To My Firstborn – On Your Third Birthday

2017, Family, Lucas, Parenting

To our handsome Lucas: 

As you wake up on your third birthday, I want you to know a few things…

1. I really cannot believe you are THREE! Where have these 3 years gone? I look at you every day and I am so very proud of you. You are smart, athletic, thoughtful, strong, kind, and so loving. You go through each day determined to learn something new or become better at something you have been working at. You have no idea how long Daddy and Mommy prayed for you and the day you were born was truly one of the best days of my life. 

2. This last year has been hard. We know that you know that. I’m sorry that Toby is not here with you, or that you cannot see him each day, or hold him like you did. But, you have showed us that you know where Toby is, what he likes, how he is doing and you continue to be THE BEST big brother he could have ever been given. I know that we have had more bad days than good, but I really pray that as you grow you know that the reason Mommy and Daddy get up every day, take another step forward, laugh on a day when all we’ve done is cry, is because of YOU. You, my sweet boy, are our rock and our reason for continuing on.

3. Over the past three years you have taught me many things. A few being – you can love someone even more than you did the day before; being a Mom is hard, but being a toddler is harder; how to have more patience (I’m still working on this one); sometimes you need to figure things out on your own; it’s ok to not do everything “by the book” some days; you should always have a “Plan B (or C, D, E)”; there will be hard days, and on those days, it’s ok to sit on the floor and have a good cry, not get out of your pjs till noon or have breakfast for dinner.

4. As you continue to grow, I hope you know that you won’t always be the best, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try! Mommy and Daddy are, and will continue to be, your biggest cheerleaders. We will continue to encourage you to try anything you want and to not to give up if it doesn’t go as planned. Have confidence in yourself – you are growing into one amazing little boy! Be kind to others. Other children won’t always act the same way. It’s hurtful and not right, but I pray you are still kind to them, stand up for yourself, and walk away. Always tell the truth. This is a hard one, especially when you don’t want to get in trouble, but it’s much easier to talk through something and learn from it, then to not tell the truth.

My beautiful Lucas, I hope that this year for your birthday, you have an amazing day and that whatever you are wishing for comes true! 

I hope that you get to see or hear Toby and that he tells you how much he loves you and what an amazing brother you are. 

I hope that you know how very much you are loved and you are as excited for year THREE as we are. We know you’ll knock it out of the park and next year at this time, we’ll have another long list of amazing things that made us so very proud of you! 

One more thing. Please stop growing so fast. I worry that I’m going to miss something or that you won’t want to read a book at bedtime, or walk to the park, or sit in my lap or hold my hand. I tell you all the time “you will always be my baby boy – no matter how old you are.” I mean that! 

I want to cherish every single second of this next year. I want to grow with you and learn how to love each day, just as much as you do. 

Happy 3rd Birthday, Lucas Elliott! I love you to the moon and back. 


Mommy ❤️

September 4, 2017

12 Months in Heaven

2017, Family, grief, loss, Toby

My sweet Toby,

I have dreaded this day. I have tried for a month to get my thoughts together for this day, but every time I’ve sat down to write, only tears come. It isn’t writers block. It’s grief. It’s anger. It’s rage. It’s absolute heartbreak.

toby and mommy

My running partner. {August 18, 2016}

I sat on the back porch last weekend. The sun felt different. The smell of the air gave me chills. There was silence.

I was immediately taken back to the morning of August 25. We hadn’t slept. It stormed that night and I kept going up to check on Luke and then I’d walk to your room, not able to breathe, as I looked at your crib. You weren’t there. Your things were everywhere, but you weren’t.

I sat on the deck, around 6 am, staring into the yard. Murray sat right next to me. He knew.

Later that morning I was sitting at the patio table. It was so quiet. It was never that quiet in our neighborhood, but yet, I heard nothing. The world had gone silent. Our world.

I heard the front door open and then the door to the deck. I looked up at the steps and Uncle Matt stood there. He shook his head looking at me and said “Too quiet here to be alone.” I cried.

