Celebrating Our Angel

How do you celebrate an angel baby’s birthday? That’s a very good question. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a codebook on what to do. Some might not do anything. But for our family it wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t do something to remember Luca- even if it is something small.

I realized that I have never officially written about what we do to remember him on his angel day. It’s not huge. It’s not a big fan fare. But it’s a quiet day for us to talk about him and remember the day we got to see him.

It’s a day where we gather close as a family. I take the boys out of school and my husband takes the day off work. I don’t know why but it feels better going through the day together.

This year I cuddled on the couch with my two oldest boys and read them a junior novel. They kept begging me to read on so we sat there for nearly an hour enjoying the story.

We watched the DVD of songs and pictures we have of Luca and we all cried. It’s a bittersweet thing to sit back and truly remember that all of that actually happened.

After our youngest woke up from his nap we headed to the dollar store where I let each of the boys pick something out to “give” to Luca for his birthday. My 7-year-old gave him a recorder, my 5-year-old gave him a goop-filled dinosaur egg and my 21-month-old gave him a pack of miniature farm animals. I picked out a set of miniature monster trucks.

We took them to the cemetery and carefully placed them on the headstone. My thoughtful 7-year-old son also brought him a bunch of jewels and a sprig of flowers from the backyard of our new home.


My sweet 5-year-old wrote him a special note that read: “Happy birthday Luca. You’re the best. Mom is having a baby. I just bought you an egg filled with jell and a dinosaur is inside. I have one of your onesies.”


My youngest played with each farm animal before resting it near Luca’s picture on the headstone.


We sat at the cemetery for nearly an hour while the wind blew around us, spinning all the nearby pinwheels. I think I’ve written before about how pinwheels remind me of Luca. When they spin I imagine him flying near, turning the spokes.

The boys each took turns racing to the life-size Jesus statue that sits a few hundred yards south of Luca’s grave. My oldest did it in 43 seconds. The second oldest took 53.

I don’t like going to the cemetery. But on Luca’s birthday it feels different. I like to sit there and soak it all in. I like when by boys play around there. It’s like they are playing with him.

In the evening we went out to dinner. Because who wants to cook on a day like that?

This year I was kind of nervous because my 5-year-old watched in wonder as the team of waiters sang to someone nearby who was having a birthday. Then he asked me what I thought the waitress would do if we told her it was Luca’s birthday. He had already mentioned to the dollar store checkout lady that we were buying things for, “our dead brother.”

I didn’t know how it would all play out. So I took the safe way out and told him it might make the waitress sad so we better not mention it. Maybe I should have let him tell her it was his birthday but sometimes it’s just too hard to see people’s reaction.

We planned on meeting friends and family at a park in our new town after dinner to have cupcakes and work on a service project. But the weather was crazy.

We haven’t moved into our new house yet so we didn’t know what we were going to do. Luckily my sister volunteered to let us all come to her house to celebrate.

We flipped through photo albums of Luca’s birthday while we ate cupcakes and drank strawberry lemonade.

DSCF7682Some of us worked on making new-sew hats to donate to Utah Share in Luca’s memory. We were able to
make 87. It was so easy and I love that my boys were able to help make them. My oldest keeps talking about wanting to make more.

Several people brought items to donate to Utah Share in Luca’s memory. I figure that since Luca doesn’t need birthday presents it’s a good time to give to others instead. We got some stamps, thank you cards, hand-sewn outfits, thinking-of-you cards, plastic bags, press n seal, stickers and more.


I made some tiny gowns and wraps before we started packing up our house so I could donate them in Luca’s memory. Several people gave me cute fabric to use for the gowns. Now I can pair them with some of the cute hats we made.


Normally we end Luca’s day by sending lanterns to him in heaven. This year was different. The wind and rain kept us from keeping with that tradition. I told the boys we would try one and we definitely tried. It nearly lit my husband’s shirt on fire as it drifted back and forth while he held it. We decided it was too wild and unsafe so we threw it on the wet sidewalk and let the rain (and my two oldest sons) douse it out.


Like I said, we don’t do much for Luca’s birthday. It’s a quiet day for all of us to reflect on our guardian angel. It’s a sad day. But it’s a good day. People may think I’m crazy and wonder why I hold on to my little baby. I can’t explain why I do, but I know I’ll hold on to him forever.

Dozens of friends and family members joined in and gave service in Luca’s memory this past week. I love that each of them took the time to do something to honor him. It’s a small way to help keep him alive.

Here’s what a few of them did:

– One of my friends made cards that said “Random Act of Kindness in Memory of Luca Clemens” and tied them to pens and dragonfly bookmarks. Then she handed them out to random people at the store. One lady was in tears when she told her who Luca was.

– My sister-in-law and her family (who live out of state) took flowers to a lady who was recently widowed. Then they sent lanterns to Luca in heaven. I was happy to find out someone was able to get lanterns up in the sky.

– I had a friend who worked on sewing 23 aprons for teacher appreciation week at her local elementary school. Then she drove carpool when it wasn’t her turn even though it was an inconvenience.

