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The story of our precious little girl's 17 months of life with Trisomy 18 (July 4, 2010 - December 15, 2011) and of us, re-learning to live "after Lilly."
"I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...." Psalm 139:14

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book on Grief: I Will Carry You by Angie Smith

Several months after Lilly died, I received the book I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith in the mail.  The book was from a complete stranger, a woman that had read about Lilly's death in the Samaritan Ministries newsletter.  (Samaritan Ministries is our alternative healthcare.  It is an awesome group to be a part of and yes - almost all of Lilly's medical bills were paid.)  The woman enclosed a card which read:

When I read about the loss of Lillian in the Samaritan Newsletter, my heart broke for your family.  While I have suffered a miscarriage in the past, I won't pretend that I can imagine what you are feeling, the pain of losing a child you have held, loved and cared for.  Angie Smith's story has been a vital tool on my journey to healing, not just from the loss of our baby, but also from the many hurts and disappointments this life has dealt.  When the time is right, I pray God can use her book in your life, too.
I now understand that many of us come to you feeling the need to help "fix" how you feel with our words and even scripture, but the simple truth is, we can't.  I realize "our faith gives us the sure hope of seeing [Lillian] again, but the hope does not take away the pain." (Gregory Floyd)
So I close with a long-distance hug and assurance that I and many others have been and will continue praying for you.

Isn't that such a sweet note?  Of all the books we received on grief, this is the one I wanted to read the most.  Yet I was unable to even read the back cover without crying.  I picked it up numerous times in the last 2 years, teared up, and put it back down.  Finally I determined early last week that now was the time.  Lilly's 4th birthday was coming up, making it her 3rd without us, and I just felt like I was ready to read it.  That I needed to read it.

First night of reading - no tears.  Accomplishment!  After that, I cried off and on while reading, but overall handled the story well.  I finished the book without crumpling into a heap on the floor. That made me feel triumphant.  It means that I've healed some.

Angie Smith is the wife of Todd Smith, the lead singer of the Christian group Selah.  When she was 18 weeks pregnant, they found out Audrey had a number of conditions that earned her the dreaded label "incompatible with life."

Angie described the roller coaster ride that her pregnancy was.  She cried.  A lot.  I was struck by this and all the many similarities between what happened with her family and Audrey and our family with Lilly.  But I dealt emotionally with some things differently than Angie.  Honestly Angie probably took the more healthy approach.  She cried and talked about what was happening a lot.  I didn't so much.  While pregnant with Lilly I put my numb/detached wall up and refused to think anything other than "I will bring this baby home from the hospital."

Audrey was born by c-section.  She was tiny - 3 lbs.  And much to her family's delight, she lived for 2.5 hours.  They loved on her, talked to her, sang to her, and extended family was at the hospital to meet her.  They dressed Audrey up and had beautiful pictures made with her through Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.

[NOTE:  I got all the photos used in this blogpost today from Google Images.]

The Smith family with Audrey
They were so thankful to God for that time with her alive in their arms.  When Audrey's little damaged heart finally stopped beating, she slipped away quietly.  Look at her beautiful little face:

One thing the Smith family did during Angie's pregnancy with Audrey that I really really think was a great idea was that because they did not know if Audrey would live, they enjoyed doing things with Audrey while she was still in the womb.  They talked to her, sang to her, read to her.  They took her to the theater, movies, the ballet.  Todd's group Selah recorded a song for her - "Audrey's Song."  When the song was recorded, they put headphones on Angie's belly so Audrey could hear the song.  The Smiths' 3 other girls wanted their sister to go to Disney World with them.  The family made the trip.

Notice the hat for Audrey
Angie discusses the story of Jesus, Mary and Martha, and the death of Lazarus in quite a few places in the book.  She took great comfort from that story and analyzed it in ways I have never thought of.  Very interesting and comforting.

In the back of the book, there is a section that Todd wrote for fathers.  I think this was such a good idea to include that since I think in general, fathers do not get the attention and help that mothers do, in the grieving process.

