(This is a repost from this day last year, with updates for this year.) Today would have been our daughter’s 27th birthday. Her name was Rachel Elizabeth Hartman. I reprint this post every year on her birthday.

But….I would like to explain something. People usually think that because I am reprinting this, that we are still deep in grief. We are not. Rachel is with God. While we missed her terribly for years after she died, and we wonder what it would have been like to have her here, we are joyous that she is in Heaven. While I would have loved to raise her just like we did with our other 2 kids, she has been promoted ahead of the rest of the family. She is no longer in the pain for which they gave her morphine. She is no longer trapped in the sick little body she was born with. Her body was perfectly formed, but she contracted a group B strep infection, and her little lungs could not handle it.

Nearly every year, on the Sunday morning before her birthday, I sing It is Well With My Soul in church. Bethany was named in honor of her older sister (her name is Bethany Rachel), and was born 2 years and 3 months after Rachel. (All 3 of our kids were born 2 years and 3 months apart.)

It really is well with my soul. Sorrow is such a hard thing to understand sometimes. But grief and utter despair are entirely different. We grieved, and even now, when I see something that makes me think of Rachel, I will get tears in my eyes. But I do not despair. She is with the parent that loves her far more than I ever could. And soon…very soon….we will see her again.

This is a repost of the post I do every year on her birthday: 

For about two weeks, every morning on the way to drop Brandon off at my mother’s before work, I had this recurring thought: “What if this baby were born early? What would I do?” I know now that God was trying to prepare me.

February 6, 1984 was an ordinary Monday. I took Brandon to my mother’s house (he was 2 yrs old) and then went to work. After work, I picked him up, took him for his allergy shot, and went shopping at Target for a new baby carrier. Our second baby was due April 28. Eleven weeks to go.

When I got home about 7:00 p.m., I was having a few small contractions, but I was used to those. I had Braxton Hicks contractions most days, and I had them when I was pregnant with Brandon, too. But I didn’t feel well, and the contractions were coming every 15 minutes. I was really tired. So Steve fixed hamburgers for us and I ate a little. I didn’t feel any better after resting, and by 9:00 p.m., the contractions had increased to every 5 minutes. But still they were not really bad.

We called the doctor and he said get to the hospital. So we did. They monitored me for a while and told the doctor on the phone that I was not having contractions. I don’t know what the nurse thought that rise and fall was on the monitor chart. So they gave me Vistaril and sent me home. At about 1:30 a.m., Feb. 7, I woke up having really hard contractions, but having had a sedative, I was having trouble staying alert enough to breathe with the contractions. I was in a lot of pain. So about 2:00, we headed back to the hospital. We went into the ER, and the police officer immediately took me to labor and delivery. The baby, who the nurses had been able to touch hours earlier, had now moved up too far to reach, and the monitor indicated she was in distress.

Emergency C-section. My spinal anesthesia was not working fast enough, and they needed to get her out, so I was given gas long enough to do an incision. When I woke up, they were carrying her over to the table to get her breathing. I had to turn my head in an awkward position to see her, but I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The anesthesiologist told me she was pinking up well. They put a breathing tube in her throat. She was so tiny – only 2 pounds, 14 ounces. Just 15 inches long. She was born at 3:43 a.m. Her cord was only 4 inches long, so she could not have been born normally.

I just laid there praying, and thinking about the scriptures that talk about Mary “pondering things in her heart” when Jesus was born. I needed my husband, but they had not let him in there because it was an emergency, and it was still only 1984. They took her to the nursery, and gave me something to knock me out, before taking me to recovery. That still makes me mad to think about that – they didn’t want me to fully know what was going on. There was absolutely no other reason to knock me out.

Doctors from Texas Children’s Hospital came and got Rachel stabilized for the trip to their hospital; then they brought her in for me to see. I could only reach into the incubator and touch her little legs and feet. I could not raise up to look at her, since I had had spinal anesthesia. You have to stay flat if you don’t want the worst headache you could ever imagine. They told me I could call them anytime I wanted to see how she was doing.