– Another friend brought up her neighbor’s garbage cans and babysat her sister’s babies.

– My sister took her two kids to my mom’s house and weeded her flowerbeds.

– One of my friends made salsa, guacamole and homemade cookies to take to her work – the NICU, labor and delivery and postpartum unit at a local hospital.

– Another friend bought a coworker breakfast Tuesday morning.

– I had one friend who spent the week focusing on complimenting others. “I think a lot of nice things but I never say them out loud,” she wrote. “Sometimes all it takes is a simple and pure compliment to uplift someone’s life. Even if it comes from a stranger.”

My Angel’s Story – Four Years Later


Author’s note: Four years have passed by. FOUR YEARS!!! Part of me wants to run outside and scream, “NO!” The other part has quietly come to grips with the fact that four years ago my beautiful, beautiful baby boy died.

I hate that he died.

I hate that I can’t get over it. No matter how many months, days or years pass I will still miss him. I will still wish I could have brought him home from the hospital. I will still close my eyes and picture his still body, feel the brush of his soft chubby cheeks against mine and stroke his sweet tiny hands and fingers.

I remember wishing more than anything that his chest would start to rise and fall. And whispering softly to him that I was so sorry he didn’t make it. So sorry that somehow I couldn’t help get him here safely.

Losing a child has changed me forever. And so once again I dedicate this week’s blog post to my angel baby Luca. Because having him has made me who I am today.

He would have been four on Tuesday. Maybe he’d be learning his ABCs and coloring with crayons. I bet he’d love chasing bubbles and digging in the dirt. He’d probably run when I tried to give him kisses and giggle when I tickled his tummy.

I love him. I miss him. And I can’t wait to hold him again.

My Angel’s Story

I was tired, I was huge and I was ready to have my baby boy. But not ready for the way it would all turn out. I would have happily carried him weeks beyond my due date if it meant he had a chance of being born alive.

Honestly? I wasn’t quite ready for a third child. I always wanted my kids close in age, but my two boys, ages 3 and 1, were a lot to handle. I was okay with waiting a while. But both my husband and I had strong impressions that we needed to try for another baby.

Despite those impressions, I was still extremely nervous about how I could be a good mom to three boys under the age of 3. Each day I grew, not only in circumference, but also in my confidence in being able to raise three tiny spirits.

On April 21, 2010 I had my 37-week check-up. Luca’s movement had been slowing down significantly for a while now and I was worried. I discussed my concerns with my doctor and we listened to his heartbeat, which appeared to be strong. So, my doctor and I decided that maybe little Luca was running out of room in my overcrowded womb.

The beginning of my pregnancy was a piece of cake. I felt better than I had with my other pregnancies and had virtually no morning sickness. But the end was pretty bad. I kept having sharp pains in my side and my muscles were aching.

Fearing the worst

My mother-in-law kept my other two boys while I went to my appointment so I decided to lie down and take a nap until she brought them home. That’s when I started panicking because I couldn’t remember the last time I felt Luca move.

I know what some of you are thinking? Why didn’t you rush to the hospital??? Knowing what I know now, my advice to any pregnant woman who is the least bit concerned about her baby, would be, GET TO THE HOSPITAL, NOW. Speed if you have to. What are they going to do? Tell you your baby’s fine and send you home? Hopefully. Laugh in your face about your unnecessary worries? Never. In all reality, even if I had been in labor and delivery when Luca’s heart stopped beating, they still wouldn’t have been able to save him. There wasn’t anything I could have done. I realize that now. But there are other reasons why babies stop moving. In my opinion it’s just better to get it checked out as soon as possible.

I literally worried all night about my Luca’s movement. I think the strong feelings and confirmations I had received that I was supposed to have another baby kept me waiting for his little legs to kick or his fists to punch. Luca’s pregnancy was my only pregnancy I haven’t run into problems conceiving. I thought that was a sure sign that this truly was meant to be. It was meant to be, just not in the way I hoped or expected.

I waited, and waited for him to move. Finally at about 2:30 a.m. I couldn’t take it any longer. I got up and sat in the bathtub for a long time. Travis came in and convinced me to go to the hospital. My mom came over to sit with my boys so we could run up to the hospital. When I got there, they hooked me up to a monitor and we found the baby’s heartbeat. Well, at least we thought we did — turns out the sound of my own heartbeat was reverberating back. We didn’t know that for sure until they hooked me up to a basic ultra sound machine and zoomed in on the heart. I knew immediately that my son had died. I looked at my husband and he knew it too. We had seen a number of live, beating hearts in ultrasounds. This one was still.

But the nurses said nothing. They tried to remain calm as they called my doctor and asked him to come in. He arrived at about 4 a.m. to confirm my baby’s death. We all cried — nurses included. He told me I could go home and come back later to deliver my baby or he could induce me right away.

The thought of leaving the hospital knowing that I was carrying my dead child made me cringe. I knew that having a stillborn was going to be the worst thing I had ever experienced. Delaying it wouldn’t change anything. They wheeled me into a corner room and posted a grieving sign on the door.

