Gianna Caeli Henninger's Journal
Written Dec 10, 2013 10:52amIn loving memory of Sara Noelle Henninger
October 2013 ~ December 2013
United with siblings Kelly, Loren, Tess, Fiona, and Gianna.
Missed by Mom and Dad, Ann Marie and Ray, and sibs-on-earth, Ean, Erin, Kate, Claire, Aidan, Jack, and Joseph.
What a sweet Heavenly reunion we anticipate one day!
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Romans 8:18
Glory Baby by Watermark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDU4ySya_Vk
In Heaven's Arms by Eric Genuis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UqaVWiHAYo
ALL LIFE IS SACRED, NO MATTER THE LENGTH OF DAYS
Written Dec 6, 2013 7:06pmDearest Gianna Girl,
Your momma is asking for your intercession today, from your place in Jesus' arms. Please take my request to Him, precious girl, and pray for his mercy.
I am carrying a new baby within my womb, and at the news of her conception, we rejoiced with gratitude and thanksgiving! What a gift to conceive at our ages, how honored to co-create another soul with Our Lord!
Right now I'm in Bismarck, ND with your big sister Erin who's recovering from a bad respiratory infection. And it appears little baby, nicknamed Sweetpea, may be leaving us far sooner than planned. I pray it isn't so, that she will stay put and grow big and healthy, but I've been down this path before, and I have to be realistic and understand miscarriage is a real possibility.
If this sweet soul joins you in Heaven, please watch over her, together with your other siblings: Loren, Kelly, Tess, and Fiona. I can hardly wait for our day of reunion...what a glorious event that will be!
I love you, Gianna and I will forevermore. I love all of our wonderful and precious and beloved children, whether here with us on earth or in Heaven for Eternity.
Pray for us, Saint Gianna!
Death Day Anniversary
Written Jan 5, 2013 9:08pmMy darling girl,
Two years ago this morning, I held your sweet body in my arms as you took your last breath, as your heart beat its final beat...so worn out from your two weeks of living.
Your dad sat beside me, your siblings gathered at our feet, your Maga and Auntie Meg sat nearby. As deaths go, it was a beautiful death, peaceful and without discomfort.
Your life ended the way it began...in LOVE.
We had gotten the news two days before that you were in heart failure after you weren't able to keep your oxygen saturation levels up and we took you to the ER. THAT evening was the worst day of your life for me. We knew that trisomy 18 would limit your life, but we thought we'd have more time! Since you had survived the first week of life, we thought we'd have you around for a couple of months or more. To "face the wall" and realize your life would be far shorter was devastating for my mother-heart. I felt as helpless as I'd ever felt even knowing that was a feeling I was accustomed to from my pregnancy and your life.
We could have taken you over to Seattle Children's Hospital that night of January 3rd, we could have started meds and IVs, perhaps gotten you on a ventilator, initiated interventions...all of those were available to us and to choose NOT to go that route was an agony in and of itself. At the same time, we were letting you write the book of your life and wanted to follow your lead. Above all, we wanted our decisions for your medical care to be based on our love for you. God ordained all the days of your life, and while we certainly could've gone the more interventive route, we had to ask ourselves, "At what cost?" It might have given you longer length of life, but we don't know that for sure. It would've involved more pain, for certain. It would've meant you'd be away from your family. It would've started us down a path of cascading interventions, making it that much harder to know when and if to stop.
It was crucial to us that you be with your family and surrounded by our love, something that wouldn't have been possible of you'd transported to Seattle. God, the Great Physician, made it clear to us that He would always be with you, He would guide our decisions, and He would comfort us.
I was torn...I so wanted to make you better, to give you the chance that medical intervention could provide, yet I couldn't imagine you having to undergo all that that would entail. I had to ask myself if we were being selfish with EITHER decision, to interevene or to take you home with comfort care. It's the decision that every family with a child who's received an adverse diagnosis must make at some point...excruciating.
In the end, we made what we thought was the best decision for you WITH LOVE...and we brought you home to die.
I called ahead and told Maga to keep the kids up...the day had been hectic and your oxygen levels unstable, so your siblings requests to hold you had been denied. It was imperative that they get to hold you THAT NIGHT. When we got home, we told your brothers and sisters that you were in heart failure and had a short time to live. They wept, we wept, and we all held you. Dear friends Peter and Janet and Amy and Howie came over and surrounded us with their tender love and merciful friendship. When I called your Auntie Meg, she said, simply, "I'm coming." Your godmother Lynne swiftly made arrangements for care of her own four children, then flew out from Cleveland two days later.
As we eventually settled into bed that night, you nestled between your dad and me, we entrusted you yet again to God's care. We slept little, not knowing when you would die, and waking frequently to check on you. What joy the next morning to see you were still with us! Talk about embracing every moment!