Steve and my mother went to Texas Children’s to see her. After Steve got home, they called him to come back. Rachel died at 10:25 p.m. Her brain had hemorrhaged and her lungs collapsed. He held her and the nurse took pictures. He came back up to the hospital to tell me, but I was asleep and the nurses just took him to the lounge to let him sleep a while. At 4:00 a.m., I woke up and wanted to call Texas Children’s. They tried to talk me out of it. I knew something was up. The nurse said, “I’ll go get your husband,” and I knew that if she was OK, he would not be up there then. He really didn’t have to tell me she had died. She lived 18 hours and 42 minutes.

I will have to let Steve tell you about the trips to Texas Children’s Hospital.

It was determined that she had group B strep. That helped the doctor to treat me, because I had it, also, and the antibiotics he was using were not working.

The next several days were a blur. Or more like a nightmare. I was still very sick, and we had to plan a funeral. And Brandon was missing me. I got out of the hospital Sunday afternoon, even though I was still running fever. But the visitation at the funeral home was that night. And the funeral was Monday. The day before Valentine’s Day. Before the visitation on Sunday night, I sat and held her for the very first time. I also was able to hold her for a good while, the morning of the funeral.

At Rachel’s funeral, Steve and I were actually the ones that put the lid on her casket (baby caskets have the lid as a separate piece). At the end of the service, we walked up to the casket, kissed her goodbye, and put the lid on the casket. That was hard to do.

People said and did some unkind things. Some meant well, and others did not. We were told by one that we shouldn’t have been so attached to her because we didn’t have her long enough. One woman said, “Well at least you didn’t lose your other child.” People might as well have just punched me in my incision. It felt the same. Another was mad because I didn’t come to see her as soon as I got out of the hospital. Never mind that I had had a c-section, my daughter died, and I was still very sick with the same illness that killed Rachel. I was so sick that the doctor had not wanted to let me out of the hospital, but I told him I was going. I was NOT going to miss my daughter’s funeral.

We had a limo for the funeral because I knew it would be easier to ride those long distances in the limo after a c-section, than ride in our truck. I had on a loose dress and the driver asked me when the baby was due. I told him this funeral was for my baby. I hate to make people uncomfortable like that, but I just couldn’t avoid it.

Life can be so unexpectedly short. Love your children. Hold them and kiss them a lot. You don’t have any earthly idea when you might not have them anymore.

Please go to Steve’s blog to read his story about his experience with her birth.

This is Rachel Elizabeth Hartman, on February 7, 1984:

Rachel Elizabeth

Steve’s father died on the same day, Feb. 7, in 1998.

I want to add a little bit to this year’s post, and tell you about a dream I had about 6 months after Rachel died.

For so long, it bothered me that I never got to hold Rachel while she was alive, and I really wanted to. I wanted to see her little body, and touch all her little toes. It’s what mothers do. I knew it bothered me, but didn’t realize just how much it bothered me, until the night I had this dream.

Our bed is a tall, antique looking 4 poster bed. I have many storage containers underneath it. In my dream, Rachel’s casket was also under the foot of our bed. As I’m typing this, I can still picture it in my dream…that’s how vivid it was. I wanted to open her casket, and hold her, but I was very afraid to do it. In actual life, one day we were at the cemetery, and I sat down on the ground right over Rachel’s grave. It was almost like I could feel the little casket in the ground, and I wanted to open it so bad, just to see her little body again. So in the dream, I wanted to open it just as much. I wanted to see her. I wanted to touch her.

I pulled the casket out from under our bed (I can still picture even the angle the casket was sitting at after I pulled it out in the dream), and finally got the nerve to open it up.

It was empty! She wasn’t in there!

Now, I’ve been a Christian almost all my life. I accepted Jesus when I was a little girl. I was raised in the same church I go to now. I have been taught from the time I was little, that our soul immediately leaves the body when we die, and is immediately in the presence of God. And eventhough my mind knew that, my heart just wasn’t feeling it.

Sometimes you wonder if God is telling you something….and sometimes you know for sure that He is. This was one of those times that I knew without any doubt. I knew He was assuring me that Rachel was with Him, and she wasn’t in that little casket. And He told me that I got to hold her longer and closer than anyone else every held her. I held her inside for 29 weeks, right under my heart.

