The past month has been bittersweet. Starting with the fire at The Pillars and the outpouring of love and concern from their community; transitioning to the other side of the world (and summer!); and the safe arrival of our 8th grandchild….bittersweet is the best word to describe all the feelings.

Whitford Levi Bruce was born on February 16th, two days before his due date, following three sleepless nights of contractions that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. (I slept; Annie and James did not.) On the afternoon of the 16th, things heated up and Anne delivered in a relatively short time, before the epidural reached its full effect. I prayed that she would have the baby before midnight and wanted to modify my request when the news came through that baby had arrived.

(Gramma’s first cuddle.)

(Charlee with the almost-finished quilt she made for her baby brother.)

Whitford is NOT a family name, just one they liked. His two names suggest clever or wise (witty) and harmony or unity so their hope for him is a mixture of wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17) so that he would know God better. He is likely to be called “Whit.” He is also a carbon copy of his older brother, at least at this baby stage. Their birth weights were 1 oz off, just around 6 lbs.

(This baby is well loved by his siblings: Charlee, Simee and Theo. He is also laying on his second baby quilt, a “winter quilt” with minky on the back from Gramma.)

James, Anne and Whit spent two days at a birthing center resting up and came home yesterday. The kids want to hold the baby whenever they can, especially almost-8 year old Charlee. She is allowed to stand up with the baby. Speaking of Charlee, she asked to make the baby’s quilt and with a little help, made a safari quilt. We dropped it off for longarming on our way to see the baby for the first time and James and Anne picked it up two days later on their way home.

We have a houseful with three grandparents, three siblings, and mom, dad and baby Whit. Grandad is our driver and Granny is the cook! Pretty good deal for me. I am able to catch moments with Annie and with the baby, sweet times of baby holding and talk.

Back at home, the Birkeys are settling in to their “new” life. They were able to move into a beautiful home owned by snowbirds who aren’t returning to Illinois until April 1. They have been gifted with so many clothes, gifts, meals and other expressions of love and care. They have had a lot of meetings and phone conversations with insurance adjustors, city people, Nicor etc. Recently they have had to do hours-long virtual inventories of the contents of their home. The kitchen one took 3 hours. The salvage people basically called it a total loss and didn’t go into the house for the most part. Laura (and friends/family) has gone in numerous times salvaging important keepsakes, and other treasures that made it through the fire. It’s been such a blessing each time something special was found: quilts, musical instruments, hard drives, pictures, baby books etc.

It has also been good to connect with some of the former families who have lived in the home. Their sadness over the loss of the Pillars has been very much tempered by their gratitude that Laura and Taylor loved the home and came through the fire safely. They have shared stories from their time at the Pillars. I have been trying to pull together a concise history of the families, the stories and the changes made to the house and property over its 121 year history. At this point, Laura and Taylor are thinking they might rebuild on the land but not try to reproduce the Pillars. In the meantime they are likely to rent a house, expecting the whole process to take two years, a bit more than Boden’s “five minutes” that he estimated it would take to fix it. (When Laura brought home his Christmas present ukelele–just a little sooty from the fire–his face lit up with joy. He told Laura she was a “nice mommy.” Sweet moment.)

2 thoughts on “Bittersweet

  1. Congratulations, Grandma Chris and Grandpa John, Annie and James, and all the family! And welcome to Whitford! He is blessed!

    Continuing to pray for Laura, Taylor, and their kids too. We can empathize a little bit with them, at least with the long wait before settling into a new home, but we have boxes of our stuff, too much stuff, waiting in the garage for an addition to be built onto this house. It is wonderful to watch how the Lord is leading them through this crisis in their lives.

    Have a wonderful time there down under!

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