The Next Chapter


I’m reading a little book right now called Tales from the Ozarks. It’s an old book, just a collection of short stories, really, but all centered on the Ozarks and the lives of simple folk who lived here. Some people lived here all their lives, and some of them were come-heres. It’s got me thinking about the life that Brandi and I have made together, and how our own experiences mirror the ones I have read about. Continue reading


32 Days for 32 Weeks: Weekly Update


One week in, and we’re already behind. Such is life.

We are here to recap our first week of 32 for 32 Days. To be honest, this has been harder than we anticipated. After weeks of planning and laying out a schedule, we find ourselves needing more time! Between our busy work schedules, Marcal’s grad school studying, and keeping up with life we missed a few days this week. Our goal is to do extra over the weekend and catch back up. So here is our recap:

Sunday, November 30th: Our goal was to tape (5) $1.00 bills to some toys in the dollar bin at Target. We didn’t get our stuff together, so we didn’t end up doing it. It’s on the schedule for this week!

Monday, December 1st: Brandi purchased a Starbucks gift card and gave it to one of the baristas at the Duvall store. The next day, the barista told Brandi that the women she gave it to had just lost her father and they also had just found out her husband has terminal cancer.

Tuesday, December 2nd: Brandi delivered homemade Chex mix to our family doctor in Duvall. He has been the Denver’s primary care doctor since Libby was a baby. Dr. Milam and his staff at Sno-Valley Family Medicine are like family and we wanted them to know how much we appreciate all they do.

Wednesday, December 3rd: On Wednesday night, we delivered some donations to be sent to a missionary family that our church supports. They live in Belgium and they had requested some of the items that they missed from the United States. Don’t worry Luk and Holly, we have PB cups, dried strawberries, tootsie pops, and pretzels coming your way.

Thursday, December 4th: On Thursday, we were supposed to take treats to the staff at Bear Creek Elementary. This has proven to be difficult because the school opens an hour after we start our work day and closes an hour before we leave. Once we figure out a way to get them their treats, we plan on taking by some items.

Friday, December 5th: On Friday, we tipped our waiter a little something extra. We actually did this one on Wednesday night. We were eating at Red Robin and had a pretty awesome server at the bar. He went above and beyond as a server, so we wanted to thank him by giving him a little extra spending money this holiday season!

Saturday, December 6th: On Saturday, we meant to donate to a food bank. There is really no reason why this didn’t get done. Our church holiday party was that evening and Sno-Valley Senior Center had their Holiday Bazaar that day so we were busy most of the day. Brandi was feeling a bit under the weather so we ended up coming home so she could rest before the church party. We plan on dropping some items off with Hopelink this week.

What’s in store for this week? Will we find the time to do everything we need to do, and still make time for our charitable acts? If there’s anything we have learned so far, it’s that the urgent things in life get in the way of the important things. We need to learn to balance these.

In the meantime, I want to share this song with you. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is one of our favorite groups, and this song really made me stop and think about what we’re doing here. What’s really important in life? Getting ahead or giving back? One small act, no matter how small, can make a big impact on someone. Let’s not be too hasty to rush through life, not focused on others.

32 Days for 32 Weeks


When we lost our daughter on May 16, we couldn’t imagine a deeper pain, and a more profound sense of loss. It was as if a part of our lives was torn from us that day, and in a lot of ways, that was true. How do you move on from a loss like that? Can you?

For the past month, Brandi and I have been talking about the holiday season, and how we were going to handle it. Every day without Hannah is a new first day, and we know that the holidays are going to be hard. The first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, first Easter, etc. will be emotional days.

We can’t bring Hannah back, as much as we want to. We have always said we want people to remember Hannah, and we never want to forget her; since she can’t be with us in person, we can keep her memory alive by telling other people about her and what she meant to us. We decided to honor her memory by sharing some kindness and good deeds with people in our community who could use some good cheer. Starting on this Sunday, November 30, we are beginning 32 Days for 32 Weeks in Hannah’s memory. Each day between now and New Years Day, we will try share some holiday cheer with people around us, whether sharing a meal with shut-ins or donating to the hospital where Hannah was born. We know that Christmas is going to be tough, but remembering Hannah every day, in different ways, is going to help a lot.

