a day for Dora

Posted on December 3rd, 2008 by Abby.
Categories: Our Journey, Our Journey (chronological).

Dora Jewel Gjertsen was due tomorrow, December 4. She probably would have arrived even earlier than that in a C-section (the early C-section with James rendered my uterus too weak to risk a natural birth). I think about how different things would be now if she were alive. We might have sold our house and moved into a bigger one during the time our kids’ lives overlapped. No need for more space now. I probably would not have gone back to work or tried to write a book.

One of the reasons we tried for a baby so soon after James was because we knew he might not live long, and we thought another child would help us cope with his loss. Oh well, I guess you can’t really plan these things. The whole grieving process for James would have looked and felt much different if I were still pregnant. I would have tried to suppress some of my sadness so I didn’t affect the baby. Of course there would be less to cry about anyway if she were still here, and it would take less faith to have hope.

One of our readers with a blog for a miscarriage ministry asked us a while ago whether we were able to grieve the loss of Dora or whether it had been overshadowed by the loss of James. John and I talked about this question quite a lot. I think that for both of us, losing Dora was harder than losing James because of the total shock, the spiritual confusion of so devastating a loss after her miraculous conception, and because we never got to meet her. It was also more difficult because we lost her first. The art of losing takes some time to master.

I do think grieving for Dora prepared us in many ways to grieve for James. I had already gotten used to the idea that I had a baby in heaven, and I had time to process my feelings and understanding of God’s greater purposes and continuing care for us. But after James died, my grief for Dora was pretty much absorbed into my grief for James. I think of James much more often because of my memories of his constant needy presence. I imagined Dora as an addition to our family of three, a companion and helper for us and for James. Without James the context I pictured her in is gone. I guess they are together now after all.

Sometimes I think of how proud parents are when their children perform in a Christmas choir. I try to imagine that’s how we’ll feel when we get to see her sing in heaven. I assume her life there will be spent in worship.

We set aside some time to honor Dora on November 22 at the Remembrance Ceremony for babies lost at Winnie Palmer Hospital. Parents read poems and sang songs they or others had written. There were a lot of tears. The social workers read the names of each of the babies represented–I was surprised how many had names–and some families lost three. They offered to honor James, but we declined because he had already had a memorial service. This day was for Dora.

When we heard them announce, “Elvis Aaron Lee,” we realized that we knew someone there. Elvis was a former roommate of James in the NICU, and we lived in the RMH with his parents, Chad and Natasha, until Elvis died at less than a month old. We talked to them after the ceremony and told them about James and Dora, and they shed some tears with us. Both Chad and Natasha got elaborate tattoos of little Elvis, done from a photograph, with baby blocks underneath spelling out his name. It was a comfort to know that we weren’t the only ones whose lives are marked by the loss of a tiny one.

Throughout the service, and the butterfly release afterward (which was postponed until a warmer day), familiar phrases of comfort were spoken about how our children live forever in our hearts, or in our memories, or as a sort of consciousness in nature like the wind. I thought how much more exciting is the truth: they are more alive than they ever were on earth, joyfully, completely, abundantly—whether we remember them or not—forever.

10 Responses to “a day for Dora”

  1. patty on December 4, 2008 6:37 pm

    So hard to know what to say, as usual, after reading your beautiful post about Dora being due to be born today, Dec. 4.

    I prayed for you just now, and find my heart feeling sad.


  2. Jeff Stairs on December 5, 2008 7:37 pm

    I will sell your books out of a wheelbarrow, as I stand on a corner in a lime-green gorilla suit: Just say when.

  3. Marcia Devor on December 8, 2008 4:49 pm

    Wow, thanks for all the updates!

    Writing a book- what a neat idea- you have such a unique and descriptive way with words, Abby.

    You are gifted in that way and your words can bring comfort to others who have gone through the same experiences.

    Dora Jewel- it has a beautiful ring to it- musical sounding.

    Your children are in the best place ever- their heavenly home!

    Praying for you……

  4. Jen on December 8, 2008 7:38 pm

    please write your book, Abby. you have a comforting way of talking about the hardest loss of all. many would benefit greatly from your perspective, you heart. i, too, will sell your books from my trunk, if necessary. i’m not sure about the gorilla suit as in Arizona it can get a might warm. but if a gorilla suit is to your liking, than a gorilla suit i shall wear! 🙂 sending you big hugs….

  5. Angee Hudson on December 10, 2008 3:14 pm


    I am so glad you and John have continued posting on this blog. I check it very often and love when I see a new post! I also want to thank you for your honesty. Raw and open unlike so many. Thanks so much for that. Continue to grieve in your own way and I hope you still have a nice Christmas.

    Angee Hudson
    Houston, Texas

  6. Ann Jay on December 18, 2008 10:23 pm

    I dropped in to visit you again today and was again moved by you beautiful expressions of a wonderful faith. Keep writing! I continue to pray for you and John. You are a blessing to others. Ann

  7. Mary Surprenant on December 30, 2008 2:45 pm

    I was thinking of the two of you and James. I am so glad you are still writing Abby!!! We miss you in the out paient lab at APH but you are always in my prayers. Stay close to God and he will always bring you through the clouds in the coming years.Stay healthy and Happy New Year!!!!!!

  8. Jean Ramsay on February 2, 2009 2:17 pm

    Oh, there is no doubt in my mind that Dora was conceived and *lived in your womb*, as the sister of James, for the purpose of paving the way for your grief after James died.

    As difficult as it was for you both to deal with the loss of Dora, God had a plan for her, and I believe it was for her to be the sister in Heaven to keep James company.

    You know they are together, and even though they lived apart on Earth, their ultimate goal has been achieved: to live and to die.

    Dora had a purpose, just as James did, and the both of you do. Write your book, tell your story, but most of all believe that your children loved you just as much as you love them.

    My mother lost 2 children within a couple of months. The first was her oldest, an almost 6 year old kindergartner. He was hit by a truck while running across a street. He died of massive brain injuries. A few months later she had her 4th child, and 4th son. He lived only a couple of weeks due to multiple birth defects. I was born the following year.

    I *know* that when I die, I will finally get to meet two of my older brothers for the first time and I will be so excited! I believe that the older boy was supposed to die in order to make it easier for my mom to lose the baby so soon after his birth. It gave my mom comfort to know that they were together in Heaven.

    Her minister at the time (this was in the 1950’s) told her, “God grants us children, and we are simply given some for longer times than others.”

  9. Reina Brown on June 30, 2009 10:55 pm

    While I do not yet know what it is like to lose a child, and I hope I never do, I’ve lost several of my childhood friends to cancer, AIDS, and to other illnesses and unfortunate occurances. Many times, I’ve consulted the Bible and Jehovah God for my strength. Without him, I know I’d never have gotten through it all. I’m only twenty-four, and I’ve seen so much more death and tragedy than someone my age normally would. And, I’ve got my own problems on top of that. However, I do meditate on some Scriptures that makes me feel good every single time I read them, and I love them so much that I feel the need to share them with you. They are:

    “So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

    “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”—2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

    “For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.””–Hebrews 13:5.

    “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”–James 1:2-4.

    “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.””–Matthew 11:28-30

    I hope you like them as much as I do. Keep on standing strong and showing your love to the world.

  10. House of Gjertsen » remembering on November 26, 2009 8:42 am

    […] wrote very eloquently about this service last year, and this year it was mostly the same. This time, though, Abby was invited to read her poem […]

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