The house of mourning.


It’s difficult to know the best way to honor and remember a stillborn child. Funerals and memorial services allow people a dedicated time to grieve and mourn the loss of a loved one. Friends and family take time to hug and reminisce the memories shared with the deceased. No one ever knew Keller. Aside from our medical team, my parents, Wendy, Nathan, and myself – no one even saw Keller’s perfect tiny body. We knew we wanted to set aside time to honor our son, but initially, we weren’t sure of the best way. It seemed strange to hold a memorial service for a little boy that no one in the room had ever known.

A couple days after returning home, I was laying next to Mary while she took her nap. In those quiet moments, I decided, strange or not, we needed to have memorial service for Keller. I think this was the first time I used the phrase “my love song to Keller”. We needed to have a memorial service precisely because no one in the room had ever known him. His arrival had been eagerly anticipated by everyone in our community. We all needed to gather up and mourn the little boy we would never know. We all needed to gather up and recognize and praise the great Overcomer. Nathan and I needed hugs. We needed to be loved on by those we loved the most. We needed to show the world our son.

Over the next few days, Nathan and I retreated to our room and worked out the details of the service. It would be held at our church in Sunnyvale on Sunday September 21 at 5:45 p.m.. We chose our fathers and our preacher to say any words the Lord had placed on their hearts. We chose my brother and brother-in-law to read scriptures that had been providing us divine comfort. We chose two of our dearest brothers in Christ to open and close the service with prayers and petitions to our God. We chose another beloved brother in Him to lead hymns that had been providing us with solace and hope. We put together a slide show. We only had 9 months of pictures to share, but each picture captured the large and forever footprint Keller had placed on our hearts. Nathan ended the service with a message and leading the song “How Great Is Our God”. This is Keller’s song. 60 years from now, this will still be Keller’s song.

It was difficult trying to mentally and emotionally prepare for Keller’s service. Some moments are so heavy with importance and meaning that the idea of finally sitting and experiencing that moment is almost frightening. I feel a lot of these same emotions as Keller’s first birthday is approaching. It’s another momentous occasion intended to honor our son in the best possible way. Nothing will ever feel quite grand or large enough to capture the love song we have in our hearts for Keller. We have to be content with every feeble attempt we make and allow God and His love to work and shine through us.

Our church was at the ready to provide all they could to make his service everything we needed it to be. Several went up to the building the evening before to ensure the sound system worked properly and songs we wanted played worked with the current set up. The normal Sunday evening service was shortened in order to dedicate as much time to Keller’s service as possible.

The Saturday before the service, the best man at our wedding, Andrew, called Nathan to let us know he was at his layover in Dallas on his way to be at Keller’s service. Nathan and I were and are forever deeply moved by this lavish act of love and loyalty. Y’all should get an Andrew too. We really have some very amazing souls in our life.

Sunday afternoon, my mom and sister put Mary down for a nap so that Nathan and I could go up to the church building and make all the last minute arrangements. 

We placed the beautiful and abundant flowers we had received on the steps of the stage. We sat the toy Mary had chose for Keller at the welcome table, along with his baby brother onesie, and crocheted hat. I sat while Nathan and our loved ones did most of the manual labor. My body was still so fragile from giving birth. We tested our slide show. Everything was ready. My family dressed Mary in her big sister shirt and a silver tutu.


Mary and our families arrived. One by one, an incredible amount of people we love to eternity and back filled the auditorium. The only other similar moment I have experienced was at our wedding. My dad was at my side and the doors opened for me to walk down the aisle to Nathan. The doors opened and the chapel was filled with all the loved ones that had helped get me to this point in my life. It was one of the most moving and worship-filled experiences I had ever had. In that moment, I cried and praised the Lord for the community with which He had surrounded me. Keller’s service had that same worship-filled moment. Friends from the community. Co-workers. Friends from who had driven from across the entire state of California. Friends who had flown in just for this very day. Family. Brothers and sisters in Christ. Our entire community gathered up in order to sit for a time and weep with us. Moments like these bring you to your knees as you bow down before the Creator with a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

The service began and we all joined together and sat in the house of mourning. Mary sat next to us and played with Fisher Price Little People and the Scottie Dog she had bought for Keller. We sang “Blessed Be Your Name”, “Glorious Day”, “Just As I am (I Come Broken)”, “Mighty to Save”, “Greater”, and “How Great is Our God”. Each song offered a unique comfort and shared a unique message we needed to be shared. We read II Corinthians 1: 3-7, excerpts from Exodus 14 and John 16, and Phillipians 4:10-13. Words of love for our boy and praise to our God were shared. “Where Joy and Sorrow Meet” was the song that accompanied our slide show.

“Where Joy and Sorrow Meet”

There’s a place of quiet stillness ‘tween the light and shadows reach
Where the hurting and the hopeless seek everlasting peace
Words of men and songs of angels whisper comfort bittersweet
Mending grief and life eternal where joy and sorrow meet

There is a place where hope remains
In crowns of thorns and crimson stains
And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet
Where joy and sorrow meet

There’s a place the lost surrender and the weary will retreat
Full of grace and mercy tender in times of unbelief
For the wounded there is healing, strength is given to the weak
Broken hearts find love redeeming where joy and sorrow meet

There’s a place of thirst and hunger where the roots of faith grow deep
And there is rain and rolling thunder when the road is rough and steep
There is hope in desperation there is victory in defeat
At the cross of restoration where joy and sorrow meet

There is a place where hope remains
In crowns of thorns and crimson stains
And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet
Where joy and sorrow meet

We all sat in that place – the place where joy and sorrow meet. I think that this is same place the writer of Ecclesiastes was talking about when he said, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” We all sat in the house of mourning, where joy and sorrow meet, and worshipped. I cannot articulate all the blessings that come with accepting and embracing seasons of grief and pain. It’s truly difficult to allow yourself the time and energy to sit with sadness and loss and accept they have entered your life and forever changed the way you do and perceive everything. It will take more time and wisdom for me to be able to list the reasons and benefits of time spent in the house of mourning. For now, I simply know beyond doubt that the time spent face to face with death and agony in the shadow of the cross has profoundly changed me for the better. Allow yourself the grace and gift of pulling up a chair and spending all the time you need in the house of mourning.

We stayed at the church building until close to 10. We laughed, cried, and embraced each person who had come to be with us. Mary had the time of her life. She and her best friends ran around the building and played as hard as they could. Nathan and I both vividly recall thinking, “Man. Mary is having a blast!” – which is really awesome. It’s SO good to see sparks of innocent joy in the shadows of darkness.

Nathan and I have made “Crack Pies” for both Mary and Keller’s “Coming-home-from-the-hospital-hooray-you-are-born” celebration. We made each of them a couple weeks before our babies were born. The pies stayed in the freezer at the ready for the birth of our children. We decided that we would have the pies after Keller’s memorial service. Our family and several of our friends crammed into our tiny living room and celebrated Keller with pie. Pie is a good way to celebrate most things. (Especially this pie – it is really, REALLY, good.) We hadn’t really told Mary why we were having the pies, but as soon as we got to our front door she said, “It’s Keller’s birthday party.” Precious child – we will forever treasure the tender moments you provided us in those days of darkness.

