Today, June 14, would have been Norah's 2nd birthday. These past 2 years have felt simultaneously like an eternity and the blink of the eye. Yet, Ty and I are reminded daily of the thoughtful care and kindness you have showed our little family. When we think back on those 6 weeks, we remember not only the alarm bells, sleepless nights, and fear, but the meals you cooked, the coffees you brought to the NICU, and the company. We remember how you kept us going after we said goodbye. We remember the willingness to provide coverage, the kind e-mails, the gentle support, and the incredible grace you showed us long after Norah died. We remember your generosity as we grappled with trying to find ways to transform Norah's story from one of tragedy and heartbreak to one of hope, positivity, and love.
Norah was our sunshine baby - a ray of pure joy in our lives. When she was born, we joked that she looked like a baby monkey because she was so hairy. It didn't take her long to shed some of the lanugo, put on a little weight, and start to grow into a slightly larger baby monkey. She had dark hair, big beautiful eyes, wiggly feet, and the softest skin in the whole world. She was funny and made us laugh more than I ever imagined a 23 week-old micro-preemie could. She was feisty and headstrong, continually trying to pull out lines and tubes and demanding attention from her doting nurses. She was brave and endured so much in her short life while also reminding us to find pleasure in small moments. She was kind and gracious and found ways to comfort us far more than we comforted her. She brought people together with her charm and her perseverance. She inspired us.
COVID-19 has affected our communities in so many different ways. As we reflect on the precious time we had with Norah, we also grieve with all the families in the NICU who aren't able to spend that time with their babies now. We worry that the hardships that face NICU families under normal circumstances are even further exacerbated by the stresses and scarcities that have resulted from this pandemic. We feel sorrow for those who are not surrounded by the same extraordinary community that held us up during our NICU journey and afterward. Norah moved us to do what we could for these vulnerable families, and in her honor, we started the Norah Hempel Memorial Fund for Family Care. This fund is designed to be a practical, useful, and timely resource for struggling NICU families. Though it is named for Norah, this fund is also inspired by you, the community who rose around us when we needed you most.
In these uncertain times, we are thankful for any contribution you may be able to make to Norah's fund. More importantly, we are grateful for your help in keeping Norah's memory alive, for ensuring that her struggles were not pointless and that her triumph is her legacy of tenacity, cheerfulness, bravery, kindness, generosity, and love.
In 2018, we were blessed with a long-awaited pregnancy. Unfortunately, at 21 weeks gestational age, we developed complications in our pregnancy. Our angel baby, Norah Grace, was born 17 weeks early on June 14, 2018.
Norah was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for almost 6 weeks. During that time, we got to know our sweet girl. She was a spirited, active, beautiful baby who was full of life. She fought hard to stay with us, but she was just too little. Surrounded by close family, Norah passed away in our arms on July 25, 2018. Becoming her parents has been the greatest privilege and blessing of our lives.
Throughout our time in the NICU, Norah was cared for by an amazing team of medical professionals who treated her as if she were their own. We are eternally grateful for all they did for her.
Aside from getting to know Norah and the incredible NICU staff, we also got to know many families of other NICU babies. We were incredibly blessed to have the resources and support to completely focus on Norah, and to enjoy every cherished minute we had with her. Regrettably, many of these other amazing families are not so lucky. They often faced significant hardship that made their journeys even more challenging. Through this fund, we want to honor Norah's memory by relieving some of the financial burden that less fortunate families face.
In her short life, Norah managed to leave a deep and lasting impact on so many. She is a bright ray of light in our lives. Thank you for helping us keep her legacy alive. We love you all.