Angel Kisses

Sitting in between my sister and husband at Panera Bread, I stare at the lunch in front of me, despondent and nauseated.

All I want to do is go back. Back to the safety of my cocoon, wrapped up in crisp cotton sheets and pre-warmed blankets, tucked away on the NICU floor where I held Anna for the last time.

But there is no going back.

She’s gone.

Even her tiny body is gone.

She was taken away by kind hands who are now preparing her for burial. She left the hospital even before I did.

After they informed me of that fact, I made a burrow in my bed, wrapping sheets & blankets around me tighter to ward off the chill of death. Another blanket please, I’d beg a nurse. I can still feel the cold aftermath of her demise...can I please have another blanket?

Nothing warmed me.

And yet, I did not want to leave. For to leave meant that I had to leave without her in my arms. Without her in my arms meant that I agreed that she had died. And I don’t agree with this. I do not agree with this at all! She is still here! She is still beating in my heart.

So I need to stay.

Because if I leave...

...I will leave my heart behind.

And how can I live without my heart?

Indeed, I would have protested my case and chained myself to my hospital bed in order to stay a while longer, but Brent had enough foresight to tape pictures to the wall of my room containing some very good reasons to come home.

Many of them contained the same exuberant subject – with dimpled hands in the air, dimpled cheeks that graced a laughing smile, and warm brown eyes that seemed to say, “Hurry home Mommy. I miss you.”

I would have forsaken everybody...even my grieving husband to stay just one more day in that cold, sterile hospital freezing under mountains of blankets. But I could not refuse Anthony.

He needs me.

And I need him.


But I don’t need this lunch.

Brent had painstakingly ordered all my favorite menu choices to entice me to eat – and I try to – for his sake.

Suddenly, I feel the hand of a stranger slip me a note under my hand. I look up as she towers over me, giving me a sympathetic smile. A young lady stands near her looking a little shocked and embarrassed as she shuffles from one foot to the other. The two of them looked like mirror copies of each other. A daughter, perhaps?

The stranger widened her smile and said, “I am so sorry for your loss. May God bless you.” And just as quickly as she came, she left.

Bewildered I look at Brent and my sister Nan who look a little taken back as well. I unfold the note she gave me. In it, the lady tells me of her own painful loss of a child and later how God blessed her with two daughters. She tells me that though she doesn’t know me, she is praying for me, and for God to bless me for the loss I’ve experienced.

How did she know? How did she know about Anna?

I don’t remember Brent or Nan talking to her. Maybe they did. I don’t remember.

What I do know is that this perfect stranger just handed me warm blankets of grace and hope that wrap around my heart, and right now I don’t feel so frozen any more.

I think...

...I think I can eat.

And live.


Unfortunately, the frozen feeling came right back the minute I stood on the first step that lead up to our home. I literally “froze”, stopped on the step. Brent thinks it’s because of the soreness from the C-Section, so he stops with me and waits for me to lean on him to go up the next step.

How can I tell him that I don’t want to be here? Even in spite of the beautiful smiling one year old boy that I know is waiting behind that door; I want to go the other way. Because I know what else is behind that door. Another door down the hall that leads to an empty nursery. I knew all along that Anna might never grace that nursery – I tried to prepare my heart with that fact – but in the end, I’m still unprepared.

I feel Brent gently pull on my arms to guide me up to the next step, and then to the next and then the next. Each step slower than the one before.

And then, we were inside.

A delighted squeal is heard from the kitchen, where Brent’s mother is finishing giving Anthony a snack. Anthony starts to totter out, and then drops to all fours to crawl to me. Though he’s walking now, he knows he gets around much faster on all fours. And he’s making good time with all four on the floor.

Standing up, he balances precariously on wobbly legs and lifts his arms in the air. I start to bend down, but then remembered the doctor’s stern warning, (“You can’t lift anything more than 5 lbs after your surgery!”) and realized I can’t pick up my boy.

Brent hauls him up into his arms where Anthony can get a better look. Giggling, Anthony leans out as far as he can over Brent’s arms, reaching his arms out to me for me to hold him while calling “Mamamamamamamama”. But since I’m still standing, I can’t do that either.

“I’m sorry baby, but I have to sit down before I can hold you,” I sputter, tears threatening to take control again. I’m feeling a little light headed too, and Brent notices.

