My hands wouldn’t stop shaking.  Honestly, it was annoying, because somehow my shaky hands seemed to stop my breathing, which opened the dam of tears waiting in my eyes.  But it was time.  It was time to go and meet precious Walt – the sweet baby that I had prayed for since the moment I knew he was growing in his mother’s womb.
I walked down the long corridor through hallways filled with jungle murals and rainforest sounds.  Damn camouflage.  I was glad it was there to maybe reassure tender hearts, but I ached as I imagined the pain of the parents here with their children.
I found the pink elevator.  It was not-so-conveniently located in the way, way back.  At first, I was angry.  I think I was just angry that I knew my precious friends were going to have to say goodbye to their child, but it was easier to talk it out on the hospital.  It was easier to feel like an injustice was done to these precious mommies and daddies living out of the CVICU.  How could it be okay that they had to walk to the very back of the hospital to be with their precious babies EVERY freaking day?  Were we hiding these heroes in the back because they made us uncomfortable?  With each agonizing step, they had to steel their gaze and make their way to the back of the hospital to reach the pink elevator, all so they could accept the brutal gift of walking their precious little one through fighting for their very lives.
I tried to breathe.
I couldn’t find his door.  I remember crying over this.  WHERE IS HIS DOOR?  Where is this precious boy?  I yearned to hug his mom and dad and every family member.  There should be neon lights.  This precious baby boy is one of the greatest fighters and lovers the world has ever known.  WHERE ARE HIS NEON LIGHTS?
I finally found the check-in desk.  I asked for directions and choked back tears as the nurse directed me.
His grandparents greeted me.  It took a moment – the last time we’d seen each other was five years ago, me – belly full of baby, Liz dressed in white with cotton adorning her beautiful bouquet and Trey beaming in his tux as he found himself unable to take his eyes off of the love of his life.  We both started crying.
“Would you like to meet our precious grandson?” Trey’s mom asked.
“I’ve been waiting 9 months to do so.  Of course.”
And there he was.
Walt.

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Precious little 9 month old Walt.  Liz and Trey combined into a perfect little boy who was made extra perfect by one extra chromosome.
He was covered in a sea of tubes and wires, but I hadn’t driven 8 hours to stand back and miss out on his joy.   I snuggled into him and was given specific instructions to hold his sweet hand because he was a master at pulling out one of the cords.
Of course he is, I thought.  This little man has spunk – just like his mom and dad.

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We talked.  We talked about Nemo and his mom and dad’s wedding day and how he was one of the greatest joys of their life.  We talked about his amazing family and how they ADORED him.  I marveled over his sweet hands and I found myself lost in space and time as I was captivated by his precious toes and fingers.  We talked about his fiesty great-grandma Nina and how though all of us hated that we wouldn’t still have him HERE, she would be right by Jesus’s side to meet him.
Here amidst the cords and wires and monitors, I never felt more at home as he and I talked.  I used words; he used his precious eyes.  He was such a great communicator we didn’t need words..
Eventually, Liz and Trey entered the room.  They had been meeting with the doctors to plan their son’s goodbye from this world.  This is worth repeating, this precious mom and dad had to sit down and plan the details for the very moment that leaves all parents unable to breathe.  My mind could not comprehend it.  My body couldn’t handle it.  But Liz entered the room and Walt’s eyes went to her and we held each other and cried while I held sweet Walt’s hand like it was MY JOB.  Like somehow – holding his hand could make this better.
I ached.  How could two of the kindest, most gracious people in the UNIVERSE say goodbye to their boy?
Some questions have no answers.  Much of life exclaims this.  But when it doesn’t have answers – it may have beauty.  In this case it absolutely did: I got to watch Liz and Trey with Walt.
For 6 months, these three had invaded the hospital with hope, laughter, joy and tenacity.  Walt faced multiple heart surgeries…like a BOSS.  He faced more challenges than we could begin to understand and all before 10 months of age.  And Liz and Trey made home in the most unlikely of places because love pulls up a chair and makes a home there.  Walt charmed the entire nursing and doctor staff and melted hearts while his struggled to work.
Liz and Trey?  They gave him every last thing they could.  Every smile.  Every tear.  Every bathtime song.  Every loving diaper change amidst cords that reminded them that they couldn’t hold their sweet man like they should, nor could they spend their nights rocking in the exquisite room Liz had so beautifully decorated.  They gave up what should be to see the beauty of what was – a precious son who was teaching the world to love through his broken heart.
The next day, I traveled the same path through the rainforest jungle to the pink elevator.  I wanted to throw up.  How can we walk through this?  It simply cannot be done.
I arrived to Walt’s room and greeted my precious buddy and his amazing parents.
I pulled out my camera to document their last moments on this earth as a family.