I don’t want to be alone, without you. I don’t want to go for a run, without you. I don’t want Daddy to hold Luke’s hand and not be holding you in his other arm. I don’t want Luke to play without you. I don’t want to wake up in the morning and not see your smiling face. I don’t want Luke to count “Mommy and Daddy. Murray and Theo. Lucas and Toby.” and you not be here.

I have searched, for 364 days, for answers. I have searched for a reason. I have searched for any possible sign in my life, in my faith, as to why God could have possibly needed you more; I cannot find one.

Today I pray that your angels will shelter you from the tears that will fall minute by minute. I pray that you will feel all the love for you, my beautiful boy and that you, without a doubt, know that we would NOT change one minute, one hour, one day – not one second of time that you were in our life.


I pray that you see that everything that Daddy and I do is for you and Luke. Every time we speak your name, Toby, we do it with love and pride because you are our son and your legacy, your story, your joy has touched the lives of so many, in such a short time. I am not perfect. I have not been able to surrender to ‘having no control.’ I carry anger and sadness with me. I pray that you will help me, lessen the grip on those emotions, and hold tight to the joy and memories of the time we had with you.

…”I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

I love you, Toby.



The Opportunity to Speak

2017, Creating Change, Family, grief, Joy, loss, Lucas, Parenting, Toby

We are overwhelmed with emotion from the last 24 hrs. When we started rallying the troops, nearly seven weeks ago, we had no idea the imprint we could make.

This petition is out there and making strides because of the initial efforts of Barry Kluger and Kelly Farley, and their children who died. We are standing behind this petition and making an effort to try and push for local, state, and national representatives to listen to WHY this is important.

Seven weeks ago I saw an opportunity to use the platform we have been building in Toby’s memory as a way to educate other’s about the lives of grieving parents, by supporting the Farley-Kluger Initiative to amend FMLA.

Two weeks ago, Jennifer Tomazik from WPXI-Channel 11 called. She told me that she had been reading my blog and had been referred to us from a friend who told her about what we were trying to do. She asked if we’d be willing to talk to her – about our family, Toby, and the bill to amend FMLA – because she saw a story that the community and families in our region could relate to, and hopefully help.

This was a big decision for us. Don’t get me wrong, we have been talking and sharing and advocating in support of others, but this opens our lives and our son’s lives to the world. We all know how social media is – it can be a powerful tool. It’s frightening to be so open and so vulnerable.

Over the past 24 hours our phones, email, the blog and social media have been flooded by amazing people who have shared our story, advocated for others to read and sign the petition, and offered their support. It has been remarkable and overwhelming.

Farley Kluger Initiative_24hrs

Yesterday when we sat down to talk with Jennifer, that discussion opened wounds wide-open and the emotions for Toby have come flooding back. Dan and I sat together and watched the segment last night, with Luke yelling at the TV “that’s me and Toby!” We’ve read a lot (not all) of the notes and comments that have been sent to us. We’ve cried as we watched Toby’s beautiful face on TV and online and we’ve shaken our heads in amazement as to the amount of people that have taken time out of their day to listen to our story, offer their support for Toby’s death and our family’s grief, and also sign and share the petition.

Again, THANK YOU – to every one of you that have done something. Those words, thank you, will never be enough, but it is your words, support and actions that help us know that what we are doing is making a difference and that Toby’s life, although too short, will make a difference in the lives of others.

Toby Stern

I wanted to give a little update on the Foundation, because there have been some questions and inquiries over the past day. We have spent the last three months talking with other non-profits, professionals that assist in creating non-profits, board members of non-profits and continually soaking up all this information. This is a big decision for us and an educational one, at that. We want to make sure that however we decide to proceed, that we are comfortable with it and that it is reflecting what Dan and I, as Toby’s parents, want the foundation to be and grow into. There are a lot of moving parts at this point and once we are ready, we will gladly share all of that with you. There will be opportunities to help, volunteer, donate, fund-raise, and most importantly share with your networks. The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation is taking shape and we look forward to its launch in the near future.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank WPXI-Channel 11 and Jennifer Tomazik. Thank you for taking the time to learn about our family, about our circumstance and most importantly about Toby. Your efforts to talk with us and share our message turned into a beautiful tribute to our son and an amazing platform for the Farley-Kluger Initiative. Also, you’ve extended your resources for help on future endeavors and interest in supporting The Little Fox, and for that Dan, Lucas and I are so grateful.

