I was astounded and deeply touched by the way people responded to Samuel's life and death -- by the way they hurt with us, sincerely grieved the life of a baby the vast majority of them never even met, and cared for us in our sorrow and pain. People served us in kind, creative, life-giving ways. They provided us with meals for months after Samuel's death, took our boys to play at their house or to go to vacation Bible school celebrations, gave us date nights out to be together and grieve -- or even try to laugh, watched Caleb and Joel so we could go to grief counseling, wrote us moving and encouraging letters, told us stories of how their lives were changed by our baby son, had our house cleaned for us for several months, bought our groceries and delivered them for just as long, went to their knees at all hours of the day and night while Samuel was alive -- and after his death prayed for our family in our sorrow, arranged to have Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photograph the boys meeting Samuel so we would have pictures of our only real time as a family of five, made a prayer blanket to lay over our sweet boy while he was in the CICU, made us a goodie bag of our favorite things for our vigils over Samuel, gave us worship CD's to listen to during our long days at the hospital, provided us with gas cards and Chick-Fil-A cards and a lot of cash, went with Bryan to pick out the grave plot, took care of funeral arrangements, put together a beautiful service for our baby boy, fed our extended family after Samuel's memorial service, made donations in Samuel's memory to Children's Health Care of Atlanta or to organizations close to our hearts, gave us unbelievably thoughtful gifts -- a gorgeous painting of the ocean called "You Sustain Me," necklaces with Samuel's name or initials on them, a collage of Samuel pictures, a hand-knitted shawl with symbolism for Samuel, a paving stone with "Samuel Erik Apinis, August 2009, Caleb and Joel's Brother" in a garden for babies who have gone to Heaven, a tree to plant in our yard. Three different, amazing beach places were offered to us for a week free of charge (all of which we went to!). The list goes on and on and on. I was flabbergasted by the kindness of our friends -- and in some cases strangers. It gave new and rich meaning to the verse in Romans, "mourn with those who mourn." I felt so cared for, so uplifted, so supported, so loved. I knew we were not alone. I knew what the body of Christ was supposed to be because I was experiencing it firsthand.
When we found out we were expecting Anna and shared our wonderful news, I was again touched by people's response. They were genuinely thrilled for us. Two sets of friends put on amazing showers for me. Bryan regularly came home from work bearing gifts for our coming girl. A couple from our small group painted a dresser for her nursery. Once Anna was born, we were flooded with kindness and well-wishes. Within 24 hours of Anna's birth, 17 people came to visit us at the hospital. We were inundated with baby girl clothes, blankets, and stuffed animals. Four different neighbors came knocking on our door bearing adorable outfits and gifts for our Anna Pea. People fed us three meals a week for 7 weeks. Anna's great grandma crocheted her a blanket, my high school friend Brigid knit her a sweater, and a new small group leader Bryan met with sewed her two beautiful dresses and made her a matching diaper bag with a picture of Anna and her birth stats attached. A friend ordered a handmade owl for Anna's room. We've been downright flooded with gifts and love and joy. It has been amazing to have so many people rejoice in our Anna and share in our happiness, people who "rejoice with those who rejoice."
As we've experienced both halves of Romans 12:15, it's been a double blessing. To have a community to fall back on in our sorrow was comforting, safe, and freeing. It enabled us to have bad days and know we weren't alone; there were people to fall back on, people praying for us, people to help fill in our gaps. And now to have so many sharing in our joy, loving Anna with us, wanting to know about her -- it's beautiful and rich and increases our joy. We are so grateful to the many people who have made the last two plus years so much better than they would have otherwise been, who have mourned with us and now rejoice with us. We can't thank you enough!