Sunday, August 22, 2010

Remembering Annaleigh, one year later

One year ago today, we lost our beautiful baby girl.

One year ago today, a constant and irreparable ache was introduced into our hearts.

One year ago today, Annaleigh died.



The year has gone by faster than we ever would have imagined, despite the fact that, at the time, we were quite sure that we would be stuck at the St. Peter’s NICU for the remainder of our natural lives.

Charlie and Lily came home right before their due date (October 5). For three months or so, they kept us awake pretty much around the clock. For the four months after that, we slept a little more but the time we were awake was much busier, what with learning to sit up, roll over, crawl, stand, eat solids, say “da da,” do “so big,” blow kisses, clap, laugh, etc. When we got to the point where we’ve been sleeping through the night, our days became even more hectic trying to keep up with two mobile babies. And if there is one simple truth about Charlie and Lily, it’s that they are the happiest, most wonderful babies we could ever imagine.

And so, the days pass and turn to weeks, months, and now a year. And as happy as they are, that sense of loss is with us constantly. We are grateful for Charlie and Lily—never think otherwise—but we know that we were meant to have three babies. Every time we do anything as a family, the feeling of incompleteness is there. The seating arrangement at restaurant tables was supposed to be harder; car seat placement in the van was supposed to be a nightmare; feeding time should have been even more stressful. So when things are difficult, our fall-back mentality is, “things should be 1/3 harder.”

But even so, nothing can kill a good mood like someone saying to us, “oh, are they twins?” Because we’re stuck. At this point, we’ve got two options: we correct them and say, “no, they’re triplets but their sister died,” which would make just about anyone uncomfortable; or we simply say “yes,” and spend the rest of the day feeling like we just disrespected Annaleigh. And when someone who knows our story, who knows the pain we’ve felt, refers to them as “twins,” it takes all the restraint in my body not to scream. When Charlie and Lily are older and they’re out in the world of day care, kindergarten, little league, dance school, we know we’ll have to get used to constant “twin” remarks, but I have a feeling that that word will always make us cringe.

The sense of loss follows us because there are so many questions: What would Annaleigh have been like? Who would she look like? Would she be bald like Lily, or in constant need of a haircut like Charlie? Would she be talking? What would she have thought of the beach? And there are the more painful questions: Did we love her enough? Did she know we loved her? Where is she now? Is she watching us from some far-away place and wishing she were with us? Is she jealous that we’re having fun with Charlie and Lily? And then there are the worst questions: Could we have done something differently? Should we have fought harder for her? Why did this happen?

But there are no answers to these questions and there never will be. So we take comfort in the little bit of speculation that we can do. I mentioned to everyone in my eulogy at Annaleigh’s funeral that Brooke and I had a vision of our future in our heads. About a week before Annaleigh got sick, Brooke and I were at the Rainforest Café for one of our many between-NICU-visit meals, and we sat at a big round table, just the two of us. We spent the majority of that meal talking about what it would have been like to be there with our three babies after they were a little older. We imagined the seating arrangements, the food fights, the toy stealing, the fussing, the wonder… and we were happy. We envisioned that Lily would be beating up on Charlie, demanding what she wanted, ruling the roost. Charlie would be clinging to his mommy for comfort, too sensitive to defend himself. And Annaleigh would be there, calmly eating her meal, taking in the surroundings, and scoffing at how immature her older brother and younger sister were. We had that vision in our heads, clear as could be. From the start of the pregnancy, we had these personalities for the three of them, distinct and real. And amazingly, our vision for Lily as talkative boss and Charlie as sensitive brother have really been accurate. So if our versions of Lily and Charlie have proven to be on the right track, that must mean that our vision for Annaleigh was right too.

So here’s what we know about Annaleigh. She would be beautiful. Not like Lily beautiful, but more mature looking. She would be the mediator of disputes and the one who always knows how to solve a problem. She would be smart and advanced, well ahead of her siblings in all things. And she would be happy.

Of course that’s only speculation, but the last year has taught us a lot, too.