We have an audio copy of the Keller’s memorial service. We have yet to listen to it. No time has felt still or worthy enough of taking time to once again sit in the house of mourning and worship. We will take time and listen to it this week. We will sit and weep with our loved ones all over again and praise the great Overcomer of death.

Here are the final words we shared at Keller’s service. This is the best way we know how to honor Keller. Let them see Jesus.
“Treat all you see & interact with as if they just lost their child – we don’t know the long, dusty, tiresome road that may have brought someone to where they are – and I know for certain that they all need the gentle, never stopping, over flowing, never giving up love of Jesus in their lives – at the very moment you encounter them. 
YOU are the hands of Jesus. 
YOU are the voice of Jesus. 
YOU are the feet of Jesus. 
You are JESUS in this world.
Be Jesus. 
He is risen. He is real. He has overcome. 
Be Jesus. 
Let them see Jesus today.”
Keller’s slide show

Lavish love.



We drove home. We pulled into our parking spot. Nathan helped me out of the car and we tenderly walked toward our steps. My friend Megan was stopping by our neighbor’s house  with her precious son when we arrived. I remember hugging her and crying in each others arms. I remember squeezing her little boy – so warm and alive. It felt as if we had been in a time capsule. We had stepped out into a brand new world. We had new eyes and the way we perceived everything had changed.

We walked through our front door. Mary and I had made a giant “Welcome Home Keller” banner and hung it on our wall. It was the only thing I asked be taken down before we arrived. It was quite a loud reminder of something of which I needed no reminder. My parents, my sister, and Mary were all home. The weight of simply stepping into a home prepared perfectly for Keller was staggering. His rock-and-play sat in the corner. The nursing pillow and burp rags were placed near the rocking chair. His crib was snuggled next to our bed. I’m fairly certain I even had his activity mat set up, complete with toys long enough for a newborn to swat. Everything was ready for a son that would never come home. A brain in such distress simply cannot process so much stimuli at once. There were many, MANY times in the following days and weeks, that (just like a newborn) I would become easily over stimulated and have to retreat for a bit in order to weep and regroup. Our bedroom became our sanctuary. Our house was soon bursting with family and loved ones. The noise and life brought incredible comfort, but it was often too much for us to participate in. So, we would excuse ourselves to our bedroom and weep all we needed. Just hearing loved ones surrounding us on the other side of the door was comfort.

I need to pay tribute to the family that surrounded us in those following days and weeks – another verse to our “love song” if you will.

I don’t think either of us had quite imagined that our entire families would show up in such large ways. The presence of each and every family member was profoundly felt, even if they were not able to be with us physically. For some reason it just didn’t cross our minds that our families would rally so quickly, fully, and selflessly. But they did. Our hearts had a difficult time processing and accepting the lavish love showered on us. We decided rather quickly that we would accept all love that came our way without protest. It’s sometimes hard to humble yourself to accept the lovingkindness of others. The Lord was working in mighty ways through everyone around us and we really needed to allow Him to work. We vowed to one day return the same love to those in the deep inside the pit.

Nathan’s parents flew in that evening and we all hugged and wept. A family from church housed them and gave them a car to use for as long as they needed. The next day Nathan’s sister, brother-in-law, and our newest niece Livia arrived. This was possible because Nathan’s other sister SELFLESSLY offered to keep the two older nieces while the rest of the family traveled. My brother also arrived thanks to the incredible generosity of my grandmother. She paid for anyone and everyone who needed aid in flying to be with us in our moment of need. My aunt flew in from West Texas to tightly hug our necks and just “be” with us. Big, giant, lavish love.

My entire immediate family stayed in our tiny apartment. Nathan and I in our room. My sister and Mary in the other. My parents on our couch and an air mattress, and my brother on a camping pad in our living room/kitchen. (The first evening he tried to use the camping pad and sleeping bag and sleep on our deck. We shared this deck with our other neighbors – two kind and unsuspecting bachelors. I believe one of them saw Caleb and just said, “Hey man. You ok?” To which my brother answered, “Yup.” I love you Caleb.)

Nathan’s sister, brother-in-law, and niece slept downstairs in our neighbor’s bedroom. Our neighbors, or rather BFNFL (Best friends and neighbors for life), gave them their own room and slept on the couch for their entire stay. Nathan’s parents stayed only 10 minutes away. The rest of our family may have been an entire country length away, but they all felt incredibly near. They were present in phone calls, text messages, meals, flowers, gift boxes, and cards. We were flooded with love.

I look at pictures, and I can transport back to those moments. I can feel the warmth of the apartment. I can hear the laughter. I can smell the food, the LAVISH amounts of food, provided by everyone in our tribe. I am so thankful for the moments that we all sat in our crowded 350ft² living room and were united in sorrow, love, and Jesus. I am so thankful for the moments of laughter and camaraderie I heard on the other side of our bedroom door. The noise of life happening around us was so deeply comforting. We couldn’t always join in. Nathan and I often needed time alone to pour our souls each other and to the Lord. We were often to weak to even sit up. We had to lay prostrate and mourn.

Our family filled in every gap. They cared for Mary with every possible ounce of love they had to offer. They put aside their own grief to pour love all over our 2 year old baby girl. We had all the time we needed to be alone and intensely grieve, without ever once having to worry about the well-being and happiness of Mary. She was spoiled a LOT, and I’m just so glad. Everyone pulled together to make decisions, and keep our apartment clean and running smoothly. It never felt crowded or burdensome – only filled with love. There are so many large and important decisions that must be made following a death. We did not have the strength to make any more decisions than were necessary. My sister, in her masterful Executive Assistant ways, booked flights, contacted funeral homes and cremation services, and even reorganized our pantry. Our family became our liaisons to the outside world. They orchestrated food delivery and meal times. We were in such a thick fog in the days following Keller’s death. I’m certain our family filled in more gaps than we are even aware. It is a gift and a blessing to be able sit in the house of mourning without interruption.

Most are not blessed with the kind of families the Lord lavishly gave us. We are keenly aware of our VERY blessed lives. We both have families who were ready to give everything they have in order to serve us in the best possible way. We praise you Lord.

We are so thankful to the Lord for placing us in families that have deep devotion to each other and a steady and abiding trust in our Creator. We are unworthy. All we can do is shout songs of thankfulness for the love He has given us through you.

We pray we can continue pour this incredible experience of love we had on others. It is the best way we know to honor our son and serve our King.

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Romans 12:10 ESV

“Outdo”. I like this. It conveys a message of pouring out an over the top, selfless, and lavish love. Lord, put this love in my heart and may it always pour out on those who need it most.

Everyone needs compassion.


