June 29th, 2002: the day the world tilted.

It was the day my life changed-dramatically-forever. I suppose I could say that about a lot of days in my life-my wedding day, the day I gave birth to my son, the day I met Adam, the day I left for Brazil...there are others, of course. But none of those days changed my life (actually, my entire family) quite as radically as that day did.
It was a beautiful, sunny day.
I was 18 1/2 years old.
I had just graduated from high school a month before, and was looking forward to one last summer of "childhood".
It was the day my sister died.
I've never been able to write about her, before. I mean, I've journaled and talked and thought about her countless times, but I've never been able to write about her before. At least, not about the day she died. But today....something keeps nagging at me. Something whispering I need to write about her, about that day and all the days that followed after it, and I need to do it now.
So I am-or, at least, I'm trying.
You know how you'll always remember exactly where you were when you heard about September 11th? Or the Oklahoma City Bombing, or the Kennedy assassination? {Not that I remember that one...but maybe some of you do!} That's how I remember The Phone Call. My best friend and I were driving down College Avenue on a bright sunny day, headed to our favorite boutique, when my mom called. I remember her telling me my sister was in the hospital and I needed to come home right away so we could get down to Denver, where she was. I remember thinking something serious was happening because of the tone of my mom's voice. But I thought-maybe surgery. Maybe in the hospital for a few days....never did I think she would die. I mean, my friend and I were supposed to go to her place for the fourth of July weekend. She would be fine by then...right?
My parents obviously had a different sense of foreboding. My Dad got us down to Denver as fast as he could; my mom kept calling my brother (who was spending the weekend with her and called the ambulance in the first place) but all he would say was,
 "They're still working on her."
Except she was already gone. In the blink of an eye, my tall, blond, beautiful, sunny sister was taken up to be with her Savior. She was 24 and the picture of perfect health...it was unthinkable. {I wish I had a picture to post of her but this was before I had a digital camera, and I still don't have a scanner}
I remember so clearly walking through the ER back to one of those little offices where they take people when they have really bad news to tell them. I had an anklet on with little silver bells all over it, like Indian dancers wear, and the sound of it jingling was all I could hear the whole way back....a chaplain was there, along with my brother and my parents' good friends from forever. I remember wondering how they'd gotten there...and then I remember the man saying something like, "I'm sorry," and seeing my mom start to cry but I didn't understand,  didn't want to understand, couldn't understand, and so I asked him desperately, "Is she dead??"
And he just nodded.
And I became numb.
She died of a coronary embolism, a blood clot that probably started in her leg, broke off, and went directly to her heart. We were told they did everything they could to save her-I didn't want to know what that meant. Still don't, although I have a cousin who worked as an EMT who could tell me, I'm sure. We found out later through blood testing that we have a genetic condition call hyperhomosystemia, which basically causes our blood to clot more easily than average. It's not as rare as you'd think...couple that with the birth control pills she was taking for bad cramps, and the combination was horribly tragic. It's one of the reasons I've never touched hormonal birth control and am so emphatic about my friends getting their blood tested for the condition if they are going to use any form of hormonal birth control-losing one person this way is more than enough.
Losing my sister was tragic.
I don't remember how we got home that evening. I don't remember a lot about the first weeks after her death. I do remember how horrible that first night was. And I remember the sound of my mother crying.

I had to grow up in a hurry-like overnight. I had to learn to comfort those who had always been there to comfort me-my parents-as I watched them grieve the death of their firstborn. Losing a best friend is bad enough; losing a sister is tragic. I can only now, as a mother myself, begin to imagine the pain my parents went thorough. It's not the way things are "supposed" to be-the child dying before the parent.
It's the first and last time I ever slept in their bed all night long. Comforting them as they comforted me.

