Borchardt Consulting

Its Been 21 Years

Posted on: June 19, 2012

I’ve been trying to work.  I’ve been trying to sleep.  I’ve been trying to clean the house and cook for my family.  I’ve not been very successful at any of those things.  In my mind I keep hearing “It’s been 21 years.”

Tears well up in my eyes, but don’t fall.  I’ve gotten really good at redirecting my mind, but soon, I hear “It’s been 21 years” again.  21 year years ago this week, my 2nd daughter was born.  What a gift from God!  How deliriously happy we all were to welcome our second daughter into our family.  Our oldest was 3 ½ years old –just the perfect age to be a big sister.  She was so ready to be a big sister.  She had talked to my belly for months and attended class at the hospital so that she knew exactly how to help Mommy with her new baby sister.  When Mommy would sit down to breast feed, oldest sister would sit down right next to me and put her baby under her shirt too.  We sang, we read, we counted toes and we laughed.  Second girls are so easy.  As a mother, I felt comfortable knowing what to do. I felt bliss.

When my oldest was a baby, she smiled with her whole body.  She would wiggle and squirm into a full mouth grin.  Not my second girl.  She was a quiet smiler.  She was serene.  This lovely baby was so easy.  Just a quiet smile, like she knew a secret.  She had a beautiful smile.  As a mother, I felt so at ease with her because she was so comfortable, undemanding and easy going.

My 2nd Daughter

I went back to work and took my two girls to childcare.  My oldest turned four years old and our family was busy and happy.  Then, when my second daughter was 4 months and 4 days old, she went to sleep at my childcare provider’s home and never woke up.  I got the dreadful phone call at work. “Come quick!  I need you now!” said the voice of my provider.  I dropped that phone and ran.  The days and months after were filled with tears, sadness and gut wrenching pain.

I learned my most important life lesson that Fall day.  I learned that I cannot control the events in my life, but I can control the grace and dignity with which I respond to life.  I chose to make my second daughter’s short life mean something positive.  I chose to honor her in everything that I do.

Several years later, my husband and I decided to take a leap of faith and have another baby.  We welcomed our third daughter with a terrified ecstasy that can only be experienced by those who have lost deeply.  There is no more loved child in this world than the one that follows.  She is the miracle that brought laughter into our home again.  She helped her big sister to truly be a big sister again.  You may not know it, but it’s really hard to be the big sister when your little sister is in heaven.  They don’t teach that in the hospital class.

Over the last 21 years, there have been plenty of tears, but I have learned to carry my second daughter in my heart and not my arms.  I have honored her life everyday by working with newly bereaved families. I have learned to recognize the many gifts that she has sent to our family.  I have learned that it’s good to laugh. I have learned that I can spend my life being sad, or not.

We planted a tree in her honor and each June, our entire family gathers at the tree to send messages of love to her.  The tree has grown and our family has grown.  The tree, like the family has experienced rain, drought, storms, wind and snow but it has grown tall and flourished. Over the years, we have celebrated many milestones for our second daughter.  I never know what to expect.  In the beginning, her birthdate bore down on me with an unrelenting pressure that brought me to my knees with pain and sorrow.  Other years passed with a smile of remembrance, a story shared and a bit of melancholy.

This year, this 21st year has come with a bone deep weariness, a sadness that cannot be expressed.  I’m feeling like I might not have the strength to do this again.  But then, I remember what a dear friend said: “Just cause you’re in hell doesn’t mean you have to stop and shop.”  So, I’ll just pass on through.  I take a deep breath and I think of all the wonderful gifts that my second daughter has brought to me:  The joy of working with all the bereaved families and helping them to learn to laugh again; The joy that my life has become and the joy that my husband and my two surviving daughters bring to my life every day.

I am stronger than I ever thought possible.  I am a mother.  It’s been 21 years.


7 Responses to "Its Been 21 Years"

You and your family have been in my thoughts today. What a beautiful piece you wrote. You honor your daughter in heaven and your family on earth.


My thoughts are with you and your family. In some ways it is hard to believe it was 21 years ago her story began. You have honored her memory in so many of the things you have done and the many lives you have touched. Thanks for sharing. Your openness and compassion have certainly helped my family and I am sure many others. It is a shame that it was tragedies that brought us together but I will always be grateful you were there.


It’s been ten years for us…even 10, 15, 20 or 21 years later, some days are reminders of loss…and they are sad.


Thinking of you & holding you & your family up in prayer. Grateful that you made the choice to honor your daughter’s legacy, to continue to be present to your family & to help countless others. Sending blessings~~~


Thank you to all who have given me such kind words of support here, on facebook and in person. It’s wonderful to feel so supported by people who understand. You are all part of my daughter’s gifts to me. HUGS!!



I am reading this with tears in my eyes. I already knew how wonderful of a mother you are, but this is just beautiful. You are so strong and I completely envy that in you. You have amazing daughters who are so lucky to call you mom and I am lucky to have you as a sis in-law.


I found your blog from the CJ foundation. You are so inspiring. I have been in a pit of despair for a whole year, and it is hard for me to see how I will get through the rest of my life. I am approaching the 1 year mark of my loss of my daughter Anneliese to SIDS. She was 4 months and 6 days old, and was such a good little baby girl. She was born last June and I lost her in October


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