How Are We Doing?

The question we get every day. Sometimes multiple times each day. Yesterday marks exactly two months since Kamri was born and one month since her funeral. How are we doing? seems like the hardest question to answer, especially because our answer could be vastly different every single time we’re asked. If you asked me in person, I’d probably just start with, “Ummm…” and stare at you blankly before my eyes well up. It is near impossible to explain “how we’re doing”. But I’ll do my best. It’s been two months since the love of our lives came into this world and we are frantically treading water in an ocean of desperately missing her.

I wanted to write this post for a couple of reasons. I am learning that I process emotions, feelings, and events best through writing. It was never my best subject in school or even something I thoroughly enjoyed quite frankly, but yet, here we are. Apparently, it is somewhat of a therapy for me. The other reason is you. We recognize that for whatever reason, God catapulted Kamri’s story across the world (literally) and we have brought thousands of you along for Kamri’s (and our) journey. We have heard from so many people that followed so closely that “something feels missing” without having the daily updates. And we understand. It’s been a long while since we’ve checked in… essentially since her funeral a month ago. So this feels right. This feels like the best way to answer the “I wonder how they’re doing?” question without calling each of you up on the phone and reliving it over and over again. Because, quite honestly, that sounds like a whole other nightmare. So, here we are. The honest, raw truth. Because, if you’ve learned anything from our daily updates, we don’t sugar coat things.

Picture your absolute worst nightmare… the kind you can usually wake up from. That is our reality. Except that instead of waking up from it each morning, we awake into it. We have said over and over again, this can’t be real. She can’t really be gone. In the very beginning, nights and mornings were the worst. Every morning, we would wake up and remember… oh yeah, this is our life. She’s not coming back. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I wake up and think, “Kamri’s in her room and I should go and get her.” Or I’ll look over at Mitch and expect to see him holding her. Then we remember. The pain of remembering is like a slap across the face, followed by a hurt so deep, I have no words for it.

Our first month has felt very much like a Twilight Zone. I’ll do my best to explain it, so bear with me. On December 27th, we left the house for what we thought would be the last time as a family of two (we have a video of us joyfully proclaiming such to prove it). Our house was still in full Christmas mode because we thought we’d be celebrating a belated one with our sweet girl sometime in the next couple of days as we came back home. You know what happened next. Our world turned upside down and it felt like someone reached down and plucked us out of our reality, dropping us into a completely different world. Keep in mind, there was no warning, no indication that this would be the case. The night of the 27th, we genuinely thought we’d be bringing a healthy baby home in a few days. Instead, our worst nightmare became our new reality… days and nights at CHOP, eating, sleeping, and breathing Kamri’s fight became our world. This was the new reality we’d been dropped into. After she passed away, we were pulled back out of that reality (which however twisted it may sound, had become our new normal) and dropped back into our previous life. Except that everything had changed. But nothing had changed. A whole month had passed, but our house still looked very much the way it did when we left it. Although family members had so graciously cleaned up the majority of Christmas beforehand, there were still remnants. Our stockings were lying on the floor of our room, little Christmassy bits here and there. The world kept spinning, but time had stood still. And we were different people. People who had had a child and lost a child all in the span of one month. It felt unnerving to be back in a space that had been so oriented for our past selves. It has taken a month for that confusion, that dizzying feeling of worlds colliding, yet so removed from each other to fade. We are slowly getting re-acclimated to time, but in some ways, we both still feel like December was just yesterday.

Life without Kamri is empty. There is a Kamri-sized hole in both of us and no matter how hard we try, it cannot be filled. We’ve tried. Trust me when I say that no material object (retail therapy is a thing), travel, time spent with family, hours of mindlessly watching television, walk outside, or house project can fill the hole that our baby left behind. It’s just hollow. I miss my daughter with every ounce of my body and mind and soul. It is a physical pain, a harsh ache that we both carry around with us. It hurts. It hurts so deeply. Some days, I would rather not wake up. I would rather just be with her. Everyday, we pray that Jesus would just come back and reconcile all that is broken and bring His creation into eternity. Everyday, I beg Jesus to come back so that we can be with Kamri again. We are told that the sharp ache will ease with time, but it is okay to say that now is not that time. For now, we are empty.

