Sweet Eva: Miracles on Earth and in Heaven

12

On this last day of Anencephaly Awareness month, we wanted to share the story of sweet Eva. Sufficient Grace Ministries Comfort Doula Kelly Gerken and SGM Remembrance Photographers: Erin Foster (maternity) and Kristi Bodey, along with the teams from Life Connection and Purposeful Gift had the privilege of walking with this family through their time waiting to meet their beautiful baby girl. Eva is so loved. She defied many of the odds, living much longer than expected…a life filled with miracles…even though it was brief. She was able to donate organs for research, as described in her mother’s brave and beautiful words below. Parents, Katie and David, were surrounded with the love and support of their family and friends, their support team, and covered in so many prayers…every step of the way. Sufficient Grace Ministries was honored to attend appointments with this family, helping with the planning process.

One of my favorite memories with Eva and her family occurred during the last moments of her life. The song Good, Good Father was playing on the computer. I sang along quietly as Eva took her last breaths while being held by her mother and father. Miraculously, her color…which had been slightly purple due to low oxygen and blood flow…changed minutes after she was taken to heaven. She was restored to a typical rosy newborn color. No one could explain Eva’s miracle. But, her family knew it was just another gift from their heavenly Father…a reassurance that she is perfect in heaven and that they would meet her again one day.

The beauty, courage, love, and faith Katie and David share shines in their eyes and in the telling of their story. It was an honor to watch them walk this path with beauty and grace…the sweetest beauty…even in the broken.

maternity-13

maternity-8

Let me tell you about my daughter…

by Katie Yankee

Let me tell you about my daughter…

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva I would tell you that she was a fighter. She fought the odds. She proved everyone wrong. She fought to give us almost 6 hours with her.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva I would tell you that she was strong. Just when we thought she had taken her last breath, she took another.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you she was strong-willed. She was sassy.  She knew what she liked and what she didn’t like and she wasn’t afraid to let us know.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you that she was beautiful. She had the most perfect little lips.  Even amongst great pain, even amongst the ashes, she brought us beauty.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you that she was a miracle. Her skin lightened just seconds after she had passed into Jesus’ arms, something no doctors could explain.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you that she was light in the midst of darkness. She showed us that there can be joy in the midst of great sorrow.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you she was a hero. She donated 6 organs for research, to help improve the lives of others.

 

Many people said that I did something special because I chose to give Eva life even when I knew she would die. But let me tell you something about my daughter… It was Eva who gave me life. It was Eva who taught me to treasure each moment, to protect the ones you love fiercely. She taught me to fight. She taught me to be brave. She taught me to live with no regrets. She showed me that there’s a strength in me… Not because I’ve done anything special, but because He died for me.  That strength comes from Jesus.

 

Let me tell you something about my Jesus.. He holds a piece of my heart in His hands and her name is Eva.

28-1

 

Don’t Cry for Me

Written by Kevin Park (Eva’s Grandpa) from the perspective of Eva Kathryn Yankee

Don’t cry for me Mommy, I am happy and blessed.. Jesus called me home and my soul is at rest.

Don’t cry for me Mommy, you and Daddy gave me life. Five hours and forty-two minutes was a miracle, and there is no strife.

Don’t cry for me Mommy, they said I would not breathe. But I breathed and I cried and I held Grandpa’s finger, and because you asked- Our Father let me linger!

Don’t cry for me Mommy, my body is perfect.  My cry used to be hoarse, but now I sing with a big voice, of course.

Don’t cry for me Mommy, I am running in a field.  My bare feet are squishy in deep heavenly clover, and then I see Jesus and He just called out to me, “Eva Kate, come on over!”

Don’t cry for me Mommy, I am sitting on Jesus’ lap.  Everyone is belly laughing because Jesus just began to rap.

Don’t cry for me Mommy, Jesus is telling me a story.  When I was in your tummy, He whispered into your ear.  He said my name means life and He helped to take away your fears.

Don’t cry for me Daddy, daily ice cream here.  Blizzards in heaven have more chocolate and whipped cream.  I know yours are good Daddy, but ours are like a dream!

Don’t cry for me Daddy, I know you would like it here.  The wine is so sweet and the deer are all running.  The does are very fast and the bucks have racks that are stunning.

Don’t cry for me Grandmas and Grandpas, I know you held me tight.  You loved me so hard and you helped me fight. Your prayers and your faith helped me see the light.

Don’t cry for me Kelly, you helped my mommy so much!  Especially your love and dedication, your faith, your smiles, and your touch.

