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June
26
2020

June 26, 2020 - Remembering Ember and update on us

Hello Everyone,
Next Monday, June 29, will mark one year since Ember passed away. Would you pray for us over the next several days? The grief hits in a different way, even with subtle reminders like the summer weather and seeing photo reminders from this day a year ago. Can it be a year already? Is it only a year and not a lifetime? It's hard to put into words the ways our emotions flow. 
 
I do want to add that our emotions are not only of sadness. God has given us many small blessings. Life is relatively easy and low-stress right now. We have some projects planned, and we're operating at a summer pace. Breeze and I recently had a vacation together and our whole family is taking a beach vacation soon. We thank God for these things.
 
There is another large blessing which many of you know about, but some may not. The Lord is giving us another child! This is a grand blessing that we did not expect, thinking that phase had passed. The baby is another girl. Indeed, there are some strange emotions, sometimes feeling like we are in a time warp. For the third time in a row, we are expecting a baby girl while we have five children at home. It's truly unusual and our minds don't always know how to process it, but we are so thankful for her. Of course, we are anxious too, and one of our concerns was whether the baby had osteopetrosis, like Ember (there was a 1 in 4 chance). We have had the test and the baby does not have the disease! Furthermore, everything looked good on the ultrasound and all the other tests came back clear. The pregnancy has gone completely smoothly so far. And so we thank God for this. The due date is September 25, we are at the beginning of the third trimester. 
 
Finally, I have mentioned before that I was working on a book based on our experiences. I have completed that manuscript, shown it to a few friends, and recently had an editor look at it and I'm incorporating her comments. It's a brief book (roughly a hundred pages) that tells Ember's story interwoven with the lessons that God has taught me. The writing of the book happened rather quickly as the outworking of my own processing of all that had happened. The main draft was completed a number of months ago. I'm now at the point where I want to get it published, but my enthusiasm and energy for the project is not the same as it was when I was writing. Self-publishing is fairly easy these days, but marketing and promoting the book takes a lot of energy. On the other hand, trying to find a real publisher takes a lot of effort too. But I would be thrilled if God would use the book to minister to others. So I guess I'm asking for prayer for my wisdom and energy. Also, if anyone has any particular insight on the book writing/publishing process, I'd appreciate that too. 
 
In Christ,
Dan 

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May
4
2020

May 4, 2020 - Ember's birthday

Dear Loved Ones,
We appreciate your prayers as we remember Ember on her birthday on Monday, May 4. This is her second birthday, and the first one she will celebrate in the arms of Jesus. Besides the coronavirus restrictions, we are not huge birthday people anyway, so we don't have big plans for activities tomorrow, but we'll remember her quietly with the family. 

As I've said here before, memories of Ember are a mix of sweetness and sadness. A couple days ago I saw a picture from last year of her sitting on the counter. And I smiled at how cute she was and how much joy she brought. And I cried because she's not here. 

Our hope and trust remains in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of Christ, we know Ember lives in heaven, and we will see her again. In the meantime, Christ is slowly bringing healing. Thank you for your continued prayers. 

Dan and Breeze

December
31
2019

December 31, 2019 - Year end update

Dear Friends and Family, as we close out this year, we probably won't be posting much on here anymore (though perhaps when I finish the book I'm writing, I'll let you know), but I did want to give an update, knowing many of you have been thinking and praying for us.
 
I mentioned in the last update that Breeze and I were planning to attend a "Respite Retreat". Thank you for praying for that. It was a beneficial time of interacting with other grieving parents and having our hearts pointed towards Christ. While we were blessed by interaction with new friends, we were also reminded of how much support we receive from those we already know and love. 
 
We know that many of you were thinking of us and praying for us throughout the holiday season as well. Thank you. We were able to enjoy a pleasant Thanksgiving and Christmas with our family. We certainly think of Ember and miss her more during the holidays. But it's also true that the one holiday season we had her with us, we were under a great deal of stress and anxiety about her health. We have mixed emotions looking back to a year ago. We are relieved to not be under the burden of anxiety, but we long to have our sweet Ember with us again. 
 