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Liz and Trey gathered around their sweet Walt and began his last bath.  They sang their precious bath song and tears escaped my eyes so fast I soon had streaks down my shirt.  I saw the same stains on every nurse and every doctor who come by to say “I’ll see you soon.”
For the next hour, I watched as Liz and Trey whispered love into his ears and little Walt followed them with his eyes.  At every moment, you could see Walt’s eyes sharing precious messages.  I know his mom and dad know his words best, but here’s what I think I saw him saying:  “Mom, Dad…I’m going to be okay.  No one could have loved me better.  NO ONE.  You have championed me.  You have welcomed me into this world that sometimes wouldn’t want to because I have an extra chromosome.  I know I surprised you the day I was born.  You hadn’t known I was extra special.  I know it was hard to learn that I had heart problems and would face surgeries.  But what did you do?  You loved me more fiercely and selflessly than could be imagined.  I treasure every moment with you.  Your songs.  Your nicknames.  Your kisses and your hugs.  The way you’ve fought for me.  The way you’ve shown up day after day and read me all of my favorite stories.  No one reads like you two.  I know the end is near, but know this – I know love in a deeper way than most people experience in a lifetime.  Because of you.”

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While he delivered these messages through his eyes, Liz and Trey leaned in close to remember his scent.  To remember his soft cheeks.  His tiny toes.  And they whispered their own words… “Walty, we love you.  We love you BIG.  And you have taught us to LOVE BIG.  You’re going home today.  We will miss you more than we can ever explain, but you’ll be home.  You’re going to be able to play and run and you’re going to meet Jesus.  Oh Walt, He loves you.  He made you perfectly.  And Nina will be there.  And Lolly…and Grandma & Grandpa Bernie.  And one day – we’ll be there with you.  You just wait for us.  We cannot wait to be with you FOREVER.”

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It came time for Walt to make the journey from the hospital to his home.  Trey rode in the ambulance with his baby boy and Liz and I walked out to her car to get home so she could greet her boy.

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With family and loving doctors gathered around, Walt’s sweet face was released from all those tubes and we admired his precious face as he took his last breath.
It was the most brutal and beautiful moment I’ve ever experienced.
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We miss you, sweet Walty.  The ache is ever near.  Your mommy and daddy are my heroes, but I know their hearts hurt as they miss you.  They miss your toes.  They miss your talks.  They miss YOU. We all do.

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Sweet Walty, we won’t forget you.  We’ll keep sharing your name and the message you taught us – to LOVE BIG.  To treasure today.  And to pull up a chair and make a home wherever we find ourselves – because that’s what love does.

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  • Heather Humrich - September 20, 2016 - 12:51 am

    Oh Amy, your sweet heart shows through in your love and compassion. This is the most beautifuly heartbreaking thing I have ever read.ReplyCancel

  • Taylor Johnson - September 20, 2016 - 1:12 am

    Walt… You will never be forgotten… And your life has spoken volumes to myself and my husband… You are a special angel of God and I lift your parents up during this heartbreaking time… Let us all Love Big! We miss you already!ReplyCancel

Sweet wonderful anyone who is still here – I love you.

Thank you.  The past year has held more than I could have imagined or anticipated.  Ted’s travel schedule amped up, we pulled my daughter out to homeschool her and I had to make the hard, but best choice to simply bow out of anything beyond our family for a while.  Solo parenting is a big THING.  (Side note: to everyone single mom out there – I SEE YOU.  You brave warrrior…  Showing up and loving and ALL THE THINGS.  I love you.)  So much has happened and I hope to one day share more about all of it.  But for now, I want to start sharing some things I learned in the past year as I handled new and unexpected situations.  Just in case it helps any of you out there…

Unexpected situation 1: you find an injured vulture has taken up residence under your car….  

Let me save you the multiple google searches including, but not limited to, “vulture under van Gwinnett County” and hours spent calling animal shelters and animal control…

NO ONE WILL COME HELP YOU.  Unless you pay them.

It is sad and disheartening, but true.  No one will come to your rescue.  Animal control only intervenes with domestic animals and when the life of a child is in jeopardy.  And though it is tempting, you probably shouldn’t put your 4 year old next to the vulture under your van to incite their help on a technicality.  Their best piece of advice will be to wait until tomorrow morning and hope he leaves.