Don’t cry for me friends and family today, because although my life was not long, our God was glorified and Mommy and Daddy’s faith was so strong.

Don’t cry for me anyone when you think of me today, for I am with my Savior and friend Jesus who said I am a keeper and he asked me to stay.  God the Father and the Holy Spirit, too, have given me the chance to laugh and play and do a heavenly dance.

There is no reason to cry and no reason to mourn, for I was so blessed since the day I was born.

My Mommy and Daddy are forever blessed for their commitment to life and our Savior- passed the test.

My life is recorded in history today!  Eva Kathryn is my name and I came to say: My life gave my Mommy and my Daddy and family a chance to profess their faith and think about the eternal dance.

Heaven is a place that you could not describe until you knew me and could see where I was going.  So don’t cry for me today, because now you know what I am knowing.  That our faith and our love of our God helps our minds to see the showing.  The angels and the cherubim are dancing and singing and I am dancing and singing too, and my dress is glowing.

I love you Mommy and Daddy.  You are so awesome and your faith is so strong.  But don’t cry for me- for I will see you again soon, I promise you it won’t be very long!

——————-

55171 55051

I Danced

dancing

Last Saturday morning, I walked with a family as they said goodbye to their baby. My heart ached for them as we created some tangible memories. I carried them with me…pieces of their pain, forever woven into the fabric of my heart. Every time I wash a tiny baby foot, the humbling privilege of washing feet, as mentioned in scripture, washes over me. How our Jesus values every single life.

As I left in the van, the tears I carefully held back dripped down my face. I watched them holding hands, entering a world without their baby. I felt the ripping raw pain as I drove. Their pain. My pain. The pain of thousands of other parents who once walked out that door into a completely different world.

Life was waiting for me at home.

My son’s band was playing at the Corn City Festival, and our house would be filled with guests. Soon the combination of music and being surrounded by people I love, lifted my heart a bit. I thought of Angie Smith’s famous words, “Life is a sacred dance of grief and joy.” Yes. Yes it is. There’s so much grief carried in this tattered heart of mine.

But…there is also joy. And, sometimes, these tired feet just have to dance.

I danced most of the night, thanks to friends and my darling kitchen boys. I danced with every one of them. At first, I felt a little self-conscious. I’ve never been heavier or older than I am right now. Curvy girls jiggle when they dance. For just a wee moment, I was uncomfortable, silently focusing on my flaws. And, then this fabulous freedom swept over me, as one of the kitchen boys twirled me around in the middle of the street, in front of the stage, at our tiny railroad town festival. This life is short, and I may never have the chance to dance in the middle of the street with my beloved, beautiful kitchen boys and half the town…and eventually in the arms of my husband…again. (Even he can’t resist that kind of contagious joy.) We don’t know what tomorrow holds. So, I danced, with complete abandon. For hours.

And, once I stopped worrying about the things that just don’t matter this side of heaven, I began to feel beautiful. And, loved.

I felt loved by my friends, my kitchen boys, my Tim…and most of all… loved by God.

I felt Him whisper as I laughed and spun…

You are cherished. You are beautiful. You are dearly loved. You are Mine. And, I see you, dear daughter of my heart.

Oh, how grateful I am that I did not allow a few extra pounds and some grey hair to keep me from dancing freely. The kind of dancing that heals the soul-ache of a weary heart. Dear women everywhere, there is nothing more beautiful than a confident, joy-filled, free woman. No matter how she is packaged.

You are cherished. You are beautiful. You are dearly loved. You are His. He sees you, dear daughter of his heart.

So, dance. Dance freely, covered in His grace and love for you. And, remember…radiant joy covers a multitude of jiggles (and other flaws).

 

Photo credit

SGM Christmas Extravaganza Day Four: Words and Pictures

Today’s giveaways are…

1…. a Wooden frame with various slides you can display, offering words of comfort for grieving hearts.

20161208_145148-1

2. A memorial picture frame
20161208_145000

To enter, please leave a comment telling what you hope to win and some words that have been an encouragement or comfort to you in your grief. ♡

SGM Christmas Giveaway Extravaganza Day 3: Dreams of You and Angels, Too

Each year, Sufficient Grace Ministries sends hundreds of Dreams of You memory packages to grieving parents worldwide. We never charge parents for our products or services, but do ask for shipping donations. However for the rest of this week, we will be offering our FREE Dreams of You packages with FREE Shipping thanks to the BGSU Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity who recently held their annual Build-a-Bear for Moms fundraising/bear stuffing event! Comment on the link on Facebook to let those amazing gentlemen know how you feel about their efforts. We are so grateful they have the courage and compassion to help spread awareness, stuff our Comfort Bears, and support SGM as we support grieving parents. (We will be writing a post soon to share more about their amazingness!) We will accept up to 50 orders. So EVERYONE (up to 50 families) who would like a Dreams of You package can request one here. Please allow 3-12 weeks for delivery as we finish making the Comfort Bears.