We both have said the following… “I feel like a shell of the person I used to be.” We think back to our lives before Kamri and that feels like a lifetime ago. We both feel like completely different people and we are. Kamri changed our lives for the better, but the pain of losing her shed off any remains of the people we used to be. We look back at pictures and videos of us before she was born, leading up to her birth, and think “we were so naive. we had no idea.”

Coming back home has been one of the hardest things. We found out we were pregnant one week after we signed the papers on this house and moved in. Our entire experience in this house has been marked by the expectation that we’d be raising Kamri here. We spent the last year working so hard to make this house into the home that we would bring our baby back to. All of a sudden, it feels too big. Too empty. Too cold. The first thing we did our first night back at home (we’d been staying at my brother’s house during Kamri’s month in CHOP) the day after she died was turn the heat way up, all the lights on in the house, and light every candle we could find. Now, we are faced with a house that was always supposed to be Kamri’s house, but never will be. We’ve felt the urge to change it. We are such different people now and it no longer feels right that the house looks like “the house we were supposed to bring her back to”. Life has to move forward and as we do, it only feels right that our house does too. It has to look different, feel different alongside us. So, true to form, we’ve taken on a few house projects. Someday, I’ll share them on here.

Let’s talk about God for a minute. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again… you can be human and love Jesus. You can experience all of the human emotions and still have a relationship with the King of the world. God is not interested in anything but authenticity. Thank goodness, because that’s where we’re at right now. The way we can best describe it is this: Our faith is stronger than ever, but we’ve been battered. We walked through (and are still walking through) what feels like the fires of hell and you don’t come out of something like that all in one piece. Or, at the very least, looking the same and thinking the same. We trust God, but we are not happy. We know that God has a plan, but so far, from where we’re standing… this one sucks. We know that God is good and God is here. But this does not feel good and we could not feel more isolated. We are angry, we are confused, we are hurt, and we are lost. And God is still good. It’s okay for both of those things to be true at the same time.

The only thing that makes any of this bearable is that we know without even a SHADOW of a doubt where Kamri is. The Savior of the world died for our sins and because of that Kamri is with Him now. Jesus is holding our daughter and we have not one single doubt that we will get to hold her again someday too. I don’t know how people do this without that hope. Without that assurance that this life here on Earth is not the end of the story. There is another chapter that extends throughout eternity. We know that Kamri is in heaven. She’s loving life “up” there! It’s Mommy and Daddy that are a wreck. And just like any parent, I would much rather us be in pain if it means that Kamri is happy and whole. And we know she is. Someday, we can’t wait to see what she looks like in beautiful perfection… and not a tube or wire in sight.

Hi, sweet Kamri. You are two months old today! We love you, sweet girl. Mommy and Daddy miss you with everything in us. I would give anything… ANYTHING… to see you and hold you and kiss you again, but for now, God is calling us to keep living here. Someday, sweet girl. It will be the best day of my life when I get to be with you and Jesus again. I love you, Kamri Blaire.

Kamri Sticking Her Tongue Out

A Celebration of Life

One week ago today, we celebrated the life of our beautiful daughter, Kamri Blaire Thomas. It was an overwhelming outpouring of love by many of those that have walked with us on this journey. To all of our friends and family (and we consider even those we had not met before to fall under that category) that were able to be there, thank you. It meant so much that you came to be with us on a very difficult day. To all of our friends and family that were with us and praying from a distance, thank you. Your prayers and thoughts lifted the burden of a very difficult day.