The staff gave us the option of going to recovery in either the “Mommy & Me” wing or down to a regular hospital room on the second floor. We chose the later option, imagining it would be difficult to hear the tiny cries of newborns. Looking back, both Nathan and I regret this decision a bit. We lost our feeling of security in the regular hospital wing. We were a bit lost in the shuffle of nurses caring for a variety of patients. The nurses were (rightfully) busy and many didn’t know that we had just lost our son. It was our initial introduction into the real world. The thing about functioning in the real world when you are broken is that no one knows you are broken. I have shared this sentiment with others and we all agree that wearing a shirt that says “I just went through stillbirth. Please treat me gently, and if you have them, cookies and hugs are appreciated.”would be helpful. I’ve yet to find that graphic tee in an Etsy shop.

A dear friend brought us breakfast. He asked if I had any requests, so I said “Bagel and Lox.” Sweet man had NO idea what lox was but drove around to SEVERAL different bagel shops until he found it. Just the beginning of the ridiculous love that was poured out on us in the weeks and months to come.

Wendy said goodbye while we were in this room. She had stood by our side for over 24 hours. The real world called. The need for rest called. It was the first of many small transitional steps into our “new normal”. We hugged. I don’t remember any profound words of love and thanks spilling from my lips, but it’s a comfort to have a friend who can read your heart.

It was now time to tell Mary. We had been mourning over this moment for many hours. Our neighbors brought her to the hospital and my parents went down the lobby to bring her up to our room. They gave us time alone as a family to explain everything that had happened to baby brother. I know Mary was only just 2, but she fully understood that her brother Keller was going to come out of mommy’s belly and come home and live with us. It was something we had been discussing with her for months. Not only did she understand, she was excited. She knew that when “Auntie” brought her to the hospital, she would get to meet and hold Keller. She came in the room and Nathan and I fought back every urge to breakdown in tears and frighten Mary.

“Hey baby! How are you? We missed you.”

“We have something we need to tell you ok honey?”

“You know how baby brother came out of mommy’s tummy in the hospital? Well, baby brother got hurt. Keller died and went to Heaven. Heaven is where God and Jesus live. So since he got hurt and died, he won’t be able to come and live with us. He’s going to stay with God and Jesus in Heaven. We are so sorry you don’t get to hold him. We know you were so excited.”

“….But I love him. I miss him. I want to see him… … … I want some nummies.”

I love toddlers. I love their moments of profound tenderness that are quickly followed by a loud reality check that your child is in fact only 2.

We had brought a few gifts for her to the hospital to open once Keller was born. She opened both her gifts, and the gifts she had picked out for Keller. Daddy, Mary, and I decided it would be ok if Mary opened them and kept them for him. One of the presents we got her was a Veggie Tales “God Loves You” DVD. The providence of this is not lost on me. We put it in and curled up on the bed and watched it as a family.

Our neighbors, their son, and my parents all came back in the room. My parents gave Mary a lollipop and the three of them drove back to grab some lunch and head to our apartment. We talked with our neighbors. We cried together. We thanked them.

At this point everyone had left. Nathan and I ate some lunch and took a nap in my hospital bed. I mention this because I just want to take a moment to praise the Lord for my husband and that nap I got to take in his arms. He is my champion.

My sister arrived around 2 that afternoon. She was immediately dropped off at the hospital. She crawled up in the bed beside me and we both sat and wept. For so many reasons, we wept. We shared pictures and moments we had with Keller. We laughed. We snacked. We held each other in silence.

A nurse technician came into our room not long after my sister had arrived. She came in, looked around at our somber faces, and said “Well you all are quiet! Did someone do something bad?” Bless her heart. I had no brain and or will power to say anything other than “Well. My son just died. It was a stillbirth.” Again. Bless her heart. (Here comes the bizarre/funny part.) “Well that’s sad… [looks down at the lollipop Mary had left on the table] That looks good! Whose is it?” “Our daughters. She’s 2.”  “Well you better watch out. I might steal it when you are sleeping.” And walks out the door. Bless that dear woman’s heart. We dropped quite a bomb on her. It’s hard to know just what to say when you are met with a shocking statement such as, “My son just died”. I’m certain she walked out of that room thinking “What in the WORLD did I just say? Did I just threaten to steal their daughter’s lollipop?!” I have all the sympathy. I have a terrible case of inappropriate word vomit as well. Bless your heart.

It was then time to go. My body was returning to “normalcy” rather quickly and we worked to be able to leave within the hour. We got a call on our hospital phone. “Congratulations on the birth of your child. Would you like to pay by credit card now or be billed later?” The employee on the other end of the line was doing her job and doing it well. She had no idea. That was ok, there is no way she could have known. It was just a bleak reminder that we were about the step out in the world. We were about to step into a world that couldn’t see our bruises.

It was such a still feeling packing up to leave. I imagine it was similar to what it must be like sorting through the wreckage after a disastrous tornado. What was once chaos and swirling and howling all around you, was now quiet, as if nothing had ever happen, save the rubble you are left sort through. Quite surreal.

We didn’t need to make sure to pack up all the diapers, bottles, wipes, and blankets the hospital provided. There was no need for a “going home” outfit. It was such a contrast from going home after Mary was born. When you leave a hospital after being pregnant for nine months, it is assumed you will go home with a baby. 36 hours prior we were eagerly awaiting our boys arrival. We had given birth to Keller, but he would not be coming home with us. Nathan and I both liken it to the rewind button being pressed on our life. Things would be “just as they were” nine months prior. Nathan, myself, and Mary – no Keller. It was almost as if those nine months had never happened. There was no baby to prove that he was real. There was nothing that showed those outside of our network that we had two children. Nothing to indicate that I had carried a second child inside my womb for nine months. It was and is difficult for our minds to process. Stepping back into life, a life completely new yet completely the same, was a daunting and scary process.

Nathan and my sister went to get our car and I was wheeled down to the front doors.

Seeing a world that is functioning the exact same capacity as it did two days before was overwhelming. I remember that even the way the volunteer wheeled me to the lobby felt trite considering everything that leaving that hospital meant.

We didn’t want to listen to the radio. It was another reminder that life was marching on without us. We needed everything to keep still for a while longer. The carseat sat empty. The backseat mirror was installed, but there was no squishy baby to glance at. The car was silent, yet every little thing around us screamed out loud that Keller would never be with us.

I remember the car ride home. Both Nathan and I were struck to the core with the truth -“Everyone needs compassion”.

We were battered and broken and no one around us knew. There are so many around us bruised and crumbling under the weight of sorrow and trial – our cashier, the driver who just laid on their horn, the colleague with the snide comment, the teacher lacking patience, the quiet mother at the park who can’t bring herself to smile – and we all so desperately need compassion. We don’t need details. We need love. We needed love. We needed everyone around us to assume that what we needed right at that moment was overflowing compassion.

This lesson has been both a gift and test. It is a difficult lesson to engrain. I constantly have to remind myself that EVERYONE needs that same tender compassion we needed so badly. Compassion looks different for different people and different circumstances, but it is always begins with love.