"Maybe you ought to rest right now, Holly. You’ve been up for a while and you look tired. Why don’t you head back to the bedroom and lie down for a bit?” he smiles sadly.

"Good idea,” I rejoinder. I start down the hall listening to Anthony get even louder. He does not like this idea of momma disappearing so quickly. “MaMaMaMaMaMaaaa!”

“You can see her in a minute, son. Whatcha think Memaw is doing now?” Brent counters, trying to distract Anthony.

I walk as fast as I can down the hall to bypass looking in the nursery. But my eyes go there anyway. I see the sunny sunflower border gracing the room. Tears are threatening to turn to sobs. I’ve got to get to my room quick!

My sister follows me to make sure that I can get in bed alright. I learned something very quickly. Tall beds with thick mattresses on frames are high off the ground look very majestic and romantic, but they hurt like fire trying to get into after one has a C-section.


My sister smoothes the covers around me and heads back to the family, giving me space to adjust to being here.

At home.

Without her.

But I’m not alone for long.

I hear shuffling and snuffling coming down the hall. And though the voice is much quieter than last time, it’s far more determined than before, as well as a little more put out too. Like how dare they say I can’t see her.


I look down to see Anthony now trying his best to climb up the quilt that is spread out on the bed. Strong chubby hands cling tightly to the sides, as he tries to raise one little foot. When he sees me spying on him, he starts bouncing joyfully, calling my name with each bounce for emphasis. “MaMAAA..MaMAAA...MaMAAA!!!”

I can’t stop the tears. They’re leaking out everywhere, running down my face as I sob, “Oh Anthony, I’m soooo sorry baby. So sorry. Mommy’s so sorry! I can’t pick you up, honey! I’m sooo sorry!!”

Upon seeing this rather unusual outburst, Anthony stops his joyful tirade and suddenly looks as sad as I feel. I’m not sure if he’s more upset that I can’t pick him up, or that he’s afraid he did something to make me cry. His own chocolate brown eyes well up with tears, and he plops his little padded bottom to the ground with a thud and starts crying too.

And I feel like such a failure.

I can’t even protect my son from my grief.

I’m sure that maybe it really does look like a comical sight when Brent runs down the hall to find Anthony wailing on the floor and me wailing in bed. His bewildered look turned into an amused chuckle as he scoops Anthony up again and places him in bed with me. Anthony immediately stops crying and sits in my lap, leaning hard against me. “Mamamamama...” he coos, comforting me the best way he knows how.

I look at Brent and then back at Anthony who is now snuggling down in my lap. I have the BEST family in the world, I think – blinking through the tears.

Brent leaves the two of us alone, and Anthony is pushing against me, trying to get me to rock him. I try a little, but I hate to admit it, but his sitting on me huts badly, especially with him leaning against the abdominal stitches that are trying to heal.

But how can I let my baby go?? My god, I may not be able to hold one child, but there is NO REASON I can’t hold this one – even if it hurts like crazy.

But I should have known. Anthony is an active little guy. After sitting on my lap for a few minutes, he starts yawning like crazy. And this does not suit him either. He knows he’s starting to fall asleep. And well, there are too many new family members in the house that need visiting, with Aunt Nan here and Memaw too. Besides there are people that seem to keep coming in, bringing food for some reason and well, there’s just too much to SEE to waste it with something useful like a nap.

So off he goes, scooting off my lap and sliding down the side of the bed. And I hear the shuffling and snuffling one work his way back down the hall to where all the action is.

Alone at last, I have time to think, cry, and hopefully fall into oblivion with a nap.
A little while later, my sister comes into my bedroom with the cordless phone in hand. “Someone wants to speak to you,” she says as she hands the phone to me.

Hello?” I call out.

“Hello? Holly? This is Melissa from Bethany calling. How are you feeling?”

"I’m still sore after the surgery and all, but I’m already feeling a lot better than I did at the hospital.”

"That’s great to hear. Are you up to talking right now?”

Sure, I tell her. In fact, I had been somewhat expecting a call from Melissa. Brent informed me that the day that Anna passed away, he called our adoption agency just to keep them informed about what’s going on, so they could pass it along to each other and pray for us. Brent told me that Melissa, our adoption counselor who worked with us on Anthony’s case, would be contacting me sometime just to check on me.

