We Can Do Hard Things: Angee Duvall-Death-Sibling



Meet Angee. 

Angee is the oldest (and only girl) of four children. She is now a wife and a mother of three darling kids. She lost her baby brother, Aaron, in infancy, when she was just 9-years-old. Her family was surprised by his passing after he was born with complications too extreme to survive. Aaron only lived two short days.


Q: As a child, do you remember any acts of kindness that made an impact during that difficult time?

I remember spending quite a bit of time at a few houses of close friends and how they just tried to let us experience a normal, happy childhood in that moment. It allowed us a few hours away from the sadness to simply forget the heaviness that was going on in our home. Those are the happy memories I have of that time. I don’t remember any child reaching out to me specifically, just those families who offered support by being our home away from home, but without intruding on the space we needed as a family to grieve.

I think it’s also important to remember that everyone grieves differently and that we need to accept how people grieve, even if it’s different than us. Each member of my family has dealt with Aaron’s loss differently and continues to do so, and that’s okay. For example, one of my brothers, who was in kindergarten at the time, didn’t cry during this time. He seemed to not understand what was going on. But, a couple of years later, he ended up with a reading disability that they were certain was due to the loss. The counselors at the school worked through the grief process with him, including bringing in a cupcake on Aaron’s birthday so this brother could celebrate. Once my brother worked through the grief, he excelled at school and no longer struggled in reading!

Angee sibling

(Angee, and her siblings)

Q: I hear many times, “Oh they are so little, they’ll bounce right back.” How has the death of your brother affected you throughout your life?

I’ve been surprised how the grief has continued into adulthood. It has been 27 years, and although I’ve accepted it and even embraced it, there are times that I still struggle.

When I started having children of my own, I had a fear that I would lose one of my babies like my mom did. Although Aaron’s death was a fluke and none of it was genetic, I was still scared. I knew I didn’t want a baby at 32, the same age my mom was when Aaron was born. It seems silly, but that fear was there. Well, my last baby came when I was 32, and things turned out fine! I really had nothing to worry about, but I think death takes away the innocence sometimes and puts crazy fears into our minds and hearts. (As a side note, we chose to name our last baby after my brother.)

The grief has come in waves through the years. For me, it hit the hardest when I became a mother myself, and I finally knew and understood a mother’s love for her children. My heart ached for my parents, my mom especially, and their loss. I know how sad I was when Aaron didn’t live, but I can’t even imagine what my parents felt during those moments and still feel now.

I was also surprised how the grief hit again just a few years ago when I attended the funeral for our dear friends’ baby. When I walked up to see her in the casket, the grief hit me in the gut and took me right back to being 9-years-old and seeing my little brother in his casket. You never know what will trigger it.

I guess I want people, especially parents, to know that even if their children cope with the grief of losing a sibling as a child, it may hit them again as adults. The grief will most likely be different than they’ve experienced in the past and something they will have to continue to work through. Grief is a lifetime struggle that will come and go until we can be reunited with our loved one again.

Nine Years



Fact: When I saw Pat for the first time on our wedding day, he looked sick. When I asked him what was wrong, he replied, "I wasn't sure you were going to show up!" He had gotten the time wrong and showed up an hour early. Poor guy! He got even later when he stepped on my dress and tore the bustle and the little ladies helping panicked right before we walked into be sealed. It officially broke temple rules to be married without a bustle, I grabbed Pat’s hand and marched him in :)

Happy Nine years Patrick! Hopefully you've learned no matter the situation, I'll always show up :) Love you babe!

We Can Do Hard Things: Jennie Burt–Special Needs


March 16, 2013 046

Meet Jennie and her son, Mitchell.
At age 24, Jennie delivered her first child, who was unexpectedly diagnosed with down syndrome. Her journey changed the instant she realized her expectations weren't what she thought they would be. However, she is realizing this different journey with an extra chromosome has brought with it extra love, extra laughter and an incredibly extraordinary human being. 


Q: What words do you find most helpful when people talk to you about Mitchell?

A: “I appreciate hearing how Mitchell is doing. Everyone has an opinion…that’s what makes the world go ‘round. Communication is huge and essential when it comes to kids! I’d rather know what Mitchell is up to than have to guess or find out months or years later if there is an issue. Once I hear it then I can decide for myself how to take it. I may not be able to control other people from making rude or harsh comments, however I can control how I react or receive it and then take it from there.An open dialogue is essential to educating both the child and others.”

“We love when people ask how they can help Mitchell. One of the greatest examples… his primary teacher came up to me and told me Mitch would be in her class and she asked what she could do to help him stay sitting and try his hardest to pay attention so he could participate. I almost cried when she did this because I had the answer! He loves magnadoodles. The ticket to Mitch having an attention span is his “draw” as he calls it. The next week she had a magnadoodle, granola bar and fruit snacks in her primary bag and there were no words for how appreciative I was as a mom who was seeking for inclusion of my son in a social, spiritual setting. Mitchell’s spirit is pure and he has so much to offer and teach when people give him the opportunity.” 

Mitchell Simply Yours Photo Shoot 3-6-07 080

Q: Are there any actions performed by others that have come across hurtful?