Mighty to Save

Everyone needs compassion
A love that’s never ending
Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a savior
The hope of nations
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
So take me as you find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in
Now I surrender
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
Shine your light and let the whole world see
Were singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus
Were singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
Shine you light and let the whole world see
Were singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus
(by Hillsong United)





I  imagine it’s a universally difficult task to choose when to say goodbye to the body of a loved one. It darkens the room like a storm-filled cloud. The thunder of the imminent moment constantly rumbles in the distance. One of the first things Nathan said after Keller was born was, “It’s going to be hard to say goodbye.”

For Keller, there came a time when he began to lose his newborn appearance. Bodies are meant to be living. Bodies are created to have blood and life coursing through every square inch. When life has left a body the physical appearance of your loved one relatively rapidly disappears. It’s interesting. Bodies are meant to be living. Death is not from God.

We set a rather arbitrary time to say goodbye. We decided that between 6 and 7 a.m., we would kiss our son for the last time.

Around 6 a.m. everyone left the room and gave Nathan, myself, and Keller time alone as a family. Another wave crashed overhead and hurled us to our knees. We held our son and mournfully wept with the bitter assurance that we would never hold him, or see him again in this life. There are no words available that can capture this moment. You are met face to face with the stark contrast of the living and the dead, of the physical earth and life to come. It is too large a truth to process or articulate. We were just still, and in the presence of God. We prayed as a family.

Keller never opened his eyes. There was no life in his perfect body to tell his eyelids to lift. In the few final moments we had with Keller, we opened up his eyes and we were met with the most stunning crystal blue eyes ever known. They weren’t just blue, they were almost an icy blue, and they were all Keller’s. Our blue eyed boy. Just like his daddy.

After the wave of saying goodbye crashed and eased into shore, we FaceTimed Nathan’s parents. They were getting on a plane shortly, but they wouldn’t make it in time to hold their first grandson. I’m so thankful for the gift of technology. Across the country, they were able to meet Keller Norman Bartlett. We all cried and virtually held each other. We all remarked on his handsome perfection. We all worked to pour every ounce of love we had over him.

The Lord, in His almighty, perfect, and wondrous goodness placed another blanket of peace around Nathan and I’s shoulders. It was time. The Lord would strengthen and sustain us. 48 hours earlier we were eagerly awaiting his arrival. 24 hours later we were reeling from the shock of his death. Now we were saying goodbye. We welcomed my parents and Wendy to come back in and say their goodbyes as well. Perfect, selfless love filled the room.

I took off his hat and, tears streaming down my cheeks, handed him to the nurse. She tenderly wrapped him in blankets. She made certain his tiny body was nice and cozy. She wheeled his hospital cradle near my bed so that Nathan and I could touch him one last time. She quietly wheeled him out of the room, my dad stopping to kiss him one last time.


And he was gone. That was the last time we were with Keller. His first birthday is approaching, but I truly just ache to my core to hold a newborn baby and for a moment feel the weight of Keller in my arms. I always take notice of one year old boys waddling and babbling about. It’s a short glimpse of my son and the life we never knew. In many ways though, Keller is forever a newborn baby. Every time I see a newborn fresh with life, I see Keller, because that is the only way I have ever known him. He will always be 8 lbs 5 oz, 21.5 inches and perfect. Nathan captured our sentiments perfectly,

“With Mary, and other kids, they’re always growing and changing. I put a picture of a newborn Mary on my desk, and a year later she looked completely different. Keller never aged. When we said goodbye to him, the way he looks in his pictures, that’s the only way he ever looked. The Bible gives us brief glimpses of Heaven, but we still can’t fully fathom what eternal life with God will be like. I don’t know what Keller will look like when I meet him someday, but I’m very excited to find out.”

Bodies are created for life. I know so little about eternity. I rest knowing God is creator. He is real. He is love. He promised life forever with Him. No more goodbyes. No more moments of devastating finality – just presence. I’m ready for that eternal moment Keller Feller. I’m excited to see you, with the life and love of the Lord coursing through every square inch of your forever body.

7 hours.

We spent 7 hours with Keller. 7 incredible hours. 7 heart breaking hours.  I have moments when I believe 7 hours was the perfect amount of time with Keller’s body, and I bask in the beauty of those 7 hours. I have moments when I believe 7 hours wasn’t even close to enough time, and I rage at myself for not clinging to his body for as long as humanly possible. I still have a lot of rage in my heart. I am so incredibly angry. I’m angry at death. I’m angry that the plans I had laid out for our family are shattered. I’m angry that it has been an entire year.  I’m just really angry. I think anger is ok though. Death isn’t what God meant for us. His intention has always been that eternal moment.

Eyes closed, I stroked Keller’s tiny hands, and really, I swelled with pride as any mother would. He wasn’t alive, but he was still every bit as much my boy – Our son. I had just given birth to Keller Norman Bartlett. The Lord gifted me a few moments to swim in motherly pride.


Everyone let me know that I could hold onto Keller for as long as I wanted. No one rushed or interrupted our time with him.  I scooped him up into my arms and protectively cradled him. I didn’t let anyone else hold him for a while. I couldn’t bring myself to even offer. I needed to hold him. I needed to not let him go.

Nathan had a difficult time holding Keller. Holding a stillborn baby is nothing like holding a living newborn child. Every movement of his tiny body reinforced that he was very much gone from this life. Holding Keller made Nathan angry. His pallor, his heaviness, his cool skin, his floppy limbs all screamed that he would never live. As Wendy put it, “Giving birth to a lifeless, silent baby felt wrong on every level.” Holding Keller reaffirmed that Nathan’s son was dead, and this filled him with rage. Just wake up! Why won’t you wake up!? Just open your eyes! Nothing can change this reality. Death is infuriating. Death should make us angry. I feel comfortable being angry with death. Death is not from God.


It took a couple of hours for everyone to become adjusted to the reality of Keller’s appearance. Once we all settled in to the shock, we worked to breathe in every moment.

Nathan cut the cord. What is generally a moment of pride, tasted incredibly bitter.

I’ve yet to share with many people, but I’m certain many are curious as to just what happened to our healthy and thriving boy. Keller’s umbilical cord got wrapped around his ankle and formed a tight knot. This knot cut his growing body off from his life source. In what we have learned was likely a span of 10 minutes, his heart stopped beating and he met eternity. There is a lot about the simplicity of his death that brings me comfort. There is a lot about the simplicity of his death that fills me with anger. I want to scream and break things fairly often.

Abby arrived shortly after Keller was born and captured our precious few moments with our son. We were all so proud. He was just so perfect. I got my mom to pull out a few things I had packed for him in our hospital bag – his baby brother shirt and a crocheted cap. The hat fit his head just right.


