Baby girl, I can't wait to meet you. I feel your little kicks so often and each time I smile. You have already proven to me that you are a strong girl. It doesn't surprise me though because you come from a long line of amazing women and mothers. And, this fact is actually what prompted me to write to you today: We've been snowed in the last few days and in my boredom I decided to bake a blueberry pie. I pulled out my grandmother's Betty Crocker Cook Book to look up the recipe. Before I turned to the page with the recipe for blueberry pie, I read the letter that my grandmother wrote me before she gave it to me. It was so genuine and sweet and so her -- I could almost hear saying the words as I read them -- and, baby girl, it made me sob. I miss my grandma so much. You see, your great-grandmother was truly one of my best friends. More about her later. For now, just know it was her letter to me that made me decide to write this letter to you.
Your great, great, great grandmother is as far back as I have knowledge of the line of amazing women and mother's I was telling you about. Her name was Emma Willems. I never had the privilege of meeting her as she died many years before I was born. What I can tell you is that she made some pretty amazing sacrifices for her family. She was born in Belgium and that is where she married and began her family. Times were tough in Europe and in 1909 she and her husband decided to travel to America to make a better life for themselves and their children and their children's children. She left behind her family (including her own mother that she would never see again) as well as a country, a people and a language-- all of which were the only ones she had ever known and loved -- so that we would have opportunities. That took some courage, some faith and an incredible amount of love for her children. Eventually, she and her husband rented land in Geneseo, IL and farmed it. She went on to have 15 children -- 12 of which survived. Baby girl, you are one of the many descendants to be blessed by her sacrifices.
I was fortunate to spend the first 18 years of my life with her daughter -- your great, great grandmother -- Elizabeth Ockee. Oh how I loved my dear, sweet great grandma Ockee. She was so special to me. She was the kindest, sweetest little old lady anyone ever met. She kissed and blessed everyone she came into contact with. I don't think I ever saw her angry. She literally embodied the bible verse Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud... During my childhood we actually lived with her for nearly two years while my parents were building our home. She gave up her bedroom to allow my parents to have a place to sleep. Generosity didn't just come easy to her, it was part of her. She didn't think twice about helping a family member, friend, neighbor or perfect stranger if they were in need. I'm so glad I got to witness such amazing love. When I turned 16, I would drive to her house once or twice a week and we would just sit and chat. As I look back, these are some of the fondest memories I have. Baby girl, she would have loved you and you would have loved her too.
Now, I get to tell you about her daughter and my grandma, Pauline Bennett -- the one I was telling you about earlier who gave me the cook book and letter that prompted this letter to you. I haven't even started typing her description and I am already in tears. Baby girl, how I wish she was alive so you could meet her. She was the BEST grandma. And, that is probably because she was more than a grandma, she was a friend. When I was little she and my grandfather lived in a place they called "Chicago Land" and I always loved visiting them because it was so much FUN! She sang, read, played and took my sister and I to neat places. It was always an adventure with her. Eventually, they moved closer to us and as I grew up my grandma and I became the best of friends. We talked on the phone daily and I visited her (my grandfather passed away shortly after they moved) at least once a week. She told me stories of my childhood, accepted and loved all my friends, and gave some really great advice. When I went to college she would write me several times a month and we stayed in touch over the phone. She always kept me up to date on what was going on with our family and it was so evident how much she loved and how proud she was of all of her children and grandchildren. They were her everything. Towards the end of her life, she was in a lot of pain. Yet, she never complained to me about her hurting back or troubles breathing. She was so strong and cared for others more than herself. She had been widowed for nearly 15 years and was 77 when she died, yet at her visitation for 3 hours she had lines and lines of people waiting to pay their respects. This was because she knew what it meant to be a good friend and an excellent mother and grandmother.
My grandma's daughter is your grandma and my mom! Her name is Rhonda Angell. In a few years I won't have to convince you of just how amazing she is! You will have had the opportunity to experience it for yourself first hand! Baby girl, you are in for one sweet ride! She is the epitome of all of the women I've described so far -- she got the best traits of each! One thing that is unique about your grandma is her humor! She is always kidding around and telling jokes! She is also very smart; she was a teacher for 33 years. Growing up I was so proud to tell my friends that my mom was a teacher! She cared for her students so much and gave them her best each day she was in the classroom. She was no different as a mom. She worked, cooked, cleaned, got us ready for school and spent time with us each night. Almost always by herself as your grandfather worked 2nd shift while we were growing up. She worked summer school so that we could be involved in sports and activities. She made dinner each night and we always ate together. She took my sister and I to church by herself so that we would grow up knowing the love of God. She allowed many relatives to stay in our home on and off my entire childhood and even when I went off to college. Her generosity and willingness to help others is pretty remarkable. I believe it is her calling. She is truly service oriented -- exactly what God wants us to be. Baby girl, even just a couple of months ago when we thought we were losing you, she served us -- me and you, that is. She knew how much we already loved you and she already loved you too. She came over each day and took care of me and your older brother so that I could rest and continue to grow you in my womb! What an amazing gift she gave us! I can't wait for you to meet her, sweet baby girl. You are going to love your grandma!
You guessed it baby girl, next on this list is me -- your mama! I am not going to tell you how great of a mother I am because that is something for you to experience and decide. And, I know sometimes you will not feel like nominating me for the "Mother of the Year" award. But, what I can tell you is this:
I have dreamed of you since I was a little girl myself. I've dreamed of holding you in my arms and kissing your face. I've dreamed of rocking you to sleep. I've dreamed of combing your hair and dressing your up. I've dreamed of tea parties and barbies and American Girl dolls. I've dreamed of bedtime prayers, Sunday school plays and the moment you ask Jesus to be your Savior. I've dreamed of boyfriends and heart breaks. I've dreamed of mommy-daughter dates. I've dreamed of sending you to college and watching you become an independent, intelligent women with her own ideas of how to better the world. I've dreamed watching you fall in love and being by your side as your try on wedding dresses. I've dreamed that you will be happy and successful in all that you pursue. And, I've dreamed that when you are all grown up you will make frequent visits home to see your mom and dad because you know it makes us happy. However amazing these may sound to me, they are my dreams and I know the moment you are born -- they will mean nothing because all that will matter to me is fulfilling your dreams. And, baby girl, I can't wait to watch your dreams come true!
Because, you are my dream come true.
Baby girl, you are next on the list. Your whole life is in front of you -- literally. But, I wanted you to see how incredible the women in your family are. They are courageous, kind, generous, and loving -- this is the blood you have running through your veins. I have no doubt that you too will inherit these wonderful character traits and even add some of your own to the list. I can't wait to watch you grow and mature into the woman God planned for you to be. You have some amazing role models who love you so much and plenty of guardian angels to help you along the way.
Now, baby girl, I've written a lot about mothers and the saying is true that nothing compares to a mother's love. However, even a mother's love will sometimes fail you. And that is why it is important for me to tell you about your Father. Heavenly Father, that is. His love will NEVER fail you. His love will carry you through the toughest times in your life. In fact, He loved you so much that He sent His only Son to this earth to die for your sins. So that you might never die but have EVERLASTING life! I will tell you much more about how amazing He is as you grow up but for now just know that His love is unconditional -- which means no matter what, He is going to love you!!!
Okay, baby girl, we've got four more months until we officially meet. I want you to know that even though I can't wait to see you and hold you in my arms, for now I want you to stay put! :) Your dad and I pray for you each night and love you more than we could have ever imagined. You are the piece of our family that will make us complete.