Today we are discussing celebrating the life of your daughter Ava Marie and the project you just started in honor of her life. Do you mind briefly sharing with our audience Ava’s story?
Absolutely! Ava Marie is our second daughter that we welcomed into the world and too quickly had to say goodbye to on February 18th, 2013. When we found out we were pregnant with our second child, only 7 months after having our first baby, we were so excited about our growing family! Excitement and anticipation suddenly turned into fear and uncertainty as we learned at our 20-week appointment that Ava was diagnosed with a rare medical condition of bilateral kidney agenesis that was “incompatible” with life. Choosing to continue on with our pregnancy, the next several months were filled with constant prayer and hope for a miracle of complete healing for our baby. The journey was long and hard, but filled with so much growth, peace, and life as we waited for her arrival. On February 18th, we were blessed to hold our little girl for 26 minutes before she passed to heaven, with a miracle of complete healing as she became an angel. This season of our lives has been extremely difficult, but filled with unexplained peace and happiness as the impact of her life has been extraordinary…to us, and many who know her story.
What type of project did you choose to honor your daughter?
My husband and I thought long and hard about what we could do as a tribute to remember our daughter. We wanted to keep the same spirit of joy, peace, and life that she brought to our family and impacted many with during our pregnancy and after her birth. Many options floated in our minds and many suggestions were offered to us, but the one idea we absolutely loved and couldn’t keep off our hearts was planting a flowering tree. Since her name, Ava, means “LIFE”, we knew that planting a beautiful tree to remember her was perfect because we could watch it grow, bloom, and mature in the days and years to come with rich life. As we decided to begin its foundation, the idea of a single flowering tree turned into a flourishing garden, with our tree as the center, planted with flowers, grasses, and lush green bushes that attract butterflies and birds. Its young start has already been our own beautiful little sanctuary that brings the peace, joy, and life to our home and hearts that we hoped for and imagined … and her sweet memory becomes alive again every time we see it.
Who was involved in the project with you?
I must start by giving credit to my husband, who did most of the planning and planting of Ava’s garden. My husband has what some people might say, a weird love for nature, plants and landscaping. He spent hours and days preparing for the garden by researching hundreds of plants and colorfully sketching the garden out in a diagram. He would be upset if I didn’t also mention that all the plants are Florida native plants to attract our native butterflies, birds and other wildlife… I laugh when thinking about how he may have missed his calling as a landscape architect or horticulturalist! After the land was ready, my husband and I planted each flower, plant, and finally Ava’s flowering tree. Our first daughter, Savannah (who is 18 months old) couldn’t help but want to pitch in after watching us for one day. She ran towards the garden as fast as she could the second I put her shoes on, and dug her little hands into the soil with a big smile. We gladly welcomed her into the garden, and watched as she transferred soil, and picked up all the big gardening tools, trying to follow daddy’s footsteps. She loved getting her hands dirty. It made us both beam to watch her cheerfully help in planting her sister’s garden, smiling and laughing during the project and meanwhile occasionally tasting the dirt! Also, both of our extended families from all across the country contributed to the expenses of the garden and the memorial rock that resides in it for Ava Marie to help keep Ava’s spirit alive. Overall, it’s been a family affair!
What was starting the project like for you?
At first, starting Ava’s garden was emotionally overwhelming. I remember walking out to our yard with my husband for the first time to hear him tell me about his planting ideas, and trying to listen as tears filled my eyes standing in front of the land he had started to prepare for her. Just seeing the garden start to come to life was a bit surreal, and so touching to my heart. It was as if we were bringing her spirit back to life. Then, as things started to progress, I couldn’t wait to help build the garden with my husband. And after a day of watching the planting, neither could Savannah. When I saw her rush to help without hesitation, my heart melted a little more. I couldn’t help but imagine her sister smiling from heaven, watching her whole family participate in building her memorial garden. What a sweet memory for our family.
Is there anything more you would like to share with us?
Yes! Through my pregnancy and the loss of our daughter, my husband and I have learned so much about life and hope, as we grew tremendously in our faith. Everyone who has witnessed our story and struggle ,wondered where our strength and unexplained peace came from and how we have survived through such a devastating trial. Losing a child has been life-shaking and our marriage, our family and our lives would not have come out the other side so much stronger without our faith in Jesus Christ. Our faith has given us strength to persevere and given us a strong foundation to stand upon, and hope in heaven as our eternal home comforts our souls. We know that Ava is dancing in heaven and sitting in Jesus’ lap right now, and we also know that one day we will be re-united with her again. The bible talks so much about seeking things that are above in heaven and not here on earth, but so often in our consumption obsessed society, it’s so easy to get distracted and focus on this life instead of the one after. More than anything, Ava Marie jolted us into thinking about afterlife, and seeking heaven, anticipating the day we will meet her again by keeping our eyes focused on God now, and every day we live.
To follow April’s journey you can visit her personal blog by clicking on this link: www.aprilehret.blogspot.com
To read “What Not to Say to a Woman Who Has Suffered a Miscarriage or Infant Loss” CLICK HERE!