In fact, mixed emotions describes much of our daily living. An under layer of sadness all the time; we just miss our little girl so much and we love her and wish she was here. But at the same time, we have many enjoyable and happy activities and life and family events. 
 
It has now been six months since Ember died. And tomorrow we start a new year. We wish we were not heading into a new year without Ember, but whether we wish it or not, it is so. We do believe the Lord has worked in our hearts and matured and grown us through this experience. And we have a desire to use our experiences to bless others and serve the Lord more. But we still are in too much upheaval in our own hearts to really know what that looks like in the future. So we do appreciate, and continue to ask for, your prayer as we go forward living life. 
 
In Christ,
Dan

October
18
2019

October 18, 2019 Update

Hello everyone. It's been two months since we've posted anything on here. I know that folks wonder how we are doing, so I wanted to give a little update. 

On Labor Day weekend, Breeze and I (Dan writing) took a weekend away together to the beach. That was a helpful time for us to talk and catch up and be together (as a weekend away is good for any couple), as well as to cry and be sad and think things through. 

This past weekend, we took a family trip to upstate New York to visit Dan's 99 year old grandmother. It was a nice visit with cool crisp temperatures, beautiful foliage, and an opportunity to see family. We also got to the Baseball Hall of Fame. And yet, the trip felt strange. Not only were we missing Ember, but Autumn wasn't able to make the trip either (due to college commitments). And so we only had four children. For most families, that may seem like more than enough, but to us, we couldn't shake the feeling of only being half there and wondering "where is everyone?" Sadness taints everything. It seemed somehow fitting that when we visited the old family farm they had just recently sold all the cows, and so something was missing there as well. 

Speaking of trips, November 8-10 Breeze and I are going on a respite retreat to Nashville, TN (https://www.nancyguthrie.com/respite-retreat). This is a Christ-centered retreat specifically for couples who have lost a child. Would you pray for us during that weekend? Pray that it would be a beneficial time for us as we go through the grieving process. 

Trips are not all we've done. In the fall we are back to school and in the midst of cross-country season (four of us involved in that). Plenty of busyness. 

It's difficult to evaluate and explain "how we are really doing" and how the grief is affecting us. On the large scale, I can say that thankfully none of us is sinking into despair or walking away from the faith. From outward appearances, we're doing pretty well. Keeping up with activities. But grief is more insidious than that. Sadness is always in the background. We think about Ember all the time. I think I would say that for Breeze and myself and the two oldest kids, grief adds another layer of emotional burden on top of the existing burdens we have (like teenage hormones, and college classes, and a messy house, and an unmotivating job). Life is already hard, but there's more apathy and haze on top of it. For the younger kids, it's a little harder to tell how it is affecting them, and some of that will only come out with time. 

We are processing in different ways. One of the things I am doing is writing a lot of my thoughts down, as well as writing about Ember's life, all of which I am forming into a little book. 

Thank you all for your prayers and concern and checking in on us. We feel your love and we need it.  And do know that if you ask how we're doing, we may not be able to answer succinctly and clearly, but Ember's loss always affects us, and yet Christ's love always upholds us. Our trust remains in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for sin for us.

August
17
2019

August 16, 2019 - Trip and update

Wanted to give everyone a quick update. This is a health website, and we wish there were a health update to give on Ember, but she remains safe in the arms of Jesus, and we remain missing her. The biggest update for us is that we took a trip to New York City. It was very successful. We are thankful to the many people who gave us money through the GoFundMe or directly, because that helped cover all the funeral costs and even more, so that we could go on a trip like this. Our purpose wasn't for this to necessarily be a time of remembrance for Ember, rather it was to spend time together as a family and to have something positive and memorable about this summer. The last few years have been stressful for all of us and we've had very few opportunities to do something like this. It was a full and exhausting trip and we did everything we hoped. For those who are interested, I put a travel log at the end of this post, along with a couple of pictures. 

In other trip news, Breeze and Dan are going to the beach on Labor Day weekend for a much quieter, more meditative time. 

