Rory’s Birthday = Kid’s Day

After Rory’s death, we were quickly confronted with what to do on her birthday.

How do we celebrate Rory, without her?

We did a service project with help from family and friends and donated toys to Primary Children’s Hospital.

Then we also got each of the boys a present and said, “Happy Kid’s Day!”

Our day hasn’t changed much from that first year.

We do some sort of service and we celebrate Kid’s Day.

We wanted activities we could continue to do as the boys grew up, moved away, and had kids of their own.

Our hope is that someday as we celebrate Kid’s Day with our boys’ children, we can say,

“This is in honor of your Aunt Rory. She was a pretty dang awesome girl! Let me tell you a story about her.”

Daily Grief Cycles

The five stages of grief have been on repeat that last couple of days.

It looks something like this:
This isn’t my life.

Are you kidding me that this is my life? There’s nothing fair or right about it!

Well, God, let’s just bring her back. I promise to not unlearn all that I’ve learned.

She’s not coming back. I’m going to live the rest of my life without my daughter. Why am I still living?

It’s going to be okay. Keep stepping. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’ve got your boys to get through all this.



Over and over again. I don’t always hit every step. But the range of emotions are just all day long.

I consider myself quite the expert on playing mind games. Resetting my brain when it gets into an unhealthy pattern.

These last few days, it’s just felt impossible. I could say it’s lack of sleep, conflict, hormones, or politics.

But the truth is: Rory should be turning 12 in a little over a week. I’m staring down another birthday without her.


My baby would be twelve on February 6th.

Every birthday without her guts me. But this one, we would have had a fun year of celebrating new things with her. Moving up into the youth program at church, graduating elementary school, and embracing her true preteen drama.

My body physically aches for those experiences with her.

Then I go through the stages again. Luckily for me, the last step ends with hope and propels me into action.

My life has a purpose and it’s to love. And I recognize that purpose because Rory was born. And she was mine.

Grew, Hoped, Tried.

In the weeks after Rory’s death, I recorded memories.

I wanted it in my voice.

How I remembered my baby girl.

I looked at some of the videos for the first time the other day.

It spoke to me in two ways.

One, I miss Rory! I want a million more memories. At least one for every day I’ve been without her these three years.

Two, I’m not that same Stephanie. I feel like a lifetime has passed in some ways. In those videos I was engulfed in the flames of grief. As flames have turned to embers, I’m emerging reshaped. In almost every aspect of my life.

Who and how I love.

My relationship with God.

The truly important things in my life.





The importance Grace in my life.

Amanda Gorman’s inaugural words rang true to me:

“That even as we grieved, we grew

That even as we hurt, we hoped

That even as we tired, we tried”

Grieved, hurt, tired.

Grew, hoped, tried.

That encapsulates my last three years.

Reminders of Rory

There are times that it feels like Rory existed in a different life.

We moved just a couple of weeks after she died.

So she never walked these halls.

She never had a room in this house.

She didn’t color on any walls.

She didn’t potty train, read stories, or play games here.

When I look around, there are no Rory memories.

She never set her sweet feet in this house.

A couple of months ago one of her socks fell out of one of her boxes in the basement.

I couldn’t bring myself to put it away or even move it.

It’s a reminder.

She was real. She was ours. We were whole.

We’re speeding (sometimes crawling!) toward the third anniversary of her death.

Three years.

That’s no time. And a lifetime.

I miss that girl! My soul yearns for hers.

I’m eager for the days that this life and our other life combine and we can be one again.

Growing Through the Hard Times

A little over two years ago we planted three willows in our backyard.

Weeping willows are my absolute favorite trees! I love them!

We planted one in our last house and it just took off. We wished we would have taken yearly pictures to mark the progress. So when we planted the ones here we did that.


As you can see in the last picture, our tree on the right isn’t doing well. The tree started budding then we hit a cold spell and all the leaves died.

The branches turned black.

We cut off the discolored branches. Hoping to reserve all the energy for the tree to stay alive.

At the base there were a few tree suckers. Normally, we’d cut off them off but the tree had no leaves so we decided to leave them so the tree could get at least some nourishment.

The loss of this tree affected me more than I’d like to admit.

I thought, well, this just fits perfectly into our lives. Another loss.

This summer I watched these suckers grow taller and fuller.

My dad said, “Now you’ve got 10 trees!”

This morning as I examined the suckers I realized we really are like this tree.

Our family has experienced a loss. Such a big loss that it left us bruised and part of us dead.

While in our despair, we find ways to continue to grow.

We cling to each other.

We search for hope.

We rely on faith.

The more we did each of those, the fuller we became as we stretched toward the Son.

The truth is, we’re never going to be the same. Our lives forever changed November 13, 2017.

But that doesn’t mean we’re done.

Everyday we learn more.

We work through the unknown.

And we love harder than the day before.

We might be suckers instead of the trees we used to be, but we’re not giving up. We’re fighting to keep growing.