A:Right after Mitchell was born we received a sympathy card in the mail. As a new mom I was expecting congratulations instead of condolences. It didn’t cross my mind that would even be a possibility until it was in my hands telling us how sorry they were about the situation. To me as a first time mom I didn't know how to take it. There were some who either out of ignorance or fear who knew of kids with Down syndrome but they would tell me they were "institutionalized.” I'm devastated when I think about that word and its meaning. Mitchell, like any other child with intellectual disabilities deserves the same treatment others receive. He is so much smarter than a lot of people realize. He senses when others are scared of him or intimidated by his openness. He gets when people get him…regardless of his own limitations. He sees people’s hearts, not their apparel, race, gender, color or creed. He loves with pure intent, and that is what makes him so perfect.”

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Q: What acts of kindness have you received that you have appreciated?

A: “After Mitchell was born, family members took turns on a weekend and slept over. They stayed over night to take care of Mitchell so Steve and I could sleep. We hadn’t had a good night’s rest since Mitchell’s birth. The second he was born I became a worrier. I was so consumed with Mitchell’s physical health, well being, and sleep that I didn’t think to analyze my own well being and quality of sleep! My mind never rested and so knowing that family members were caring for Mitchell gave me the peace of mind I so desperately needed in order to just sleep.”

“Also, my neighbors told me their cleaning ladies were scheduled to come to my house at a specific day and time. Hands down one of the greatest things that happened. It was literally and figuratively cleansing. My house was clean and tidy and organized so I felt even more charged to clean, tidy and organize myself…inside and out.”


Gift Ideas:

  • Hiring a someone to clean their house.
  • Taking the night shifts so parents can get some sleep.
  • Communicating with the parents and trying to include their child.

And I couldn’t resist throwing this picture in.


In his moms own words:

You know the silence in your house when it almost becomes deafening and you realize it’s too silent for comforts sake? It is during that silence when I walk in and see Mitchell creating art with a sharpie. Everywhere. The world around him was his canvas. There was black Sharpie on what felt like every inch of him, his bedspread, the walls, the carpet, our TV, his tongue and even our dog. All in a matter of minutes. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life because it was a choice to either laugh or cry at that moment, and it’s not a good look when I cry. That is, surprisingly, a small predicament in the life of Mitch Man.”

News Article


A news article was released this weekend on Preslee's 6th Angelversary. It's about Preslee and our family. 

I have big plans and dreams for this blog, as well as for Preslee's legacy. I've finally been inspired to take a leap of faith and make it happen. I've been working hard behind the scenes and cannot wait to show you what we have in store. My hope is we can help others just like we were helped at such a difficult time in our lives.

Anyway, back to the article.

Click {here} to read it.
Love to you all!

6th Angelversary


After we lost Preslee, I was surprised at how much she  consumed my mind. I would try so hard to focus on something else, but even if I would succeed, it seemed like minutes later something would trigger a thought back to her, and the sick feeling in my stomach would come rushing back. Though others told me it was normal, it was extremely overwhelming.

IMG_9230 copy ed

I remember thinking I had reached my breaking point, and I asked Patrick’s step brother, who had lost his dad years before, when those thoughts quit consuming him. He thought it over for about a minute and then replied, “About six years. I’d say it took about six years before I was able to wake up in the morning and my thoughts weren’t immediately focused on my dad.”

I remember thinking, “Six years? I’ve only been married for three. I haven’t even been out of high school for five!” Six years seemed unreachable at that point.

IMG_5503 ed

Today marks six years since I held my little girl in my arms and felt her take her last breath. As I was reflecting back over our journey, I realized Pat’s step brother was right. I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime over this past year, Preslee is no longer the first thing my mind turns to each morning. And I’m grateful I don't feel any guilt over it.

This past year was one of the most healing. I’m not sure if it has to do with our trip to Kauaii, the fact that we moved out of state, or it's simply due to enough time has passed, but I feel like Pat and I have taken some big steps forward. For any of you who find yourself on this same journey, I hope this gives you a little bit of hope.


Thinking back to when we realized Preslee wasn’t going to make it, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to walk out of the hospital empty handed. Reverting back to being childless was one of the most painful moments of my life. As I look back on those memories, I realize this blog has been an incredible source of strength for us. Thank you for taking the time to check in our little family, and for those who take the time to leave words of encouragement. They haven't gone unnoticed.

A sweet reader sent me the quote above, and for the past six years I’ve clung to it. There have been many dark days, even one this past week, but I’m grateful I’ve had these words to lean on, and I'm even more grateful that I'm beginning to see glimpses of this quote come true. With Pat, 3.5 kids by my side, and an angel watching over us from heaven, life has turned out so much better than I imagined it would.

Though heavy emotions always come flooding back, today there's gratitude mixed in with sorrow. I'm grateful we don't have to experience dark moments forever, and for a loving savior who took on the pain that he did, so healing and happiness can take place in all of our lives. I'm thankful that even though six years seemed out of reach, that we've been able to make it this far. Which gives me hope that we can make it until the end.


Here’s to being six years closer to holding you sweet girl.

Love you Monkey.


Miss Audrey Sue has done it again.
This is by far my favorite printable she has created.
Use the box below to download the free printable.
I hope you enjoy as much as I do :)

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