always with us

Last week we found Bella in the most unlikely of places. The gift tags at Nordstrom.

I’m used to finding her in the darkness of our bedroom as I’m drifting off to sleep. Or in the rays of light streaming through our windows during a sunny day. Or in the 60 minute commute to work in the morning sipping my coffee and cursing traffic. But during a typical day, while running errands with the family she usually doesn’t appear.

But, on Black Friday, there she was. 

Last Friday we did indeed go shopping. We went out waaaay after the throes of crazed midnight madness shoppers and surprisingly our local shopping mall not crowded. I had a short list of gifts to buy, but we were mostly there to window shop. As we meandered through the beautifully decorated holiday displays at Nordstrom there was a tree from across the store that caught my eye. All over the tree were hanging tags. Gift tags. Hundreds of them.

The year we lost Bella, a friend and fellow family of loss told us their tradition of adopting a Salvation Army angel each year in honor of the son they lost. They pluck an angel from the local Salvation Army angel tree. An angel who would be the same age as the one they lost.  They buy that child what they are most wishing for. A child who without their help would have no gifts at Christmas.  The tradition struck a chord with us, and we decided to take part in the same tradition as well.

I thought the tree in Nordstrom that day was our local Salvation Army tree ready and waiting for us to find our 2011 angel.

My Calmer and I walked over to take a closer look, and as we approached the tree I heard him whisper under his breath “Bella would be 2 this year. WOW.” As we looked back and forth between the tree, each other, and the stroller toting our now one year old Brielle, I think we both had an out of body experience. Whose life were we living?

We should be parents to a 2 year old. Walking, talking, sitting on Santa’s lap babbling away about the doll she wants. But instead we are parents to a one year old. Giggling, squirming, and simply loving every minute of just being with mom and dad.

In that moment, standing there in silence, we weren’t sure whether to mourn what we had lost or be excited for what we had gained.

That tree ended up not being the Salvation Army tree after all. But it didn’t matter, because simply staring at that tree and remembering her was enough.

The 3 of us could feel her presence and we were reminded that she is always there, watching over us.


I do want to take a moment to share that we did find our Salvation Army angel tree this year. And the best part is you can find it too if you’re looking for a special way to honor your little one this holiday season too. JC Penny has teamed up with Salvation Army to offer a virtual giving tree on the web. Click HERE to go to their website. Type in your location, search the list of angels by age, get their wish list, shop online, and ship your gifts from the comfort of home.  Our two year old angel love dolls, books, and learning games and we can wait to be a part of making her holiday wishes come true.