Nathan climbed into bed next to me and we took time to adore each inch of Keller. I can still feel his weight in my arms. I can still imagine the temperature of his skin. We road out the highs and the lows of the waves with Keller in our arms. We would stare at him and weep bitter tears of anguish. We would stare at him and beam the love God ties up in the hearts of parents. It’s a love that allows us to more clearly and intimately understand the love the Lord has for us. He calls us his children. His love is infinitely more perfect than mine will ever be, so my brain can’t even begin to imagine the fierce love for us He has tied up in His heart.


I spread out his receiving blanket, swaddled him, and nestled him into my chest. Nathan pressed in close to both of us. And then, we all napped. I let Keller know that napping on top of your mommy’s chest is pretty much the absolute BEST thing about being a newborn, so I’m glad he got to experience it. We really truly all fell asleep in each others arms. It was bliss. Sorrowful bliss.


My parents then took turns holding him. (Not for very long, as I said, my mommy arms desperately needed him.) I know it was torture bearing witness to their first born writhing in the pain of the sudden death of her son. The Lord strengthened them. They strengthened me. The sacrificial love of Jesus filled each and every soul in that room.

Nathan. Oh my Nathan. You are my hero. You are my champion. I need to let you all know the immense love Nathan personified that day. I think Wendy captured it perfectly,

“He was never away from your side, never shirking back, never seeming to have any needs of his own, wholly focused on being with you through this and sharing in it all WITH you as completely as he possibly could. He was Jesus in the room.”

It was no longer he that lived, but Christ in Nathan. Thank you. With every ounce of everything I have to give, thank you.

Due to the anesthesia, I couldn’t yet move my legs, so my mom, dad, and our nurse weighed and measure Keller on the other side of the room. Truthfully, I also had a very difficult time seeing his body behave so unnaturally. I needed to hold him and be with him in as newborn like of a state as possible. So my parents took on the task of unwrapping his swaddle and gently laying him on the table to gather his weight and height.

8 lbs 5 oz. 21.5 in. And aren’t those tiny feet darling? New wrinkly baby feet are good for the soul.


The entire gamut of emotions intertwined in those seven hours, and honestly, they harmonized perfectly. Jesus knows our hearts. He knows. He isn’t confused by or scared of our emotions. He sees us and reaches out his hand with compassion. He held us in his hand that day. He’s holding me in his hand right now. That’s the only power I have to relive and write all these memories. It’s divine power.

7 hours. I hate that I only had 7 hours with you Keller. I love that I had 7 full hours with you son. I am furious that you were so perfect, but still completely lifeless. I am thankful that though your tiny body was completely lifeless, you still looked so perfect and so like our son.

Thank you Lord for knowing my heart. Thank you for seeing past the warring emotions that cloud my view. Thank you for an absolutely perfect 7 hours with our son.

You are forever a part of our story.

I need to pause from telling the story of Keller’s birth, and highlight a few incredible servants.

Dr. O – 

Praise the Lord for providing us with Dr. O. I asked Wendy and my family to send me everything they could remember about Keller’s labor and delivery. Each one mentioned our Doctor. She worked with the perfect blend of professionalism and compassion. I love her. I always will. She was tender and strong. She saw our pain, and reached out in love. She saw our agony, and became family. She saw our fear, and rolled up her sleeves, ready to work with and for us.

September 15 was just another day of work. September 15 was the day our world stopped. Dr. O saw our world come to a screeching halt and made herself vulnerable to our grief. She cried with us. She attentively cared for us. She had to be the one to tell us our son’s heart had stopped beating. There is such poetry in the fact that she bookended Keller’s birth. My body progressed very little throughout the day, and then Dr. O came back into work. Within a few hours, Keller’s little body was ready to be born and the same doctor that told us of Keller’s death was able to bring him into this world.  She held my parents as they wept on the floor outside of the delivery room moments after Keller was born. She was and is everything you want a Doctor to be. Praise the Lord for you Dr. O. You are doing a good and mighty work. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to day in and day out, making yourself vulnerable to the tragedies of others, but thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for opening your heart and serving us with perfect compassion. You are forever a part of our story.

The Nurses –


Each nurse played their role perfectly in our story. I know each of their names. I praise the Lord for the career path they have chosen. Take this as my bear hug to all those who serve as nurses. Nursing offers you a unique opportunity to touch the most intimate and raw moments of others lives. God bless those who put themselves aside and give fully to those they attend each and every shift.

Our first nurse wept with us as we came to grips with Keller’s death. Our second nurse had a heart filled with empathy. [She snuck me popsicles, jello, and chicken broth as long as I didn’t tell ;)] Our third nurse had perfect attention to detail. She did not neglect a single need. She worked her hardest to provide the best possible medical care in the worst possible situation. Our fourth nurse got our boys feet and hand prints with perfect respect and gentility. She was the nurse who wheeled Keller away after we said goodbye. I have no words for this act of service. Our fifth nurse provided  a comedic anecdote to share in the days after Keller’s death. I won’t go into details, but you know, everyone has a role to play, and her role was to shock us into laughing till we cried. Our last nurse didn’t know much of our situation. We were moved out of labor and delivery, and into a regular hospital room. She checked in with us and brought us lunch and juice. Thank you for feeding us.

So this is my love song to all those who serve in the medical field with compassion and vulnerability. Labor and delivery nurses are able to see and experience incredibly joyful moments. They witness moments of new creation entering this world, surrounded by parents ready to fully sacrifice themselves for the sake of their child. Our story was different. Our nurses had to witness incredible grief. I can’t imagine the difficulty of toggling the two emotions. One room is filled with the light and love of new birth, and another heavy with the heartache of the death of a child.  Thank you for putting yourself aside to serve so beautifully in each capacity. I cherish your talents. They leave me in awe. You touch so many lives. You have such power to bring light into darkness. Thank you for serving us on our darkest day. You are forever a part of our story.

Dr. M-

Dr. M was my prenatal and postpartum therapist. I can only fall to my knees and thank the  Lord for providing Dr. M. When I became pregnant with Keller, my insurance had recently started offering free counseling to pregnant and postpartum women. She and I had gotten to know each other rather well throughout my pregnancy. She patiently worked to guide me through the dense forest of Anxiety and OCD. She expertly led me to resources and exercises to rewire my misfiring brain. I credit her for the bulk of my progress.

If you are reading Dr. M, I’m out of the darkness. I turned a corner. I still battle, I know you know that. I just want you to know how much you have meant in our lives. I praise the Lord for you. I scream out thanksgiving because of the skill set and compassion you gifted me.

She heard that we had lost Keller, and, on her own time, came to our hospital room. We hugged and we wept. I will never forget or minimize this act. In later visits, she told me she was angry for days after Keller died. She saw our struggle and made herself vulnerable to our pain. Empathy is an incredible gift. You are everything you want and need in a Psychologist. I love you. You are forever a part of our story.

Abby –


Guys. You should get yourself an Abby – as well as a Wendy. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is an incredible ministry. NILMDTS “trains, educates, and mobilizes professional quality photographers to provide beautiful heirloom portraits to families facing the untimely death of an infant.” Each photographer volunteers their time and hearts and offers “a free gift of professional portraiture” to families of stillbirth and infant loss. I know. What an INCREDIBLE work.