Would you like to join us? Each week on this blog, we’re going to share a recap of the week’s events, and we encourage you to share with us anything you did as well. At the end of December, we’re going to collect all your comments and stories, print them, and add them to Hannah’s memory box. It’s just another way of adding to her story and keeping her memory alive.

Happy Holidays.

-Marcal and Brandi

*Edit* Many people have asked how they can get involved or contribute to the Acts of Kindness. Here is our schedule for the 32 days.

11/30 – 12/6: (5) $1.00 bills on random toys in the dollar bin at Target, pay for someone’s coffee, treats to our family doctor, donation to a missionary family, donation to teachers at local school, extra tip for a deserving server, donation to a food bank.

12/7 – 12/13: Dinner to a family in need, items for a local group home, treats to our co-workers, donation to a deserving couple, donation to support group, tasty snacks for the bus drivers, sacks for the homeless

12/14 – 12/20: donation to animal shelter, donation to non-profit, treats for the bank tellers, cards to the someone who is sick, treats for our mechanic, treats for the police, popcorn taped to Red box

12/21 – 12/27: Meals to a shut in, donate to a go fund me, pay for someone’s groceries, treats for our firemen, treats for the staff at the hospital Hannah was born, treats for our OB, stuffed animals for foster children

12/28 – 12/31: activity bags for kids, color books and crayons to Children’s hospital, care package for a soldier, help someone pay for their gas

Capture Your Grief 2014: Day 3 & 4

pregnantDay 3: A picture of you before your loss: This is one of my favorite pictures of me pregnant. Marcal and I would take my weekly belly pictures outside by this tree every Sunday morning. I took them on Sunday’s because I knew I would look nice for church. Most days at work I wore jeans, a t-shirt, and my hair in a ponytail. But Sunday’s I would make my hair nice, spend a bit more time on my makeup, and make sure I was looking nice for those pictures. Marcal and I loved looking at those pictures. Looking at the growth of my belly every week was so amazing. What women’s bodies go through during the pregnancy process is amazing. I was so scared I was going to be one of those pregnant women that got WIDE, but I was lucky. My belly just popped out. I remember joking with my mom that I would be 9 months pregnant and just look like a fat woman and not a pregnant lady. In this picture, we had dreams for Hannah. We would lay in bed every night and talk to her. Marcal loved reading stories to Hannah about the Eilensteins that immigrated and settled in Missouri. He would tell her how much he loved her and was excited for her to come. We would talk about what she was going to look like or be like. Would she be artsy like me, smart like Marcal, or both? Would she be interested in music? Would she be tall or short? Blonde or Brown hair? My green eyes or Marcal’s hazel eyes (yes we finally looked closely and Marcal has hazel not brown eyes.) Who would Hannah be?

After losing HannahDay 4: A picture of you after your loss: I was hesitant to share this picture. I have always tried to be respectful of people who might be uncomfortable looking at a deceased child. While I have no problem sharing Hannah’s pictures, some do need to be kept private due to the way she looks or the way our family is grieving. But, I felt ready to share this. This picture isn’t so much about showing Hannah as it is showing the grief. People hear me say all the time how sad we are, but you can never truly understand the depths of that pain until you experience it. I have friends of our family who have lost children and I have grieved with them during those times of loss, but I never understood the true depth of pain that it caused. Losing your child is the most unimaginable pain your will go through. It is completely unnatural. Parents are not supposed to bury their children. Life and death is a part of this world, but burying your child is not supposed to happen. I had so many mixed emotions on May 16. I was excited to see my child. I wanted so badly to see what Hannah looked like. I was nervous and scared about giving birth. I had never done this before and from what they told us in birthing class, it was going to hurt. But I was also devastated. I wanted Hannah to be born with a beating heart. I wanted to hear my baby cry when she came into the world. I wanted to be able to see her looking back at us and knowing that the sound of her daddy’s voice was going to soothe her. Most of all, I wanted the doctors to have made a mistake when they told us her heart wasn’t beating anymore. I wanted a miracle. I wanted more than 6 hours with my daughter. I didn’t want to fall asleep that night knowing that somewhere in that hospital my baby was laying in the morgue. In the 32 weeks, 3 days, and 6 hours that Hannah was in our lives she blessed us. She taught Marcal and I how to love in a way we had never experienced. She helped us be able to related to people who have/will experience the loss of their baby. But most of all you she made us her parents and until the day we leave this earth, she will be in our hearts and minds.