There is also something I know for sure that God did for me. Brandon was always an unusually smart little boy. I know…you’d expect that coming from a mom. But he really was. And still is. He started speaking recognizable words at 5 months old. He was speaking whole sentences by the time he was a year old, and by the time he was 2, he carried on better conversations than some adults I’ve known. When he was 4, he was reading on a 6th grade level. His IQ now tests in the genius range. So he really was a smart little boy.

Sometimes he’d use that conversational ability to really tug at my heart. My mother kept him while I worked, and many mornings, long before he was 2 (probably around 18 months), when I would leave him at her house, he’d say, “Please stay home with me today.” And man…I really wanted to.

About the time he turned 2, he asked me to teach him how to read. So I did. We made flash cards to teach him phonics. By the time he was 4, he was reading books, and driving us crazy by reading all the billboards as we drove down the road. There are a lot of billboards you don’t want your kids to be able to read. “Mommy…what’s a gentleman’s club?”

When Beth was little, he would read her books. He’s 4-1/2 years older than her. He had 3 Dr. Seuss books completely memorized. When he wanted me to read to him, I’d tell him to read them himself. But he still wanted me to read, so I did. (Now he doesn’t memorize Dr. Seuss books, but he can completely recite the lines from many movies…of all the characters.)

We also had a game we played at night, rather than reading a book every night. We’d tell a story. Not just any story, mind you. We’d make it up as we went along. I’d start it with one line, like maybe, “Tigger walked down the road.” (Tigger was his favorite character.) Then he would make up the next line. And I’d do the next, and so on. With his imagination, the stories usually got pretty wild. It was fun.

When Rachel was born, Brandon was 2 years and 3 months old. After I came home from the hospital, I would sit in the recliner. He always was a snuggle baby, but having had a c-section, I couldn’t let him sit in my lap like he was use to doing. So he would sit on the arm of the recliner, as close to me as he could get.

When I would get sad and start to cry, he would say, “Don’t cry, Mommy. It will be ok…Jesus has a baby now.” He told me that many times…every time I would start to cry. And in the first few days after the funeral, that was a lot!

I did not go back to work after Rachel died. I had always wanted to stay home, and we had been working to get things paid off, so I could quit my job. We decided that was as good a time as any to quit. Since I was home every day, I was not around many adults, and I needed the company of more than just a 2 year old. Fortunately for me, God made my 2 year old much older emotionally and intellectually, than most. And that really helped me. It was even helpful in that he could do so many things for himself by that time.

God takes care of us. He provides for us the things we really need. And He provides comfort to us.

Ps 46:1…..God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. NIV

2 Cor 1:3-4…..3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort ,

4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. NIV



It’s me again…

I am terrible these days, about blogging here on Xanga. I have become addicted to Facebook. It’s easier to communicate there.

There’s just so much going on in my life right now, and it seems that not only do I not have time to blog, I really don’t even care anymore. We spent 3 months in and out of hospitals with my mom earlier in the year when she had bypass surgery, and then setbacks afterward.

Then July 8, Bethany had surgery again. Three years ago, she ruptured a tendon in her left ankle. She had surgery on it 2 years and almost 4 months ago. The recovery was long and grueling. The doctor, in order to make her unstable ankle more stable, broke the heel bone and shifted it 20 degrees, and put a screw in it. He stabilized the rest of the ankle by drilling a hole in the bone and running half the tendon through the ankle bone, to tighten it down like a zip tie. She was in a soft cast 2 weeks, and a hard cast for 4 more (I think…it’s hard to remember now). After the hard cast was removed, and she started therapy, the fracture in her heel re-fractured. Back in the cast.

So earlier this year she began to have pain again. The doctor did an MRI and discovered a small, benign tumor (called an intraosseous lipoma) in a bone in the ankle. We thought that was what was causing the pain. If the lipoma grows (which it was) it can cause pain when it gets close to shattering the bone. So surgery was scheduled.

After the surgery, Dr. Moss came out to tell us that he found, in his words, a nasty tear in the same tendon. We don’t know for sure how she injured it again. It could have been the day she slipped on the stairs. He said it would not take much. He did not remove the tumor because he would have had to drill into the bone again, and he did not believe that was causing her pain. He was right…her pain got better after the initial surgical pain was over.