We only had 7 hours with Keller. 7 hours. 7 hours can’t hold enough memories or take enough mental snapshots to ever capture Keller’s face perfectly in our minds, no matter how hard we may have tried. Wendy and the medical staff were aware of NILMDTS and contacted the agency for information regarding a local photographer. They were put in touch with Abby. Wendy recently told me that NILMDTS doesn’t do photography between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. (Keller was born at 11:57 p.m.). So, Abby reached out and told Wendy to contact her directly whenever Keller was born. She got to the hospital within 15 minutes. She left her husband and toddler in the middle of the night to serve our family. She sacrificed her rest and her heart to provide a gift to total strangers. She captured so many incredible moments with our son. We will forever know each little detail about Keller’s perfect body thanks to the selfless service of Abby. I’ll forever be certain that he indeed has my nose. Man. Isn’t he just the most handsome thing you have ever seen?


Abby and I formed a friendship that I imagine will last forever. She shared her heartache of miscarriage, infertility, and failed adoptions – all of which led her tender heart to serve others experiencing loss. Our toddlers played together. She took family photos of us and our “Keller Bear” before leaving California. We keep in touch and I am in constant awe of her undeniable urge to serve the defenseless. I love you Abby. You are forever a part of our story.


Thank you all for your service. Thank you all for using your talents to enrich the lives of others. Thank you for changing our lives. Thank you for allowing the Lord to work through you. You are FOREVER a part of our story.

Some have asked how they can honor Keller on his upcoming 1st birthday. If you are inclined, please consider making a donation in his name to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Click here for more information.

This is God.


Around 11 p.m. things began changing. It became clear that Keller would be born shortly. Our Doctor and nurses began getting the room prepared. A huge swell of emotion broke over us – this was it. It was time. The wave crashed over us. We spun and sputtered in the water.  The wave broke, and we eased into shore. Every time we had to meet a seemingly insurmountable task, the waves broke. The water would become still, even for only a moment, and allow us to come to our feet and meet the next wave face to face. This is God.

I made a play list for delivering Keller. It was filled with songs that inspired me to deeper trust and communion with the Lord. We were trying to get the music to play before I began pushing. We kept fiddling with it and the phone kept telling us that the music was playing, but we couldn’t hear anything. We quickly realized that when we pressed play on my phone, the play list began playing on our home computer. Which means at about 11:45 p.m. our neighbor Christine shot up in terror on our couch because incredibly loud hymns began mysteriously playing from our computer. This makes me laugh every time. I was talking with Christine about this a few days ago, and she said that the more she thought about that moment, the more she saw it as a “God moment”. She didn’t know how or what happened, but she did stop and pray, moments before we began pushing Keller’s body into this world. This is God.

We figured out the music and “Be Strong and Courageous” began playing as I began pushing.

“The Lord goes before you through the trouble and strife and he will protect you all the days of your life. He’ll never forsake you. Don’t be afraid.” 

His delivery was beautiful. I pushed for 15 minutes. I was surrounded by loved ones, an incredible medical team, prayers of the saints, angel armies, and the Holy Spirit. I could focus in and tell my body just what it needed to do to push our son’s body into this world. “How Great is Our God” played when his lifeless body was effortlessly delivered at 11:57 p.m., just in time to make his due date, and Keller entered my arms. This is God.

“How great is our God. Sing with me, How great is our God. And ALL WILL SEE How Great is our God.”

This moment. Oh this moment. Keller was not alive. His body was limp and lifeless. His body was cold and grey. His death became reality. Every ounce of hope vanished for everyone in the room. This moment brought Nathan, my parents, Wendy, my Doctor, and the nurses to their knees. They all quite literally hit the ground and cried and screamed out in desperation. Anger filled the room. No. No. No. No! Keller was so very dead. Everyone was forced to face his little body and fully accept right in that moment that our son would never cry out or breathe. 

My mom became ill and nearly threw up. Our Doctor (our wonderful, incredible, God-given doctor [more to come on her goodness later]) held my parents as they all sat on the ground and audibly cried out in pain of the assurance of his death. I remember Nathan falling to his knees in a sorrow I never knew existed. We raged at his death. Everyone could barely look at sweet Keller because the more we stared at him the more we had to accept his death. The more we had to accept that we would never know our son in this life. The moment Keller was born the fragile glimmer of hope we had all been tenderly cradling dropped to the ground and shattered. It shattered and it was heard in the wailing of those that loved Keller most.

But for me, for me it was different. The doctor immediately placed Keller on my stomach. I was holding my son. I couldn’t look at him, but I could hold his tiny hands. Tears fell down my cheeks. I had delivered our son. I was his mommy, and I was holding our boy. I lay there for a long time, eyes closed, holding and rubbing Keller’s sweet newborn hands. I could hear the chaos death causes around me, but for that moment, I was at peace. The Lord caused the peace that absolutely surpasses all understanding to blanket over me. It’s the most “present” I have ever been. It was a “Heaven moment”. This is God.

The crushing wave broke momentarily and eased my family and loved ones ashore. They were able to come up from their knees and meet Keller. I didn’t want anyone to move him off of me, but I did want everyone to touch him. I remember saying, “Holding his hands is absolutely incredible. I can’t look at him quite yet, but feeling his weight on me and holding his hands is amazing. You should all come and touch him. Come meet Keller and touch his sweet little body.” I can so perfectly recall holding tightly to Keller in those initial moments. Nothing will ever feel as incredible as it felt to hold Keller. “He’s a big boy. This is an 8 lb. baby.” And he was. I sat there and stroked his hands and basked in the peace of being united with our son. 

I finally was able to look down and scoop him up into my arms. I cried as I cradled him in my arms. I was immediately fiercely protective of Keller. I wanted him to have as many baby moments as we could fit in. I wanted his lifeless body to be respected and treated as if it were a screaming and thriving newborn. I held Keller close and Nathan and I looked at our son together. All three of us sat there in that moment and let every emotion that came with it wash over us – anger, love, devotion, grief, hopelessness, emptiness, fear, trust, devastation, brokenness, helplessness, peace. It was the most intense and beautiful moment I have ever known. This is God.

True Worship.


Sitting down to write about our labor with Keller is daunting. That delivery room was such a sacred space. I desperately want to accurately and respectfully portray the holiness of that day and space.

Every labor is momentous. It is a giant task bringing a child into this world. When I began to go into labor with Mary we were flooded with emotion. The responsibility of delivering our daughter lay before us. It was probably equal parts responsibility, respect for what was about to occur, and excitement because in just a few short hours we would get to hold our very own real, live daughter. Laboring with Keller was starkly different. We fully realized the responsibility before us and respected the process of labor, but we were void of any sort of excitement to motivate us to keep moving forward. Labor is difficult in the best of circumstances. It is especially difficult for the mother, and all of her loved ones, to labor knowing the outcome will shatter your world.