Dreams of You items Carmine2

Also…Yesterday, I forgot to add 2 angels in our heaven post…so they are options for today’s giveaway! :)

1. 20161207_113325

2. 20161207_113347 (1)

Leave a comment to enter. Share on Facebook and Twitter for additional entries. Please leave an additional comment for each entry or share.

The Miracle Before Christmas: Gianna’s Gift

I spoke with Heather just a day before we would meet. Neither of us knew the extent of the miracles waiting for us as we chatted about the upcoming delivery of her sweet baby, diagnosed with Trisomy 18 earlier in the pregnancy. We weren’t sure whether she was having a boy or girl or how long she and her family would have to spend with their little one before saying goodbye. Together, we planned the best we could in our brief conversation. I packed a bag of items that would be fitting for either a boy or girl and an overnight bag for myself in case I needed to stay in Columbus for longer than expected. (I actually spent the next few days in Columbus supporting families, but that is for another post!)

Heather and Dan were prepared to have moments with their baby as she was not expected to live long after her birth. We asked to have both the photographer and the priest in the operating room, bending hospital protocol for these most special circumstances. Sometimes I have to fight to get birth professionals to allow the photographer in the OR, so to have a priest and photographer there was unprecedented. It was important to Heather and Dan to have their baby baptized immediately, while she was here. We were so grateful that the hospital made an exception to allow that to happen. The entire staff was very supportive of the family’s wishes and helping us to make the most of the time with their sweet baby.

It was the first time the young priest would support a family facing the loss of their baby. Father Tony didn’t look much older than my twenty-one year old son. And, although he was quite capable and comforting as he supported this family, I felt myself wanting to make sure he was ok, feeling protective and compassionate, as I knew he would be forever changed by the events that were about to unfold.

There is always an excitement when waiting to welcome a life into this world, even when that life is expected to be brief. I met the family as we waited for Heather to go into the OR, the sweet brother Luciano and sister Ava, the grandparents, the aunt, the godparents. Love filled the room, even as we waited to meet Baby H.

We gowned up and sanitized. I held my camera, positioning myself strategically in the operating room. It was my first time being allowed to photograph in the OR. I spoke a silent prayer for the family, for Father Tony, for my own photography abilities.

Lord…please give them our best. Please give them time with this sweet baby. Please give them the grace and strength to endure what lies ahead. Please carry them.

Heather’s face was filled with the peace that surpasses all human understanding and the sufficient grace God gives…just the right measure when we need it. She shone with the joy that mothers feel as they wait to meet their babies. They had hoped and prayed just to get to this moment. It was already a miracle that their sweet baby had come this far.

Gianna baptism1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She was born, so tiny and beautiful. I snapped the pictures, as Mom and Dad glimpsed the first glances at their baby girl. After assessing her, the nurses and doctors said we needed to move quickly for the baptism as it seemed Baby Gianna had only moments. She was not breathing, but her heart was beating slowly. I grabbed the Baptism bib Heather and Dan brought. Father Tony held the holy water in his shaking hands. Dan, father to baby Gianna, released the emotion he had carried for months as his knees buckled a bit. I put down my camera to hold him up for a moment as the tears fell. Dan found his voice to speak his daughter’s name with authority after a moment. Father Tony poured the water over her head, and as he said the familiar words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” …the next miracle happened. Baby Gianna coughed and sputtered and breathed, and her heartbeat rose to a normal rate. Her skin turned a healthy shade of pink. We all stood in awe: medical staff, support staff, and family. Godparents and grandparents listened over a special system the hospital uses to communicate.

Dan carried Gianna down the hall to meet her brother and sister and the rest of the family. Tears fell. Love filled the room.

gianna and mom1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heather was finally able to hold her sweet baby girl, and she glowed with the peace and love that oozes from a mama-heart. They hoped for moments with their baby. God gave them days to love on their girl. She was passed around the room. Moments were captured. Her first moments.