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(Let’s have a moment of silence as we consider that I learned this information over 90 minutes of phone calls all while being encircled by my three children and three neighbor children who thought they should feed the bird under our van.)

Your other option?  Gather the vulture in a box and drive him to a shelter.  This option is not really an option for a variety of obvious reasons.  Like…3 kids.  And A LIVE VULTURE.  And traveling I-85 during Atlanta’s rush hour.

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This kind of thing could occur on a day when you literally have no food in your house and desperately need to go to the grocery store.  Actually – that’s exactly when this kind of thing will occur.  You are faced with two choices: a showdown with the vulture or with your hanrgy children.  Neither option will seem attractive.  Eventually, you will decide that it’s you against the vulture.

Here are your options for communicating to the vulture your desire for him to LEAVE:
The car alarm on your vehicle.  My vulture was not phased in the slightest, but maybe yours would be.
Squirting him with the water hose.  (I was too scared for this)
Texting your friends so people can join you in the journey and you can avoid actually dealing with any of this.

If you find yourself choosing option 3, I pray that you have amazing friends with whom  you can share this moment..

At first, these friends will not believe you.  Because…let’s be honest…a vulture under your car is not exactly a familiar occurrence for ANYONE EVER.  You’ll need to send them photographic evidence.

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*That black blob under my van?  The injured vulture.  Sorry it’s not clear, nor does it help you see his VAST WINGSPAN, but I had other things on my mind.

At this point, you may have an amazing friend who order pizza for you and your entire family and has it delivered.  If this is the case, consider yourself SO INCREDIBLY BLESSED.  Thank God for this amazing person and GO INSIDE and laugh about the absurdity of it all.

And if you happen to be as lucky as I was?  That pizza delivery person will scare away your vulture!

Care to share your stories and advice about handling the crazy that comes when your spouse is traveling?  Because I’d sure love to hear them!

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I sat there taking it all in.  She found herself in a flurry of friends and hugs and “happy birthday” exchanges.

That’s when IT happened.  One of the fourth grade boys walked into the room and locked eyes with me.  He moved closer and placed his hand on my shoulder.  He sighed gently, looked at my daughter and then back into my eyes and calmly explained, “You’ve done a great job raising that one.”

I had no words.  I still don’t.  I sat there completely dumbfounded that this little 4th grade prophet and I shared this moment.

He’s right.  Or at least God took my scared, trembling entrance into parenthood with this wildly wonderful lady and He’s raised us both using the other.   That sounds more like it.

So today it is my great privilege to introduce you to my firstborn.  She is fire and joy and kindness and hilarity and I hope you will take the time to open your heart and receive her beautiful words.

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Hannah’s 10 Rules for Life

  • Be forgiving: if you hold onto every single mistake you or your friend has made, you will begin to judge yourself [or your friend] and it will be miserable. ;(
  • Don’t have a bad attitude to yourself or others. Then you will be angry at yourself for making those choices.  It will also cause a chain reaction that will break bonds from not only your parents, but your friends and others. And refusing others it is not fun.Because you need them.
  • Play: if you don’t, you won’t be getting the fun or the exercise out of it.Or if you are a mom you won’t develop any good memories or, a true bond with your child [or children]
  • Don’t give up no matter the cost. God has a special surprise for you just around the corner.  Just hang on.
  • Just because you look different or have a ‘weird’ talent does not mean you should be teased. Stand up and say….  I AM NOT WEIRD.  I BELONG IN THIS WORLD. I AM MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE, I AM SPECIAL IN HIS EYES.
  • Help: even if you just help with the dishes or stand up for a kid that helps make the world a better place.
  • Stop for a moment and look around and embrace what you have around you.
  •  Don’t smoke; it is bad.  You can die. And it is not healthy for you.
  • Try: even if you mess up you will have the memories.
  • Listen: even if you do not understand someone should have your attention.
  • Laurenpauls - May 3, 2016 - 2:03 am

    Words to live by indeed! Love your thoughts Hannah and they warmed my heart. You are wise beyond your years… And also CLEVER AND FUNNY beyond your years ReplyCancel

    • amypaulson - May 3, 2016 - 1:28 pm

      Hannah: thank youReplyCancel

  • Judi - May 3, 2016 - 2:16 am

    Wow – such grown up thoughts. I am impressed~
    There are a lot of adults that don’t have the understanding that you have.
    You are as awesome as your Mom!ReplyCancel