Bulletin Front Cover

We wanted to share some of the pieces of the service with all of you, especially as some of our KamFam wanted so desperately to be there in person and were not able to. The day was beautiful- if we had to do it at all, this is how we would have wanted it to be. From start to finish, Mitch and I both agreed that our daughter could not have been honored in a more beautiful way. Sitting in a Sanctuary full of people who love us and love Kamri, worshipping the God that loves us all beyond measure was the perfect way to celebrate her life.

Bulletin Order of Service

One of the harder parts of the service was the reflections that Mitch and I shared. We had gone back and forth, wondering if we’d be able to do it or not. In the end, we both felt strongly that we had things we wanted to share about our daughter. We had things we wanted to share about how we encountered God in all of this. And we had things we wanted to say to Kamri. With all of these things, we wanted to be the ones to say them. As hard as it was to speak the words, we can look back with no regrets that we fulfilled our roles as her parents (in terms of what that meant to us) every step of the way. Here is the reflection that Mitch gave:

Leslie and I are overwhelmed with the love and support we were shown by you all during this difficult time in our lives. Though we were at our lowest point and still are, having an amazing prayer and support base has kept us going and we are so grateful and thankful for each and every one of you.

I can truly say that for the 23 days that I got to know my beautiful daughter, Kamri Blaire, I never understood just how much love my heart could be filled with. In her condition, she may not have been able to make any noise or even be held by us, but the sole act of seeing Kamri’s beautiful dark blue eyes looking right into mine each day made me feel emotions I never felt before. I was quickly overcome by the greatest sense of being proud and true unconditional love every time I looked at her. Along with that, despite only being able to look at us, I have never experienced so much sass in my life, mainly displayed when I would come in and say good morning and see her eyes open and as soon as I came to greet her, she would close them and act like she was asleep. She was truly my daughter…

The crazy thing in life is that you never really feel or believe a tragedy like this is ever going to happen to you until it slaps right across the face. Within 30 seconds, Leslie and my happiest memory turned into our worst nightmare. Our minds and hearts were filled with such anger and fury towards God and at times we feel as though we are dreaming. It is a process that we will be dealing with for a long time to come and will be taking day by day. 

Despite our daughter’s life being only 23 days long, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know her and see the peace she felt when her mother and I stood next to her bedside and read to her or sang to her, “You are my sunshine.” Despite the wires, breathing tubes and circuits that our angel was connected to, when we were with Kamri, the only thing I saw was my beautiful daughter and my little fighter that didn’t ask for any of this to happen to her. 

In the midst of our confusion and hurting, I recall a few months ago sharing a devotion with my co-workers about one of my favorite passages in the Bible, Daniel 3. In the story, three young men’s lives are threatened by their king to be thrown into a blazing furnace if they did not choose to bow down and worship the statue he created for himself and forsake their beliefs in their own God. The section of this story that always struck me and amazed me was when they answered the king, “We will not bow down and worship your statue as we believe that our God can save us from your blazing furnace.” That in and of itself shows an immense faith in God and His power. It goes on even further and takes this act of faith to the next level, “but king, even if He does NOT save us, we will not bow down and worship you statue.” The Even if NOT is a phrase that we admire, but never want to have to deal with ourselves. From the moment Kamri was born, Leslie and I found ourselves in the midst of the “Even if NOT” when we heard that it wasn’t looking good for her. 

While I stand here today hurting that I am faced with the reality of not physically having the chance to do some of things that I was so looking forward to from the moment I heard I would be having a little girl; coaching her soccer team, dancing with her at her wedding and having her fall asleep on my chest each night, I stand here and proclaim that we serve a good and loving God that I love with all my heart and that blessed me with the most beautiful daughter I could have ever asked for. I will forever be proud of her fighting spirit, sassy eye looks and her stare that looked right into my soul and pierced me with more love than I could ever imagine. Through this struggle and tragedy, I have not lost my daughter, but she just has the blessing of stepping into the presence of our Lord and Saviour first and we will see each other again. I love you Kamri Blaire, you will always be daddy’s sweet girl. 

