You would have been fourteen today. Amidst the chaos of cobbled-together derby cars and robot obstacle courses and four sweaty boys we might have made a cake just for you. I would have made you spaghetti, because it is your favorite. We could have walked across the bridge in the late afternoon, to sit on the swing that hangs on the other side of the creek. Maybe it would have been awkward, because what do I know of raising teenaged girls? Perhaps it would have been your mother to sit with you on that swing, and this would be just fine with me, to look out our back window and see the two of you there, talking or maybe just quiet, allies in a house of men.

I think they might be gentler with you here, your brothers. You might have soothed something in them. Or perhaps instead they would be roused to even bolder feats of stupid bravery. Perhaps instead of racing their bicycles down the hill and sliding to a stop before toppling over the creek’s steep bank, they would have tried to leap it, for you.

I told Caleb today, as we left your grave, how you used to lay your tired head on your mother’s belly, knowing he was inside. You called him your brother-baby. This is what your mother remembered to Caleb. He smiled, and he was sad because for two years he was an only child who was not our only child. I wonder if something in him, in all of them, knows this presence of absence as your mother and I know it, grieve it, breathe it in and breathe it out.

What your presents would have been, I have no idea. I don’t know what 14 year-old girls want. We only know, now, to buy you flowers. Fourteen roses for your grave, a larger bunch of them here — your mother has them in vases. They are here because you are not, and they are here as you are with us still, a sudden sense of belief within a cold heart, a breathless ache, a distant sound that was once so familiar we could forget the fleetingness of life.


  1. David McGinnis

    i don’t know you, and i obviously didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Caroline. I have no words, only tears. (for you, as a father)

  2. Corey

    First of all, thank you for your post. I found your blog via a link from Instapundit. First time I’ve visited your site and I read this post commemorating your daughter’s 14th birthday. This is…..beautiful. Sir, I pray that you and your family will suffer well until the time where there will be no more suffering.

  3. Kevin

    My Lord! I was directed here from RedState, and am I glad I clicked. Reading your words made my heart race. I have never seen someone’s grief written so powerfully. My eyes swell just re-reading snippets…”allies in a house of men”. I have two beautiful daughters of my own, and I know that I will be giving them extra loving hugs after work today. We may never cross paths again, but know that your words have changed my life. God Bless you.

  4. Beth Impson

    Only thing to say is thank you for allowing your suffering to bring beauty into the world to remind us all of the precious gift of life, that it’s okay to grieve its loss, and that it’s possible to go on, and to go on well, even in the sorrow that will never disappear until you meet the lost one again.

    Thank you for sharing Caroline with us.

  5. TFM

    Thank you for sharing this with us. My wife and I will pray for your family and Caroline tonight, and we will hug our children extra hard in the morning.

  6. Jeff Brokaw

    Our sincere condolences, as always, Tony and Celeste. And Caleb. That is a peculiar burden for him to bear … but I imagine he finds some comfort in knowing his big sister was bonding with him like that before he was even born.

  7. Molly

    I’m so sorry for your pain. I am going now to hug and kiss my own daughter and thank God for her life. thank you for sharing.

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