Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Happy 3rd Birthday Bristol...
This year we started a new tradition for Bristol's birthday. The past 2 years our family has gotten together for pizza and I would allow myself some alone time...time to look at her pictures, read through cards that were sent, and look at her memory box. I would buy a dozen roses, place them by her picture and light a memorial candle for 24 hours. I gave myself time to reflect on her short life, my pregnancy with her, and how her life changed me. But this year was different. We moved in September so many of those things are boxed away, the pizza place went out of business, and we buried Bristol this past summer. So the question lingered of how to celebrate & remember...

Earlier this week I decided that I would take a dozen roses to her grave and spend some time there. I would have preferred to have some 'alone' time for that trip, but Brad's work schedule wasn't conducive for that. So this morning I told Brody we were going to pick out some flowers and visit Bristol's grave, then he gave me a hug. God bless that little kid...he was especially sweet today (after a rotten day yesterday filled with typical 2 yr old behavior) but I'm going to believe his sister was nudging him to be kind to mommy :) As I was getting things ready to leave Brody positioned himself next to his bookshelf- he likes to sit and look through all his books- but today he found one that I didn't even know was on his shelf..."The One Who Came Before You"...it was the book the hospital gave us after Brody was born. I had never really looked at it before, and I know Brody hadn't seen it either. But he sat there turning the pages and pointing to the baby angel. Then he asked me to sit down, so I looked at the book with him. I told him that Bristol was the baby angel and we were going to see her grave today. He kept saying 'ristol' and it took every ounce not to break down when looking into his sweet brown eyes.

We got to the store and I told Brody to help  me pick out some flowers for Bristol. He grabbed the first bunch of roses he could reach- which happened to be gorgeous white roses with pink edges. They were perfect. And then we made our way to the cemetery. Both boys fell asleep on the drive so I was able to have some "me" time and allowed myself to shed a few tears before pulling through the cemetery gates. I was actually quite proud of myself. I laid down her roses & talked to God...and talked to Bristol. It was peaceful, perfect, and for the first time in a long time, I felt close to God. I left with a heavy heart about what all we will miss out on with Bristol, but also filled with hope and encouragement. Brody and Colton are true gifts from God and fill my life with such joy, I will forever be grateful for them. And Bristol is my constant reminder to teach the boys to love and seek Jesus and for me to live a life according to His will, so that I can be joined with her on the streets of gold. God is good, all the time, even when we don't understand it. As I sit here and reflect on Bristol's 3rd heavenly birthday, all in all it was a good day.

Saturday, however, was not. Saturday was my breaking point. It seems to be a recurring theme- I have a major meltdown about three days before Bristol's birthday, and this year was no different. Saturday morning I left to run some errands. Coming off an emotional roller coaster from the tragedy in CT on Friday, my emotions were high and tears were a constant on the brim of my eyes. I had to go to Franklin so I decided to stop by Bristols' grave on my way back home- I thought I should take advantage of some alone time. My mom had made a flower arrangement for her grave so I took it with me. And as I stood there looking at her grave in the rain I don't know what happened...I completely fell apart. I think the culmination of emotions from the CT school tragedy, stress about Colton's medical issues, and Bristol's upcoming birthday hit me at once. The tears wouldn't stop and my crying turned to a full out sob session. The kind of gut wrenching crying where you can't stop, it hurts so much you think you'll be physically ill, and its hard to breathe. I managed to make it to my car and tried to pull myself together. I was so sad- and I haven't been that sad in a long time. I started my trek home but the tears didn't stop, I cried the entire hour drive home.

Every song on the radio somehow reminded me of Bristol. I started thinking about my pregnancy with her and her birth...I don't know that I've ever really delved into specifics about our hospital experience when she was born, but there were some awful things that happened. And suddenly I understood my sadness...I never got to kiss Bristol. It's a dagger in my heart just thinking about it. What kind of mother doesn't kiss her child? Especially when saying goodbye? Was Bristol's death a way of punishment? How could God entrust the lives of two precious little boys if I can't even kiss my dead child goodbye? My hurt didn't stop and I cried out to God...like I said, Saturday was not a good day. When I got home Brad asked me what was wrong. And again I collapsed in his arms. I told him I felt like a terrible mother because I never kissed Bristol. What kind of a mother doesn't kiss her own child?! I told him how I felt like a total failure as a mother and that nothing I could do would make it better. Is she in heaven looking down on me and saying, "my mom didn't even kiss me goodbye?" Does she know how much I loved her, yearned for her, and miss her?

Brad just held me, wiped my tears away, and told me what I knew in my heart, but desperately needed to hear. "You are not a terrible mother. You can't judge anything about when Bristol was born. To say we were in shock is an understatement. We didn't even know what was happening. In 24 hours we found out she had died, induced labor, she was born, and we were sent home. I can't hardly remember that day, it's all a blur. We only held her a couple times and didn't even know they were taking her away until it was already done. You are a good mother and yes she knows how much you  love her." All this I knew deep down, but I couldn't bring myself to believe it until I heard him say it out loud.