Here is the reflection that I gave:

Good afternoon. I would like to echo Mitch’s thank yous to each and every one of you for being here today to celebrate the life of our daughter, Kamri Blaire Thomas. To our family that has waded with us into the hardest season we have and ever hope to experience, who has been there for each and every up and down and loved, prayed over, and walked with us through it all… thank you. To the brilliantly talented, dedicated, and loving medical staff we’ve been blessed with at every stage of this process, thank you. One of the hardest things in the world is to leave your baby behind every night, not knowing what the next day will hold for her. We have been blessed with people that have not only cared for and loved our daughter like we do, but have cared for and loved us along the way too. You will never know the impact you have had on our lives and for all of that, we thank you. Finally, to every single one of you- both those we know and have met in person and those who have adopted our little family as part of your own, despite never having met us- to all of you who have walked with us through the most life-changing experience we will ever have, thank you. Your prayers carried us. Your kind words lifted us. Your dedication to our family has humbled us. We have read every single comment, update share, message, email, and card that has been sent. We have been in the biggest battle of our lives, but God equipped us with the most beautiful army of support. All of you make up what we have lovingly called the KamFam and we will never be able to put into words how much we love and appreciate you all. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

Kamri Blaire Thomas was born on Wednesday, December 28th at 4:41pm… simultaneously the most beautiful and terrifying day of our lives. We had always said that she’d give us a run for our money and boy, did she deliver. You all probably know from our daily updates the physical battles that Kamri was up against from day one. What I’d like to talk about instead are some of the things we grew to love about Kamri as we got to know her and some of the things she taught us in her short life, here on earth.

Kamri was the most loving, attentive girl I’ve ever met. And although I know we’re biased, I have never in my life met a more beautiful baby. Some of our favorite things about Kamri were her mowhawk and bow combinations, the way she would squeeze your finger with her little hand, and one of the best… her scrunchy face. Because of the tube between her vocal cords, we never got to hear her cry, but she would pretty clearly commuincate when she was angry or uncomfortable or just plain “over it” by furrowing her brow and scrunching up her whole face. As Mitch already said, there was no shortage of sass with our girl and we’d have her no other way.

By far, the most amazing interactions we had with Kamri was  the way she would look at us. Kamri had this way of staring right at you so that you felt as though you were the only one in the room. This is the biggest lesson that I learned from my daughter. So often, when we look at people, we try and look anywhere but into their eyes. Kamri taught me what it feels like to really be seen by someone because she never looked anywhere but. She was the best listener I’ve ever met. For the first time, I learned what it means to look at someone the way God looks at them. I will never forget that, Kam, thank you.

In the midst of all of this, we have learned about and experienced God so deeply. There has been a lot of hurt, anger, questioning, and deep, deep sadness. There has also been moments of peace, comfort, hope, and deep, deep love. We saw God at work all throughout this journey and although we would never wish this experience on anyone else or ever choose it again for ourselves, we know that God has been at work. We’ve always prayed that God would use our marriage, our ministries, and our family for His purposes. Never in a million years did we think that He would use our daughter to unite thousands in prayer and lead hundreds to Christ. In our darkest moments, the light of Christ still shines.

In the last hour of Kamri’s life, we stormed the gates of heaven for a miracle. We wake up every day to realize that we still live in the nightmare that our daughter is no longer here with us. It would be easy to say that God turned His back and withheld his miracles, but that’s just not true. Kamri’s whole life is a miracle. She should never have survived the helicopter ride from Chester County Hospital to CHOP. She should never have revived after her heart stopped the night she arrived at CHOP, never should have made it long enough to be put on ECMO. After studying her lung biopsy, the doctors said they were surprised she was even alive, let alone survived for the 23 days she did. When we removed her from ECMO that last night, she lived and breathed on her own for a full 25 minutes. God was with Kamri from day one and the biggest miracle of all? He used her to bring thousands of people closer to Him and then allowed her to come home into the arms of Jesus for eternity. Make no mistake… God’s miracles are still alive and abundant. 

