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Sean -- Wild Thing
After much debate, I've decided to restrict access to my journal to primarily my family & friends.

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A request from my sister

Ava
Rather than try to paraphrase what she has written, I'm just going to copy & paste what she wrote:


I have decided to create memory boxes to donate to the two hospitals where Ava and Alivia were born. I will purchase boxes and fill them with disposable cameras, a beanie baby, stamp pad and paper for hand and foot prints, hat, small blanket, pink and blue ribbons for pregnancy and infant loss, list of websites, books, poems and songs that helped me through my loss, the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep website and phone number to have free professional photos taken, a note from me with Ava's website, my email, etc. I also want to have regular size teddy bears to go with each box so parents have something to hold onto. I am planning on having these ready by Ava's 4th birthday.

I know that Ava's Memory Box is my most prized possession and the only thing I had to remember Ava as I left the hospital. It may seem so small to some people, just a simple box, but to me it is so much more. I hate to think that parents may be not only leaving the hospital without their baby, but with empty arms as well. I carried Ava's memory box with me out of the hospital, it sat on my lap during the car ride home and it stayed beside my bed so I could reach out and touch it during sleepless nights. It now sits on the bottom shelf of her cabinet within reach of Alivia. She pulls it down and says "Ava", knowing who it belongs to. I haven't opened it for her yet, but that time will come. Until then, she puts it on the floor and runs her hands over the wood talking to it. I like to think she is talking to her sister. Like I said, it is more than just a box...

I am going to collect the items to go in the boxes and then when I have enough I will have my family and friends help me put the boxes together. I hope to bring them to the hospitals on her 4th birthday in March.



If anyone has any advice or suggestions on additional items to include, websites that could be helpful, and/or places to purchase items, please leave a comment here, and I will pass this information on to Annette.

Ava's Virtual Memorial Website: http://www.ava-anastas.virtual-memorials.com/

Please light a candle for Ava tonight

In loving memory
On March 23rd, 2006, my niece Ava Carmella Anastas was born into Heaven, and into God's arms.  She was a beautiful baby girl, who was loved so deeply, by so many, from the moment we knew of her existance.  Her life, as short as it was, has made an incredible impact on my family and on those who love us.  She exisited.  Her life mattered, and she lives on in our hearts.  Please help us keep Ava's memory alive.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Please take the time to light a candle at 7 pm today in remembrance of my niece, Ava, and all babies who were born into Heaven.  Let it burn for one hour in memory of all babies who were lost far too soon. As each time zone extinguishes their candles and the next one lights theirs, we'll create a continuous wave of light around the world to remember our littlest angels.

Annette made this video to share the story of her daughter, Ava.

Visit Ava's Virtual Memorial website.

The 2009 March for Babies

Ava
Thank you, everyone, for your donations, and for keeping us in your thoughts on this day.

We're walking for Ava again.

Ava
Please join me in supporting March of Dimes' March For Babies

My sister Annette’s baby girl, my niece Ava Carmella, was stillborn three years ago on March 23rd. The loss of this little girl, before ever having a chance for life, has been devastating to my entire family. She was a daughter, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin…and her loss has affected so very many people.

Few people know that the March of Dimes does more than just raise money and support for premature babies. It also helps in the silent fight against stillbirth. These babies were taken too soon, before having a chance to cry, laugh, smile or feel a loving touch. They were loved, cared for, nurtured and happily anticipated long before their birth. Unfortunately, for many people, stillbirth is a taboo topic and many grieving families do not receive the support they desperately need.

Two years ago, Annette organized a team in memory of Ava, called Ava’s Angels. Please consider sponsoring this wonderful cause. We are walking again with the March of Dimes to raise money that will go towards research, awareness, and support for families. The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. It is our hope that someday no other parent will ever experience the grief and loss that my sister and her husband have had to face. It is our hope that someday stillbirth will be a fear of the past.

With your support, there’s hope.

Ava's Third Birthday

Ava

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Annette places Ava's Easter & spring decorations at her gravesite.
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Video of the balloon release -- There's some talking in the beginning that's hard to hear, we were reading what we had written on the cards. The balloons initially got caught in trees bordering the cemetery, but one by one the wind tore them free.

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Happy birthday little angel...

Ava
Dear Ava,

Today you'd be turning three. Three years old...I can picture you tearing the paper from your presents, I can imagine your belly laugh (just like your Daddy's!) and excited squeals as you open your gifts. I wish it were real.

I was talking to Sean about you today, and he was quietly taking in every word. I promise you that your little cousin will know all about you, his angel Ava. He'd just love you, and would be tagging along after you, idolizing his bigger cousin.

We're going to Gigi & Pappy's today, to release balloons with your Mommy & baby sister Alivia. I love you, sweetie. You're always in my heart.

Love,
Auntie Crys

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Feb. 1st, 2009

Ava
I've been thinking a lot about Ava lately. Not a day goes by that I don't think of her, but in recent weeks it's been even more so. She'd be a preschooler now. She'd be turning three at the end of March. I just peaked in at Sean, sound asleep and dreaming in his crib, and my whole body aches to know that he'll never know his cousin Ava. I'll never know my niece.

I've spent the last several years focusing on how devastating the loss of Ava is for my sister and her husband -- they lost their daughter, before she ever had a chance to live. It's a loss, a grief, that's unfathomable to me. As much as I try to understand the depths of it, I know it's something that I truly couldn't even begin to understand unless I lived it myself.

Lately, as I interact with Alivia...smother her with kisses, threaten to nibble on her thighs, and do all kinds of goofy things to make her laugh...it's truly hitting me what I lost. My niece. There are times the grief just floods me, and there are times I'm just incredibly angry, at who or what, I don't know, but I'm horribly angry at what was taken from Ava, from my sister, from all of us. The promise of this little girl, with all the unknown potential that she had.

I wonder who Ava would have been. Would she have been a girly-girl? Wearing dresses all the time, wanting to be a princess, mothering her dolls? Would she have been racing around the playground in overalls and disheveled pig-tails, with a smear of dirt across one cheek as she played rough-and-tumble with the little boys? Would she have been a budding artist, up to her elbows in finger-paints, glue in her hair, and creating wild abstract wonders at the art easel? Would she have been a miniature scientist, collecting rocks/shells/leaves/shriveled dandelion blooms, crawling in the grass on her hands and knees as she followed the meanderings of a ladybug? I've imagined her in each of these scenarios, and the fact that she'll never get to do any of these things makes my heart clench and my lungs feel like they're going to collapse.

It's not fair. It's not right. She was a daughter, and granddaughter, a niece and a cousin. And she's not here with us.

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March of Dimes WalkAmerica

Ava
It was incredible. It was absolutely incredible to be a part of this event. I don't have the words to describe it. The photos will have to tell the story for me:
Check out Ava's Angels page on the WalkAmerica website to see how much we raised!

Tomorrow: We Walk

Ava
After months of fund-raising and anticipation, the March of Dimes WalkAmerica is tomorrow. I didn't reach my personal goal, but could care less -- the team as a whole blew both Annette's original and revised fund-raising goals out of the water! She had initially set the goal for $1,000, and later changed it to $1,500 when it became obvious that we'd top the first amount. Take a peak at the team page to see just how much Ava's Angels have raised for this cause!  I'm ecstatic!  And this is just the total as of tonight.  It may increase with cash/check donations added tomorrow at the walk site or if we receive any more on-line donations over night. 

I'll be adding pictures after the walk.  Thank you, everyone, for your support -- whether it was a donation to the walk or just your emotional support, I can't begin to thank you enough.