But my conversation with Melissa isn’t anything that I had originally expected.

In fact, when I hang up the phone, I’m crying harder than ever before. And honestly, I didn’t think I had any tears left.

My sister flies down the hall to see what’s going on with me.

Through sobs, I tell her, “Melissa says...Melissa says that A had her baby...two days before we had Anna.”

I stop to try and catch my breath between sobs.

“She says that...that she thought she could parent her, but just cannot. She wants to know if we would be interested in adopting her daughter.”

Sobbing intensifies.

I continue, “When A asked them if...if we’d be interested in adopting her daughter, they told her that they had a letter that they were not allowed to give her, per our instructions, unless she mentioned adoption and us. Remember that?”

Nan nods her head.

“You see...Brent and I felt that if she mentioned adoption and us...that God...that God would have put it on her heart. We didn’t know if she was even going to consider adoption and we didn’t want to hurt or confuse her! The letter said to think of us as a safety net, in case adoption was an option for her and her baby. I was so afr...afrai...afraid that she might not even consider us, considering what we were going through ourselves. And we just couldn’t bear to think of Anthony separated from one more sibling. We were going to do a home study...and everything...jus...just in case A did decide to go through with adoption as a choice. You know, the baby wouldn’t have so long to spend in foster care waiting.”

More crying.

My sister is looking mystified and excited, though she is trying hard to contain it. I see it, but I cannot be joyful with her. In fact, I’m more sorrowful than ever.

“She says...she says...oh god, she says that A asked what we named our little girl, and they told her Anna, and she says that made A gasp because when her daughter was born she named her Arianna.”

I study Nan’s face from behind my curtain of tears. The shock of this is starting to sink in. “That’s incredible!” she exclaims in wonder.

“Yeah,” I wail, “I asked her if she cou..coul...could spell it for me, and she said, ‘A-R-I-A-N-N-A”.

And now I am sobbing so hard, I can’t breathe.

“Holly!” my sister exclaims, as she wraps her arms around me. “This is WONDERFUL news! Incredible!! Anthony’s little sister!! Oh my! But Holly, you seem very upset by this news. Why?”

I can hold my anguish no longer.

“Cause I don’t want to be like that woman in the story of Solomon!!” I wail with all my might.

“Whaaat?” my sister responds with confusion.

“That woman! You know?! The story about how wi..wise Solomon became because of what he did?”

Nan is shaking her head. She cannot see how Solomon and some woman have anything to do with the conversation I just had with the adoption specialist.

I look at her incredulously.

“The STORY! You know...two women fighting over one baby? Cause they both had babies and one baby died! And the fought over the other baby and Solomon said to chop the chil...”

My sister stops me right there before I could finish the story of the two women who had fought over one infant, each claiming the baby as her own, so Solomon decided in his wisdom to find out who the natural mother really was by threatening harm to the infant. He told a servant to chop the child in half and to give each half to each woman. The biological mother cried out “No!! Give the child to the other woman.” And the other woman exclaimed, “Yes, give us each half!” Solomon in his wisdom knew that the heart of a mother would rather see her own heart die than to see harm come to her child, and rightly discerned that the woman who was willing to give her child to the other woman, was the child’s natural mother. (1 Kings 3:16-28)

Nan looks at me sternly, but compassionately. “Stop right there, Holly. This is NOT what this is about. You are not like the women of that story. And neither is A.”

“But I don’t want her to feel like she should give me her baby, because mine died!” I wail.

“Holly!! That is NOT what is happening here. Do you hear me? The Letter – remember the LETTER?? You wrote that a long time ago. You didn’t know all that Anna might face – you hadn’t even picked out a name yet! You only knew that you didn’t want Anthony to be without his little brother or sister. You were willing to adopt, even knowing that you might have Anthony, his little brother or sister/ and dealing with the medical needs of a special care infant. You’re NOT the same kind of woman like in that story about Solomon. You’re NOT. OK?”

I nod my head, as I try hard to catch my breath from all the sobbing. Her words are starting to sink in. And as they do, I realize in wonder, that I originally wrote that letter to protect A’s heart – to keep her safe in making a wise and healthy decision without feeling influenced by us. But now I realize too that in God’s wisdom, He’s using that same letter to protect ME from the fears that are trying to influence me into feeling like a horrible, ungrateful, selfish wretch.

