joy

It's Been 5 Years... Will You Join Us Today?

It's been 5 years since I had to face my worst fear, the moment I dreaded most. On August 16, 2011, I held Skylar while my husband supported her head, and we felt her sweet little lungs take their last breath. Then she was gone.

It was my first intimate meeting with death. I had seen the aftermath at many memorial services, but I had never been present when death came until that moment. That began my long-term relationship with death. It would visit me several more times over the next couple of years as I was present with people who would breathe their last. But that's okay. You know why? Because I've learned I can take a little bit of the sting away from death and that brings me joy.

I've found in losing many people I have loved, that comfort comes in the form of photographs. Not just digital ones either. At every memorial service I have been to (and unfortunately I have been to a lot), there has been some form of printed photo as a way to remember. Seeing the person alive, even if in a moment frozen in time by a picture, brings peace, comfort, good memories, and a reminder of the love we shared with that person - a reminder our love isn't lost.

From my own personal experience, and talking to the loved ones of those I have photographed who have already passed on, I know that photographs are an incredible gift to help through the grief and healing process. They give you a tangible thing to touch and give you permission to be whatever you need to be in that moment, whether it's saying that you miss them out loud or having a good cry when no one else is around. 

Photos have allowed me to share my daughter, Skylar, with you. They have allowed a sweet little girl the ability to meet her big brother who is no longer living. They have allowed two beautiful children to interact every day with their daddy who lost his life to cancer. They have allowed parents to hold onto their child after they buried her. They have helped a mom feel validated on Mother's Day after her baby was no longer in her womb or in her arms. They have helped a mom celebrate the love she shares with her family and the time she has left. Memories matter. Photographs matter. People we love matter.

We want to help preserve memories for more people on a national level, but to do that, we need your help. You may have seen that we are in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign. Today, 5 years after Skylar left my arms forever, we have a goal to raise $5,000. I know raising $5k in a day seems crazy, but we know there are generous people out there who care about people in grief and believe that everyone deserves to be remembered. Will you join us in contributing any amount you are able to? Will you help us share our story? Will you help us reach our goal so we can start adding to our photographers to serve people across the nation?

Because of photos, I have so many precious memories preserved - how I really hated the color pink until Skylar looked so dang cute in it, how she would always hold my finger and squeeze it (which we called hand hugs since she couldn't move her arms), and how she would always look up at me with her big beautiful deep blue eyes full of wisdom and love, which I will always treasure. And the best part of all, these photos allow me to share them with you - even 5 years after she has been gone!

Please help me give this same gift to others! Support our campaign. 

If you aren't able to donate, we would be so grateful if you could help us spread the word. Every share on social media, a mention to friends in conversation, or direct message to people you think would care about our mission is HUGE. Visit us on social media @lovenotlostorg for content to share and re-post.

We can't do this without your help and hope you'll join us in celebrating life and love in the face of grief. 

Thank you so much - let's make August 16th a great day!

A Tribute to Easter - The Joy of Spring

As we are surrounded with the explosion of blushing cherry blossoms, the bold yellows of daffodils, and the bright magentas and purples of the redbuds, it's obvious that Spring has arrived. I don't know about you, but every time I see flowers, something in me feels a little lighter. Flowers make me happy because it is a sign that the death of Winter has passed and the new life of Spring is ready to celebrate. As Robin Williams once said, "Spring is nature's way of saying 'Let's Party'!" 

As we enter this season of celebration, some of you may be in a season of life that isn't so joyful. For those of you who know me, you know that I have a large flower tattoo on my forearm. I'd like to share that story with you as I feel it's significant to this season. 

In January of 2010, I called a dear friend of mine from Clemson, Amy, and told her how scared I was. We knew something was severely wrong with Skylar's development at that point, but we didn't know how bad it was. We were days away from her two month check up, where we would get the official diagnosis. I was terrified that I would be left helpless and without hope. After sharing that with her, Amy's reply was simply this:

"Ashley, most people are like dandelions. They will be tossed in the wind, take root wherever they land, and go through most of life just fine. However, some people are more like orchids. They require special care and specific environments to survive. Maybe Skylar is a little orchid." 

Just weeks after hearing Amy's calming words, my greatest fears came true. Skylar was diagnosed with SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy) and we were told she would likely not see her first birthday. There was no cure. Spring was not so joyful that year. Skylar became our little orchid, and we worked tirelessly to provide the best care and environment for her to thrive while she was with us. 

After Skylar died, I knew I wanted an orchid tattoo in remembrance of her. It would be a physical representation of the emotional scars that would forever be within. It would need to be in a place where I could see it daily, and share it with others. The colors would need to be bold and bright, just like my little orchid. After explaining all of this to Matt, the tattoo artist, he came back with a stencil that was much larger and a different style than what was in my head. I looked at it laying on my arm and said, “let’s do it” because after all, isn’t that a fair representation of life? It’s not what I expected, but it’s still beautiful. After 3.5 hours in the chair, it was complete. 

 

The words “I Shall Arise” are tattooed above the flower, which is a loose translation for the latin word “Resurgem” - a word we engraved on the stone marking her grave. You’ll find the words “Faith” “Hope” and “Love” tattooed within the leaves of the flower on my arm - three things that Skylar taught me through her short yet powerful life. The pain I felt while under the needle was nothing compared to the pain that was in my heart. There was something so satisfying about getting that tattoo. 

In my grief of losing her, I thought I had lost joy too. Although time doesn’t heal, it does allow for processing. My grief will never go away because the love I have for Skylar will always be there. However, through the time that’s passed, I’ve become stronger and can now carry that grief much more easily than when it was raw. I've learned how to celebrate life and love in the face of grief. 

If you're still in a season of Winter, where there is death and things are dreary, know that you are not alone. There is hope for Spring and joy in your future, even if it's not how you imagine it to be. 

As we celebrate Spring as an organization, we agree that it's time to party. Consider this your official save the date for April 30th, when we will be throwing our official launch party in midtown Atlanta. Details coming soon so stay tuned! We hope you can join us!