Three Years

The winter after Julianna died was bitterly cold. It snowed and sleeted, iced and froze. Winters are usually mild in this part of the Northwest, but the winter of 2016 was an aberration: harsh and unrelenting, but also fitting  for my own season of deepest loss.

I worried about Julianna’s little dogwood tree, the one that received farewell messages of love during her tea party. We made it the centerpiece of our front yard and it stood unsheltered from the biting wind. Would it be OK? It had to survive, I told Steve. It just had to.


It did, and when spring came, I wondered if it would bloom. Young dogwoods, I read, may not bloom for a few years, especially when stressed.  That April, the neighborhood pear trees unleashed their usual arsenal of stunning pink flowers, but our dogwood stayed bare. It’s OK, I thought. It’s just a baby tree; we mustn’t expect too much.

And then in June, a week before the day I had been dreading, Julianna’s baby dogwood tree gave us this:


Julianna’s dogwood tree — blooming at just the right time.


It was a late bloomer, but for us, the timing was perfect.

Julianna’s tree is a toddler now, and like a growing child, its size sometimes catches me off guard. Could this much time really have passed?

Three years. She’s been gone for three years today.  It’s unbelievable except for the fact that I’ve lived it.

Time dulls, it doesn’t heal.  It’s a blunt instrument that creates distance, from things we want to forget and that which we want desperately to remember. I am further away from the searing pain of fresh loss, but it’s harder to remember the sound of her voice. It’s another way of losing her.

On that morning she left us, I just wanted the world to know that there was a girl named Julianna.

Three years later, it’s the same. Julianna. She struggled, she soared, she laughed and lived and loved. She put things in their proper place and dared us to do the same. She let us in and we could experience, for a little while, a fantastic and colorful world powered by her imagination and heart, the strongest, purest and loveliest of hearts.

She occupies the most tender and fierce part of my own heart. It let me love her with abandon even as I knew I would have let her go. And now, it mourns her– always, it will mourn her, even as it rejoices in the pink sky.



22 thoughts on “Three Years

  1. Thank you for the beautiful post. I see her in my mind’s eye looking down on you with love and pride. May you and your family move through this day in peace.
    Deborah Houston-Schrenzel, RN

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Many prayers for your ongoing journey. May the searing loss of losing your precious Julianna soon give way to the beautiful reminder that you did all you could do, gave all you could give and loved her more in the short time she was with you than some children are loved in a lifetime. Praying our steadfast, faithful Lord will be especially near to you today.


  3. Prayers that your unrelenting grief will soon give way to the blessed reminder that you did all you could do, gave all you could give and loved Julianna more in the short time she was here than some children are loved in a lifetime. Our faithful, steadfast Lord knew exactly who she needed to parent her and He chose you. I’m still saddened by your loss but am rejoicing wholeheartedly in the wonderful care you gave her.

    With love and prayers,
    Toni Kohler


  4. I always think of her when I see a pink sky, or a unicorn, or something outrageously pink/purple. I can’t fathom your loss. It is so cruel and unfair to lose something so precious, so beautiful, so fun and witty, your lovely little girl, Julianna. We will never forget her. How could we? Hugs to all of you.


  5. Life is so bittersweet. Most of us who are old know this…your unfathomable loss has given you wisdom beyond your years. The life you gave her was so phenomenal, as we saw it through your writing.


  6. I know there was a girl name Julianna and although I personally didn’t know her or personally know you guys I know she was a sweet, loveable, fun girl. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you today. Hugs


  7. Thinking of Julianna today. Her spirit is still radiating here on earth. I’m so happy there was a little girl named Julianna.


  8. Thank you for continuing to share your story and especially your heart with all of us. Having suffered the loss of my husband 15 years ago, I am here nodding my head as you describe the effects of time on living through the grief process that will never completely end. I am thankful for God’s love that continues to break through into your every day and for His grace that serves as a strength and a balm for the ways that grief can weaken us. I wear my “Love is a Superpower” shirt often and it always reminds me of your little girl named Julianna. ❤ My heart is with yours and I am blessed by your transparency. To me, that is some of the good that God is bringing out of your story. Praying for you, your husband, and your son today.


  9. You know, they say that time is a man made concept- it is very subjective in that it holds many illusions. Thinking of you and your family on this day, Michelle! It is unreal how fast what we call three years goes by. Three years tends to have the effect of blunting the emotional strife caused by such a great loss, which is less painful of course as designed. Nature’s ways entail that time has a blunting effect so that we can keep going. In deep contrast to the blunting of emotions, there is still the strength and the joy of the lost loved one. What I mean is, feel the strength and joy that the lost loved ones want us to experience while remembering them. It is how any lost loved one would want us to feel. Like you say, Michelle, time seems to blunt the emotions- and that, my dear, is a great time to realize that the strength and joy is still there, un-blunted, and stronger than ever. I strongly believe that the best way to honor any loved one who has passed is to remember their spirit- and to think about how they would want us to feel, and to feel the strength and joy. — p.s Like always, you are such a wonderful writer, Michelle! Sending a lightning bolt of strength and love to you and your family! 🙂


  10. Julianna’s memory is forever a treasure in my heart. I will always remember her and your family, especially in the pinks and purples, and awkward unicorns 💗 My son is old enough to read her book on his own now, and has outgrown his little Love is a Superpower T-Shirt. How quickly time goes by and yet it seems like yesterday. Much Love to you Michelle and your family 🙏


  11. Prayers for Julianna. Such a sweet little girl. She was one of a kind a very unique person and really smart for a youngling. Lots of love to Julianna and her family.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dear Michelle,
    Reading your sweet stories of Julianna, I am always reminded of the quote:
    “What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose,
    For all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” by Helen Keller
    -In His love


  13. “What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose,
    For all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” -Helen Keller 🌹🌿


  14. As you wrote “She struggled, she soared, she laughed and lived and loved. She put things in their proper place and dared us to do the same.”

    As Christians we know she is her proper place – where there is no grief or loss. She is with her Father.

    At the same time grief sucks. Praying for you and your family.


  15. Just checking in to say hi 😊. May you and your family have an awesome day! Joy is a choice- not a condition- sometimes it takes courage to want to find at least a bit of joy every day. Do it anyway. Stay Strong 👊🌟


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