Shortly thereafter we started calling family members to let them know they were going to have to come in sometime that day to simultaneously tell Luca “hello” and “goodbye.”

Sharing the Heart-Breaking News

My poor mother. She was the first to hear of his death. And she had to take the news while watching over my other two little ones in my quiet, lonely home. I can’t imagine how alone she must have felt. She texted me awhile after I called to tell her he had died, asking what she should tell my other boys when they woke up. That literally broke my heart. What did I want her to tell them?

We didn’t want to tell him that their brother was “sleeping” or that he was “gone.” We decided to tell them the truth. That he had died. They were sad, but their grief was expressed differently than an adult. They didn’t cry much but they did throw more tantrums and asked to be held a lot more.

Telling people and hearing their reactions was one of the hardest things for me. I could handle the pain that I was going to have to bear, but having to inflict some of that pain on others made me so sad. It still makes me sad.

Our family members started gathering at the hospital and at our home waiting for the time when they would meet Luca. I knew we would only ever have a few short hours with him and so I prepared to face my nightmare with a smile on my face. This was the only time I was going to hold my baby. The only time I could take pictures of his beautiful face. I wasn’t going to let my grief overcome my ability to make the moments meaningful.

I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I don’t think I had the full power of my epidural during his delivery. It was by far my most painful delivery. Not only emotionally, but physically. Maybe that’s because I didn’t have the anticipation of meeting my healthy baby to pull me through. With each painful push, I knew I was a step closer to meeting a baby I wouldn’t take home. I’ll never forget the shock in my doctor and nurses voices and faces as Luca was born. They all gasped in unison. He had suffered a cord accident that was visible the moment he was delivered. The cord was wrapped around his neck several times and it contained a true knot. Umbilical cord knots are extremely rare and knots resulting in a baby’s death are even more rare. Although I will never be grateful for what happened to my son, there is something I am extremely grateful for: The fact that we found out why he died.

He was born at 5:13 p.m. and weighed 5 pounds 13 ounces. He was beautiful with curly reddish brown hair and rosy red cheeks. We each took turns holding him and taking pictures. Utah Share came and casted molds of his hands and feet. Pat Wimpee came and took dozens of priceless photos of him and our family. I don’t know what I’d do without those photos. I think I would forget the details of his face. The wrinkles of his toes. The size of his tiny fingers. At times I stared at his little body, waiting for his chest to rise or his eyes to open. He literally was perfect.

We had Luca in our hospital room for five short hours. My legs were still numb from my epidural, so I was forced to watch everyone’s encounters with him from the comfort of my hospital bed. That was really hard for me. I wanted to hug and comfort everyone and yet I was stuck on the sidelines. I am sure that those who came to the hospital to meet him will forever be changed. There was such a special spirit in the room. It was a terribly sad, yet wonderfully peaceful experience.

The next several days were a blur. I left the hospital on a Friday morning. That afternoon I sat in the mortuary office preparing a funeral. We had a very small service on Monday, just four days after I delivered. Thank heavens for pain medications. Without those my traditional delivery pains coupled with the pain of my milk coming in, would have been unbearable. I buried my baby and part of my heart on April 26, 2010.

How am I dealing with his death?

I believe, as my religion teaches, that I will raise little Luca someday. Sometimes that thought brings great comfort, other times it is little solace for a grieving mother who longs to hold her angel infant now. Although he is in a better place, free from sorrow and sin, I wanted the challenge of raising him in this crazy world. Wanted to see him wrestle with his older brothers or hear him giggle as the four of them cooked up mischief. I hate that we don’t get to have him now.

I have experienced all of the traditional grief stages at least once. I have felt depressed, angry, honored, jealous, comforted, tired, rude, bitter, overwhelmed, out of control, anxious, stressed and unmotivated. There have been times I have sat on my couch, not wanting to do anything. Then other times that I feel an urgency to give back to others in honor of my son’s memory.

What do I do when the grief is too much to bear?

I take long soaks in the bathtub where I blast Pandora and cry until my eyes are strawberry red.

I watch movies like Tangled and sob when I see Rapunzel reunited with her parents. I wish I only had to wait 18 years to meet my “lost” baby.

I take my boys fishing. Fresh air and the beauty of nature clear my head and remind me of my place in the world.

I lay by my other boys while they are sleeping. I put my hand on their chest to feel their heart beating and their lungs filling with air. That reminds me of the beautiful boys I do get to raise on Earth. I can’t let myself take them for granted.

I start finding something I can do for others. I know it sounds cheesy, but sometimes serving others has been my saving grace. I understand the need to be still and internalize my grief and emotions, but sometimes it’s overwhelming. I have to find a productive way to patch over my grief until my emotions settle and I’m able to digest them.

Finally, I write through my heartache. Writing has always been a way for me to work through life’s problems. I imagine I’ll write through this problem my entire life.

I just have to keep reminding myself that life is hard, life is good and life is necessary.

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