Gianna close up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her sister and brother were able to give her a bath.

gianna bath11
 

The family soaked in the miracle of those moments as time stood still. A lifetime of love filled the room to welcome baby Gianna. With her life came the gift of time.

gianna with mom and dad1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gianna breathed on her own and was able to eat, such a mighty little warrior!

gianna eating1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just days after her birth, she was able to go home with her family. She passed away in her home, feeling nothing but the love that filled the room…the love that will be carried in the hearts of her beautiful family all the days of her life. It was an honor to meet Gianna and her amazing, brave family.

gianna with me1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are their words about the experience:

From mom, Heather:
Trying to find the words to express my gratitude to Kelly & SGM…
From the moment we first spoke the phone I knew we were meant to meet. If I was blessed enough to meet my baby…I wanted to have family pictures. I waited until the day before my c-section scheduled to reach out. It’s hard to find the words to explain to someone that I’m not able to keep this baby with me. Only days before would I even allow myself to pick out a few items. I was so scared to buy any items and never be able to even use them. Due to other circumstances of
my pregnancy I found out very early in my pregnancy my unborn baby would be diagnosed with Trisomy 18. I’ve had so many people tell me how strong I am. I’ve only been able to get through this experience with faith. Every day of my pregnancy was a blessing. Gianna was a special gift. Sharing her story makes me smile & so happy. My heart aches & I miss Giana dearly. Every bit of heartbreak and pain was worth it. I would carry her all over again just to have those precious hours. I had hoped and prayed so much that I had a misdiagnosis, to then praying that I could have even a few minutes. I find it so comforting to share.
Kelly not only captured this by photographs but witnessed first hand the most personal raw & loving moments of Gianna’s birth & Baptism. Gianna had a purpose. I adore that she & Father Tony were able to witness such a miracle with Dan & me in the operating room. She also made sure to include older siblings Ava & Luciano. The photos & sharing her story & keeping her memory alive. Dan & I are blessed to have such an amazing community of support from our parish & friends & family. We hope this helps others by sharing Gianna’s story & to share SGM.

From dad, Dan:

My Dear Gianna,

We were so extremely lucky to have you in our life for 47 hours. When we were told of your Trisomy 18 we knew from the beginning you were a gift. It was only fitting that you were named after a saint. You taught me so much about strength and fight that I will carry for the rest of my life. I asked you to fight so we could have time and you responded to allow everyone to experience your love. You brought so much joy to your mother, brother, sister and myself. I can’t believe the impact you have had on so many lives in a short amount of time. I am so proud to be your father and will think about you everyday. It is hard to let you go but know you have a purpose. I know you will watch over us and protect us. We will miss you dearly but thank you for teaching our family about faith, strength, love and compassion.

Love you
Dad

gianna snuggling1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To learn more about the support offered by Sufficient Grace Ministries, please visit www.sufficientgraceministries.org.

SGM Christmas Giveaway Extravaganza Winners 2015

Congratulations! If your name is below then you are a winner! Please email your shipping address and the name of the item you won to sgm.shipping@gmail.com within the next week to claim your items. We hope you have a gentle Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. ♡

Day One

Melissa Norris, you win ornament #1. Please include your baby’s name when emailing your shipping info so we can personalize your ornament.

Janette Grigsby, you win ornament #2.

Brigette – ornament #3

Melanie Cameron – shell ornament

 

Day Two

Shyann – #1

Loretta- #2

Amanda – #3

Jennifer Couture – #4

 

Day Three

All entries for this day win!

Day Four 

Kara Gerken – Invisible Mothers

Jenn P – You Are The Mother of All Mothers

Kirsten O’ Leary – Sufficient Grace

Kim Villalva – You Are Lived

 

Day Five

Jennifer Couture – Angel figurine

 

 

SGM Christmas Giveaway Day 4 and 5!!

Today we will give away two days worth in one since I needed a day off yesterday! Busy week!

This was meant for Day Four…Book Day!

books
As a writer and reader, I love the printed word. Stories are so powerful and the stories of our sweet babies matter! There are four book options for this giveaway:

1. Invisible Mothers by Emily Long is a wonderful resource for mothers who have said goodbye to their only children. Invisible Mothers gives voice to the experience of love and loss for mothers whose babies have died during pregnancy or infancy…those with no living children. This book provides a safe haven for the loneliness of grief and inspiring words that resonate with moms with empty arms and aching hearts.

“I see you. I know that you love. I see your motherhood. You are not alone.”
~ Emily Long, Invisible Mothers

2. You Are The Mother Of All Mothers by Angela Miller is one of our favorite books to give to comfort grieving hearts. A book of beautiful and powerful affirmations to combat the lies whispered to a grieving heart in the dark. “You are a warrior, mama…You are the mother of all mothers.”

