“Like my soul is getting sucked out of my mouth”

I am sharing things that I feel I have already processed to a degree with you all. Doing things in a certain order gives me time to realize what it is I am actually feeling–and when it is realized, felt, embraced, and understood only then can I share it willfully. I was reading through my journal today looking for something to share and post, and I stumbled across the sad and angry rant. Anger and fear have been two close companions since Ella died…they are real emotions and entirely exhausting.

Another stupid sunday night. What starts out as a possibility in the morning, a faint glimmer of forgetfulness turns out to be a dose of self-imposed denial. When all of this fades away, it peels back to reveal the reality of what I’ve become. An angry woman. I don’t know if my moments of sustained grace are actual, or pretended, authentic, or fabricated. Unable to judge anything on my emotions–I struggle to remain justified. Struggle to not be dreadfully afraid. Fear and anger. I feel a complete voidness of love. Fear and anger, and despair and anger, and brief distraction from my pain.

I have this scab on my hand, and I keep bumping it on something everyday–its infected and keeps re-scabbing. Seems like it’s never going to heal. A small reflection of my whole condition. I feel like this enormous scab…I am an open wound and my layers keep getting ripped off again and again. For a moment I heal, but that wound is always there. It’s so hard for my accept this as my mortal forever reality. How this loss–it’s hard to even write her name these days. The loss of Ella will NEVER EVER be right with  my soul. Nothing is well with my soul. I’m screaming at the top of my lungs–a freight train in a tunnel…but the noise never escapes the dark abyss, and no one has ever heard it.

Sometimes this grief is so unbearable–grief makes things, at least for me, incredibly loud, so excruciatingly loud. Yet my cries come out in silent whispers. Like I’ve truly lost my voice–all the notes, and tunes, and frequencies can’t come out. Just these dry cracked whispers. Like my soul is getting sucked out of my mouth.


Climbing Clouds

This is a new song I wrote about Ella




You are like a raindrop that fell from a cloud

When you hit the pavement it was so loud

It was so loud, it was so loud, it was so loud

Even if I’m the only one who heard the sound

Now I’m begging heaven, climbing clouds

If only they could send you back now

Send you back now, Send you back now

Hold on Darling one more day you’ll wake up, wake up, wake up

And everything will be ok

You are like a snowflake that fell to the ground

Here for a moment but life melted you down

Melted you down, melted you down

And I am just a poor man holding out my hands

Counting the sheep until I sleep and see you again

See you again, see you again, see you again

Hold on Darling one more day you’ll wake up, wake up, wake up

And everything will be ok

You are like lightening flashing in my sky

While flying little kites, don’t ask me why

Ask me why, ask me why, ask me why

I am just a beggar living off your bread

Life is death that’s what he said

What he said, what he said, what he said

Hold on Darling one more day you’ll wake up, wake up, wake up

But not everything is ok

Nothing is ok



I’m sitting here in my office trying to find the words to explain this post. Why it’s important, why it’s valid, and necessary and precious. But there are no words–just that I needed to commemorate her life for myself, for Jason, and for my family. We didn’t have the luxury of a lifetime with Ella–these photos are the only physical, visual things we have left of her. You may not see her face, or her tiny hands, or her beautiful eyes–but she is here. She is in every single one of these photos–she is the smile on our faces. Ella was only here on this earth for 22 weeks, and in those 22 weeks she lived life with us. She went on countless road trips with us to Boston, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, The Niagara Falls,Canada, California, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Chicago, Missouri, Vermont, Indiana, and Wisconsin. For some reason we humans need some kind of mile-marker in our lives, to pay homage and to see how far we’ve come. We leave little souvenires of ourselves and people we’ve loved; white crosses on the side of the road, shrines dedicated to people we’ve lost, or perhaps our own names etched on the trunk of a tree. Ellas whole being and soul touched this world–because she touched me. This post is my mile-marker, although the real tribute is unseen…a monument etched, burned, and sealed in my heart.


This is a picture of Jason right after I told him we were pregnant. There is nothing Jason has wanted more than to be a dad…he cried, prayed, and well..you can see the moving reaction of pure joy and love.


I’m so glad that I took these pictures from the house…he had no idea, and I had no idea how precious they would be.


One of Ellas first photos…we were amazed at her beautiful profile.


This is me paddle-boarding at North Bar last summer, it was so beautiful.


Jason, Ella, and I were constantly on the go last summer…this is at a camp we stayed at. It was funny because all the kids were hearing rumors that I was pregnant, and we were more than happy to confirm them.


We drove to St. Louis to go to our friends wedding.


This is a memorial I played at last summer in Traverse City. The night was special and emotional to say the least. We all came to honor a young girl who died…Ally. Her parents and brother spoke..and I played a concert for her friends. It’s surreal to look back–now that I know what it feels like to lose a daughter. Life is so…not funny….but funny that way.


