It has taken me awhile to write this post, mostly because I don't know how to describe my thoughts.
My brother and sister-in-law's beautiful baby girl, Elise Catharine Whittington was born a few months ago, on March 8. She was born with an unbalanced translocation of her 3rd and 9th chromosomes, and as a result, faced many health challenges, including missing part of her brain and underdeveloped airways. Doctors told my brother and sister-in-law that her body was retaining carbon dioxide and she would not live. She spent more than a month in the NICU and then went home on hospice care. She passed away in her sleep May 8th.
How do I put into words everything I feel? Love, heartache, sorrow, humility, dependency, compassion, comfort-- these words don't even scratch the surface.
I had the opportunity to go to Boise and meet Elise when she was just a few weeks old. It was a powerful experience for me, and again, I don't know how to describe it. From the moment I walked into her little corner in the NICU, I felt something so powerful. The spirit around her was tangible. My heart was filled with such love for her and I knew she was truly special. As I hugged her little body close to me, I kept whispering to her how much we all love her and that she was perfect as she was. There was a moment when my brother, dad, and I were in the NICU together and my dad and I had tears streaming down our faces. I told Thomas I wasn't crying because I was sad, but couldn't find the words to finish. My dad finished my thought perfectly and said, "It's because we love her so much." She was a perfect, celestial being here on this earth. I have no doubt of that. I remember feeling inadequate, thinking I was in the presence of this angel and I didn't feel like I was worthy to even hold her.
A few of my favorite pictures of Elise:
In the dress I bought her.
I have admired Thomas and Megan throughout all of this. There is no doubt how much they love their little girl. They faced every parent's greatest fear with such courage and a strength I don't think I could replicate. My heart aches for them, and my feelings are still so tender. I remember thinking the same of my sister and her husband when they lost their beautiful daughter, Grace, to SIDS. Life is hard. So, so, hard sometimes. I can't imagine their loss. I have a friend who lost her dad a few years ago and described it as "beautifully hard." That's probably the closest description I have found for my feelings. Neither Grace nor Elise had anything to prove on this earth. They were perfect and will be reunited with their families someday. I look forward to meeting both of them again. In the meantime, I know they are angels in heaven, watching over their families and doing an important work. I've had the thought several times, "How lucky are we to have two celestial spirits in our family?" Both of these little girls share the common bond of having Catharine as a middle name, after my grandma Catharine. I know they are together, watching over all of us, and that brings me peace.
It's never easy seeing such a small casket, but Elise's was beautiful and the funeral was really nice.
Megan and her sister set up this beautiful display for the luncheon after the funeral.
I love this.
Elise was no doubt special. Her impact was far reaching, and she was a powerful force for good in her short two months of life. I know she was an example to me in so many ways and I learned a lot from her. She was strong, beautiful, and humble, and taught me more about love and compassion.
I'm grateful for this family of mine. I'm grateful for my testimony of eternal families.
A beautiful video of Elise and her family taken a few days before her passing: