Posted in Grief, Holidays, Matthew

Mother’s Day 2005

Another first. It actually was a fairly calm peaceful day. I am so thankful for my husband who knew well ahead of time that emotionally it would be difficult, and so we decided to not go to church, stay home, and just enjoy the children, spend time with them. Mother’s Day has always been somewhat a difficult day for me, with not having a relationship with my mom, then her death last year, our baby Angela’s death, and now Matthew’s. On Mother’s Day, I see where I’ve lacked, where my mom lacked and the desires of wanting that “Titus Two” type mom. So, though this was different, again, this year, we’ve learned to just make it a calmer day. And overall, it was a good day. The kids brought me breakfast in bed (FRUIT LOOPS!!), brought me presents, including a homemade bird feeder, a special cookbook, lots of homemade cards, and just lots of hugs and attention. The kids keep asking me to take a walk with them in the woods, so I did that today, and took my digital camera along, and got some precious pictures. Even one of the girls said, “we made good memories.” Yes, we did. We watched a movie late afternoon, had pizza tonight and Norm & I took a quick ride to the cemetery and watered the newly planted grass seed. It hit for some moments, just never imagining last Mother’s Day, where we’d be today. Matthew was the sentimental type, and wonder what he would have picked out for me. And the tears flowed, and we ache as we miss him so, so much, but went home to the warmth and blessings of the nine who still need us and God has given us such a responsibility for them. Here’s a couple of pictures from today of all the children.

Last night before Norm & I were going to bed, he shared with me too, how we have to make sure the children know that they are just important as Matthew, and that though my heart hurts, how important they each are. I will end with this note I wrote to them and put it on the kitchen counter for them to read in the morning. I think it helped to know they could be more light hearted, and not have to fear my being a basket case. And, thank you for the many nice notes of encouragement and prayers for us. God’s peace was certainly with us in a extra special way today.

Good Morning Kids!

I just want to let you all know I love you very much, and I am a very blessed mom to have each of you. Though I am sad that Matthew is not here and you may see tears today, know that is just a little part of my heart, and that all of you fill the rest of my heart. I need each of you and love you all so much.We will have a good day. We may stay home, and just enjoy being with each other – watch movies, eat ice cream, make jewelry together, whatever. If any of you want to go to church in the morning, yes, you may, but do talk to dad and I before you go. I just don’t want to embarrass any of you by crying or falling apart at church. I hope you understand.

Remember, I’ve told you when I was a little girl, I always wanted a big family, and I am very, very happy and blessed to have you.

Stephen, Jayson, Heather, Heidi, Benjamin, Jessica, Melody, Katie & Bethany.

Love, Mom

Posted in Faith, Family, Holidays, Uncategorized

Remember Moms with Empty Arms on Mother’s Day

This article was orginally written for Mother’s Day, 2002, and rewrote it this year, and was in our local paper today.
“Remember Moms with Empty Arms on
Mother‘s Day”
As I look around the dinner table, I know what a blessed mother I am. I always wanted a large family, and many times am in awe of how good God has been to me. When we are out as a family, we receive comments so often of what a beautiful family we have. But, I see the gaps in our family. Gaps where yes, even though we have nine living children, I see empty spaces. Some of the spaces have questions…would that have been a boy or a girl. With my miscarriaged babies (three total), I may not have had the baby that followed, but there are still the gaps: the missing of an irreplaceable, individual child here on earth. I have the peace to know that my babies are in heaven and someday my family will all be complete there, but until then, all my tears won’t be wiped away.But there are two even bigger “known” gaps…one that was almost filled here on earth, but quickly snatched away. We lost a baby at 36 weeks gestation because of a placenta abruption. Angela Hope died before she was born. After my emergency c-section, I held this beautiful baby that was so peaceful, so perfect, but oh, so silent. This took place on January 22, 1998 – the 25th anniversary of Roe vs Wade. To look at this beautiful, whole, and perfect baby and to think that these babies are murdered at this age, is beyond my comprehension.