WPXI Visit_July 20 2017

We hope by way of WPXI’s story, more doors will open to connect with the media and interest is peaked to support the efforts of the Farly-Kluger Initiative. We welcome the opportunity to speak with anyone about this grassroots effort and our family’s story.

Before I go, I’d like to ask for three things from our readers:

  1. If you have not signed the petition to amend FMLA, please visit: and do so today.
  2. If you have already signed the petition and would be willing to take 10 minutes to write a letter to your local representative, please visit my blog post from last week here:
  3. If you are not doing so already, take a moment and “follow” our website/blog. At the bottom of the website there is a little [+] button; click that and then click the blue “Follow Our Happy Place & Co.”


Here is the link to the segment that aired yesterday, July 20, on WPXI-Pittsburgh’s Channel 11.


Month Ten – A Mother of Two 

2017, Family, grief, loss, Parenting, Toby

I can feel the memories coming before they are even in my mind. My heart hurts. My throat gets tight. My eyes begin to well. I know it’s going to hurt like hell, but I embrace it, because it’s embracing you. It’s an embrace that I don’t want to let go of. With each month that passes, there is new pain, different pain. Things that were not triggers before, they rip the wound wide open now.

Luke talks about you more and more. About how things are “mine and Toby’s.” We love that he talks about you, but it is a continual dagger to the heart that you are not here.

“This table is perfect for me and Toby,” said Luke when we brought this home the other day.

We miss you, Toby. We say it everyday, but I don’t think we can say it enough. There are pictures of you everywhere in the house. Some of the ends have started to curl and it makes me so angry. It’s the reality of how long you have been gone. I stood at your crib the other day and when I picked my hand up I saw part of my handprint. I didn’t have even a second to let the pain come, but tears flowed. It is so painful to watch the world continue to move with you not in it. I hate how the numbers continue to increase – days, weeks, months, seasons, holidays. They push us back, but some days, I can feel us pushing harder. Challenging the pain. Trying to push the door open to let the memories back in, bringing only joy with them. We hope.

One year ago, Toby at one month old.

I went to a new gym the other evening. Walking in I was nervous. It’s new introductions, new people. New me. At the end of the class the instructor was acknowledging everyone’s great job and she said, “Give a hand to Katie! It’s her first class with us. She chases two babies around all day and she did awesome!” 

Wow, talk about reality. I was standing facing the mirror when she said that and I just watched my face. I didn’t even feel like I was making an expression, but my eyes shocked me. Looking at my reflection made me want to cry. My first thought was, “Yes, I chase my two boys. One around the house and one in my mind. Every day.”

I’ve lost my identity over the past 10 months. Really, I lost myself August 24 when you were taken from our arms. But it’s only recently that it is visible to me. I don’t like the new me but I am very aware of the reality that I will never be the person I was before August 24. When you were in our arms. When I sang you to sleep and you woke up in the wee hours with the biggest smile on your face just to see me or dad. God, I want those moments back, Toby. I want you back. I can see your face at 2am and I hope that’s what it looks like when we see you again in Heaven. Excited, loving, happy. 

You continue to be in every moment of our days. The song on the radio. The way the sun shines through the clouds in the evening. The verse in my evening prayers. The numbers on the clock. The voice in my heart. 

People may think I sound crazy when I say this. And maybe I want to subconsciously hear these things, but there are moments during the day, when my mind is just blank and I’m staring at something or thinking about a decision we have to make and that’s when I feel it. Deep inside, there’s a subtle thought that enters my mind “I’m right here, mommy.” I swear it’s you, Toby. Guiding me. Assuring me. Holding me. Letting me know you are close.