    • amypaulson - May 3, 2016 - 1:44 pm

      Hannah: Maybe even awesomer than my mom. Thank you so much.ReplyCancel

  • Joyce - May 3, 2016 - 2:53 am

    Amazing Miss Hannah! You are a very wise little lady!! Your mom and dad are amazing parents which is why you yourself are amazing!! Keep up the positive, loving energy kiddo!! You are going to go far in your life!
    Sending lots of loving energy your way! You are a beautiful soul ❤️
    Love,
    JoyceReplyCancel

    • amypaulson - May 3, 2016 - 1:45 pm

      Hannah: Thank you. I got the loving energy in the mail!ReplyCancel

  • Ivy - May 3, 2016 - 3:35 am

    She’s just as sweet and wise as the last time I saw her years ago. Those are words to live by at any age. Great girl and great mama!ReplyCancel

    • amypaulson - May 3, 2016 - 1:46 pm

      Hannah: I still remember you! And Jayden says he wants a sucker. Thank you so much!ReplyCancel

  • Sherri - May 3, 2016 - 3:53 am

    You are just precious! I knew from the moment I locked eyes with you that you would be great and do amazing things in this world. Keep it up little lady and hopefully one day you can come back to your first nail artist and let me do your nails once more ReplyCancel

    • amypaulson - May 3, 2016 - 1:48 pm

      Hannah: Thank you for taking the time away from running around chasing your 6 kids and writing that really kind comment. I will come back to you. We are going to be in Michigan for the summer. And I am going to a theater camp in Chicago. We’ll come by.
      From Amy: Thank you for helping me even begin to know what to do with her from the very beginning. You are a gift, sweet friend!ReplyCancel

  • Anaya - May 3, 2016 - 5:10 am

    Hannah, you are one amazing human, and although I never get to see you, I feel so blessed to know that you have a presence in my life. Your parents mean the world to me, and so do you and your siblings. You have this phenomenal ability, at 10 years old, to know truths, and speak them. An ability that has taken me 30 years to learn (and probably another good bit of time to learn how to fully live them). You are a blessing to everyone who gets to know you. Thank you for sharing yourself and teaching those around you how to work toward being their best selves. I can’t wait to see what else you contribute to this world.
    ❤️
    AnayaReplyCancel

    • amypaulson - May 3, 2016 - 1:49 pm

      Hannah: Once I get a car, I am going to drive all the way to Colorado and come and see you. In 6 years… Thank you! You are so loved, Anaya. Though some of the world doesn’t see that I will.ReplyCancel

  • DANIELLE FORLAW - May 3, 2016 - 12:09 pm

    Hannah, Thank you so much for sharing. These are so profound and relevant for everyone. Good has gifted you with compassion and wisdom… Keep sharing. Now I’m going to get off my phone and go make some memories with Will! In Him, Danielle (Riley and Will’s mom)ReplyCancel

    • amypaulson - May 3, 2016 - 1:50 pm

      Hannah: Don’t know what some of those words are, but I am going to keep sharing. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Williams - May 3, 2016 - 2:25 pm

    I really appreciate your advice to play and to try. You are brilliant! I hope my two year old and 4 year old grow up to be as smart. I was great friends with your mom when she was about 10, and it’s so much fun to see that you are a lot like her – so smart and very thoughtful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.ReplyCancel

  • Jana Goetz - May 3, 2016 - 3:10 pm

    I’m convicted, Hannah. I need to work on numbers 3 and 9. Here’s my plan: I’m going to play with sidewalk chalk with my 7 yr old after school today and I’m going to sign up for the 5K I’ve been avoiding for YEARS. Thanks for your insight and being willing to share the wisdom God gave you! I’m motivated to improve :)ReplyCancel

  • Cheryl - May 4, 2016 - 1:07 am

    Hannah!!!! Wise sage lady!…… I hear stories from your mom about the awesome things you do and say and this list is perfect!! I might have to print it out and keep it where I can see it every day. Also you better believe I’ll be sharing this list with Sabina and Téa. And maybe you can hang out with them some time to help them be super duper awesome too. You are so loved!!❤️❤️❤️❤️Also give your mom a big hug for me! And come back to DC!! Stat!ReplyCancel

 

Sweet Little Mister P,

Oh sweet little man…  For 5 months I watched you grow inside your precious mommy.  I watched as her hands covered over you and she tenderly cherished every kick and movement you made.  I joined hands and hearts with your mommy and our precious friends in prayer for you and your whole family during those months.  Prayers for joy.  For health.  For little whispers of our Father to already be ever so present in your ears.  And then I got to hold you.