First, we have gained perspective about things. We know what matters and what doesn’t. So what if we have to sell our house? Who cares if money is tight? Why stress out about work? Charlie and Lily are healthy and happy, so everything else will fall into place.

Second, we know how important it is to show Charlie and Lily how much we love them. Just yesterday, we got them up for their morning nap and both were sitting up in their cribs smiling and laughing and clapping because we had gone into the room together smiling and laughing and clapping ourselves. They were happy to see us and we were happy to see them. When one of us comes home and Lily and/or Charlie comes joyously crawling towards the door with a huge grin and a loud laugh, we know how lucky we are to have them. It’s clichéd but true: our children are our world. I don’t know if we would have fully grasped this if we hadn’t suffered the loss that we did. Would we have been overcome by the difficulty of dealing with THREE baby’s sleep habits, feeding issues, and personality foibles? Maybe some of the patience and understanding that we have now wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

Finally, we know that Annaleigh has made a difference to more people than we even know. We get messages and comments from people literally all around the world telling us that her story touched them, that she has made them appreciate their own children more than they had, that her life meant something to them. So many people have hugged their kids longer and more tightly because of Annaleigh, appreciating what they have and showing the love they otherwise would have kept inside. When things get hard, people think of her and remember, and feel better about their own lives. She lived for only eight weeks, but her impact has been felt by more than most who live a long, full life.

So today, one year after NEC took our beautiful, sweet, smart baby girl from us, we will celebrate her life. We will be sad—we’ve been shedding tears pretty hard already today—but we will use that sadness to remind us of what we have. We’re going to spend the day doing the things that we know Charlie and Lily love to do, and we’re going to do them as a family. There will be a hole there, an incompleteness to anything that we do, and we will not be as cheerful as could otherwise be, but we will honor our daughter by being together and being happy.


Dear Annaleigh,
We miss you, but you know that. We love you, but you know that too. Please never think that we’ve forgotten you, that we’ve “moved on.” We haven’t, and we won’t—ever. When we laugh, it’s not as hard as it would be if you were there. When we joke, it’s not as funny as if you were with us. When we love, it’s not as whole as when you were a part of it. You’re never more than a thought away, even when we seem distracted. Please know that we would do anything to have you with us and you will always be a part of us. Thank you for letting us love you, for letting us know you, even for just two months. They will forever be the only time our family was whole. Please keep looking out for Charlie and Lily; when they start randomly laughing at nothing that we can see, is that you? Please keep them safe and healthy and happy, and know that they will know all about you as soon as they can understand. Rest easy, baby girl.

We love you forever.


The blog post from 8/22/09
The eulogy
Kim's poem
Casey's poem
Tribute video

Click here to make a donation to the St. Peter's Foundation (be sure to earmark it for the NICU)

49 comments:

Noelle said...

thinking of you all and praying for comfort today. Sweet beautiful Annaleigh has definitely touched the lives of so many.

happy_wife said...

There are no words, no sentiment, no analogy to give you any comfort, or peace, on what today (and every day) is with your life is without Annaleigh. She has changed more lives in her two months than most people do in decades.

I just wish I had the 'right' words to let you know how special your family is, and the amazing impact Lily, Charlie and Annaleigh have on so many everyday. That Annaleigh will not be forgotten and that her face is in every smile Lily and Charlie have.

However, I don't have the words. But, I lift your family up in prayer everyday. Everyday.

As always-Hugs from Houston-
Jane

Lani said...

This was beautifully written. You are right, Annaleigh did touch many, many lives. She will never be forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Annaleigh was and is lucky to have parents and a brother and sister who love her so much. She touched my heart in a profound way, and I know I am not alone in that. Your little girl has quite a legacy. I am so, so sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

You are so right. Annaleigh touched so many lives in her short time here on Earth. I have been thinking of you guys all week and remembering Annaleigh. I will continue to think of you today.

Kristin B said...

Beautifully written. Oh that sweet baby girl is looking down on her family and is smiling at it all. God bless you all.

Anonymous said...

I came on here to tell you that I am thinking about your family today.