I have seen many things the past week that refer to angels among us. Pray to them. Listen to them. They are closer than you think. They are talking about your path while you are resting

I can only imagine the beauty of your face, now that you are in Gods presence. You were such a beautiful baby and always calm and happy. The people who are fortunate enough to have you as their angel, Toby, have been granted more love and joy than they will ever know. Daddy, Luke and I, we know that love, we know that joy. We cling to it every single day when we talk to you and pray for your presence. 

Toby’s baptism day – August 14, 2016

Thank you for working with God to clear the path for mom and dad. We know you have a hand in what is given to us and what is diverted, each hour, each minute. We hope that you are proud of what we are doing in your memory. We continue to talk with people, discuss our hopes, tell your story and above all, say your name, Toby. We continue to make sure you are somehow a part of everything that we do and we hope that when you see us, you can feel the love for you, my sweet boy.

We love you, Toby. ❤️

This butterfly was on my windshield when I got in the car at the gym the other evening. A message from my Toby 🦋

International Bereaved Mother’s Day

2017, Family, grief, loss, Parenting, Toby

“A mother is not defined by the number of children you see, but by the love she holds in her heart.” 

Today, May 7, is International Bereaved Mother’s Day around the world. A day to recognize the mothers who have lost a child or children. A day to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to mothers with empty arms and a broken heart, that could be sitting right next to you. 

Please take a moment to read my letter to other grieving mothers on Pittsburgh Moms Blog:

If you are a mother who is a part of the bereavement community, I am sorry you are here. But please know, you are not alone. 

Music – A blanket thru grief

2017, grief, loss

I’ve had a few people lately ask “what is helping?”

Every day is different. Every situation needs a different crutch or band-aid. I thought that maybe these songs could help someone else, as I’ve searched many times for song lists that help others through grief, only finding a few.

Music touches the soul in a special way. Sometimes it lifts me up and sometimes it causes me to break, but even in those lowest moments I still let the song play. If it is causing that much emotion in my heart and mind, there is something there that Toby wants me to hear.

Im already there

Here are some of the songs that I’ve found help me. I love this line “Sometimes our soul needs a soundtrack.” For right now, this is mine:


Beam Me Up – Pink

Amazing Grace – Peter Hollens

There, There Katie – Josh Gray

Jealous of the Angels – Donna Taggart

Stars – Grace Potter

Who You’d Be Today – Kenny Chesney

Waiting on an Angel – Ben Harper

Outskirts of Heaven – Craig Campbell

Make You Feel My Love – Adele

I’m Already There – Lonestar

They Will Be Done – Hillary Scott


What songs have you used to help in your grief journey? Maybe they remind you of your loved one, or have lyrics that give you hope?

Please share in the comments below.


Easter Morning in Heaven 

2017, faith, Family, grief, Home, Joy, loss, Lucas, Marriage, Toby

Last Sunday as we sat in church for Palm Sunday mass, I was overcome with emotion thinking of what Heaven would be like for Easter and what beautiful sites Toby would see this week. 

Can you imagine, seeing Jesus’ face on Easter morning? I cannot, but the thought of my beautiful son having the honor to be in His presence this morning, it takes my breath away. 

We were gifted a tree in rememberence of Toby in the fall and planted it in our front yard. It has grown a few inches through the winter and the past few weeks the buds have been forming. Yesterday, a few of them bloomed. I thought it was so fitting that the flowers on his tree first bloomed during Easter week. These magnolia flowers, with maroon, pink and white on their petals are simply beautiful and to me are a glimpse from Toby of the beauty of Heaven. 

This is Luke’s third Easter and each year I’ve enjoyed buying him a cute tie for his Easter outfit. I cried shopping this year because I wished I was buying two ties. I should have just bought two, and I was mad when I got home that I didn’t. When I was pulling Luke’s Easter basket out of the closet I found his tie from his first easter, so I took that out for Toby. 