As for our grieving, it's still hard to explain and evaluate. We are deeply and profoundly sad and many times we still feel like we are in a fog. But we press forward with life. Homeschooling has started for the new year. Cross-country practice has started. 

We think of Ember often and wish so much that she were here. We are still working through loving God and trusting his sovereignty. We appreciate notes of encouragement. We continue to need lots of prayer and we know that many of you are praying. Thank you. God is holding us up. 

Dan

New York trip (we stayed at an AirBnB in Brooklyn and took the subway to Manhattan):
Saturday - Drive to NYC; Times Square, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, lots of stores: (M&M, Hershey, American Girl, FAO Schwartz, Lego, NBA Store, Amazon, etc); outside of NY Public Library and Bryant Park; outside of Empire State Building.
Sunday - Worship at Redeemer PCA; Picnic lunch at Central Park; Walking all through Central Park; Coney Island, including hot dogs at the original Nathan's Famous.
Monday - Walk across Brooklyn Bridge, walk through Chinatown, Top of the Rock, Trump Tower, walk past the Plaza, Yankees game (vs Orioles), Late night visit to Times Square including ice cream cones from McD's.
Tuesday - 9/11 Memorial; Trinity Church; Wall St; American Indian Musuem. Dan and Breeze went to a reception at an art gallery featuring Makoto Fujimura's work as well as a discussion with the artist himself.
Wednesday - Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty; drive home.

July
24
2019

July 24, 2019 - Thank yous

We are in the process of writing some physical thank you notes, but we also wanted to take a moment to thank all of you and specifically acknowledge and thank a few people who cared for Ember. 

Ember had many medical professionals care for her. We can’t list them all, but wanted to acknowledge just a few of them:
• Dr. Amanda Hinkle – pediatrician at Pediatric Partners was a breath of fresh air after a less than perfect experience at the previous pediatrician. Dr. Hinkle listened to us and aligned with us philosophically and cared about Ember. We are so very thankful that her care came to us at the time it did. 
• Dr. Eric Jackson – neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins was excellent in his work and in his explanations. He listened to us and took time to explain everything clearly. 
• Dr. Maria Elena Nikita – endocrinologist at U of MD was tenacious enough to discover Ember’s rare diagnosis, which baffled so many. Even though we were not able to cure it on Earth, we’re thankful to know what was going on with Ember. And Dr. Nikita was also very loving and kind to Ember and us through Ember’s last days and after.
• Dr. Donna Zeiter (GI) and Dr. Ashley Munchel (Hemo) at U of MD were among the various other specialists who gave Ember careful and professional care while respecting our concerns.
• The PICU team at Johns Hopkins, of whom there are too many nurses and doctors to list, provided world-class care for Ember in the last two weeks of her life and were kind to us and made the end of her life as comfortable as possible.

We want to thank our church body for loving and praying so faithfully for Ember. For loving us and crying with us. For providing meals and playdates for the kids. For talking and playing with Ember when you could. For checking up on us. For hosting the funeral and meal afterwards. You have been an example of what the body of Christ should be and it shows. We know that you all miss Ember too.

Thanks to the close friends who we could go to when we first heard bad news and who bore the brunt of our anxieties. And who even now check in on us regularly with texts and messages. You know who you are. We love you.

Obviously we’re very thankful for our parents and other close relatives who helped especially in taking care of the other kids and were with us every step of the way. But it almost seems strange to thank you. You are mourning with us and we know you join us in expressing thanks to everyone else.  

Finally, thanks to all of you reading this: friends, relatives, friends of friends and friends of relatives, co-workers, current acquaintances as well as those we haven’t seen in a long time. Many of you do not even know us, or not very well. Thank you, most of all, for praying for Ember and all of us. Thank you for the notes of sympathy and encouragement. Thank you for coming to the viewings and funeral. Thank you to those who gave us money, through GoFundMe or separately, basically doubling the amount we asked for. Thank you for extending your grace to Ember and to us. 