Annaleigh is truly a very special little girl who has touched more lives in her short time here than many people do in 90 years of life. She has definitely made me a better mommy, and for that I will always be grateful to your precious Annaleigh.

Sending many hugs to the 4 of you today and hoping that Charlie and Lily put many smiles on your faces on this very difficult day. Take comfort in the love of your family, and love of the many people (who you don't even know!) that have been touched by your beautiful triplets.

Browneyedgrl said...

I am thinking about all of you today! My heartbreaks for you and your chiildren. Annaleigh knows that she has amazing parents

Newman Family said...

My thoughts are with you and your family. My situation isn't completely the same as yours since I lost Brandon's twin sister at 20 1/2 weeks and she never lived in the outside world. It is still difficult because like you said you have that feeling of incompleteness. Brandon's twin sister passed away more than 2 years ago and she is still on my mind. Annaleigh has definitely touched a lot of lives and is definitely looking down on her family.

Anonymous said...

God bless you all on this difficult day. That was a beautiful commentary; wow. You have a great ability to capture exactly what you feel. I, along with so many others, will be thinking of you today. Annaleigh will always be remembered.

Cheryl

Anonymous said...

A beautiful tribute for a beautiful baby! Annaleigh will never be forgotten -- she lives in the wonderful smiles and laughter of Charlie and Lily! And that picture of her smiling and waving will be etched in my mind forever! I love all of you so much! xoxo, Aunt Rhea

Jamie said...

Thinking of your family and Annaleigh today. I have surviving triplets, a boy and girl that just turned three. I completely understand how you guys feel. The twin comments always get me too.

Amy said...

That was beautiful.
Sending love and hugs your way today, with tears.

Janet said...

Annaleigh...such a strong and beautiful baby girl. Each time we're out and see a butterfly, I tell my son (who is a month younger than your gorgeous babies) that he has just seen a little angel. And it brought tears to my eyes when we just watched your tribute video and he pretty much smiled throughout the entire thing. I think of you often and always hope you feel the warmth of Annaleigh's love.

Laura said...

Thinking of you and praying for you all today. Annaleigh has the most wonderful family and you will all be together again one day.

Tina said...

Thinking of your beautiful Annaleigh today. ((hugs))

Anonymous said...

Thinking and praying for you and your family today. Annaleigh touched many lives and I think has made many people love harder and appreciate the beauty in everything a lot more. I don't see a butterfly any more without thinking of special babies who have touched us for a short time. Suzanne

JenM said...

I'm thinking of your family today. That was such a beautifully written post, and I ache for your loss. Take comfort that your lovely Annaleigh touched so many lives, and I am sure she would have been exactly as you described.

Andrea said...

Thinking of your family today! I have been following your blog for a little over a year now. I linked over from another blog that was requesting prayer for your family and sweet Annaleigh. She was a precious baby girl! I have been amazed by your family. Many prayers and thoughts sent your way. Take care and GOD bless!

Our Story said...

Such beautiful words for such a beautiful little angel. Your whole family is never far from my thoughts. I am one of Brooke's fellow SAIFers. I cried along with you all last summer, I understood your grief then, but now that I have my own son, I simply cannot fathom the profound and overwhelming sadness you must feel.
Thank you for reminding us of what is really important in life; this being one more lesson that sweet Annaleigh has taught us all.
God bless you, all five of you... there will be many prayers said for you today. Thank you for continuing to share your story.
Kelly
(smilee)

Cassie said...

Thinking of your family, and praying for all of you today. Annaleigh is so lucky to have the family she does.

Liz said...

I absolutely hug my little man tighter because of your sweet Annaleigh. We'll be thinking of you and praying for you all today.

Mrs. Schneider said...

Thank you for your post today -- as this day goes on I have tears for your loss but I know your story touched so many of our lives and have made us realize even stronger how much we value our children and our families, Bless this family Lord - they have an angel in your arms.
Eve S.

Jennifer said...

Thinking of you today....

MJP said...

I am thinking of and praying for your family today. Thank you for sharing.