We had bought Luke a basket with his initial on it for his first easter. This year I grabbed a small basket from Target for Toby, but when I was putting them together last night, I was again regretting not having one made that was special for Toby. I remembered that I had fabric I had found through the winter, but had not used yet. It matched the basket I had for him, so we improvised and made him his own. Fox and all. 

Yesterday while walking back from the park, Luke picked a dandilion and immediately said “Toby’s really going to love to see this.” We looked down at him, smiling. Yes, he will, buddy. He loves to see you playing and having fun. 

Our one son is not here and my heart breaks daily to see his sweet face and smile with him. We try to do things to make him a part of everything that we do and fully present in those special days and moments. I can’t imagine not including him in all these moments. Maybe, in a way, they comfort our hearts. But my hope is that he can see us and smile at what we are doing for him. 

With Luke being sick this weekend, he was up before the sun again today. But, sitting in the living room, with only the tv on this morning, I was able to watch the sun rise outside our window. It rose through the two houses across the street, but more beautifully, from where I was sitting, it was directly above Toby’s tree in the front yard. 

This picture doesn’t do it justice, but it was truly beautiful. Another sign of Easter Sunday. 

While we are all celebrating, singing hymns at mass today, or praying in our homes, there are many empty chairs around our tables. Those that have just left their families and those that have been gone for some time, but are missed just as much. Our hearts ache for them to be here, but remember, they are at the table with Him today. They get to see His face first this morning. Wow, can you even imagine what a beautiful sight that must be? 

He is not here. For He is risen, as He said. –Matthew 28:6

Wishing you and your families a beautiful, healthy, and blessed Easter holiday. 


The Stern Family 

Katie, Dan, Lucas & Toby 

On This Journey – A perspective on paths, purpose, and worth

2017, Family, grief, Home, Lifestyle, loss, Parenting, Toby

Let me tell you a story.

I’ve been very lucky in my professional career. I have worked for some great companies that opened doors to even greater opportunities to advance my career in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. I’ve had ups and downs over the past decade, but there was one constant – my network through the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS).

Starting out in the AEC industry, SMPS became my anchor. It provided a place for continual education, an avenue to learn how to connect with technical staff, how to think beyond the proverbial “marketing” box and take chances by way of volunteer positions and committee involvement. Most of the time, I didn’t know what I was volunteering for, but I knew that if I could help anyone at the dawn of their careers in the AEC industry, by connecting companies, brands, people, mentors with mentees, then it made it all worth it.

When I think about my career plan, it, like the rest of my life, has thrown me some of the biggest curve balls. Some good, some bad. From my very first years of working in the “real world” I’ve had goals that I wanted to achieve. Many of those are still “in progress” and for me that’s ok. Some of my goals may not seem like achievements for others. And that’s okay too. We all have different perceptions. Different dreams. Which leads me to this.

I think it’s good to have a bucket list – for both your personal and professional life. Most of us don’t have an opportunity to check things off those lists every year. For those of you that do, that’s amazing and you’re my hero. I like to keep my bucket list in places where I can see them, especially my professional list. It’s just for me, in a sense. And I’m a firm believer that you’re more likely to get something done if it’s written down. It’s like you’re being held accountable. (Post-it notes are great for this – or even the notepad in your phone so it’s on all your devices).

I want to share one of my bucket list items with you, because I think the outcome of it is a good lesson about life.

SMPS offers regional conferences across the country where you can have the benefits of a national conference on a regional level. After attending a few of these it was something I wanted to be a part of, by way of the planning committee. So I added it to my bucket list.

In early 2015 I was offered the opportunity to help bring the Heartland Regional Conference to Pittsburgh. SMPS Pittsburgh had never hosted a regional conference and the team I had the joy of working with, compiled our city’s nomination, and it was an amazing collaborative effort.

Pittsburgh was named the host city for the Heartland Region’s 2017 Conference.