She’s going for therapy twice a week now. She will be going back to work September 8. But we found out her insurance would not pay for therapy this time. She has a $1000 cap for therapy, and some chiropractic care she had a few months back, counted toward that. So the doctor’s office does there own therapy for much less than the therapy place she went to last time.

We are getting ready for our church’s 115 year homecoming on October 10. That means we have lots of sprucing up to do at the church. We’ve rebuilt a walkway cover that was blown away by Hurricane Ike in 2008. We’ve completely repainted and redecorated the fellowship hall. We are still working on it, but it’s coming along. We still have to repair some flooring in it, too.

We “built” a new church library. We had an old office that was being used for a junk storage room. We completely cleared it out, painted, put down new flooring, added bookshelves, and added comfortable furniture. We also ripped up carpet in the secretary’s office and put down new flooring. We’ve added new lighting and ceiling fans.

We have also redone some flowerbeds in the front. They look so much better. Our friend, Karen, put in many hours on that. She is now working on redecorating our older ladies’ Sunday School classroom. It was long overdue.

Starting in September, we are painting the outsides of buildings and repairing siding.

Two weeks after the homecoming, on October 23, Nita is getting married. Nita is 85, but you would never know it. This is certainly not her first wedding (she’s a widow and has been married twice), but she never had a wedding. So I am doing her wedding: making her dress, cake, flowers, and doing the decorating. It’s going to be beautiful, if I say so myself It’s a lavender wedding.

After this is all over, I just want to do absolutely nothing for a while. But you know that’s not really a possibility. October 31 is our Fall Fest. Then November is Thanksgiving. We’ll have a church Thanksgiving dinner a week or so before Thanksgiving. Then, of course, December is Christmas.

I need to go ahead soon, and have my other knee replaced. It has gotten so painful that it hurts every time I take a step. October will be 2 years since the other knee replacement.

Brandon now has Crohn’s Disease. Google it if you don’t know what it is. He first developed ulcerative colitis at 14, but it has progressed to Crohn’s. He may have to go on immunosuppressant drugs soon. If it’s not one thing it’s another. Brandon will be 29 in November.

On June 2, my cousin died of cancer. He would have been 50 this past Sunday. He battled cancer 5 times since he was 21, but he went on to get married and have 3 children. They miss him very much, as do his parents, brother and sister. He spent his last week in a hospice, but he said God would get the glory from this somehow. That in itself is an amazing testimony. We’ll see him again. Maybe sooner than we think.

Last November, Beth was robbed at the Credit Union twice in 9 days. Well, Monday, there was a bank robbery in northwest Houston. The bank robber jumped the fence into the power plant where Steve was working, and they were on lock-down for several hours. I know…my family attracts the crazies.

I’ve changed my background picture to one taken in October 2004, when we had a welcome home party for Ethan. It makes me think of fall, and I am ready for it. We’ve had heat advisories for the last 11 days. Sunday afternoon it was 102, with a heat index of 109. I know…not nearly as hot as it gets in Iraq, but still pretty warm. I’m ready for cool weather.

I’m adding a few pics of our church repairs and flowers for Nita’s wedding. Click on them to make them larger. You’ll just have to look at some of them sideways. They are straight on the computer, but when they uploaded to Xanga, they were sideways. I don’t know if that can be fixed.




And this is Bethany’s incision:

I knew you’d want to see.

God Bless America

Happy 4th of July. The day we celebrate the anniversary of our country’s freedom. Not just a day for grilling hamburgers and watching fireworks. It’s a day to remember all those who are fighting to preserve the freedom of our country. And all those who have served in the past.

Thank you to all those who are serving, and who have served. Pray for all those who are in harm’s way.

This is a song Bethany, Laura and I did in a previous July 4th presentation at church. It’s one of my absolute favorites.

Father, please forgive us for the many times we fail you, and please continue to bless our great country.

James 1:25
25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.

2 Cor 3:17-18
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Our freedom comes from above.

Memorial Day, 2010

This is a re-post of last year’s Memorial Day post, with a few changes for 2010.