Capture Your Grief 2014: Day 1 & 2

October is most often looked at as breast cancer awareness month, but what most people don’t know if that October is also dedicated to Pregnancy and Infant Loss. Many mom’s in my stillbirth support group are choosing to do the 31 day, Capture your Grief, photography project. If you would like more information about the project, visit this blog, Capture your Grief 2014.

WP_20141002_003 (1)Day 1: Sunrise. I’m lazy and didn’t want to get out of bed but the picture I captured was less than an hour after the sun came up. Every day on my drive to work, I drive across the Snoqualmie Valley into Duvall. As fall approaches fog starts to roll in to the valley. This is the picture I captured yesterday. The sun trying to shine it’s way through the fog is a perfect example of how I have felt since losing Hannah. Some days I can break through the sadness and have a decent day. But some days I go the entire day and don’t remember walking through it. I remember the morning that we went in to the hospital. We had to be at Evergreen to check in at 7am. I remember my mom taking us and driving across 124th and the valley between Redmond and Woodinville. So many people heading to work and starting their days. I was starting the most painful and horrible day of my life. I remember trying to be brave. I was excited because I was going to see Hannah but I knew that when my baby was born, there would be nothing but silence.

WP_20141002_004 (1)Day 2: Heart. We were asked to show a picture of our heart with our child’s name it in. I was working really hard at work today and took a break to decompress and thought it would be a great time to work on my heart with Hannah’s name. I found an image of a heart online that I liked and I decided to draw it. While drawing this image, I thought about how for the rest of my life, a piece of my heart will be missing. Hannah has had Marcal and I wrapped around her tiny finger since the moment we found out we were expecting. We had so many dreams for her. We had so many dreams for our family. This heart represents the rawness of my feelings. This heart isn’t made to be pretty or perfect. It has the raw edges and pointed parts that represent the pain of losing Hannah. But in the center of it all is our precious girl. Even though she isn’t with us, she is and will always be the center of our hearts.

I am excited to do this photography project. I have been told to expect some of it to be joyous and some of it to be incredibly painful. The most important part of this 31 day project is to honor Hannah and her memory.

Who are we?

Last week Marcal and I went out to eat at one of our favorite Thai restaurants. While we were sitting there, I had this thought, “Who are we?” To the other people in the restaurant, we are a youngish, married couple out for a nice evening meal. They don’t know our story. They don’t know that we are supposed to be a tired, worn out, couple with a newborn baby; escaping the heat on that summer night.

It is almost as if we are having an identity crisis. I mean, there isn’t even a word for what we are. Widows/Widowers have lost a spouse and orphans are children who have lost a parent, but what do you call a person who suffers the loss of their child? We are parents, yet we aren’t raising a child. What a cruel thing to be called parents, but not have the child to raise. We don’t get to experience the joy of seeing our daughter take her first steps, say her first words, or even make her first mistakes. Hannah will forever be a perfect baby and for that I am so thankful, but I miss her terribly. Marcal and I talk about how different our lives would be with Hannah. We talk about how much we would cherish the exhaustion every new parent faces in those first months. The last few days, I have missed her so much. I have cried myself to sleep every night. I make Marcal talk about her. I want to dream of who she would have been. I want to know what she would have looked like. I want to know what she thinks about in heaven. But most of all I want to know that she is okay.

I don’t know when the healing begins? I know that it doesn’t hurt any less than it did 3 months ago. I am still angry. I am still confused and want to know why it happened and I don’t think that will ever go away. I find that I am only getting better at hiding the pain. I am better at putting on my smile and pretending that it doesn’t hurt as much. I don’t do this for me, I do this because it makes other people uncomfortable when they see me grieve. It is just easier to pretend that everything is okay around others and then cry when I am alone or with our support group. So for now, I just take each day at a time.