Ella got to hear me sing so much while she was alive…I played 3 hour long sets–she would keep me company…and really she was the secret that made me smile no matter how tired I was. I’m thankful for that…


I remember shopping for this dress…it had to accomodate Ellas growing…I think she would have loved it. Little silly things like that are what really break me down…she will never get to go shopping with me…


This was a special moment we shared together at Big Ticket Festival…this man was watching my performance from backstage and he had waited for me to come around so he could say hi. He spoke, but I couldn’t understand his words–but his eyes and his heart were beaming through the tears in his eyes. I started crying and Jason and I prayed for him. We were left thinking that something about my music must have touched him…I can’t wait to get to heaven and find out what it was.


She was there…


Somewhere in Vermont I believe…


Jason, Jenny & Tyler and I at Fandana Music Festival. Jenny & Tyler are an amazingly talented married couple who make the most lovely music. We actually listened to their music on repeat the night I delivered Ella…the words “You are stillness, you are quiet, you are comfort and peace” from their song “When Darkness Falls” was literally an anchor for my soul in immense confusion, distress, and quite honestly –heinous fear.
Click on the photo to hear the song




This is one of the only shows Ella and I did without Jason there–he was in California on a backpacking trip.


This is the first and only picture I took of my baby bump–I sent it to Jason when I was in California for my best friends wedding. Ella literally just popped on that trip. She was my strength and my happy place when I had to fly by myself..I would pray and think of her to calm myself and allude my anxiety over flying. The first time I felt her move was on the plane coming back to Michigan.


Ella was all over SOCAl with me–she even got to go for a swim in the ocean!


This is in Chicago at a songwriters circle I played at with my friends Xoe Wise, and Dan Henig. Xoe sent me the sweetest note and flowers after Ella died…


Jason, Ella and I at our friends wedding. The reception was at a vineyard and I got in trouble for eating grapes off the vine–Everyone tells me that Ella would have been a little stinker, just like me 🙂


We drove through Canada twice over the end of Summer–this was a lovely house concert in Burlington Ontario put on by some amazing fans, who also housed us. We had such a good time with them. They had two adorable daughters, and Jason and I were even more excited to meet ours after spending time with them.


Beamer, my sister, went on a few road trips with us out East, and through Canada. She made us stop at a cheese museum, of course. Ella did not like goat cheese–the one thing I absolutely love and always mistakenly ate before I sang–bad idea.


Beamer and I in Boston–we did the freedom trail, mixed with a bit of shopping 🙂


Ella got to go to the East Coast and eat some good seafood 🙂


Beautiful ceiling in the State House in Boston


Ella even got to go to Niagara Falls with us. Beamer made us go down to the observation deck–we were soaked head to toe, but it was so worth it.


My sister-in-law Liz and I. Cali and Ella in the womb–cousins forever 🙂


Happy times…


Jason made me take this photo…I’m glad I complied…on one of our many roadtrips


On our way to Duluth to meet our godson Jaxon


This adorable little organ caught my eye at an antique mall and I knew Ella had to have it in her room. The woman who sold it me told me it had been her daughters, and I promised that my daughter would love it one day. This is the last thing I bought for Ella. A few weeks after she died Beamer and I went in her room and played it together singing silly songs from Jungle Book…I wonder if she liked it.


On our way to Duluth the fall colors begged me to pull over and capture this moment in time.


Overlooking Lake Superior…Jason told me this was his favorite photo–I was so happy. I look back at this woman and I don’t know her anymore. That carefree spirit, that future, and that hope are dead. It’s really bittersweet–photos have never been that important to me, but they really do say a thousand words.


The last week Ella was with us I had gigs in Minnesota and Illinois. I drove as Jason worked and Ella made sure to keep me awake with all of her kicking and moving about. She was really active this trip and I couldn’t stop smiling. There are a million memories tied to these last days…one in particular. I was debating with Jason what her middle name should be–we were trying to see if there was any name we loved more than Rae. Our conversation died down, but I really feel like Ella was speaking to me–she kept directing me to Ella Rae. I would think to myself Ella Fiona, and I would almost hear her saying no…Ella Rae. I think about this often.


A thousand words


This photo is so prophetic to me


I will never have the words


I wish I could’ve had a photo like this with my hands but I was in shock…Holding her Daddy’s hand


My dad spoke at her funeral and it was so touching and powerful–my dad is my hero. He and Jason were my rock through delivery–I had both of them with me on either side holding my hands…


My Mom and I …with all my family looking on. She really wanted white roses, but the flower shop was all out of them–so I brought her daisies for Ella.


We buried her right next to my Grandpa…I know he is singing “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine” to her right now on a heavenly gibson 🙂


A Poem From Daddy

© Dan Stewart Photography

Finally, I’ve been waiting for my life to come true

Elevate commiserating, arrive right back at you

Your light fell to the bottom, then rose back up again

A birthday never coming, how do I manage then?

The dreams I had

Are now just sad

Gone before you came

We’ll never be the same

The sun’s not quite as bright

Yet I hold your mother tight

Stones have broke windows to see you through

Elevate commiserating, arrive right back at you

Your voice a sound I never heard

A promise I cannot keep

October 8 days past the third

Sleep my darling, sleep

The man you see before you lay all the while still

Waiting for a homecoming that God can only fill

Everything keeps going, except for you and me

Too fast I fear, you’re not here, oh the revelry