Matt 24:6-8….6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars , but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. NIV

I’ve taken parts of my Memorial Day posts for the last 4 years, and combined them here.

Thank you to those who lay their lives on the line so our country can remain free.

These two songs, There She Stands and Freedom’s Never Free, are songs Beth, Laura and I have done for our July 4 service at church.

all  gave some

If you ever get a chance, go to the Houston National Cemetery, our veteran’s cemetery. It is a beautiful place to see. These pictures were taken July 2, 2004. The first picture is at the front gate:


The next picture is of the emblems on the wall of the office, showing all 5 branches of the military:


Next is the outdoor chapel area, or rotunda, and bell tower, as seen entering the cemetery:


This is the area where the funerals are held:

Chapel 2

The next picture is taken from the top of the wall of the chapel, looking toward the front gate. The funeral services are held in the area between the flags, and the men firing the “21 Gun Salute” stand in the grassy area. The top of the wall is off limits during funerals because the TV cameras are set up there.

From atop the  chapel


This is one of several walls containing ashes, called columbariums:


These speak for themselves. When you drive into the cemetery, you see what appears to be acres of vacant land. What you can’t see from the road are the hundreds of flat headstones in the older sections of the cemetery. These pictures shows both kinds.


Through the end of 2008, there were 67793 graves in this cemetery.


Old graves

Bethany and I attended the funeral of this young man, Scott Larson, in April 2004:

Scott Larson

Scott Larson

Another Houston boy. This was taken just days after his funeral:

Cory Kosters

Walt Moss was an Air Force EOD Tech. Ethan did not know him, but some of his friends did. One of the men Ethan was in Iraq with the very first time, drove to Houston from Florida for Walt’s funeral.

Walt Moss

This was taken right after Scott’s funeral in 2004. Beth and I have returned to the cemetery several times to take pictures.

Iraq and  Afghanistan dead

The same area, March 2007. Look at all the graves that have been added in just 3 years.

Recent deaths

Same area from a different angle. These are not all necessarily new graves from those killed in the current fighting, but many are. Some are veterans of other wars that died between 2004 and 2007.

New graves


Funeral of Ryan Green, March 27, 2007:

Ryan Green

Ethan’s fellow EOD Tech, TSgt. Tony Capra, killed by a bomb, April 9, 2008:

TSgt. Tony Capra

Also Ethan’s friend, another EOD Tech, Senior Airman Elizabeth Loncki, killed by an IED in Iraq, January 7, 2007:

Liz Loncki

My grandmother’s brother is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but I have never seen his grave. I would love to have a picture of it. His name was Pat Fox Fulgham, and he was killed in World War II.


If any of you are ever in Houston, I would be glad to take you on a tour of Houston National Cemetery.

So while you are eating your barbeque, or lying on the beach, remember those who are being honored on this holiday. This isn’t just the beginning of summer.

Love you, Ethan. Yes, still. (And this year in 2010, I am praying for your safe return from Iraq once again.)


First Date


It’s been a little over 31 years this weekend since our first date. It was actually May 26, 1979, but it was the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend in 1979. Steve asked me to go to the beach…sort of. He did not think I would go alone with him, so he arranged for friends from work to have a beach party at the beach house of one of our co-workers.

See, I had turned him down once before….sort of I didn’t know I had.  We had a file cabinet behind my desk, full of candy. Everybody in the plant was on the honor system, to take a candy bar and leave money. People were in and out of there all day long. It was good candy.

He came in, stopping at the candy drawer like so many others. But he asked me if I liked Janis Ian. I said, “Not really.” I wasn’t thinking….I was working (thinking was not generally required with most of my work!) He did not say more. In later years, he told me how I stomped all over his little psyche that day.

It’s a long story, so I’ll let you read the whole story here:


Three weeks after our first date, we bought my engagement ring.

And we lived happily ever after…sort of. 

Steve & Cindy 6-24-79June 24, 1979

I thought it was time to post again…

It’s been a while since I posted, except for a couple of birthdays. Life has been a little stressful for the last several months.

