Memorial website in the memory of your loved one
July 22, 2002

The First Sonogram-July 22, 2002
What a wonderful day it was, knowing I was expecting a baby.  The first ones I told was my mother and grandmother.  Mom read a fortune from a fortune cookie at a local Chinese Restaurant that read "Wonderful News is in store don't you see, a new little grandbaby in 2003!"  Praise the Lord for this beautiful gift of life that was Heaven sent.  The 1st sonogram proved that indeed I was pregnant and that this little life growing in me had developed all major internal organs and was very active.

August 1, 2002

2nd Sonogram-August 1, 2002
All of the specialists were gathered around us looking at the monitor overhead as the sonogram was performed.  It was learned that all of your organs were developed correctly except for a neural tube defect labeled as anencephaly.  They told us that this was a rare condition that is not viable with life. Or anotherwords, our baby would die.  The doctors left us alone in our grief, shock and disbelief.  We also found out that our baby was a boy. 

August 2, 2002

Follow-Up Appointment with Dr. David E. Garza, OB/GYN-August 2, 2002
After the specialists showed me horrible medical pictures of babies with anencephaly, stressed that I would probably have a c-section, or our baby's bones may have to be fractured or dislocated in order to deliver him naturally, and encouraged an abortion, I wasn't sure what my doctor would say.  Would he be just as bleek as the rest of those doctors?  Would he think I was crazy knowing I wanted to carry this baby to term? Like an angel on Earth, Dr. Garza hugged me in a tight embrace and told me that I was making the right decision and that he and his wife would have done the same.  He said that we would treat this like any other pregnancy for the love of life.

September 2002
Pregnancy Announcement Sent-September 2002
This little baby's life was so precious to me and I wanted to tell everyone that you were coming!  We also wanted friends and family to know that our little baby was sick so they would pray for all of us.  I found a quote from Isaiah 66:13 that was very fitting and comforting. (click on announcement for a larger view)
October 2002
A letter written by former BudCo colleague.  
This is a letter that I will truly cherish forever.  It was given to me while I was pregnant and carrying John Raphael to term.  It was the only letter of its' kind since many letters were those of condolences at the funeral a few months later.  After the devastating anencephaly diagnosis, I took a week off to gather my thoughts, reflect, pray, and basically..."get a hold of myself."  When I came back to work, many assumed I had an abortion.   When I told them that the thought didn't cross my mind and I was carrying this baby to term, the most common reaction was "why?"  One person who didn't ask me "why" was the person who wrote this note. Thank you Jim for the beautiful words that I will cherish forever.

Dear Elizabeth,
I have been compelled to write to you for quite a while now.  I want you to know what an inspiration you are to me, and many others.  It is one thing to talk about one's faith; quite another to truly espouse it, to walk it, to live it...You are showing by example how much love, how much faith you have for God, and in His plan for you by fully and unconditionally accepting these very difficult set of circumstances.  

Thank you for being a "Hand Maiden" of our Lord, even though I know you do not understand, but chose to follow God's Word.  Thank you for the way you are carrying out this very difficult task...with humilty, and love, and without complaint.

Know, and take comfort, that you will be blessed by your trials and that your reward will be rich in Heaven.  Know also that myself, and others, are praying for you on a daily basis and will continue to do so.  I also know that if our faith is what sustains us, you would have easily walked on the water right next to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  
God Bless You...Your friend in Christ--Jim Kloza
January 20, 2003
John Raphael's Conditional Baptism-January 20, 2003
Weeks prior to Baby John's due date I had seeked guidance with Deacon Paul and Monsignor Dolan at St. Helena's Catholic Church  After hearing my story, Monsignor Dolan wanted to do something very special for me and Baby John, something that had not been done at St. Helena's, and that was to give Baby John a "conditional baptism".  A conditional baptism is only given to unborn babies who have a serious condition and could be stillborn.  I chose my cousin Sandra as the Godmother, and my mother, Grandmother, daughter Ariana, and husband were all present for the baptism.  It was like a regular baptism except for the holy water and oils were placed upon my bare abdomen.  It was a very special day.
January 27, 2003
John Raphael's Pending Arrival-January 27, 2003      4:00 a.m
After feeling some slight contractions all day Super Bowl Sunday yesterday, I was awakened at 4:00 a.m. when my "water broke" in the middle of my slumber.  It wasn't painful, just a surprise.  I showered, relaxed and got my bag ready for the hospital.  I even had a little bit of time to send some emails and print a birth plan and a list of phone numbers of family members.  The contractions were more eminent as the warm shower disguised the pain and relaxed me even more.  We arrived to the hospital around 5:15 and was admitted to the birthing room fairly rapidly.  When they found out Baby John's condition, specialists, the neo-natal intensive care team, and the ob/gyn were notified.  It was a rare event, and I didn't mind the huge crowd I had at Baby John's "birthday party".
 Here is a picture of my daughter, Ariana by my side waiting for her baby brother.
January 27, 2003