One of the things that Mitch and I got into the habit of doing (and we don’t quite know how it started) was listening to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” most nights on the way back to my brother’s house after a long day at CHOP. We always said that this would be the song we’d bring Kamri home to when her journey at CHOP was over. During her last hour on earth, we have a sweet, sweet memory of our whole family singing along to this song as Kamri slept in Mitch’s arms. It’s hard to think that we never got to bring her home, but the knowledge that God brought Kamri home for good to the loving arms of Jesus on roads made of gold makes our hearts happy, or at least at peace. She is at home with our Savior and because of the hope we have in Christ, we know that someday, we’ll get to spend eternity with her when we come home too.

Kamri Blaire, my sweet, sweet girl. I will love you forever. I will never forget the way you looked at me, never forget the way you squeezed my hand, never forget your beautiful head of hair. You have taught me so much. It has been an honor being your mom and although I would give anything in this world to hold you, kiss you, and watch you grow up, I know that you are in the most perfect place and that someday, we will get to be with you forever. I can’t wait. For now, I’ll just say the same thing that I’ve said to you every night since we met. Hi, my little love. Mommy’s right here. Daddy’s right here. I am so proud of you. I think you’re so brave and you’re so strong and you’re so kind and you’re so smart and you’re so important and you are so, so loved. Mommy loves you. Daddy loves you. And Jesus loves you so much. Out of all the little Kamri’s in the world, I’m so glad you’re mine. I love you, sweet girl. 

After the reflections, a video of “Kamri’s Story” played… we are so thankful to my brother for creating such a beautiful keepsake of our baby. We know that it was not easy for him (just like our entire family, he is grieving the loss of Kamri too) to interact so closely with the photos and footage, but his act of love means that we get to share our girl with so many people. Here is the video that played during the service:

My Aunt Jennie, who married us over three years ago and baptized Kamri on the day she passed away, gave the sermon. It was beautiful and filled with remembrance for Kamri and the hope we have in Christ in all of this. We were blessed by her words. Family friends of ours, who also did the music for our wedding, led us in worship during the service. It was stunning. To hear hundreds of people who love Kamri singing praises to God is something we will never forget.

Bulletin Scripture and Prayer

The service ended with one of the most beautiful and memorable moments… one that we will cherish forever. For the Postlude, we chose “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. Normally, the family exits the Sanctuary during the Postlude, but Mitch and I wanted to stay. We wanted to sit and sing the song that walked us through this journey. In her benediction, Aunt Jennie encouraged, as per our request, that everyone sing along. In a moment of brilliance, my brothers turned on the camera and propped it up against the piano in front of their pew. As a result, we have a video of the magic that happened in that moment, a snapshot of the love that was shared during that song.

We never could have pictured a better way to honor Kamri. We never could have pictured a more beautiful way to say, “We love you, sweet girl, and we can’t wait to see you again soon”.

Bulletin KamFam Thank You

Kamri Blaire Thomas

Mitch and I are so blessed to be able share that our daughter, Kamri Blaire Thomas, was born on Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 4:41pm. She is the most beautiful little girl with dark brown hair, dark eyes (so far!), and a tiny 6.5 ish pound body and everything we ever dreamed of. We could not love her more.

kamri-blaire-2

Kamri was born via C-Section at Chester County Hospital and due to her critical condition, was rushed by helicopter to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) where she has been under intensive care ever since. We have been so blessed by the thousands of people who have added Kamri to their prayers, the prayer chains that have formed to support us, and the many, many encouraging words that have been shared. We could not do this without you and cannot express how thankful we are that so many people have committed to advocating for the life of our daughter. If you are looking for Kamri’s daily updates on her progress, you can find them all in one place by clicking HERE.

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