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31 Years Ago

On March 17, 1979 my first sister, Erin Patricia was born. Due to a combination of complications and medical incompetence she died on March 30, thirteen days later. I got to hold her once.

When Paula and I were married it took us over two years to conceive the first time. We miscarried Blue Bonnet a couple of weeks into that pregnancy. Shortly after, we conceived Lucy. Lucy Elizabeth was born on March 30, 1999. At the time we didn’t realize the significance of the date. A few days later we figured out that Lucy’s aunt Erin had died twenty years before on Lucy’s birthday so we changed Lucy’s name to Lucy Erin Elizabeth in honor of the aunt she would never meet.

My kids often wish that Blue Bonnet hadn’t died so we have to remind them that they have a saint in heaven praying for all of them and that while we may have had a passel of kids, none of the rest of them would have been born if Blue Bonnet had lived. I’m not sure how many of them really understand that.

When I realized yesterday that my sister would have been thirty one, I started thinking of all the things that would be different had she lived: my brother James’s wedding next month wouldn’t be happening because James wouldn’t be here, my daughter Lucy would never have taken piano lessons from my sister Rebekah and my kids wouldn’t have the same wonderful cousins they have now, none of you would have seen the photos from my brother Michael’s trip to Rome and we wouldn’t marvel at his amazing ability to have everything fall into place in spite of the improbability of it all.

What would Erin have been like? Would she be married? Would she have entered the religious life? Would we even have ended up in Colorado Springs or would her life have affected where my dad got stationed?

And so, as we celebrated Lucy Erin Elizabeth’s eleventh birthday yesterday and the thirty first anniversary of my sister’s death, I wonder about the blessings we are given that would never occur without the tragedies that came before.

My uncle lives in the town where Erin is buried and every year he places flowers on her grave. He sent us this picture yesterday. Uncle Richard, thank you for watching over her grave for us since we aren’t able to.

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