On that note, if any of you would like to reach out to us in a more private way than this website, please send us an e-mail at dbfoster00 ‘at’ gmail.com. Even, maybe especially, those of you who don’t know us well, we’d love to hear how you heard about Ember and receive any words of sympathy or encouragement. We still need lots of prayer and encouragement. 

We’d also be happy to share more about our faith with you if you are interested. Heaven has never seemed more real to us, and we look forward to going there ourselves. We pray that you all will place your faith in Jesus and be with us there. And even those of you who never met Ember will see her there and she can offer her own thanks for your love to her.

Looking to the future of this website, we know that many of you care deeply about us and wonder how we are doing. And as I said in my last update, sometimes that’s hard to answer in a moment’s notice. So we will try to periodically put a post on here with an update on us. Thank you so much for praying. 

How are we doing right now? Life has settled down a bit. And as we recover from the shock of death and rejuvenate from the stress of Ember’s illness, we find that a gaping hole still exists. In some ways the sadness increases as we realize what’s not there. I know it hit me (Dan) hard this morning. But work and kids and activities keep us moving forward. Thanks to you for exceeding our GoFundMe, we have some financial flexibility to plan a trip for our family that will hopefully be memorable. Also looking at a retreat for Breeze and myself. We hope these trips will be beneficial to us through this grieving process. 

On good days, we see potential opportunities for ways in the future that we can serve the Lord in ministry and bless others, including those going through this path. We see how God has matured us and opened up lots of ways to use our time. But on the hard days, we don’t really feel like doing any of those things. We wish our ministry was still to take care of Ember. And it’s hard to see how we can go on at all. It will be a long journey, much longer than we’d like. May God grant us grace. 

Thank you again.

July
11
2019

July 11, 2019 - Explanations and thoughts

I wanted to give an update on two different things that people have asked about. The first is a little more about what happened at the end of Ember’s life and the second is a current update on us.
~~~
Some people have wondered what happened in the end and why Ember died. I know that some of the things I posted in those days sounded more positive. And in truth, while I understood death was a real possibility, I was optimistic in God performing a healing work in her up until the end. 

It is not entirely clear what happened to Ember during those last two weeks of life. And the doctors’ opinions did not all agree. One suggestion was that her disease progressed to the point where she had restricted airways and could not breathe on her own anymore. Osteopetrosis does not directly affect the lungs, but it does affect the muscles and bones and can create problems with breathing. Her breathing had slowly been getting worse, though we didn’t think it was that bad, but she may have been laboring more than we realized. The other hypothesis is that there was some kind of acute infection or incident (no infection was ever detected, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one) that sent her into the state of needing the respirator, but because of the progression of her osteopetrosis, her body just could not recover and come back. Ultimately, we don’t exactly know. 

In the last week there was some hope because they tried to increment down the ventilator a couple times. We thought maybe she was moving in the right direction. But those changes did not end up being effective and she kept going back to the same level. After trying every possibility and allowing time for healing, it became apparent to the doctors that she was not going to get better (as an aside I will also mention that Ember had a high risk of not surviving the transplant surgery. And if we didn't do the transplant, she would not have survived for many years even in the best case). 

It’s hard for me to even write about that time, but there were a few things we were thankful for. The doctor and nurse care was very good. We were thankful that we had some time between when we realized that she would die and when she actually did so that we could take the kids down to say goodbye. The last night they put Ember on a full-sized bed and Breeze and I were able to be on the bed with her. Because of the ventilator, we couldn’t really hold her or bring her back to consciousness, but Breeze was able to put her arm under her. We are thankful that Ember’s death was peaceful and pain free for her (though not peaceful for us). Finally, we are thankful that God took her easily and quickly. We were afraid of needing to make hard decisions like taking her off the ventilator or other quandaries and we were spared that. 

All of the above happened two weeks ago and in some ways seems like a lifetime. While we are treasuring the memories of Ember, the memories of those last two weeks are not treasured in the same way. In fact, there were many hard times with Ember and we think it may be fine if some of those things are forgotten. 
~~~
Many of you are praying and want to know how we are doing. It’s a hard one to answer, and I (Dan) hesitate to answer on behalf of Breeze and the kids because we are all at different points in the grieving process. We have unfortunately gone through this before and we know we have a long road ahead of us. But I think it’s fair to say that both Breeze and I feel a strange tension. Our lives have been out of balance for a long time as we cared and worried about Ember and still mourned Willow. Few people probably appreciate just how great the emotional and physical burden of Ember’s care was on Breeze and our family. Now, we can see the hope of balance restored with a very beautiful and fulfilling life with five children. We can serve God and our friends better, take care of our own selves, give the kids the love and attention and schooling they need, I can be a better worker, Breeze can be a better homemaker, and so forth. These are good things. And yet they stand in stark contrast to the life we want with Ember. We would gladly give up that balance to have her. Even a sick Ember (though we would need to find a way to adjust to that life), but especially a healthy Ember is want we really want, and we feel like we could have a full and beautiful life with her! What does that contrast look like in daily life? It means I’ve started back to work and we are getting back to a routine. It means that we do not sit around crying all day, but have fun with the kids, like a game of family kickball last night. And yet there is a pit that is always there in the background and sometimes comes forcefully to the foreground. It means one moment I am tired of mourning for three years and being the family that always needs help and just ready to move on to regular life, and the next moment remembering why I’m sad and just not knowing how we can go on. It means Breeze and I still spend every night crying together before bed. 