"The Birth Of An Angel"-January 27, 2003     6:23 a.m.
A message from mom to son: It was a difficult birth for you my son. You were a little fighter and refused to let your mommy endure an operation.  You came on your own without any induction medications.  You had a strong will like your mother and even a strong enough heart to breathe a few minutes of life in my arms.  You were carefully delivered by the loving hands of Dr. John Kellum.  My ob/gyn was out of town that weekend.  Remember, you came as a surprise because everyone thought that I would have to be induced or have a c-section scheduled later that week to deliver you.  You were a big boy weighing in near 8 pounds and 21 inches long. Dr. Kellum said you had a large 13 inch chest.  I guess you would have made a great linebacker for the Texas Longhorns, right baby?  Your skin was milky white, your hair was dark blonde and curly, your hands and feet were pudgy like those of a porcelain doll.  You were gorgeous, everything that I imagined, my precious little angel.  You were my focus, my little miracle was finally here, nothing else mattered, no one else existed for just a moment.  You were at the center of this huge, heavy heart inside of me.  As our surroundings came more clear and less blurry, I realized that I was not alone.  The room was filled with loved ones including the wonderful medical staff at the hospital.  Many cared for us as we didn't realize we had already began to touch the lives of others without trying. Son, we were never alone, I will never be alone because you will always live in my heart and soul. Love, Mommy

January 31, 2003
Mass Of Angels and Interment-  January 31, 2003 A traditional mass and interment was important to me so we could bring closure to this difficult experience.  Instead of "sweeping Baby John under the rug" and forget he ever existed, I demanded the opposite.  My son changed my life forever and I wanted to express my gratitude and unconditional love by having the most beautiful funeral service for him.  It's not every day that we meet one of God's saints, right?  I created a funeral program made in his memory full of beautiful poems and inspirational scriptures.  The services were "angelic" and John Raphael's presence was definitely felt by everyone.  Baby John brought friends and relatives to the services that had never stepped into a church before, nor get on their knees and pray. 
February 14, 2003

1st Valentine's Day-February 14, 2003
We visited the cemetery and brought a gorgeous heart on an easel made of white mums and red roses in the center.  John Raphael would have been 2 weeks old on Valentine's Day and of course Mommy's biggest Valentine! 

April 2003
Baby John's 1st Heavenly Easter-April 2003
It was Baby John's 1st angelic Easter.  I made a cute wreath made of irridescent plastic eggs with a baby blue Easter bunny sitting in the middle.  I also brought you a springtime bouquet of flowers to place in the flower vase.  Great-Grandma Tommie and my mom brought other bunny decorations for Ariana to decorate the grave.
January 27, 2004

Happy 1st Heavenly Birthday!      January 27, 2004

Dear John Raphael, Today on your 1st birthday in Heaven we thought of you all day.  We visited your grave and left flowers, a balloon, and a "cake" Grandma made you. (Ok, it was handpainted ceramic and not very edible.)  We also took a gift bag to the hospital you were born at a year ago.  For what? Well, we knew that you would only be with us a short time and were prepared with a camera, film, handprinting kit, etc.  Not many parents are as blessed as we are in knowing that.  So I thought it would be a nice tradition to start taking this "gift" for a family in need for their baby.  The gift bag contained a memory box, a disposable camera and a handprint casting kit.  The staff at St. Luke's Hospital know it is only for these families with a baby who has a grim diagnosis at birth or who has died.  While we were at the hospital, the nurses looked at your pictures and remembered what an impact we made on all of them.  

"Happy 1st Birthday Baby John, we love you from our hearts, It's the love we had so much of from the very start!"

Love, Mommy

January 27, 2005
Happy 2nd Birthday Baby John!     January 27, 2005
Dear Baby John,
How is my little 2 year old in Heaven?  You were on my mind all day. We celebrated your birthday today by taking the "care package" to the hospital, sharing pictures, and having a nice dinner at Chuy's on IH-10.  Thank you for watching over us these last 2 years.  Mommy has made a lot of changes since you've been gone.  I am now an elementary school teacher thanks to your guidance, love, and intercession.  I told my 1st graders about you today.  They were full of questions and then shared hugs with me later.  I also emailed the link to your memorial page to some close teacher friends at work.  It was nice to get hugs from them too! As you well know, Izabella is now 4 months old and getting bigger and more beautiful each day.  Thank you for keeping her safe.  She is truly a miracle sent from God!

I love and miss you very much!

Love and kisses, 

January 27, 2006

Wee! Look Whose 3!