In the fall of 2015, another offer by two amazing and seasoned Marketing and Business Development professionals within our industry offered me the seat to be the Chair of the Programs Committee for the conference. This is one of those opportunities that makes your stomach turn with excitement and nervousness. But it’s what I wanted and what an opportunity it was. And the clock was ticking. We had under 18 months to plan a 3-day educational program for 200+ individuals.

At that time, my husband and I had found out that we were expecting our second child and my delivery was on the doorstep of the summer of 2016. As usual, things fell into place and with a rock-star co-chair and the support of an amazing committee and lots of planning, the schedule was coming together and milestones were being met.

Our second son, Toby was born May 27, 2016. I was very lucky to enjoy the summer home with my entire family and was anticipating getting back into work mid-August and jumping back into Program planning in the thick of everything coming together.

I was back to work for 14 days when my family’s world was brought to a stop. Toby died in his sleep, the afternoon of Wednesday, August 24.

I have always been a planner. Life does not stop for the unimaginable. Even though, in the midst of shock and grief, it seems to.

I stepped down from my role as Co-Chair in October. I needed to focus on being with my family. I needed to learn to walk again, with a very empty heart.

Fast forward to the beginning of April. The Heartland Regional Conference (HRC) commenced and brought nearly 230 AEC professionals into Pittsburgh. Feedback from attendees over the 3-day event was nothing but positive and the speakers were amazing. Sitting in the audience, watching veteran SMPS members welcome first-time HRC attendees was amazing. I’m sure you can ask any fellow SMPS’er and they will tell you, these conferences, whether regional or national, can put the fire back in your career and give a creative boost, just when it’s needed.

It was an honor to be involved in the beginning steps of bringing HRC to Pittsburgh. I was given a ‘thank you’ from the co-chairs and when I opened it, it had a lot of connection, pulled at a lot of strings that hadn’t been touched for a few months.

Pittsburgh Picture

Artwork by: Nevin Robinson

We spend a lot of our life thinking we constantly need to achieve things. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to move forward in your career. It challenges us. Makes us think differently. Brings new friends into our path. Teaches us things. But I also think we can lose sight of a lot.

My husband and I love Pittsburgh. Sure, we love the beach and the mountains too, but Pittsburgh will always be home. We love raising our family here. We love working here. Our two-year old, Lucas, loves the sports teams. This is the only city Toby ever knew. I can’t imagine not being here.

This ‘thank you’ holds much more for me. The rivers of Pittsburgh. The Point. The view.

My journey changed dramatically eight months ago. I stepped to the bank and let a boat go by that I really wanted to be on. One surrounded with people that I admired and that supported me. I feel like I was placed back in the water in a kayak, alone. Life said “Here. Figure it out.”

My first thought when I looked at this picture was, “This is Toby’s view of Pittsburgh.”

I am not the person I was eight months ago, but that does not mean my life is any less. It does not mean my achievements aren’t worth as much as anyone else’s. It just means they are different. For someone that is a “doer” this is something I am working on learning to accept. And it is hard.

Sometimes we don’t achieve what’s on our bucket list. Sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we achieve things that have far greater meaning to our lives, right at that moment or much later in life. Sometimes people judge, say we failed, and it hurts. Sometimes doors open at the wrong times and we have to close them and move on. These are things that we don’t have control of. This is life. It’s hard to navigate and sometimes even harder to accept.

I have added one thing to my bucket list since August 24, 2016 – to live my life in honor of our son, Toby. To make a difference in his name. Maybe that will happen with the help of my professional career, maybe it won’t.

Take it easy on your journey, professional or personal. Be ready for curveballs. Be ready for the unimaginable. If you need to stop somewhere and take a break, it’s okay.

But, one tip. Be ready to ask life to leave you a paddle.