At that moment, I nearly cried.  Not sad tears.  Anything but.  Happy, joyous, oh-my-goodness you are here tears.  And you have been given one of the great big brothers you could imagine.  A strong, kind-hearted daddy that is so in love with you.  And oh sir…YOUR MOM.  You HIT THE JACKPOT.  She is filled with grace.  Laughter.  A heart that beats with so much love and kindness.  And as I took in the joy of your entire family, I couldn’t believe how kind God would be that I get to see these prayed for moments and celebrate with all of you that you are all together.

I love you, sir.  And your entire family.  I cannot wait to watch you grow…

Love,
Amy

 

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Words cannot even begin to capture my joy and gratitude for you letting us capture your wedding day.  There are so many memories and moments that I’ll treasure for a lifetime.  Watching the two of you light up when you first saw each other, watching your moms both serve and love everyone who came near, hearing stories from your dads, watching Adeline rock the dance floor and seeing the two of you, filled with love and joy in every moment.
You and Jonathan are such a gift and joy.  I am so grateful to know you both. Thank you beyond measure for all the sacrifices you make to serve our country.  My heart aches as I think of all that you give up for this country.  But it’s a reverent ache.  The kind that sees the deep sacrifice and overflows with gratitude.

And Inga – goodness, I love you.  Thank you for your friendship.  For loving middle schoolers and walking them through life.  For trusting me enough to have me document your precious sister’s wedding.  For calling your mom and instantly giving us the MOST INCREDIBLE place ever to stay while we were in Buffalo on a crazy road trip. For taking my daughter out for macaroons and searching the whole city for ice skating.  For sharing your heart all along the way. For sharing all the God was teaching you and for all the ways you showed up.  I am SO grateful for you. amypaulsonphotography_2949

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Inga…let’s just pause for a moment to admire just how beautiful you are.  SERIOUSLY.amypaulsonphotography_2953

If you know me, you know I love first looks.  And not because of the timeline.  It’s because I get to watch as couples get to say all the things.  They can run to each other.  Instead of having to wait through an entire service, they get to share all the words, hugs, emotions and every last moment.  I have a quiet awe and joy every time I get to witness these sacred moments…

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YOU TWO.  So incredibly adorable…amypaulsonphotography_2958amypaulsonphotography_2960

I may have nearly melted into a pile of mush after I saw this image…amypaulsonphotography_2961amypaulsonphotography_2962amypaulsonphotography_2965amypaulsonphotography_2967amypaulsonphotography_2968amypaulsonphotography_2970amypaulsonphotography_2971amypaulsonphotography_2974amypaulsonphotography_2975amypaulsonphotography_2976amypaulsonphotography_2977amypaulsonphotography_2978amypaulsonphotography_2979amypaulsonphotography_2982

As Ted and I drove around West Point and Highland Falls, NY the day before their wedding, we found a house with an ENTIRE AMERICAN FLAG on the side.  Which meant that I was in love and felt it simply HAD to make it into pictures.  Luckily – these two thought it was a great idea.  And though it was crazy cold, they BROUGHT IT.

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Let’s just pause and talk about what an incredible community these two have.  Those centerpieces?  Jonathan’s mom, sister and daughter made them.  I asked his mom – is this your job?  She replied – no…I’ve never done this before.  And then my jaw dropped.

Also – notice that SAILBOAT candy?  (So much cuteness)  And the box of chocolates?  These were all made by Inga’s brother-in-law and his AMAZING company Shane Confectionery in Philadelphia.  (I just discovered – YOU CAN ORDER ON-LINE!!!!)  I’m going to be honest with you – both Ted and I were pretty certain they were the BEST CHOCOLATES we had EVER eaten.  Ted may have scanned the room at the end of the night for anyone who didn’t take theirs…only to find that NO CHOCOLATE had been left behind.  Also – if you’re in Philadelphia – you have to go to their Ice Cream Parlor – Franklin Fountain.  Our family is planning a road trip there as soon as we can.

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Kiersten – I love you.  So much.  I still remember all of those beautiful moments with you and Eric on your wedding day.  I had tears in my eyes as I  watched your love for your sister overflow into your own tears. Thank you for all the ache and fears and general missing her you’ve faced as she’s served our country.

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A huge thank you to all the amazing vendors who made this day happen:

Venue: Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church
Reception: The Thayer Hotel
Macarons: Olivia Macaron (Washington, DC)
DJ: Party Time Productions (Highland Falls, NY)
Dress Designer: J. Crew
Candy Favors: Shane’s Confectioners

F a c e b o o k
T w i t t e r