We were wheeled into our room shortly after Wendy arrived. I was scared. I didn’t know why Keller died. Was I going to die too? Was it something wrong with my body that caused Keller’s heart to stop beating? I remember looking at our Doctor and saying “I’m trusting you. I need you to keep me ok. I need you to promise me that.” I wanted my husband and daughter to be protected. I needed to be there for them as we sorted through the rubble of losing Keller. I remember at some point allowing my mind to let go of the worry of my own death. My vitals were wonderful and Keller deserved my undivided attention. The Lord lifted that burden off of my heart.

The nurse cried with me and as tenderly as possible, gathered all my information, and prepared me for induction. I chose to get an epidural before they induced me with Pitocin. I couldn’t bring myself to fight through physical pain as well as  emotional and mental torment. The epidural did not take properly at first. Minutes after it was placed, my ears started ringing, I became nauseous, and I started to black out. “Something’s not right. Something’s not right.” Nathan and Wendy helped sit me up and put my head between my knees. I asked Wendy if she had any oils I could smell. She handed me Peppermint and Lemon. So now and forever, Keller will smell like Peppermint and Lemon – it’s his scent. I like that I have scent to for always know Keller by. The oils eased the nausea and helped me focus in just enough to stay present. After determining that I could still completely feel my bottom half, the doctors put in a new epidural. This one took well and allowed me to labor almost completely free of physical pain. (Fact: As tiny as I am, it takes an absurd amount of anesthesia to knock me out.) The administered Pitocin, and the 18 hours of labor began.

The labor came in giant, crashing, tsunami-like waves. Nathan and I would hold each other and weep bitterly. Anguish coursed through our veins. We would have moments where each of us would absolutely crumble beneath the weight of it all. And then, for a moment, the wave would subside and a moment of relief and lightheartedness would come. It would give us the strength we needed to face the next imminent and roaring wave.

I have to pause to admit that finding the ability to tell this story is really escaping me. I miss that day so much. I feel so protective about that day. If I could have one thing in life, it would be to go back in and live that day all over again. I know that sounds bizarre. That was the day, the only day, I got to be with our son. That day I sat at the feet of God. I was held in His hand. I was in His presence. Everything about that room and day was safe and protected by our Lord. It is absolutely impossible to capture the glory that occurred. My words can’t and won’t capture it. That being said, I’ll do my best to share any glimpse of glory I can.

Wendy massaged my feet and belly as the contractions began. She prayed over us. My parents were on a plane within a few hours. It was a comfort knowing they were coming to be right at our side. At times, we all wept collectively. At times, we took turns being crushed by the weight of Keller’s death. At times, we read over and praised God for each message and prayer we had received. At times, we reflected on the lessons we had already learned in just a few short hours. At times, we got hungry and I begged for (and got) popsicles and jello. At times, we researched our upcoming Hawaii trip. At times, we laughed till we cried. Anyone who has ever experienced intense sorrow knows that it is impossible to sustain bitter weeping for hours on end. Your mind, body, and soul need a moment of rest before tackling the next wave of grief.

The labor progressed slowly for the first 12 hours. My body was contracting, but it wasn’t quite ready to let go of our son. This was disheartening. We desperately wanted to meet him. An article had gone viral not long before Keller was born – A mother delivered what the doctors had determined to be a stillborn child, and after minutes of the mother holding him tightly, a heartbeat was detected and the baby was indeed alive. This article was in the back of my mind the entire labor. I knew, my heart knew, my body knew, the fetal monitors knew, but a mother can’t help but cling to any hope that may be present. Nathan clung to the hope even tighter than I did. He thought if we could just get him out, maybe there is faint heartbeat. Maybe they can rush him to the NICU. Maybe, just maybe, he will live.

My parents arrived around the 11th hour of labor and from there, things began to progress more rapidly. As Wendy said, I was waiting for them. My mom immediately crawled into bed with me and held me tight. Tears flowed down our cheeks as we just held onto each other. My dad wept as he kissed my head and laid his hand on my stomach, on Keller. We all sat together and labored. Each person in that room labored just as I did. My parents were at the ready to be everything we needed. They would deliver a light hearted topic to talk about when my mind started to go to dark places. They would leave the room and allow Nathan and I to hold each other and discuss next steps. They coordinated a friend to bring food so everyone could get a bit of sustenance. They read us messages from loved ones in agony over our loss. We even played “Heads Up” for a bit. My brain was beyond spent. It need any tiny, half-second break it could get.

We got picture updates from our friends caring for Mary. She was smiling at the park, completely unaware of what had happened. Those pictures were so hard to see. It was hard to face the fact that Mary would never know her brother. It broke us every time. Mary sustained us too. We wanted to hold her as close as we could, as quickly as we could, and cry and praise God for our breathing and thriving daughter.

By the time my body was ready to deliver, the Doctor who had told us we lost Keller was back for her next shift. This was the same doctor I made promise would take care of me. She would deliver Keller. This was the poetic providence of God.

Coincidentally enough, today is Labor Day and I am working as hard as I can to convey to our “Labor Day” to you. It truly is impossible.

Just know, everyone who entered that room was altered. The Lord’s presence was tangible. He sustained us and provided in incredible ways. It was the most worshipful act I will ever be apart of. I would labor over and over if that meant I could be in that close of contact with my son and our Lord. Jesus sacrificial love was magnified. Prayers of the saints were blanketed on top of us. It was worship in its truest form.

I miss you Keller. I will love you and labor each and every day to hold you again.


Weep with those who weep.


In the wake of losing Keller, many friends explained that they were at a total loss as to how to offer comfort. It’s almost scary to see such a grave reality and feel the responsibility of responding with the perfect words and actions. It’s daunting. So, when ever someone asks, “How can I best help/aid/comfort you?”  I point to Romans 12:15 every time.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.”

Only the Lord mends up hearts. Jesus is already our Savior. We need you to be our family. Get down on your knees, make yourself vulnerable to the intense pain of others, and weep right along side of them.

Within an hour of the news spreading to our church family, our preacher came to the hospital and just sat. He didn’t come in and try to offer some sentiment that would somehow ease our pain. He just sat in the hospital all day long. He knew we were in total darkness and he hunkered down right next to us. Richard, you will never know what this meant. We would get occasional updates from the “outside world” and every time they would say, “Richard is still sitting outside.” We would weep and praise the Lord for your love. Such a simple act said more than any poetic words of comfort ever could. Take note from Richards example. Hunker down and just be with those in pain. Your time and love are giant gifts. Another family came from church and did the same. Lucas family – you are rock stars. I wanted as much literal light in the room as I could get. The situation itself was so dark that just having sunlight come into our room kept me able to focus better on the task at hand. Our shades were pulled all the way up. At one point I looked outside and saw through a window across the courtyard 16 year old Esther just sitting in the waiting room, at the ready, filled with love. We smiled and waved at each other. A moment of comfort I will forever treasure.