Little Pieces of Light & Peace

2017, faith, Family, grief, loss, Toby

As Lent began, I searched for my focus for the next 40 days. I was looking for something that I could “do” that would help me in my grief, but also something that would help provide little pieces of light and peace. When we moved into our house last year there were two cardinals that would fly into the tree in front of our window in the family room. Every time we saw them we’d always hurry to the window “do you see them?” we’d say to Luke, as one of us was holding Toby in our arms. It was a moment of the day that made us smile. Last week I was sitting on the couch and something caught my eye at the window. I looked out and it was a cardinal, by itself, sitting in the tree. I hurried to the window to get a closer look at him, there for a split second, and then he flew away. There are many articles that say cardinals are visitors, angels, from heaven. It made me wonder, were the two that visited us over the summer watching over Toby? And the new visitor, this spring, is he alone for Luke? Or is that Toby visiting us?

We went away to the beach a few weeks after Toby died. In the mornings, the sky had these beautiful clouds with strong rays of light streaming down and reflecting on the ocean. Looking at it made me wonder what that sight was like from Heaven. How beautiful that must be. Can you imagine being able to have a seat and see any spot in the world? I cannot, but just the thought of that takes my breath away. Being able to have a place to sit in Heaven and look over your entire family? That is truly amazing.

I picked up a prayer book from church at the start of Lent. It has a short daily reflection and a few excerpts from Jesus’ journey to the cross. The focus of this prayer book is just that, prayer. How we pray. What we say to God. What we ask of God. His expectations for us.

Through these reflections, the Blessed Mother’s journey through this time have been front of mind for me. She is a grieving mother. She is a strong mother with the utmost faith in God. How did she do it? Through these first 20+ days of lent, I’ve found my focus. The Blessed Mother. I am laying my grief, anger, tears, sorrow, emptiness, loneliness, a longing to hold my sweet Toby in my arms and kiss his face, and the missing sound of TWO sets of tiny feet running through the hall upstairs, or our sons innocent laughs that we will never hear because they can’t play together. All of this. I’m laying at her feet for Lent and trying to join my grief to hers.

This 24th of March marks seven months. Those of you who have continued to follow in our journey through grief, through the loss of our beautiful son Toby, I am sure you are able to see some of our highs AND lows. And while there may be more of the latter, I continue to work on finding more of the former. It is so hard. Too hard to put into words. Too hard for many to understand the struggles we face, daily. The judgement, not said, but felt, to be happy, trust, move forward, accept. It is intense and paralyzing. I know, indisputably, we do not take a thing for granted anymore. I will be the first to tell you that prior to Toby’s death yes, I did take things for granted. So while I may not look like the most grateful person when you see me, I may not smile as much as I did, the depth of my gratitude for everyday moments runs deeper than you know. For I know, more than most, how quickly my greatest blessings can be taken away. How one, “Have a good day” kiss or “I love you” can be the last. I know the immeasurable pain of being robbed of ONE of the TWO greatest joys of my life.

As the seventh month anniversary comes at the mid-way point of Lent, I am noticing a change in myself. A loss of the pause when a stranger asks me about my children, because I don’t want them to be uncomfortable. The urge to be able to talk more about our loss and our joy with Toby for the time he was here. The desire to find ways to shed light on grieving parents and the societal pretense to “not talk about it” because it’s too uncomfortable. The bad days are still so dark and the worst moments still come at the drop of a hat. I continue to work on the acceptance of that. My prayers are different and the way I talk to God has completely changed. I continue to pray that when Toby sees Dan and me, he knows that the tears we are crying or the anger that causes us to curse at the sky is because the hole in our hearts for him is so big and each day without him is so hard. That there are just no words – only tears. I continue to hope that one day, through my actions, rebuilding, and finding a purpose on this journey I did not choose for our family’s life, that I can proudly say “Let me tell you about Toby. He is the one that showed me how to love beyond all measure. How to survive the unimaginable. How to live life for him.”

I am not there yet, Toby, but I’m working on it. Continue to hold my hand and my heart, sweet boy.

Bringing Home Baby

Family, Home, Joy, Lucas, Toby

As I first time mom, I remember wondering if I should be reading every book and taking every piece of advice that anyone had to offer. The pressure is a little overwhelming, isn’t it?

The new post on Pittsburgh Moms Blog talks about my scenario for bringing both boys home from the hospital. To say the least, it’s night and day.

Bringing Home Baby