Most of you see me on Facebook. For those who don’t, here’s what’s been happening:

March 8, my mother went in the hospital (St. Luke’s/Texas Heart Institute in the Houston, TX Medical Center), to have a heart catheterization. She was going to have bypass surgery, and the doctors needed to determine which places to put the bypasses. It was determined that she needed 2-4 bypasses.

Then on Tuesday, March 9, she had a triple bypass. She was in the hospital 2-1/2 weeks at St. Luke’s. She had some serious setbacks there. Her heart did well, but her kidneys did not. She is in end-stage renal failure, and has been on dialysis for a year. She was not able to keep food down, and did not feel like eating, so they put in a feeding tube. That helped her to heal. Otherwise, she would not have gotten enough protein. The cardiologist wanted to release her to a long-term care facility, but that facility did not think she was ill enough to need it. So they let her go home.

She fell that night, and the next day I had to take her to the emergency room at a local hospital, Memorial Hermann Southeast. She was extremely weak, and was unable to do anything for herself. Her mind was not working as it should have been.

Her regular nephrologist (kidney specialist) that she had been seeing for a year, saw her that night in the ER. He was alarmed that her blood chemicals were much higher than they should have been. He said she had not been getting adequate dialysis for some time. I had them call in the same cardiologist Steve saw a few weeks back. He said it appeared that one of her bypasses had already collapsed. He said 30% of them do collapse within 30 days after surgery.

She stayed nearly a week, but since the long-term care facility would not take her, and she was too weak for Daddy to care for, we had to put her in a nursing home across the street from the hospital. I hated that…it wasn’t a place we wanted her to be.

The next morning, I had to take her to the dialysis facility. But we ran into a problem. During dialysis, her blood pressure dropped to 58/20, which is much too low. We did determine that the nurses at the nursing home gave her all 3 of her blood pressure medications that morning before dialysis, and they should not have. They should have only given her one. Any nurse should know that…dialysis drops the blood pressure, so with blood pressure meds, it makes it drop too low.

Back to the ER. She was having a lot of abdominal pain, and a year before, she had peritonitis due to an intestinal rupture. That required emergency surgery then. After several tests this time, it was determined that there was nothing wrong other than an infection. But her mind was still not clear. One day I had to go to the hospital and force her to take her antibiotics. She also had pneumonia. And in her unclear mind, she could not understand that refusing her medications would endanger her life.

She was finally released to the long-term care hospital. They agreed this time that she was sick enough. She was there about 3 weeks, and released one week ago, to a different rehabilitation hospital. She is getting a lot of physical therapy there, so she can better care for herself when she goes home.

But 1-1/2 weeks ago, we found out my dad has Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. He has been extremely tired for a long time, and his latest blood tests showed low blood count (both red and white cells) and low platelets. He had a bone marrow biopsy that showed leukemia.

The doctors had suspected multiple myeloma ( a different type of bone marrow cancer) back 10 years ago. But the tests were inconclusive. They were unable to tell he had leukemia at that time.

I’m going with Daddy to the doctor next Wednesday, so more than one person can hear what the doctor wants to do as treatment. We already know he will have chemotherapy.

And as if that wasn’t enough, we found out Bethany will most likely have surgery again. It’s been 2 years since her ankle reconstruction, after she ruptured a tendon in an accident. She had also had a stress fracture. She’s still been having  pain, so she had an MRI 3 weeks ago. It showed that she has a benign tumor in a bone in her ankle. They will have to remove it, so it won’t shatter the bone as it grows.

Bethany is planning to go to Indonesia next summer to see the little girl that she sponsors with Compassion International. She’ll need the surgery before she goes. I don’t want her to be in Indonesia and have a bone break.

So that’s what we’ve been up to since March.  And this October, we have a church homecoming. Our church is 115 years old. To prepare for it, we are having a workday at the church every
Saturday until the Homecoming on October 10. Then 2 weeks later, a lady in our church is getting married. I’m doing the entire wedding….dress, flowers, decorating, cake, etc.

So I will still be extremely busy for the next few months. After all this, I am hoping to just get to sit and do nothing.

Please also pray for a couple of ladies at church. One has breast cancer and is undergoing chemo now. The other had breast cancer 13 years ago, and recently found another lump.

I’m not even going to ask what else can happen.