Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The special joy of Anna Joy Peppley

So many of you know Alissa who worked at Art 'n Soul until her pregnancy required more medical attention this fall. Those of you who saw the earlier posting on this blog, and/or who have been following Alissa's blog ( will know that Anna Joy was born with two serious heart defects that were tremendously complicated. Unfortunately, there wasn't more that could be done by the medical team at Children's Hospital after the first major surgery immediately after her birth on December 9. These are the last two entries of Alissa's blog (by her husband, Matt) and some pictures of beautiful Anna Joy.

Every one of us in the Art 'n Soul family have been deeply affected by Alissa's challenges, heartbreaks, and joys. We're still processing the loss of Anna Joy, as well as the empty but loud aching loss that Alissa and Matt are experiencing. Their faith in God, sustained by prayers from around the world said for Anna Joy and the Peppley family, has never diminished. Their tested courage and inner-strength has been more than we could fathom or understand, and has been inspiring beyond words.

We're home! -- Tuesday, Dec. 20

Isn't it always odd that after a long vacation, you get home and one of the first things you usually say is "It's sure nice to be home?" For Alissa and I, we certainly feel that same sentiment, but with a very different twist. A bittersweet peace fills our hearts. On one hand, we feel calm, cool, and collected like we haven't felt in months. On the other, our souls ache and long for the experience of bringing another newborn babe home - an experience we left behind at Seattle Children's in the form of our baby girl Anna Joy.

I feel like I want to stay here, at our home, for about three months, and not ever leave. Home feels good, right? It's the place a person is most comfortable, where things make sense - even when they don't make sense (does that make sense? doubt it...but that's what I'm writing and there's nothing you can do about it). Home is where you go to escape the world, to hide from all of the garbage that assaults all day long. Home is where you find love, and happiness, and a soothing cup of steaming hot cocoa. A long bath, a good book in front of the fire. A good footstool at just the right height. A table covered with a checkered tablecloth, chock full of delicious, hot food that sits in your stomach for days and makes you push your chair back with a great sigh of content. Wow. That was a long sentence.

You get the picture, don't you? We all have our feeling of what home is. Alissa and I are there, right now. but with one thing missing: Anna Joy. Even so, it's good to be home. We miss her already, more than we can probably ever express. The cradle by our bed is still empty. The car seat is in the garage, and it didn't get used. Her clothes still hang in the closet, and her diaper bag is still full. We only got to use one stocking cap and one sock. Yes, one sock. Anna always had some monitor on one of her feet, so we couldn't use both. She never put on the cute outfits that were given to us. She never got to hug the stuffed animals that watched over her crib like little angels.

I miss my baby girl. But I am joyful still for the few days that she was a part of our lives. I'm grateful to have experienced her steadfastness and fighting spirit. Did we ever tell that she came out fighting? Yup. The first look on her face that I saw said "What's going on here? I don't like this! I was comfy-cozy in there!" I didn't want to tell her that since she decided to come so fast, it was really all her fault.

Oh, her tiny little cry! That sound will echo in my ears until the day I die! And her grip on my finger, that will linger for as long as I have feeling in my hands. But, oh, how my arms ache to hold her! My arms will never feel the same. "Ache" doesn't adequately explain the feeling that my arms are missing. They not only feel empty, but they almost tingle, as if to tease me into thinking that they will soon be filled with the cuddly warmth of our newborn babe.

Okay, enough for now. It's late, and Alissa and I both just took some NyQuil, so we hope to sleep through the night. I took some last night, but she didn't. She couldn't sleep, so got up to journal. She left our room (we stayed at the Ronald McDonald house one more night), and was going to use the den, but someone was in it watching TV. So she sat on the floor in front of our door and journaled by the hall light! How thoughtful is that?!?! She didn't want to disturb my slumber, so she sat on the hard floor to write her heart out! I love you, Alissa. You shouldn't have done that, but I love you nevertheless.

Aaaannnd I thought I was at the beginning of the last paragraph, but apparently not...

So tomorrow we are going to a funeral home to plan Anna Joy's memorial service. I can't imagine that will be easy, but with God's strength, I'm sure we'll get through. Heck, we've gotten this far thanks to Him (and you all), and I don't think He'll abandon us now. He's not like that, is He?
Wanted to give you all a few pictures of our beautiful angel. Not angle. Angel. And thank you all for being respectful and not pointing out my typing inadequacies yesterday...
Yes, this is Matt again. If you want to see them, and don't care about what I have to say, go ahead and scroll down. If you change your mind, you can come back after absorbing her preciousness.

We did get to hold Anna Joy for a couple of hours, and she floated through the arms and hearts of her family during that time. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, even great aunts, got to cradle her, and we all cried and enjoyed feeling her warmth as we snuggled with her. She opened her eyes a few times and looked around, which was amazing.
When the ECMO was turned off, Anna Joy stayed with us for about half an hour, and even in that she stayed longer than they expected. The nurse came and listened for her heartbeat a few times, and commented once that it was a lot stronger than they all had expected. Unfortunately, or hope that God would come through with a last minute Christmas miracle was not fulfilled.
Even so, we are grateful for our time on earth here with little Miss Anna Joy Peppley. We count our blessings that were provided, the joy and sorrow included. We thank God for the miracle of her conception, and are greatly honored that He would chose us to be her parents. As I said before, God is good, all the time. And that includes now, even in the midst of our sadness. We are loved by Him, and nothing can ever take that away from us, except maybe ourselves. So we chose to love Him.
As I said before, I'm not going to be done writing about Anna Joy by any means. Not by a long shot. Not in a million years. Not on your life. And not by any other over-used cliche that you can think of. So, if you want to hear more about her, and our thoughts about her wonderful little life, please, check back. And please continue to comment too. I'll still read them. Thank you once again for being with us.

Thank you for allowing me the latitude to post this difficult message. We will continue to pray for Alissa, Matt, and their son, Isaac. We are so fortunate they are a part of our lives . . . and evidence that everyone we bring into our lives arrives for a reason. God speed and God bless.

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