Stephanie said...

Beautiful and heartfelt. I am crying. I check your blog daily, looking to see how the babies are doing, and I too never forget Annaleigh. I can't even fathom the pain you must endure. You two are amazing parents and are how I strive to be when I have children. I mention to my husband often that when we have kids I want to be as positive and fun as you two are. Prayers and thoughts are with you today.

~*~ Rita Danielle ~*~ said...

Beautiful tribute for a beautiful little girl. You 2 have been so brave and been through so much this past year. Annaleigh has touched so many people and will never be forgotten. Thinking of you 2 and Charlie and Lily and your families today. Sending lots of love and prayers.

Angie said...

Thinking and praying for your sweet family today.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to your beautiful Annaleigh! She lives on through Charlie and Lily and through all you do. My thoughts and prayers are with you today.

Colleen said...

Beautiful. Thinking of the five of you today...

Anonymous said...

So well put. Thinking of your family today and hugging my little girl tighter and saying a prayer for your Annaleigh.

Anonymous said...

I don't know you and never heard about your story until today. I have tears streaming down my face and so much love in my heart for you for having been so strong throughout this horrible ordeal. Now that I "know" you, please understand that I will take your message with me for the rest of my life. Your angel is watching over you all and looking forward to being someday reunited. God bless...

Kaitlyn said...

Sending so much love your way today and everyday Annaleigh is and always will be loved.

AnakinsSong said...

We all do things that make it a little easier in public but not so easy in private. Your triplets are a blessing and the distance away from Annaleigh is not as far as it seems.

Thinking of sweet Annaleigh on her angel anniversary.

Mary

Anonymous said...

Joe and Brooke - What can I say that hasn't already been said. Annaleigh knows that you love her -she has always known and felt that. Just as Charlie and Lily know and feel this which shows through in their happy personalities. Know that Annaleigh is smiling right in the middle of them. She's there - the mature sister watching over them.
Talk about Annaleigh - keep her alive - that's important to you - to Annaleigh and to Charlie and Lily. They need to grow up knowing all about Annaleigh so that when they're out in public they can proudly say that they are triplets - think of how proud you will be when they stick up for their sister because their role models have taught them to keep their sister alive. Allow them the opportunity to grow up loveing Annaleigh just as she loves them.
Annaleigh just reached Heaven before any of us - but she really is still here. Believe that she will never leave you and continue to stay strong for all of your children. My heart goes out to all of you - I love you guys...

All My Love, Auntie :) xoxoxox

Rebecca Nixie said...

What a touching entry Joe. My thoughts are with you, Brooke, Charlie and Lily. My heart aches for you; you both have been so strong. Annaleigh, Charlie and Lily's precious guardian angel!! I agree with Auntie...keep Annaleigh alive, always. She will always be with you and your family. The twinkle in Charlie's eye, the empty space that Lily focuses on, she's there, watching everything!!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute. I'm thinking of you both today. May you find comfort just knowing she lives within Charlie & Lily and is with you every moment.

JoLynn said...

One year ago today I wept for your family.

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Anonymous said...

I'll bet someday she'll have a little niece named Annaleigh, and the circle will be complete.

carrie said...

It's hard to find the right words, but please know that your whole family is in my thoughts and prayers, and beautiful Annaleigh is thought of and remembered by so many. I believe she is happy where she is, watching down on your family and so proud of all of you. I also believe, without a doubt, that she knows how very much she is loved, and has always been loved. Your love for her shows through in all of your writings, and is why so many people who have never met her or any of you are always praying for and thinking of your family. I'm so very sorry for the heartbreak I know you feel. Keeping you all in my prayers.

Mac's Mommy said...

I don't know you, but I too, cried for you that day, and I held my baby a little tighter that night. I would love to tell you that one day you will have the perfect answer to the are they twins question, but I don't think you ever will. My 16 year old brother died almost 12 years ago, and I still don't know how to answer the question of how many siblings I have. And I too still wonder what her would be like today. I know how hard it is for me, and he was just my brother. I can't even imagine how much harder it is for you as a parent.