“Arianna, wow.” Nan drawls out gently. “Such a pretty name. So perfect. Oh Holly. This is amazing! When was she born?”

“January 16th,” I heave. “Just two days before Anna.”

“They’re the same age.” Nan whispers in wonder. I nod my head. It’s just too much to take in.

Three weeks later, Brent, Anthony and I are getting dressed, preparing to go to another adoption placement ceremony. We’re told this time by the agency that A has elected to not attend. It’s too much for her. I nodded sadly when I heard this. I understand. I would feel exactly the same way if I was called into a room to see Anna, only to have to be forced to say goodbye again.

I look out the window of the hotel and gasp. Brent turns around from where he had been dressing Anthony. “What is it?” he asked anxiously.

I pull back the drapes to reveal a snow shower coming down. Big goose feather type flakes are falling again. Symmetrically. Just like they did when I was in labor with Anna. It looked EXACTLY the same. Same pattern, same quietness, same large flakes falling, falling down.

Amazed, I choked out, “It was snowing like this when Anna was placed in our arms, and it’s snowing now when we’re welcoming Arianna into our arms too.”

Holding Anthony steadily on one arm, Brent draws close to me to examine the snow peacefully floating down.

As I leaned against him, I murmured, “I’ve heard it said that snowflakes are Angel Kisses. It’s coming down so thick; I think all of heaven is kissing us today.”

Brent agreed with a sigh as Anthony patted my head – and then grabbed a fistful of hair, with a chortle. That stinker.

And now there’ll be two of them!

At the adoption placement ceremony we meet Arianna’s foster family. It’s their first time to foster a child and it’s really emotional for all of us. Towards the end of the ceremony, each person in the room takes time to pray over Arianna and to offer a blessing. When it comes to my turn, I can only sob one thing over and over again.

I hold her close, and cry over her saying, “God, I just don’t understand. I don’t understand...I don’t understand...”

But this is not the “I don’t understand” phrase of “Why God??” but more of a sense of overwhelmed AWE at what is taking place in my very arms this afternoon. God has blessed me with TWO daughters – one whole and healthy in heaven...and one in a petite pink footy snoozing peacefully in my arms, despite the bath of tears raining down on her.

Arianna, my daughter.

Before I came to the ceremony, I looked her name up in the same baby book that I used to understand Anthony’s name meaning. Arianna means “Most Holy” or “Most Divine”.

A did not give Arianna a middle name, so we did. We gave her the middle name of Grace, because it’s by God’s Most Holy Grace that she is here in our arms today.

As we drive Arianna and Anthony home on those beautiful angel kissed snowy roads, we know our lives will never be the same.


It’s will be seven years on February 6th when we held Arianna for the first time in our lives. She just celebrated her seventh birthday with a Hello Kitty blow out bash..while Anthony celebrated his eight birthday with a day at the indoor water park for him and a friend.

Life has had its shares of ups and downs, but through it all, we’ve seen God provide for us in amazing, miraculous ways.

And none of them short of what happened, just this past August in 2009.

Our children got to meet their birthmother and birth brothers for the very first time that THEY can remember. Yes, God brought about our dream of opening the adoption come true. What a privilege and blessing to meet them all! I hope this is a sign of many more visits to come in the future!! It was so wonderful watching Anthony & Arianna interact with their brothers and visit with A. Ari was shy at first, but she soon got over it. The boys had a blast playing video games with each other. And I was amazed to see how visiting with A was like visiting with a long lost sister! Incredible! Something that only GOD can truly orchestrate!

I don’t know what the future holds, but this I know – whatever it is – GOD’s name be praised. May He always be glorified. And may we witness His hand of grace and mercy in ways we never dreamed of.

Blessings to each and every one of you!

Ephesians 1:4-6 (The Message)

How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.


karen hopkins said...

so very grateful that the ending of your story, is the beginning of Anthony and Arianna's story.. May the Lord lift up the lives of your family, bringing Joy and Love to you, and Brent, and your precious children.. I love you, girl.. thank you so much for your gift to my heart today..

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Feel free to comment, and God bless you! ~ Holly

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