I am profoundly humbled by the witness to heroic parenting being shown by Ann Marie and Ray Henninger in these days following the death of their baby Gianna Caeli. Their story is chronicled in Gianna's Caring Bridge site, and I have included excerpts from their online journal below.
My husband Tim and Ann Marie were classmates at Seattle Prep, and we ran into Ann Marie at the Northwest Catholic Family Education Conference in Seattle last May. Ann Marie had just announced their pregnancy, and I made a note of her due date and emailed her in November to inquire about how her pregnancy was coming along. I received this reply:
Thanks for writing.
Our baby daughter Gianna is due 12/12...and she is not expected to live long, if she lives until her birthday. We found out on 10/15 that she has Trisomy 18. It's been a rollercoastery few weeks, but we celebrate her life, however long or short! More info on the link below.
I thank you for checking in. Please keep all of us in your prayers!
Hope you and yours are well!
As it turns out, Gianna was born on Tim's birthday and went home to heaven on my birthday. She has a very special place in our hearts, and her family is in our prayers during this time of profound suffering.
Please remember the Henningers in your prayers today, and throughout this week as they prepare for their final good-byes to Gianna's earthly body.
We praise God for the example of Saint Gianna Molla, heroic mother, and ask her intercession for Ann Marie and Ray and family.
Gianna died peacefully this morning...and as I listened to her great big heart pause more and more between beats, we all said good-bye and how much we loved her. Just as with her birth, it was a sacred time, although it did happen quicker than we'd expected.
My mom Marian had been holding her and noted she didn't seem to be breathing. I took her immediately into my arms and we promptly gathered all the family. Gianna just faded away to Glory amidst our tears. No distress, she just quietly left us.
We are caring for Gianna's body here at home until the funeral Saturday, so if you wish to come sit vigil with us, know you are very welcome to do so. Gianna is being kept cool to prevent deterioration of her wee body. The children are planning to tuck notes/photos/mementos in with their sister. She's got her St. Gianna medal, miraculous medal, and guardian angel pin, plus her monkey doll and pink bear.
Dear Lord, we praise and thank you for the gift of Gianna...thank you for choosing us to be her parents and siblings, thank you for sending her to us. We rejoice that she is forever in the arms of Jesus, "Let the little children come unto me. Luke 18:16 Amen
This afternoon, several people stopped by our vigil for Gianna. Her body is never alone...she is tucked into her casket wearing her most favorite outfit, laying on sweet floral cotton blankets, her body scented with lavender oil, surrounded by her stuffed toys, blessed medals, rosary, crucifix, candles, baby booties, a painting that says, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart." Jeremiah 1:5
Saturday morning, we will have a casket closing ceremony and farewell, which daughter Erin has planned. At that time, we will have prayers, place our treasures for Gianna into the casket, and continue to thank God for the gift He has given us in Gianna Caeli. We will also place the cremains of two of Gianna's siblings in her casket with her, so they may be safely (and finally) interred with their sister.
Funeral Mass at 1:30pm Saturday at Queen of Angels Church in Port Angeles WA, 209 West 11th Street.
I am so immensely thankful for the concept of a 'home funeral/vigil' as it has allowed the chance to give her a final bath and anointing, each child to hold her again as they desire, and it's given us time to say good-bye, time to spend with her body, time to continue mourning until the final farewell. WHAT A GIFT!