Tuesday evening 1/4, we had a friend, Beth, come over to do a family photo season. She had come right after your birth, too, and the many photos she took are among the priceless treasures we have from your life. My favorite image is that of you laying in the circle of your siblings' love.
You were in arms non-stop. Skin to skin contact was also vital. I've got a photo of you and me with you resting on my chest and sheer exhaustion and sorrow are etched into my face, but Gianna, I wouldn't trade those moments for anything! After you died, one of the hardest things was the absence of your weight in my arms, against my chest...
That second night of sleep was more restless for you. You seemed uncomfortable and agitated, perhaps in pain.. I hadn't wanted to, but it was apparent that morphine would help you, so your Dad started giving you small doses through the night and you were more peaceful.
Wednesday morning, 1/5/10, Maga was holding you in our room when she noticed a change in your breathing. She called to me and I realized the end was near, that you were spacing out your breaths. I quickly called to all the children and your dad to come. We gathered in our room and touched you, spoke quietly to you, told you how much we loved you and that it was okay to go, that you'd fought long and hard enough. I am right back there as I type this, my dearest girl, remembering what it felt like to see your body cease its work of living. I also felt the dissonance of two roles, mom and nurse, as I was checking your heart rate with my stethoscope periodically. Within minutes of your last breath, your worn out heart stopped its beating and you died, leaving forever a mighty imprint on each of our hearts.
It had been our plan all along to bury you from home. After all, birth, schooling, and death all used to be based out of the family home, and it was our desire to return to this time honored practice. It just "fit" with the way we live our lives: homebirthing, homeschooling, and now, home vigil before the funeral.
As your Dad met with the cemetery caretaker to make arrangements for your plot (gifted to us by a kind soul) and burial, Howie and Amy came to help me make hand and foot castings. I love having a permanent mold of your wee trisomy fist. :) I bathed your body one final time, anointed you with essential oils, dressed you in a favorite monkey sleeper, and wrapped you in special blankets which had been gifted to us. When you weren't being held by someone, you were placed in your casket, ordered shortly after we received your diagnosis in October and handcrafted by the kind monks of New Melleray Abbey. We then sat vigil for you for three days, never leaving your body unattended. Friends came and prayed and joined us in holding vigil. Your godmother Lynne arrived the night of your death and was so pleased to be able to see you and hold you.
The weekend after we'd received your diagnosis back in October, I sat down and planned out your funeral from start to finish. I have a need-to-control nature and it was a task I wanted done so I'd not have to worry about it later. I completed the planning and put the file away, hoping not to have to use it for a very long time.
The day of your death, I went to that folder, removed the documents, and realized I needed to make changes before your funeral. When we met with our pastor the day after your death, I had finalized the readings and music selections in ways I hoped would celebrate the tremendous gift you were to us.
As we sat vigil with you, we continued to plan the details of your final farewell. Your sisters Kate and Claire wanted to altar serve, godmother Lynne created a wonderful photo memory board to honor you, and your brother Ean wrote an amazing eulogy.
On the morning of your funeral, we, your family, gathered around your casket one final time. Each of us placed with you in your casket something that was special to us, a drawing, a medal, a Lego, a bracelet, a photo, a letter. I wrapped you snugly in a brightly colored blanket. We placed in your casket the cremated remains of your siblings Tess (miscarried 6/2002) and Loren (stillborn 9/20/1999). We prayed a blessing and then closed the lid of the casket. Your Dad and I transported your body to our church where, in the quiet stillness of a side room, we said our final farewells to you, our tears wet on your precious face.
As the Funeral Mass began, your Dad carried your casket into the church. I walked beside him to the front of the church where we placed the casket atop a gorgeous quilt you'd been gifted and I covered it with the pall, a white lace blanket given you by Kerri.
To be honest, Gianna, I don't remember much about your funeral other than the church was very full. One of my few regrets in that we didn't videotape the Mass nor did we get any photos. :(
After Mass ended, the separation and sorrow continued as, for the first time since you'd been born, we physically let you go and handed the casket over to Heather from the funeral home who would provide safekeeping for your body until burial three days later. It was another "little death" to give you into her care.
We felt so blessed by the outpouring of love and care that day. Guests came from Sequim and Port Angeles, as well as Bellingham, Puyallup, Bellevue, Twisp, and as far away as Ohio, Oregon, and Arizona to celebrate your life. We knew that as hard as the grieving would be, we wouldn't be alone.
And so, Gianna, at the closing of this day, the two year anniversary of your death, I am filled with a deep gratitude. I remain profoundly thankful that God chose you for us and us for you, that your life had amazing meaning and impact, and that we have you as our precious saint in Heaven interceding for us here below. I long for the day when we will be reunited.
I thank God that I am, always,