The Stains of Grief

Texas Fine Art Motherhood & Family Photographer

It is hard to say what a year has taught me after the death of my husband.  Might sound crazy, but when I have heard about people losing their spouse, I immediately pictured this couple in their elderly years and felt saddened for the remaining soul on Earth that had to spend their last few years alone. But, I knew that with the little time they had left, God had given them so many years. Years full of love, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, vacations, weekends, birthdays, celebrations, holidays and rite of passages.

Death does not only come to those who are well up in their years spent on Earth.

Tragedy has always struck other people, other families, other friends.  It happened to people that we look at from the outside and think to ourselves, “I couldn’t imagine”… or, “I feel so bad for them”… or, “My heart breaks for them.”

Death can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.  I always thought I would be an exception.

Death has no exceptions.

Me? Live without my closest family or friends? No way! God would never do that to me because He knows I couldn’t handle it.

God thought differently. I have become one of them.

Becoming a widow at age 26 with a 13 month old little boy has shown Gods will shall be done and has proven to me that I was no exception to Death.

At 26, my life was planned; dreams set in motion; and were checking each one off one-by-one. The death of my 27 year old husband was not on that list. This ‘check’ canceled every other step that was still to be completed in my planned life – for all my dreams included Luke in them. My life after January 25th would never be the same. I was forced into a new world that I didn’t like, I didn’t want, and for sure did not plan.

Through the passing of Luke, I have learned that Death is black and white. But with death; comes grief and grief is so grey. Grief is so complicated. It is a term used to describe the end of someone’s normalcy and the despair to see that old pattern end. It the word to describe my every emotion; the word that I still can’t believe is in my everyday vocabulary. Grief brings many different emotions but I feel grief has left me with two stains: two stains that no matter how much I can try to push away will be instilled within me until my soul is uplifted.

Memories are the stains that are pleasant. They are made up of everything that I am, everything Luke and I were, and everything of what Brady, our sweet little boy, will have to learn.  They are everything that makes me smile.  Luke and I shared nine years of memories – many amazing ones, some not so pleasant, and some sad but all brought us closer.  Within each of those memories, it was like a small amount of passion credited to our relationship and the love we had for each other. We grew up together. Dating for 7 years, sharing marriage for 2, and raising our baby for 1, has taught me all I need to know about love.  I know each memory invested in my heart will have to be enough to keep me going for my remaining years here.

Me. My memories are within me. Me – the mom of Luke’s child. Me  – the person who is responsible for instilling these memories with the son Luke so badly wanted – the son who he so desperately desired to make his own memories with. Brady. Our son: the reason that entirely makes up the second stain of grief.

Grief: the bewildered beast of emotions. The emotions we are left daunted to tackle. The storm we are left to fight through. Grief leaves the stain of all obscurities. Every new pregnancy announced sends a thousand darts to the heart. Every birthday sets like a dense fog on a forbidden highway. Every new holiday is an adventure unwanted. Every desirable vacation is a task. Every new morning is the same nightmare lived the previous day. The negative stain of grief is the soft animosity left by all the items on your checklist left open while the world continues checking.  You have become frozen. You still participate in your life like it is your old one but you have the jabs of reminders that your life doesn’t hold the same plans that you always wanted.  The plans that everyone else around you still get to have.  You smile and say you are happy for them – because you are.  Its not that you want their baby, or their house they built together, or even their vacation or holiday, you want their feeling.  You want what you know you experienced in those moments of happiness in your old life. Luke and I always wanted a big family.  I didn’t know that I should’ve fully grasped every moment of Luke helping in birth for our first {and only} born.  I didn’t know that I needed to remember every detail of each holiday Brady would only get to spend with his dad once. I didn’t know. I don’t get to know. I will never know how awesome of a big brother Brady will be. I will never know what features our second born would receive that Brady did not. I will never get to meet eyes with our little girl to see what she would look like or be like.  I will never know what our first home to build would consist of; I will never know if Luke approves of the way I fix Brady’s hair. I will never get to know what it is like as a family trying to get homework done, Brady off to practices, while trying to get dinner on the table. My dream of being a wife and having a family of my own was short lived and the 13 months I got with my amazingly, perfect {to me} little family will have to be sufficient enough until we are united again.

I can do this… I have to do this. What is hard to grasp is Brady.

Brady won’t get to know any of it. He will never know the great man his dad is.  He will never see how proud Luke was when he beamed at him. He will never to get to see the way Luke’s eyes would squint and the way his mouth would curl up on each side to show how in awe he was of his creation. Brady will never get to experience and share Luke’s passion of hunting and sports.  Brady will never get to share, one day, the love of his life with his Dad or his first born.

