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ONE | Bridget's Heaven Day

Happy 1st Birthday, sweet Bridget girl! We can't believe it has been one year since your body entered this world and your soul entered into Heaven. We can remember holding you like it was yesterday.

We wish you could have been with us to celebrate your birthday. Mommy had plans to dress you in a mint and gold tutu and adorn your highchair with an adorable fabric banner. We would have taken cute pictures of you eating your smash cake and being loved on by your family.

However, your first birthday party looked very different than what we had hoped or expected. We still had balloons, party favors, and a cake, but the overwhelmingly missing piece of the party was you. Though Heaven and earth separated us, we still wanted to make your first birthday special. We did not want our grief to overcome us and leave us with only sadness on that day.

As we brainstormed ideas on how to spend your birthday, we realized that our earthly efforts could never measure up to our perfect expectations of honoring you. There is no manual on how to spend your child's first Heaven Day; there is no checklist of what to do, buy, or make to make it feel better; no Pinterest pin for the perfect way to honor your life in a profound and meaningful way. We wanted it to be perfect, but no idea was measuring up. This left us sad and discouraged.

However, as the days to your birthday were counting down, Jesus lifted our spirits and pointed our perspective to eternity. He reminded us that nothing can compare to being able to see you again and that nothing is more important than celebrating Him.

We decided to have a small birthday party with our families to celebrate your life and to praise God for what He has done for us. We visited your grave, brought you flowers, and released balloons. They were all beautiful and healing experiences, but none of them compared to our celebration and hope of Heaven.

We reminisced on October 22, 2014, the day we held you in our arms on earth. We looked through your picture books, read the letters we wrote to you after you were born, and sang Happy Birthday to you as a family. We brought cookies to the Labor & Delivery nurses at Wesley Medical Center where you were born.

While we were celebrating you on earth, we wondered what you were doing in Heaven. We can hardly imagine the splendor of a birthday party in Heaven. We can't wait to hear all the stories you have of enjoying Paradise. We can imagine there are no words for what your eyes have seen and the music your ears have heard.

We pray that Jesus has told you stories about us and that you have met people there who knew us on earth. We wonder if you have met all the babies in the cemetery and the babies who have received cradles because of you. It brings us joy to think of you enjoying and exploring Heaven with your friends.

We wonder if God has explained to you about human grief, fear, sadness, and pain. Things you never had to experience. Can you see us when we cry? Are you listening to us when we talk to you? We like to think that Jesus passes on messages to you. After all, His Holy Spirit is inside of us and you are directly in His presence. It seems there really is no distance between us and no obstacle in the way for us to communicate to you. Heaven is so near to us. It's almost inside of us.

We released mint, lavender, and pink balloons into the sky and laid flowers on the ground. We painted rocks and decoupaged fabric hearts and glitter onto them. We call them angel rocks and they are inspired by precious Cora Paige who is in Heaven with you and has touched so many lives on earth.

Life on earth has continued since you were born. It's been a long winding journey. The first few weeks were intense with grief and raw sadness. Mommy cried all the time and Daddy tried to be strong. We had family and friends supporting and uplifting us during that time. The weeks turned into months and slowly over time we found ourselves living and laughing again. With each special thing we did to celebrate and honor your life, it healed a part of our hearts. Serving in Bridget's Cradles ministry has brought us healing and has lit us on fire with a greater purpose.

However, the biggest and most important transformation over the past year has been our relationship with Jesus. He comforted us in our grief and poured His peace and joy onto us despite how we were feeling inside. He taught us to stop looking at our earthly circumstances and start looking toward Heaven and eternity. He taught us how to surrender, how to obey, and how to keep going. It was our grief that had us running to the foot of the Cross, but His love that had us sit and stay there.

Our marriage has been refined and strengthened because of your loss. Experiencing deep grief during our first year of marriage has brought us closer together, not further apart. We have learned to communicate our deepest feelings and fears, and have learned to serve each other in the pain. We have learned to rejoice through our mourning and be grateful for the blessings we have.

God's grace has been present as we walked through the fire. He continues to prove Himself faithful throughout each storm. Someday Mommy will tell you her whole life story, all the trials and tragedies, joys and victories. God has written a beautiful story of grace and redemption from my tragic and broken life. He's good at that. And, you, my girl, are my favorite part.

Bridget, we miss and love you dearly and deeply. Although we ache with sadness from missing you, you bring us such great joy. We would go through it all again to hold you for those moments. You have eternally changed our lives and we are so proud to have you as our first child and daughter. We love you and can't wait to be together in Heaven. We praise Jesus you are alive and for giving us the gift of eternity with you.

Happy Birthday,

Mommy & Daddy

Written by Ashley Opliger

Bridget's Mom & Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles

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