“So, breathe mama…keep breathing. Believe mama…keep believing.”

3. Sufficient Grace by our very own Kelly Gerken
Sufficient Grace chronicles not only Kelly’s own family’s painful journey through the stormy sea of grief after the loss of three of their five children, but also shares the lessons they learned about the true faith and grace God gives to His people, even in the midst of life’s storms.

4. Book #4 I know nothing about! But it looks like it’s probably an encouraging book…love the title: You’re Loved No Matter What.

—————-

Day Five Giveaway

Beautiful Angel figurine
angel

 

To enter:
1. Leave a comment on this post sharing which book you are interested in winning and/or if you would like to enter for the Angel. (You can choose as many as you’d like to enter for!)

2. For additional entries Like the SGM Facebook Page and follow on Twitter and Instagram (@SuffGrace).

3. Share this post or our event page.

Please make sure you leave a comment for each separate entry in order for them to count.

Winners for the week will be announced later this evening!

 

SGM Christmas Remembrance 2015 Day 3: FREE SHIPPING on Dreams of You Package

Dreams-of-You-items-Carmine2-1024x474

 

 

Sufficient Grace Ministries offers beautiful free Dreams of You resources and support to families around the world. While we typically charge shipping only for bereaved parents to receive our packages valued from $25 to $175, today….sponsored by the gentlemen of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, you can enter to win FREE shipping for your Dreams of You package!!

We will be choosing 25 winners! International included! :)

 

To enter, leave a comment with a snippet of your story in the comments.

Extra entries to like our Facebook page or share this link on social media.

SGM Christmas Giveaway Extravaganza Day Two: Remembrance Jewelry

I am so excited about today’s giveaway.

My beautiful friend, Amanda Plunkett, from Owens Gift and ABP Keepsake Jewelry has donated two gorgeous gifts for you all!!

Amanda creates one of a kind custom keepsake jewelry from your child’s/loved one’s/Pet’s cremation ashes, placenta, umbilical, dried flowers, teeth, small peices of fabric. She has given us two amazing items!

1. One is a bird nest necklace with Pregnancy and Infant Loss colors to wear in memory of sweet babies in heaven.

nest necklace one

2. A gift certificate for $50 for you to purchase a piece of custom jewelry from ABP Keepsake Jewelry with any memento items from your loved one or cremains.
ABP Gift Certificate

3. Footprints on the Heart Necklace

necklacetwo

4. Footprints in the Sand Necklace

necklace one

To enter:
1. Leave a comment on this post sharing who you are missing in heaven this Christmas and which jewelry item you would like a chance at winning. (You can choose as many as you’d like to enter for!)

2. For additional entries Like the SGM Facebook Page and follow on Twitter and Instagram (@SuffGrace).

3. Share this post or our event page.

Please make sure you leave a comment for each separate entry in order for them to count.

All winners will be announced on Friday. Please check back to enter for giveaways throughout the week!

SGM Christmas Giveaway Extravaganza 2015 Day One: Ornaments

Welcome to the SGM Christmas Giveaway Extravaganza 2015! Today is Day One of our week of giveaways…ornaments. Our Christmas Tree should tell a story, the story of our family. And, that includes those we are remembering in heaven each year. We would love to help you add to your tree of stories and memories with an ornament in memory of your baby or loved one in heaven.

#1. Our first ornament is so special. The Dreams of You ornament is hand painted and was created exclusively for SGM by Deanna Shoemaker from Payton’s Precious Memories. This ornament will be personalized by the creator with your baby’s name. Information about ordering can be found on the Support SGM page.

12249816_10208116429577802_6325167511602212650_n

#2. While this Hallmark “Born in Our Hearts” Ornament was created for adoptive parents, I also think it applies beautifully to parents whose babies are born into their hearts…but now live in heaven.

20151207_001652

#3. Add a copy of your baby’s handprint or footprint to this special keepsake ornament.

20151207_001908

#4. This one is for anyone missing someone in heaven…does not have to be a baby or child. “The ones we’ve lost are found in our memories.”

20151207_001832

To enter:
1. Leave a comment on this post sharing who you are missing in heaven this Christmas and which ornament/ornaments you would like a chance at winning. (You can choose as many as you’d like to enter for!)

2. For additional entries Like the SGM Facebook Page and follow on Twitter and Instagram (@SuffGrace).

3. Share this post or our event page.

Please make sure you leave a comment for each separate entry in order for them to count.