The stain of grief of the “what-ifs” can be unbearable. But the actual absence of the person we love so much is what compresses every breath. I miss Luke. I miss the way he rolled out of bed 12 minutes before we had to be out the door.  I miss his somewhat obnoxious way of brushing his teeth while leaving the shower running.  I miss walking into places with him, late, of course. I miss how he would walk around and check everything throughout our home before we left to go anywhere, even if it was just to go to the grocery store.  I miss his music and the beat of rhythm he would provide in addition to the music in the car. I miss the way he would sweep his hand across mine as a way to say how much he loved me and the wonderful life we had. I miss his abstract advice that he would offer as if he knew every way of the world. I miss his laugh, his smirk, his cry. I miss his passion for things I might’ve not understood. His knowledge, his stubbornness, his carefree attitude. I miss his speeches on why Catholicism is so important to him. I miss his protection. They way he yearned to spend his time with me and Brady. The way he would have my back and fight for me. I miss how we would exchange that ‘look’ after a fight or disagreement and hysterical laugh at the immatureness we probably had just demonstrated.  I miss the way he loved so intently. It’s not just the way he loved me and Brady – I miss the way he loved his family and friends – the people who meant the world to him and who he would give everything he had to just see them happy. I miss praying with him. I miss sharing our faith together.

I miss him.

I miss everything about him.

To say I am jealous of the people who lose their spouse in their late years in an understatement.  I am jealous. I am jealous of all the stains of grief they are left with: the vast amount of memories and the hasty time of what ifs. The hypotheticals do not amount to their concrete impressions left by their other half.

I wanted that.

A year of stains has left me beaten and scarred; but also enlightened. I am realizing that with every memorable stain and through each stain of bitterness, I have Luke in every one. He may not be able to walk with me and make our checks on the ‘master plan’ together but he shapes every mark I make and through this I know that I will be okay.  God has proven me wrong that I am not an exception.  But, he also proved that I can do this journey. I will do this journey. I am doing this journey – through Him.




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Photography by Ever & Anon | Written by Hannah Arnold (Unveiling Faith)


A Special Season | Jessica Scott Photography


When pregnant, I spent months nesting and preparing for our newest addition. No matter how much we planned, nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming love that washes over you the moment your baby is in your arms.  It’s the most encompassing, beautiful feeling I’ve ever felt. God has provided so much purpose and fulfillment in my life my being a mother . I’m couldn’t be more grateful that God chose me to mother these two boys.

I knew I wanted this special season documented in our home. When Hendrix was one week old, Jess came over and captured our family in such a beautiful way. She captured the little moments, the ones that may otherwise be forgotten in the day to day. These moments are the ones I hold the most dear. The moments where I feel Jesus encourage me as a mom with sweet kisses, warm snuggles and big smiles.  These are the moments I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

Written by Jenna McElroy | Photography by Jessica Scott Photography

In over my head | An adoption story


In Over My Head

I am in over my head. The water is deep and the shore is out of site. And if I am honest, I am afraid.

Tomorrow, I will board a plane with my husband to travel to China. There we will meet a little girl for the first time, and she will officially become a part of our family through adoption.

I am in over my head. I am vulnerable. I am excited. I am terrified. I feel unworthy but so grateful. Every thought and emotion one could have…I am experiencing them right now and have been ever since we first started this adoption process eleven months ago.

This is risky. There are so many unknowns. Literally. We do not know this little girl that we already refer to as our daughter. We do not know the extent of her brain damage, which is the diagnosis from the doctors in China. We do not know what it looks like to parent a child who comes from trauma. We do not know how to speak Chinese and our nearly two-year-old daughter does not know English. The list of unknowns seems endless.

What we do know is that she is worth it.

She is worth the risk, the unknown. Because she, just like you and I, is a child of God, made in His image. He stepped down from Heaven to redeem us. To adopt us. You and I. To ransom us and bring us into the fullness of life by His blood on the cross. His sacrifice is my gain, it’s my life. And if He can do that for us, then we can step out into the waters of the unknown for her.

I find that He often calls us to step out into the uncertain. This faith walk is not always comfortable or easy. It is often difficult and messy. But God promises that when we obey Him, He will reveal Himself to us (John 14:21). The God of the universe makes Himself known to us when we step out in faith and do what He is asking. That reward is the best gift besides salvation that God could give to us. It is knowing Him that satisfies our soul and gives this life on Earth purpose. And it is because of that promise that I can press on in this present journey He has called me to.

I am in over my head. The water is deep and the shore is out of site…but I know it is there, even if I cannot see it. I could panic and try to will myself to the unseen shore in a frantic swim. Or I could pause. Turn my gaze up and float here. Remain here. Out in the waters. Trusting that if this is where God wants me, He will not forsake me. I am choosing love over fear, and I am encouraged by His promise that He will show Himself through this obedience.

I am in over my head. And here, I will remain.

– written by Renee Booe, the mother of this beautiful family. Photography by Izzie Rae Photography