Perhaps our painful experience is why I feel so driven to help comfort families who experience the loss of a child. And maybe this is why I kiss Brody & Colton hundreds of times a day. Every inch of my heart wants my kids to know they are loved and cherished. And regardless of how frustrating and trying they can (and will be) I will never miss an opportunity to kiss them and tell them I love them. As I stood at Bristol's grave today, I told her I was sorry I didn't get a chance to kiss her hello and goodbye...but I promised her that when I get to heaven, it will be the first thing I do.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

 It's been almost a year since I last published a post...and what a year it has been. Brad & I found out last Christmas that we were expecting again. And so began another pregnancy filled with anticipation, anxiety, and excitement. I know that God is ultimately in control, but I have a hard time laying down my fears & anxieties...perhaps knowing all that can happen or go wrong adds to my constant worry. I've been blessed to help many women throughout the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom with the doppler rentals through Beats for Bristol. But that also means I continue to be educated on another heartbreaking incident of infant loss...one that I take to heart and pour what I can into helping another grieving family.

Laid to rest... This past year I struggled with what to do with Bristol's remains. We had kept her ashes in a special box in our home, but as Brody got older and more active (ie. into things) I worried that he might get into her remains. And I wasn't sure I could handle that. So I approached Brad with the idea of burying her, something we had previously decided against. But things fell into place...my mother gave us two burial plots (so we could be buried with her when the time came), Brad's friend designed her gravestone for cost, and my dad is the trustee of the cemetery...we were able to bury her, the way we wanted, for almost no $. Truly a blessing. And her gravestone is perfect. 
So on a very hot July 4th morning at 7 + months pregnant, we buried our first born.  

 Such a special moment...Brad telling Brody about his sister before helping him cover her ashes..

I thought I would be "ok" when we buried her. I had countless conversations with the cemetery, our family, the funeral home, and the monument company and never had an emotional breakdown. I think I had my mind set that "this is what we're going to do and everything will be fine" attitude. It's a strange thing to plan a burial for your child...and since Bristol had passed 2 1/2 years ago, I had convinced myself that this was no big deal. But the actual moment of laying her ashes in the ground took my breath away and broke my heart all over again. I didn't want to let go, walk away, or cover what remained of her with dirt. Standing over her grave pregnant, with Brad & Brody by my side was a reminder of what we had lost, what we have, and how little control we really have. Since Bristol was born, the only time she was 'away' from us was when she was taken to the funeral home by the hospital. Since then she had been with us at home, and even secretly traveled places in my suitcase (just in case our house burned down while we were gone). But now I had to leave- I had to walk away and leave her ashes in the ground. My feet felt heavy and if it hadn't been 90 degrees my family might have let me stay. But the combination of heat, emotions, and being pregnant got the best of me. My family walked me to the car to leave...where I passed out and threw up just a few miles away from the cemetery. (I think I gave my father-in-law & mother a good scare.) Looking back, burying her was almost as hard as delivering her...I think because there is a finality at the cemetery and somehow I worry that now that she is 'gone' she will be forgotten.
But I know that isn't true...her earthly legacy lives on through Beats for Bristol, Inc. and The Bristol Project. And most importantly, she is a part of our family and my love for her is always in my heart. As time has passed, the hurt of losing our first child has changed...I wouldn't say that I am "over it" as some people have said, but rather I have learned to love & grieve her while picking up the pieces. As Brody gets older and Colton was born this past August, I think the sting that hurts the most now is knowing what we missed out on with her. Watching Brody grow up (a big 2 year old now!) and the excitement of a new baby, reminds me of the memories we didn't get to make. Brody & Colton bring immense joy to my life, my heart just swells thinking of how much I love them. And I am so blessed to be at home with them- spending every day watching them grow, change, learn, laugh...I can't imagine losing them. My biggest fear is something awful happening to them and having to say goodbye. But this fear also reminds me of my most important job...to teach my children about Jesus, to teach them to love Him so that one day we will all be together for eternity.

 Colton Bradley Sparks, Aug 6th 2012
Big Brother Brody...this kid keeps me busy! But has the BIGGEST heart!
Tis the season of Christmas music...I'm not sure where I was the other day but I heard the song about "It's the most wonderful time of the year" and the first thought that entered my head, was
 NO it's NOT! November & December are emotional months for me, filled with happy and sad memories... November was when I last heard Bristol's heartbeat, but it's also the month Brody was born. December is when we learned Bristol died and she was born, but it's also my favorite holiday and one filled with many happy memories. As I was reflecting on Christmas, and the true meaning of the holiday I was overcome with mixed emotions....let me explain. I know how heartbroken I was when we learned Bristol had died...our dreams were shattered in that moment. And I know how utterly crushed I would be if something happened to my precious little boys...but GOD knew his son was going to die. His heart was shattered when his children didn't believe in Him, so he sent his SON to DIE for US so that we may be with him for eternity. Wow, that's LOVE. I can't imagine looking down on that cross and watching my son die...I can't imagine the hurt he must have felt contradicted with the overwhelming love he had for his children, for us....So as I enter into this season filled with mixed emotions, I am reminded of God's never ending love. Just as I will never stop loving or missing Bristol, God never stops loving us or yearning for us to love him.
 Bristol's 3rd Birthday is just a couple weeks away and I'm not sure how we'll 'celebrate' this year.. I know December 17th and 18th will always be bittersweet, but maybe I will also be reminded that
"it's the most wonderful time of the year"...
One of the greatest joys is watching Brody love on his brother Colton...it warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes. Brotherly love...these two little guys are heaven sent, earthly reminders of their older sister who waits for us. As we approach her birthday I will be encouraged...to teach my children to love Jesus, to love one another, and to hold hope in the promise of Heaven. One day we will be united for eternity and when that time comes, it will always be the most wonderful time of the year.