I can't stop there, though. As easy as it would be to make this post about her death, about grief, about how our family shifted and changed for years before we finally found our new places-I can't. I have to write about the hope of Erica's death.
Because there is hope....
"...weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning," Psalm 30:5
and I know this to be true, because I've lived it. Joy didn't come in happy days and laughter right away; although there was perhaps to some a scandalous amount of laughter in that house the week before Erica's funeral. How could we laugh, you ask, when my devastatingly young sister had just tragically died?
Because of hope.
 "for I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD; plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you HOPE and a future," Jeremiah 29:11
Everywhere we turned that week there were whispers of heaven. A dollar bill at the checkout with the above verse written on it. An angel's touch felt in her bedroom. A dream I had, talking to my sister...my cousin sleeping in the same room listened to me talk to her in my sleep. An anklet we made to remember her, with a little heart and a little cross charm on it-and then my mom finding a gold necklace {my sister's when she was little} with a little heart and a little cross charm on it. There are more, so many more....but perhaps the loudest whisper was that of the still, small voice in my heart telling me to Live.
It wasn't the same kind of living I'd done before, though. Like learning to walk again after a bad accident-that's how I learned to live again. How we ALL learned to live again. Slowly and sometimes painfully.

If you knew Erica at all, you knew she loved the Lord. You'd know that, although she might have been a little sad to leave us behind, if she'd known she would be going to heaven so soon-she would've been joyful. Especially in the last 6 or so years of her life, she was a young woman confident in who she was and what she stood for, and who she lived for-Jesus Christ. She definitely wasn't perfect. You may not consider yourself religious at all, and believe me, neither do I. I live to be faithful...as was she. Faithful to the One who gave His life for her long before she died, so she might be with Him in heaven when the time came, instead of lost to eternal darkness. Faithful to the One who loved her so much He used her death to glorify Him-as she would have wanted. She exuded joy and life. And He used her life to show others why she was so joyful.
Her funeral was packed. The entire church was filled with people, young and old, those who believed in God and those who absolutely didn't-but came along to support us, her family. I wore a bright red sundress with little flowers on it, and my mom wore yellow. We knew Erica would've hated the thought of us wearing black. {I've never worn that dress again-neither has my mom} I stood up beside my dad at the podium and read our "traveling Psalm"-hers and mine-Psalm 91. She gave it to me when I got on the plane to Brazil. she was my biggest fan, always. She was literally the first person I saw when I was born-practically shoving the doctor out of her way in her eagerness-and she belived in me. Always, even when I didn't believe in myself. a good friend as well as a sister, even though she was 6 years older than me. When I was 13, she became one of my youth leaders so she could "keep an eye on me"...most people didn't even know we were related. We look pretty much nothing alike, plus she was 5 inches taller than me. As a teenager, we went hiking, out to coffee, out to dinner...she always made time for me. My first visit to the Cheesecake Factory (oh, bliss!) was with her when I was about 15 or so...my parents were out of town, my brother was working or gone (I can't remember), and she had the two of us get all dolled up and took my to 16th street mall and we had a fabulous time. A sister date. When I was a senior in high school, we went snowboarding together whenever we could; sometimes just the two of us, but other times she'd help haul a group of my friends up to the mountain and spend a day on the slopes with a bunch of crazy teenagers. She walked me though some of the darkest days I'd ever had as I struggled with an eating disorder and horrible sense of self-worth. And she cried as she watched me run my last cross-country race my senior year...she was so very proud of me. I never doubted it.
And that's why, although I miss her many other days of the year, I only allow myself to grieve her one day of the year-today. The anniversary of her death. 9 years ago, today...I know she wants me to live- fully and full of joy; not just to exist. I knew this, even though it hurt to breath those first few days. I knew this, as I begged God to heal my hurting family and teach me to live again-living differently now, because I know just how finite life is. And when I grieve, it's really for myself that I grieve-for the things I've lost; the moments we didn't get to share. Like not having her as my maid of honor, like we'd always talked about...but my mom reminded me there was another, very special woman in my life-not just a cousin but a sister of my heart-that God had given me years before Erica died. The only women I'd ever want standing there besides Erica, because she walks with me though everything and was there through all the darkness and back into the light. I focused on the joy of the day, and knew she was there beaming from ear to ear. A clap of the thunder at the beginning of the ceremony was like a special little "hello" from heaven.
I grieve that my husband and children never met Erica-but one day they will. And now it's up to me to let them "know" her through my memories...and I want them to know her as she was, full of life; not just to know about her tragic death. Sometimes I ask God to let her see them, or to tell her about her nephews and niece-I don't know how it all works up there, but it can't hurt to ask, right?
So I choose not to grieve her death-but to celebrate her life. To remember her klutziness, her cabbage-patch-kid face, the way my brother and I could make her laugh 'till she cried. Baking together, running together, living life together....it gives me hope. And although I know it scarred my brother in ways I can't imagine to be there with her that day; to have been the one to make the call; to wonder "what if"-I'm so thankful he was there to help her. That she wasn't alone. God works even in the details..and "He works all things together for good, for those whose HOPE is in Christ Jesus"..I don't know the reference for that, but it's in my heart.
June 29th, 2011: A day of Hope.