Angie also has a chapter on helping children grieve.  As we've done a number of things that she talked about, I can say that "yes" they are things that helped.  Angie noted that her girls often drew pictures with coffins in them.  That reminded me of how Hunter went through a phase of playing funeral.  He would "bury" his stuffed dog Sam.  Hunter was 3 when Lilly died, and in the 6 months proceeding her death, we had also buried Frank's father and uncle.  Then a few months after burying Lilly, a baby at church died and Hunter asked "Oh, did that baby have Trisomy 18 too?"  Hunter was 4 when he cried about Lilly.  Children process things differently, depending on their ages and maturity level.

And really, adults process things differently at different stages too.  I doubt there are two people in the world that grieve in the exact same way at the exact same time.

Finally, Angie has a section of helpful resources.  Books, websites, and memorial ideas.

You may recall that earlier this year, I gave away Angie Smith's children's book Audrey Bunny for Trisomy 18 Awareness Day.  (My post is here.)   This is a book about a bunny that has a mark on her heart and she tries to hide it.  But when her "owner" finds it, she loves the bunny anyway.

This bunny is based on the real stuffed bunny that Angie and Todd bought for Audrey when Angie was pregnant.  They had found a bunny with a mark on it's heart and in spite of pressure from the saleswoman at the gift shop to buy one without a mark, they bought it anyway.  It was the perfect bunny for their little girl with the heart issues.

Angie and Todd took the bunny home and showed it to their little girls and explained that Audrey's heart had "a boo boo."  The little girls put bandaids on the bunny's heart.  Isn't that sweet?  And I think a very helpful tool in teaching those little girls about their sister.

I'm so thankful I finally got the courage/strength to read this book.  Tabby took it from me the day after I finished it and read the whole book in a morning.  She liked it too.  I think it is a helpful book for anyone.  Even if you haven't lost a child,  I Will Carry You can help you better understand those that did and how you might help.

"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. - 1 Corinthians 4:16-18

note: This blog post contains affiliate links. If I ever make any money from book purchases through these links, the money will be used to bless others through the Lilly Memorial Fund. :)


  1. I understand about not being able to read things until the moment is right. For instance, right now, I am fighting to read the post above. I read a paragraph and leave for a while, and come back and read another one. Otherwise my makeup would be all over my face. (I am at work.)

  2. I've made it down to the first family photograph now. This is a beautiful post. <3

    I too have that numb/detatched wall that I build. We are more alike than I knew.

    1. That numb/detached wall can come in handy. BUT ... and I think you have done this too ... it keeps us staying in situations longer than we probably should. :(

  3. I finished. Very very nice post. I love you.

  4. That was a lovely note from the friend sending you the book. Heartfelt. I think there is a right time for reading and writing about topics that devastate our hearts. Reading that book right after Lilly's book would not have helped you a bit, but now, with a little distance, you can be edified by it. I find I can read similar stories and write about our own experiences now, but at the time I couldn't even think about it.

    1. Yes. And it's interesting - the author of this book said she read many of the grieving books, dutifully highlighting her way through them. But then she ended up throwing them all in the trash because she realized that grieving was so personalized. Sure we go through similar stages - but we each really do morn in our own ways.

  5. I read the book right after Jonathan died. So many of the Scriptures she used spoke to me in a profound way, I still hold onto them to this day. I wish I would've had more time with Jonathan like she have with Audrey. I'm glad you finally got to read the book! Your a wonderful mommy and a testimony of hope and healing.

    1. You were brave to read the book so quickly! But I am sure it helped so much. Like you said with the scriptures she used. I wish you could have had more time with Jonathan too. But I love how you have shared his story with so many. Above Rubies, Samaritan Ministries, etc. I know Jonathan must be so proud of his mommy!

  6. This book was so good. Grief is handled by everyone differently, Smith's book is one of my favorites when I have moment of grief, and as I get older that seems to happen more and more. I recommend Finding Vern by Darcy Bellows, it's not about a child, but her ways of getting through her loss are very poignant. Whatever may help get through it, her site is, it's a great read on grief and loss and the aftermath.

    1. Thank you for sharing about that book. I will check it out!