11 October 2019

For the Feast of a little baby Saint...

As I sit here, it’s 21 years since my oldest daughter (my second baby) went Home. Normally, I’m a sobbing, quiet mess. This year… This year is worlds different. In a word: Love. I’ve been tremendously fortunate to have friends...

Brittanney Nichole sono 2 July 1998
I’m sitting here unwinding from a very long day. And only a little bit of it was a little sad. For those of you who don’t know, my daughter, Brittanney Nichole, passed away back in 1998 from a birth defect called Anencephaly. For 20 years, I have weathered a lot of guilt – what if I had done x differently; why did I do y instead of b; why did this happen…? But though none of those questions have any tangible answers that fit, I have been fortunate enough to know some loving people in my little world who’ve rallied around me and offered their hearts. Willing to be there to celebrate a beautiful life rather than focus on a needless death.

While I don’t fully understand what grace is, we talk about it a lot, ‘God, give me the grace for this thing I am facing,’ I will say that one grace He has seen fit to give me is friendship. Tonight, I was able to spend time with some people that mean a lot to me, and even a couple people I don’t know that well, but I’m grateful to have part of my life just the same, because they lent me something that I will forever treasure as much as those I do know for a long time: they gave me the gift of their heart. No questions asked, just said, ‘What time, where, and we’ll be there.’ And they were.

It’s hard to express my gratitude. None of you knew Brittanney. None of you knew me before she was born, and only met me in the last couple decades (Jacob), the last handful of years (Deacon Gordon, Mandy), the last few months (James), and the last couple weeks (Morgan). Something like this, it’s hard to talk about because it makes people uncomfortable. And that’s understandable. But, at the same time and I saw this summed up on a bumper sticker once: ‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.’

Brittanney Nichole took my breath away. Not in a negative way, either. She showed me things that I didn’t know a little baby could show her mother. I will forever have those treasures in my heart. My wonderful friends have shown me that I am still as lovable now as I have been before they knew about Brittanney. I wasn’t treated differently once her reality was brought up. They weren’t judgmental that she’d come up in conversation because they know she is as much a part of me as my other two amazing kids, Wolfgang and Jessyka, are.

She is part of who I am as a person. I am Brittanney’s mother as much as I am Wolfgang and Jessyka’s mother.

My name is T. Rea Okerberg, and I am the mother of two saints and one girl here on earth. I am the face of one in four. And I embrace every ounce of who I am, because those three little humans that God saw me fit to be their mother and bring them forth into this world, I am a better person because of them. I am and forever will be their mother, and I love every ounce of that. I embrace the pain of having buried Wolfgang and Brittanney. I embrace them because their bodies were buried, but their souls are and will always be very much alive.

As I said, they can still hear and see me. I am grateful to God for His infinite wisdom and love to have given me the wonderful honour of being their mother. I am grateful to Mama for being there for me when I needed her the most. When I got the awful news that Britt wasn’t well, and that she wasn’t going to survive outside of my body, Mama heard me. I didn’t ever think to reach out to her, but she reached out to me. She wrapped me up, tight, in her mantle and held me close to her Immaculate Heart. Looking back on that, I have to wonder if my conversation with my friend who came to meet up with me that day when we got the news wasn’t Mama’s heart beating in my ear. I have to wonder if that was her way of saying, ‘I understand, my love. I understand.’ That whole way home, all I could do was cry because my heart was shattered.

Now here we are, 21 years after I lost her, and my Brittanney was celebrated. I don’t really generally show too much of my heart on here, but I will share this: I admit I am crying. I also admit that it is not tears of sorrow. It is tears of joy.


This year has been really good for me, as a friend and I were discussing this afternoon after Mass. She had commented that I seem much happier and I’m breathing much easier than last year. And she isn’t wrong. We were talking about all that had happened, comparing things from this year as opposed to last, and she remarked that I am a lot lighter in my spirits. She isn’t wrong. I am. More than that, when I was noticing that today was getting closer, unlike years past when I’d face the day with dread, this year I faced it with excitement because while no, I cannot physically hug my daughter and wish her a happy birthday, I can still say to her, ‘Happy birthday, baby, I love you!’ and know with all my heart that she can – and does – hear me.

She is but a breath away. I love that I can still talk to her, she is very much alive, and I don’t have to mourn her. And I don’t. I rejoice that she’s waiting for me, she’s interceding on my behalf, and she’s my little cheerleader when I am able to get through another day. She and her brother, my son, Wolfie, are waiting for me.

Tonight, I am slowly feeling the effects of the cake and ice cream wearing off, and I am getting sleepy. But you know what? I’ll be sleeping with a smile on my face knowing that Saint Brittanney and Saint Wolfgang are interceding for me. They are hugging me and snuggling with me, their mother. I know that Mama has had my back since their deaths and she’s ever still and ever will have my back through this because she gets it. She knows what it’s like to bury her own Child. He conquered death so that we could be reunited with all those we’ve lost, especially children who were too-briefly here.

I am one-in-four, but I am grateful to have had the experience of being their mother.

Brittanney, I love you and miss you fiercely, but I know that you are there, you are but a breath away, and you are taking my prayers to our Beloved Jesus on my behalf. I love knowing that I can say a prayer to you and know that you can hear me.

Thank you my beautiful little Saint. Thank you.

Love,
Mom

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