Besides those times before bed, the sadness often hits in the little things:
It’s being quiet when entering the bedroom at night, only to remember there’s no baby sleeping there.
It’s Calvin skipping prayer during family devotions, because he doesn’t know who to pray for anymore.
It’s calling home from work, and not needing to ask how the baby is doing.
It’s getting out of the van, and not having a carseat to unload.
It’s taking a walk, and no one stopping to ask her name. 
For me it happens several times a day. For Breeze it’s almost every instant. And we know with time those moments will become less frequent. And part of us wants that, and part of us doesn’t want to forget.

You don’t have to read many internet articles on grief before you come to something like “10 things NOT to say to someone who lost their child”. Frankly, I don’t put a lot of stock in those things. Neither Breeze nor I take offense easily and we know that people mean well. You’re not always going to say the right thing. It’s OK. Ironically, one of the hardest things for me to deal with is perhaps the sentiment said most often. It’s “how are you?” Not that I take offense at that; I appreciate the concern. But I just don’t know how to answer. Am I grieving enough? Am I grieving too much? Is it wrong to feel happy? Or sad? It might depend on which minute of the day you ask. But if you want some assurance that we have happy times, we certainly do. If nothing else, five children ensures that. And if you want to know that we are still sad, yes, we are that too.
 
And then there’s our faith. God is real and sovereign whether we like it or not. We do not doubt that. We do take comfort that Ember is healed in heaven, and that we will see her again. Heaven has never felt so real. But for now, I feel a little rocked because I seem to have greatly misunderstood how God was working in our lives. Over the last several years he has given us challenge followed by blessing. I thought Ember’s healing would fit that pattern. But this time it seems to be challenge followed by… lack of challenge, and emptiness. How it is a blessing and how are lives are going to look now is not really clear. 

So, we need a few months to recover and get a handle on our new normal and that’s fine. Thank you all for the prayers, I do believe they are sustaining us. 
Dan

July
9
2019

July 9, 2019 - GoFundMe site

Hi All,
Our friend Heather has created a GoFundMe page which is linked under the "Ways to Help" tab from CaringBridge. People have asked about setting something like this up, and so far we have resisted. But when the funeral and cemetery costs added up to several thousand dollars more than the life insurance policy, and our savings are already depleted from medical expenses paid, we agreed to it. Plus, so many people have asked how they could help, and there is only a limited amount of material need we have, but this is another way to help. Many of you have helped in other ways, or have donated to our church in Ember's memory. Thank you all so much! We trust in the Lord to provide, and here is one way for him to do so. 
Dan