks contractions happening
Belly Button in or out? It, but it’s about to pop!
Wedding rings on or off? Has to be off. Everything’s just swollen and I have a fear of keeping it on and having to have it cut off.
Happy or Moody most of the time: Happy! Looking forward to a week at the beach with our family and just getting away from the stress of everything going on at home.
Looking forward to: Sitting on the beach and getting some sun!

Here’s to hoping there’s a few more weeks of belly pictures after this one!

Week 31


So this week we were celebrating 31 weeks on my 31st birthday! It is so crazy to me how timing works out. It may not mean to much to others, but to be hitting this milestone on the same time of my birthday is very special to us. Dan planned a beautiful evening for us with dinner at a new place (for us). I am very excited for what year 31 holds for all of us!

Happy Birthday to me! Here’s to year 31!

Week 30 – Baby Shower Part 2


We had the most amazing weekend with our family and friends that came out to celebrate our little boy! A special ‘thank you’ to my mom & Jackie for all their help with the decorations and food, and to my sister in law Megan for such a beautiful job on all the flowers and gift basket raffles. We had beautiful weather and the sun was shining the entire time. I’m so glad we made the decision to do this outside at our home under the tent. It’s definitely a day I’ll never forget. Here are some details from our special day:












My Godmother, Aunt Jane, made this beautiful blanket for our little boy. It is so beautiful and means so much!

Dan even made an appearance to help with the last bit of gifts we had to open 🙂

Aunt Jackie & Uncle Kyle got us our diaper bag filled with cute outfits and toys for baby boy!

Love these ladies

We are so incredibly blessed.

Thank you to everyone that came out to celebrate with us and thank you to those who were not able to be here but sent blessings and beautiful gifts for our baby boy. He is blessed beyond words for all the love he is receiving and he’s not even here yet! We cannot wait for him to meet all of you!