As the news spread, prayers began storming the gates of Heaven. We felt God at work. We received countless messages, emails, and texts. (Actual messages received)

“I just want you to know I’m lifting you and your family up in prayer. My heart breaks for you all.”

“I love you my dear sweet friend. I wish I could be there to hug you.”

“I will do anything to help you. If I could take your pain I would (in a heartbeat).”

“I can’t tell you how much my heart is aching for you and Nathan. Both of you are in my prayers. I love you with all my soul.”

“Please know that I am here for you and praying for you and your precious family. Please let me know if you ever need to talk or cry or scream.”

We couldn’t respond to any of these. I promise you with all of my heart that not a single message we received felt in any way “trite” or “unworthy” of the tragedy we were experiencing. When you meet death and tragedy, respond with love. Whatever love is in your heart, offer it up to those in pain. Nothing you can say (aside from being cruel) can make those experiencing death “more sad”. This is not a possibility. So just pour out every bit of love you have. “I love you”, “I’m praying for you”, “I am so so sorry” – that’s all. The blow doesn’t need to be artificially softened with phrases beginning with “at least“, or by pointing out a positive facet of the tragedy. When someone is at the bottom of the pit, looking for a silver lining or a way around the full weight of the tragedy is never helpful. I say this with all humility and with full realization of the difficulty of comforting the broken. I say this with a sincere desire to help those helping loved ones crushed by sudden death. Each time someone reached out to us in love,  we were deeply encouraged. It’s hard for me to even start to express our gratitude for the love we had poured out on us. So, if I never responded to you reaching out with love – this is my deepest, realest thank you so much I can muster. I love you. I praise God for you. You did a mighty work in our lives. You are the hands and feet of Jesus. Keep pouring out love. Rid yourself of the pressure of saying the “perfect thing” and just love.

Our church family rallied around us. They met at the church building and petitioned to the Lord on our behalf. They sat, wept, and poured out their hearts to the Creator of the universe. We couldn’t be there. We never heard the prayers offered. We never listened to the hymns sung. The sacrifice offered in that room on that night was tangibly felt by all in our delivery room. The Lord filled our space. Your good works, your sacrifices to God, your empathetic tears do not go unnoticed. They didn’t go unnoticed by us. They don’t go unnoticed by God.

We heard of groups of Christians meeting together in prayer around the country. We were so intensely focused on delivering our son. We couldn’t form words to pray. We relied on the Holy Spirit hearing the groanings of our hearts. We relied on our family to rain down prayers over us.


Wendy came into the delivery room, hands lifted up in surrender to Christ, ready to allow Him to work through her. It is only by His strength that we all pressed on. Due to Richard’s love and presence, he was able to pick my parents up from the airport. They came in mid-afteroon and labored right along side of us. They sat with us. They were at the ready to offer themselves up completely. There were times we needed to bitterly weep and wail with those we loved most. There were times we need to sit in silence as the reality of death crept into our bones. There were times we needed to laugh till we cried. There were times we needed to surf the internet as mindlessly as we possibly could. Wendy and my parents met each moment perfectly. The team we had surrounding us worked with all their might to carry us to meet the task before us – delivering Keller.

“Weep with those who weep.”

This is all you need to do. This is an incredible service and sacrifice that lifts a sweet smelling aroma up to our Lord. Thank you for sacrificing your time, your heart, and your lives on our behalf. Let me take this opportunity to encourage you. Keep loving. Keep offering up any bit of love you have to those in pain. It is the “cup of cold water” that the world desperately needs. Don’t try to fix anything. We already have a Savior who has overcome death and is near the brokenhearted. We just need you to be our family and love. Love with all the love you have.

Making phone calls.

We sat and wept in that observation room for over an hour. So much still laid before us. It was only the beginning of both the longest and shortest 24 hours of our lives.

The doctor came back in and gently asked if we would like more time. We were ready to take the next step. She gave us our options : 1. Go home and wait to begin labor naturally. 2. Go home, gather some things, and head back up to the hospital when we were ready. 3. Be admitted and begin inducing labor. The last option was the only one our hearts could bear. We couldn’t take on the burden of delaying the delivery of our stillborn son any longer than necessary. They began the paper work to get us admitted and into a delivery room. We asked for a bit of time to make phone calls.

Making phone calls. My goodness. For every person that has had to make a phone call filled with the despair and heartbreak of sudden death, you have all of my love and empathy. It is a somber and heavy burden to be tasked with. You have to deliver tragedy to your loved ones while barely mustering up the courage to form the words.

We called our parents first. I don’t remember a lot about each phone call. Your brain goes a bit numb in self-defense I think. One of the first things my mom said was, “I’m coming.” “I know Mom.” “I’m coming right now.” “I know you are.” I knew without a doubt my parents would be on the first possible flight to San Jose. What a privilege to be loved so deeply. What a steadying comfort to have the one who delivered you into this life stand by your side while you work to deliver your own stillborn son. Nathan was unable to say much more than “We lost him.” to his parents. We called my sister. I remember sudden and complete heartbreak. She wept bitterly. “No. No. No.”

These phone calls were particularly difficult because, keep in my mind, it was my due date – September 15. Each person, asleep only seconds ago, answered the call with an excited and expectant, “Is it time?”. Instead, we delivered the news of Keller’s death. We had to break the hearts of those who already deeply and eternally loved our son. It is a brutal and sobering task. We called our neighbors. Christine was on the couch waiting for our call. “We lost Keller. He’s gone. There’s no heartbeat.” Heartbreak and love poured out. We knew without a doubt that Mary would be loved up and tenderly watched over no matter how long we had to be away. (I highly recommend convincing your best friends to become your neighbors – nothing but blessings await you.) We called our preacher’s wife whom we knew would be awake, and she humbly took on the task of sharing the news with our church family. We called our Wendy. She was expecting a call from us soon. She was not expecting this call. “Can I come?”. We had already decided that we still wanted Wendy to be a part of Keller’s delivery. She was at the hospital within 30 minutes and labored along side of us for the next 24 hours.

Thank you for answering the phone. Thank you for meeting darkness with love and compassion. Thank you for such a deep love that it can’t help but rush to selflessly serve. Thank you for pouring out your souls on our behalf.

Our story is not one of darkness and tragedy. We are by no means unique because we have seen death. Death and trials are in the lives of every person we meet. So many souls have experienced a magnitude of losses and tragedies that my heart and mind cannot even begin to comprehend. Many, most maybe, do not have the blessing of meeting death surrounded by a host of loved ones ready to do battle by their side. The bulk of challenges we would have to face still lied ahead of us, but we had total confidence that we would be constantly encircled by love and support. For this very blessing, we shout praise to our God. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord oh my soul.

Thank you Jesus for living your life to show us how to be selfless servants to humanity. Thank you Jesus for teaching us how to abase ourselves to lift our brother up. Thank you Jesus for coming down from glory as a humble servant. Thank you for living, dying and rising again. Thank you for your army that desires this very same humble servitude. This is good news. This is life.