Happy 3rd Birthday in Heaven! 
 January 27, 2006
Dear Baby John,
Well I can only imagine how much of a big boy you are now.  How far can you throw that football now?  Are you a lefty or a righty?  One thing I do know for sure is that you're a gorgeous little toddler that Heaven needed so desperately.  Are you getting our home in Heaven ready for us?  Thanks again for constantly taking care of us and keeping your sisters safe.  Ariana constantly places you in her thoughts and prayers. Izabella is an active 1 year old who likes to play and chat with a particular little angel we know.  Have you been visiting your baby sister?? It's so funny to watch her "jibber-jabber" and "take turns" with this invisible playmate she has.  Of course, it has to be you!  We celebrated your birthday again today.  I visited your grave today then came home to an impromptu celebration.  Grandma made a chocolate cake, your sisters sang Happy Birthday and blew out your candles, and finally, we took our "care package" to the hospital. 

I love you son!  My heart will always ache for your presence.

January 27, 2007
Happy 4th Birthday John Raphael

Happy 4th Birthday my baby boy!
Did God’s angels bring you a heavenly toy?
Did Jesus give you a big birthday hug?
Or did our Blessed Mother hold you so snug?

Four years old? This can’t be so!
My little boy just can’t be four.
My heavy heart still aches for you, John
Your angelic presence I depend upon.

You must be such a big boy by now,
Playing heavenly games that Jesus allows.
You’re definitely the cutest angel I must confess.
Curly hair, big eyes, and dimples I might guess.

Running in fields of colorful wildflowers,
Swimming in ponds of crystal waters,
Doing little boy things, I think you should do,
Enjoying all of Heaven before your day is through.

As your Heavenly birthday draws to a near,
Always remind me I have nothing to fear.
As I lay my head down and go to sleep,
Don’t forget my goodnight kiss on the cheek!

Happy Birthday John Raphael!
Love, Mommy


We Don't Think Of You Just On Your Birthday

We do not need a special day to bring

you to our minds.

The days we do not think of you

are very hard to find.

Each morning when we awake we

know that you are gone.

And no one knows the heartache

as we try to carry on.

Our hearts still ache with sadness

and secret tears still flow.

What it meant to lose you

no one will ever know.

Our thoughts are always with you

your place no one can fill.

In life we loved you dearly;

in death we love you still.

author unknown 


Birthdays In Heaven

Are there birthdays in Heaven?
Does the angel blow his horn?
Announcing to everybody
That this is the day you were born?

Can the stars be your balloons
And angel food your cake?
Presents wrapped in moonbeams
All the angels helped to make.

Birthdays meant so much to you
They were always a big deal
Birthday presents lots of friends
And perhaps a special meal.

So I'll whisper a little prayer today
Asking everyone up above
To sing you a Happy Birthday song
And give you all my love.

~ Author unknown~

"A Heavenly Birthday"
written by Elizabeth Brackman-Paniagua
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to John Raphael, happy birthday to you!" sang loudly all of Baby John's family. Yes, his Earthly family sang loud and clear that cold, winter day at the cemetery, all while leaving flowers from Grandma stuffed toys from mommy and daddy and a couple Hot Wheels and balloons from his two sisters Ariana and Izabella.  But another family was singing even LOUDER! Who you may ask? Baby John Raphael's "Heavenly Family".  Oh yes. They were all there singing praise on Baby John's 7th birthday in Heaven.  God had prepared a huge party for him in Heaven. All of the angels were there, Jesus, Mother Mary, St. Joseph, St. Gerard, St. Helena, St Anthony, St. Jude, Grandpa Harry Brackman, Great-Grandparents "Cho-cho" and "Popo", Uncle George and so many more!
John jumped off the bicycle (he learned how to ride last summer) in absolute joy to see everybody together around such a gorgeous table with all his favorites like grapes, cheese, chocolate-covered strawberries, flowers and beautiful candles with a multi-colored flame only seen in Heaven.  As he gazed into the mesmerizing flame of one of his candles he saw his family on Earth and he asked God  "Why do they cry on my birthday? This is a happy day for me!" he exclaimed. He stares harder into the flame and sees his sisters leaving Hot Wheels and balloons on his gravesite. "Awesome. I love Hot Wheels! I sure do love my sisters...I wish they could hear me!" he whispers.  He continues to watch his Earthly family celebrate his birthday with dinner, inspirational music, prayer, and even a visit to the hospital where Baby John was born. Experiencing this celebration in Heaven while watching his family on Earth at the same time was absolutely wonderful. While the angels sang and played their herald trumpets, he danced with his Great-grandma Tommie "Cho-cho". Later, Grandpa Harry and Uncle George took turns playing catch with their little "sport"! Late that night, Great-grandpa "Popo" shared the delicious angel food cake, topped with whipped creme and strawberries with his great-grandson, John Raphael.   It is great in heaven.

As his party came to an end and was time to go to sleep, he said goodbye to everyone and blew out his candles. God takes his hand and guides him to the castle he has built for his family. God lays him to sleep in his "big boy bed" tucks him in his white blanket with the angel stuffed toy his mother gave him and kissed him on the cheek. "Your family will be fine and will one day come to live with you in this castle you have built for them. They love you!" God whispers.  Baby John's big brown eyes gently closed as he fell asleep dreaming about the day they will all be together again.
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