Erin @ OneParticular Kitchen said...

I think of sweet Annaleigh so often; I can't believe it's been a year. Much love to all of you.

melissa said...

I am one of triplet girls,and Emily died 5 months after birth(18/8/90). We was all born at 28 weeks 20 years ago. My mum calls us twins although she know we are not. I usually say we are twins, but my close friends and family know the truth.

Anonymous said...

Words are just so inadequate - but it's all I have. I am so, so sorry. So incredibly sorry.

Every word you said was beautiful, and powerful, and gut-wrenching. Annaleigh was a remarkable person with a warm, bright soul and this world is a little sadder for not having her in it.

I don't even have any children of my own, and yet I think of your precious baby girl often and pause. She makes me feel a lit more appreciative of what I have that's good and right in my life, and her small but powerful life makes me a bit more humble.

Please know that Annaleigh still is and forever will be loved and missed.

Thank you for being so open, honest, and genuine. I hope more than anything that anything I've written to you tonight can you bring you even the smallest bit of comfort.

Best Wishes,


Kayla.

Anonymous said...

You're exactly right when you state that you don't know how many lives have been touched by Annaleigh. We've been following your blog for a very long time now, as we came across your wife on the infertility board on The Bump. She and I got pregnant right around the same time (my daughter was due on October 6th, but was born on sEptember 28th), so I tracked all of her posts to keep myself up to date on everything happening with your family. We also live in New Jersey (we're in South Jersey....I guess you're more central), and my husband is also a teacher (he teaches high school English....I think you do too, because you sure do have a way with words). Your triplets have always had a special place in our family's heart. I remember the joy I felt the day that I learned your babies had been delivered, and the tears that I cried the day that I read the post about Annaleigh being sick. I want you to know that I'm one of those people who hugs her baby a little bit tighter and gives extra kisses every single day in memory of Annaleigh. She really has touched more lives than you know. Your strength and the strength of your wife is remarkable. I hope that you find some peace in knowing that Annaleigh will never be forgotten....by any of us.

Jen said...

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Jennifer G. said...

I just came across your blog from someone who follows mine. We had a similar story. I had triplet boys almost 14 months ago. July 18, 2009. Mine were 28 weekers. We brought home 2 babies at 67 days. 3 days before we went home they told us one of our sons had severe brain damage he is currently diagnoses with spastic quadriplegic CP. He had an idental twin. They suffered from Twin to twin transfusuion. This causing their early birth. He fought for life with chronic lung disease for 6 months and 12 days. He had a trach and went on and off the ventilator often. He passed away January 30, 2010 in the NICU from sepsis and respiratory failure. I hate getting the comments "Oh twins" etc. So to often correct people and when they ask where the 3rd baby is I just tell them "He is not with us right now." to avoid the I feel sorry for you thoughts. I also made bibs. They Say We are triplets and it has a picture of 3 babies across the center and 1 has angel wings. I just sat here and read through your story. I kept a blog of my pregnancy and to the present. www.motherofatoddlerandtriplets.blogspot.com

Jennifer G. said...

I just came across your blog from someone who follows mine. We had a similar story. I had triplet boys almost 14 months ago. July 18, 2009. Mine were 28 weekers. We brought home 2 babies at 67 days. 3 days before we went home they told us one of our sons had severe brain damage he is currently diagnoses with spastic quadriplegic CP. He had an idental twin. They suffered from Twin to twin transfusuion. This causing their early birth. He fought for life with chronic lung disease for 6 months and 12 days. He had a trach and went on and off the ventilator often. He passed away January 30, 2010 in the NICU from sepsis and respiratory failure. I hate getting the comments "Oh twins" etc. So to often correct people and when they ask where the 3rd baby is I just tell them "He is not with us right now." to avoid the I feel sorry for you thoughts. I also made bibs. They Say We are triplets and it has a picture of 3 babies across the center and 1 has angel wings. I just sat here and read through your story. I kept a blog of my pregnancy and to the present. www.motherofatoddlerandtriplets.blogspot.com