my favorite.

I'm in the middle of editing some pictures of our good friends, the Palmers, whom I got do a family shoot for when we were in Durango...and I just HAVE to post this one for Jill. It's by.far. my favorite....Or maybe this one is.
Or this one. Ok, so they're just all stinkin' cute!


This is the way we wash the car

wash the car

wash the car

this is the way we wash the car-

well...because we can!

{and also because he is his father's son} :)

p.s. the big guy is my brother-Uncle Fred. No, that's not his real name. Yes, it's a very long story.


Mother's (Birth)day

This is my husband.

This is my mother, with my daughter.

This is my husband and son playing catch with my father, using Adam's birthday presents-new baseball gloves for the big one and the little one.

This is one of my favorite pictures ever of my son playing catch with my husband and my father. {see the tongue?}

This is how we spent part of Mother's Day, which also happened to be my husband's birthday this year.

{This post is very, very late}
My husband was actually born on Mother's Day...pretty good present, huh? Aside from the whole being-in-labor bit.
This is my father sweeping, although I promise he wasn't doing this all day. He just managed to mostly evade the camera.

The rest of the day was spent barbecueing with my brother and sister-in-law and eating pie, which I didn't take any pictures of. Possibly because I was too busy eating it...my mom makes a gooooood pie.

I am so thankful for my mother and the sacrifices, love, and patience she has poured into me over the years...I don't think you can ever fully understand all your parents did for you growing up until you become a parent yourself. And I am so thankful that, on Mother's Day 28 years ago, my mother-in-law gave birth to her own gift--because he is a blessing to me, abundantly and overwhelmingly, every day of the year.
Including Mother's Day.
and what were my presents this year, you ask?
I got to sleep in-'till 6:45. {hey, you take what you can get!!}
I got to get ready all by myself, in a quite house.
I got Starbucks brought home to me and crepes waiting on the table when I came down to breakfast.
I got a beautiful bouquet of tulips carried in by a small son who crowed, "Happy Mother's Day!! ...you're supposed to be sleeping!"
I got sweet baby snuggles from a tiny, curly-haired little dollie, sandwiched between her daddy and me.
And I got a gift card to Targ*t to buy myself new summer sandals.
Does it get any better than that??



What it is.

We're home. Back after 2 weeks of traveling, 4 8-hour road trips, 2 2-hour plane rides (one of which we were totally THAT FAMILY on. You know...the ones with the screaming baby you don't ever want on your flight? Yup. That was us.), 3 seperate trips, 3 states, more cousins than I can remember, not a whole lot of sleep, tons of pool time, and lots of fun.
It was worth every minute.

But I have a suitcase that still needs to be unpacked, shopping trips to plan if we hope to eat a decent meal tomorrow, and 2 photoshoots from last week to edit before wedding season starts for me this next weekend.
So, although I have some fantastic stories (several of which include finding my Small Son naked in various places....)

Just a couple pictures for tonight. Because summer is what it is...which is fantastic.