It's been three weeks since Charly's passing and two since her funeral. As you can imagine, we're still living in a bit of a fog. Her service was beautiful, and we wanted to share some key parts of that day for those that could not attend. Andy and I had spent the week before planning out every detail of her funeral. Many people had offered to pick the hymns and readings, create and print the prayers cards, programs, and pictures, but for some reason we felt that we needed to do it all. It was part distraction, part perfectionism. My motto for the week when someone asked what I wanted was "it needs to be as beautiful as Charly." Anything less wasn't good enough; my one last task as a mother was to create a perfect lasting memory of her for the world.
So we made it through that first week without Charly by immersing ourselves in mass planning. Andy strummed hymn after hymn on the guitar while I read through my Catholic Bible looking for verses. Each song, Psalm, reading, and word was handpicked by mommy and daddy in thoughtful admiration of our baby. Yes, it would have been easier to pass these tasks off to someone else, but spending that week with each other, crying, praying, singing, meditating on God's Word, and remembering our sweet girl was essential for our hearts.
Charly's funeral was truly a celebration of a life that might have never been. We believe from the moment she was conceived that God had a perfect plan for her and that He had also chosen the exact moment she would be taken from us. Wisdom 2: 2-11 spoke to us on so many levels in this sense. It solidified our belief that this was God's plan for Charly and that we had done our very best to follow His perfect will, even if we didn't understand it.
For by mere chance were we born, and hereafter we shall be as though we had not been; Because the breath in our nostrils is smoke, and reason a spark from the beating of our hearts, And when this is quenched, our body will be ashes and our spirit will be poured abroad like empty air. Even our name will be forgotten in time, and no one will recall our deeds. So our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud, and will be dispersed like a mist. For our lifetime is the passing of a shadow; and our dying cannot be deferred because it is fixed with a seal; and no one returns. Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are here, and make use of creation with youthful zest. Let us have our fill of costly wine and perfumes, and let no springtime blossom pass us by; let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither. Everywhere let us leave tokens of our rejoicing, for this is our portion, and this our lot. But let our strength be our norm of righteousness; for weakness proves itself useless.
I smiled more than I thought I would. When Andy and the teen musical ensemble played Andy's compilation of "Sanctuary" and "You are my Sunshine" I thought I would break down, but I actually laughed remembering him playing her those songs to her on his ukulele in the NICU. I remembered how he had played a song to her nearly every day of her life.
I smiled at the memory of listening to Charly's Song (video below) for the first time in Charly's nursery the afternoon Andy wrote it. Charly slept and I cried. Andy laughed. We both smooched our baby's cheeks and whispered how deeply we loved her in her ears. I thought I'd crumble during our Eulogy, which Andy and I took turns reading, but I didn't. I thought my husband's face would cause me to break down, but it strengthened me. I've included our Eulogy below, which Andy wrote and I just added a sentence or two. I've always been the one with so much to say, but when Charly passed my words went dry.
On behalf of Liz and I, we would like to thank each of you from the bottom of our hearts for being here with us today. One of charly’s most precious gifts to us was her ability to bring people together. Certainly, today is no exception. It wasn't until Charly was born that I truly understood the gravity of Jesus dying on the cross. Although I had yet to meet her, I prayed that God would take me, and spare her. I know Andy prayed the same. We were given 376 days to love, cherish, and share her presence here on earth. If you’re thinking that it wasn’t long enough, you're absolutely right. It wasn’t nearly long enough… in fact no amount of time spent with our Charly Barley would have ever been long enough. Just ask anyone who was lucky enough to have spent more than a moment with her. They will tell you that her spirit stays with them and is a constant reminder of her grace, her courage and her strength. If I told you this year was tough it would be an incredible understatement. This past year wasn’t just tough it was the most difficult year of our lives. Liz and I weren’t just tired, we were exhausted. We weren’t just sad, we were deeply depressed. And we weren’t just knocked down, we were completely broken. Through all of this it would have been so easy to just quit. To give up entirely and to wonder what our existence is worth if we couldn’t even find the strength to give our child a fraction of the care she needed. Here’s the thing though Charly wouldn’t let us give up. Shewanted to be here, and we whole-heartedly wanted her here as well. Charly gave Andy and I strength that we didn’t know we had. She taught us to do things that we never ever thought we could do. And most importantly she taught us to love in a way that we never thought possible. I can't quite explain losing Charly, because I still feel her inside of me. She's everywhere with me at all times. It's like my heart is simultaneously breaking and bursting with all-consuming love. I feel Charly running through my veins. We could hold her for hours and hours, and that's exactly what we did. Because that's what Charly needed, and that's what we needed. We all leaned on each other. We were like a tripod; the three of us equally depending on each other to stand. We needed Charly just as much as she needed us. Charly was often times affectionately referred to as “a Saint on earth.” I’ll admit that at times it was difficult for me to recognize or understand that, but when I step back and look at just how many miracles she performed on a daily basis just to be here with us and how holy and impactful her life was not just for Liz and I, but to everyone she met… it became clear to me that Liz and I were indeed blessed to be caring for a true saint. And how fortunate and thankful we are to have been given the opportunity to do so. So yes, this year was tough, but I think when we look back at difficult times in our lives it’s not necessarily about how hard it was, but what’s important is our ability to measure how we handled that situation, what we learned from it, and how we choose to better our lives and the people around us moving forward. While I was writing this, I was reminded of the song “Seasons of love” from the popular Broadway musical Rent. 525,600 minutes, 525 thousand moments so dear, 525,600 minutes how do you measure, measure a year? For Liz, Hanker, Charly Barley and I, and hopefully all of you here today, we can measure this past year much like they do in the song: Measure in Love.
It was important to us that Charly was remembered, so I printed hundreds of photos, and my amazing cousins (who are more like sisters) displayed them with envelopes so all the guests could have as many Charly pictures as they wanted. This table was a snippet of a beautiful year. A year we should have never gotten, but we were so blessed to have. She was our miracle baby. A baby that God gave two infertile people, a baby that was nearly stillborn, a baby that almost died hundreds of times throughout the year, but a baby that lived her life to the fullest capacity and changed more lives in a year than most of us could do in a lifetime.
We miss her more than anything. We also have no regrets. Because we knew her time was fleeting, we cherished every moment. We took thousands of pictures. We held her anytime we weren't sleeping. We didn't hire nurses; we learned to do everything she medically needed ourselves. We bathed her, massaged her, sung and read to her and made sure she was clean and happy and smelled sweet. We put her first each day, and loved her for exactly who she was: the sweetest, most beautiful baby girl in the world.