And four months ago, we lost our 16½ year old son, Matthew, in an unexpected accident. He played a game many teens are playing, a breath game. He lost the game. He loved Jesus and was committed to Him, loved life, adored his little sisters, had goals of going into business management and learning to fly. Now we walk through this new year of many firsts, with the sting of death close to our hearts, yet taking in joys of life as we watch our children in a new way and so thankful for all God has given us.

How do we cope? One day, one tear, one memory and one day at a time – holding on to God, my husband, my children and family and friends who remember with us. Though I believe speaking of death, miscarriages and stillbirths is much easier to talk about more openly today than it was 20 some years ago, it is still a silent subject. There are still a majority who do not want to talk about a loss for fear of hurting the people who experienced it. The silence hurts more. We notice the void everywhere, from the empty spot in the church pew, to answering someone how many children we have, to the two pictures on the wall that will never age.

With Mother’s Day approaching, remember the moms who have broken hearts and empty arms who ache for the child they should be holding or getting a hug from. Remember the moms who don’t have any living children. They ARE mothers. Remember them on such days as Mother’s Day, due dates, and death dates. Even if you do not know what to say, a “Thinking of You” card or “I am Praying for You” card will touch a mom so much. If a family has recently lost a baby or child, and a special date is coming up, a small bush, tree or rose bush, can be given to plant in memory, and a reminder every year of your remembering and a precious living reminder of the child.

Churches many times for families who have lost a child, can be the hardest place to go, especially on Mother’s Day. Not only do they see the reminders of their child’s friends, the empty space, nursery, pregnant moms, and infants in arms, their missing baby or child may seem unremembered. Often on Mother’s Day, “all” mothers are asked to stand up, and presented with a flower or special gift, but the moms with empty arms seem to be forgotten. If at all possible, include these moms. Possibly ask these moms privately if they can be recognized, or at least allow the opportunity for their baby to be remembered. Some moms may not want to be recognized, but a Pastor recognizing in a general way, moms with children waiting in heaven, will show love, remembrance and value of life.

And, remember other mothers like me who on this Mother’s Day notice “the gap”… the missing homemade card or one less hug. Yes, we may have other little ones tugging on our sleeves, but “we” remember, and have that ache for the child that cannot be replaced. The first Mother’s Day after a loss is particularly hard and is not a “happy” Mother’s Day. This Mother’s Day, remember a mom who is hurting and who wants to remember a baby or child that Jesus holds, not her.

©Loni Vander Stel 2005
Loni lives in Greenville has been married to her husband, Norm for 20 years. They homeschoo1 their 9 children all yet at home. Loni has an outreach ministry for bereaved moms at and a memorial page for their son at:

Posted in Holidays, Matthew

Making Memories

Today more special memories were made. Norm’s parents came over for dinner to celebrate Bethany’s birthday and Mother’s Day. Bethany got spoiled, again, and loved opening her presents.

Later Norm’s mom handed me a little package, and told me she got me something special because she knew it would be a hard Mother’s day for me. Actually, I’ve been dreading it, though I know how blessed I am, there’s such a pain. Yet, I see these nine other healthy, living chidren, and wow . . . I am indeed blessed. Anyway, I opened the package and got some special chocolates, and then a pretty box with a flower on top. Inside was a beautiful ceramic type heart that opened up and inside that Norm’s mom had drawn a small picture of Matthew. It touched my heart so much. She then showed me how the picture could come out, and on the back was a picture of him as a little boy. Of course, the tears came, and she worried some that she upset me, but Norm kept telling her, “it was the perfect gift” and it was. Norm’s mom draws beautiful pictures and portraits. I asked her if she had drawn a big one and sized it down, and she said she had, and I told her sometime I’d love to have one. In a few minutes she gave me the big picture. She said she hesitated, because she wanted to make sure I was ready. It’s a beautiful portrait, and she gave me permission to share it on our webpage. She also made bookmarks for each of us, with Matthew’s 16 year picture and baby pictures. I just cannot say enough how much this meant, and that even as a hurting grandma, took the time to draw this and give it as a gift. Though this sting of death is so new, these are bittersweet treasures that will be held dear until we can see Jesus and our family is whole again in heaven.