Today is my dad, Evelyn’s grandpa’s, birthday. When I look back on the last year with him, my mind is immediately consumed with Evelyn moments. I remember being in the hospital with preeclampsia, thinking I would be there for months. On February 2nd, my dad came to the hospital and sat in an uncomfortable chair and watched the Superbowl with me on a crappy, little tv. We talked about our fears, but also about the intense love we already felt for Evelyn. We had no idea that the next day, I would be told that Evelyn would be entering the world at 26w6d.

My dad was such a source of strength throughout the day of Evelyn’s birth, while I sat in a hospital bed filled with anxiety for 8 hours waiting for it to be time for my c-section. He held my hand and tended to my emotions so delicately. He helped me stay calm and strong in a moment that was so terrifying for me.

When Evelyn was born, I could immediately see and feel his love for her fill our world. He was so fascinated by her and had so much faith in her. He helped me focus on the wonder of our little Evelyn, rather than the things that scared me. I remember him coming to meet her for the first time, and how he said she was actually bigger than he thought she would be, because we made sure to tell everyone not to be shocked by how tiny she was. I remember him reaching his hand in and Evelyn grabbing hold of his finger. He was so timid about touching her with his “rough grandpa hands”, but Evelyn immediately responded to his touch. She knew. She knew this was someone who loved her powerfully.

As the weeks went on, my dad continued to be my absolute rock. He was so strong and steady and reminded us to focus on the love in the room and between our family. He continued to fall in love with her every day, and on the day Evelyn passed, he was there the entire time.

Just like all of us, he never thought that day would come, especially as suddenly as it had. During our absolute darkest hour, my dad never wavered. He held me, my mom, my husband, and my beautiful daughter in his arms, and he was an absolute pillar of strength.

The next morning, while we held our daughter for as long as they would allow, he came and was there for us in so many ways. He came and helped us figure out what the process would be for that day. He helped pack up the two NICU rooms they had allowed us to take over during the night. He helped make sure we didn’t need any food or water, or anything at all. Most importantly, he helped us navigate such a difficult and confusing day.

He held our daughter in his arms and looked at her with the same love he had when she was holding his finger. He spoke about how beautiful she was, and he comforted us by saying how she will always be part of our family.

When it was time to give her up, he helped us find the strength. When it was time to leave, he lifted me off of the floor that I had crumbled onto. He led me out the doors as my sobs spilled from my body.

He was there for us every single second of our experience and has continued to be there for us as we walk through this unbelievable grief. I am so grateful for all he did for us, for all the love he has for our daughter, and for all he continues to do to help keep Evelyn’s memory and story going. Happy birthday to a very special grandpa, and thank you to all of the people who have been there for us through such dark times. We couldn’t make it without you.

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