Dean's story Part one...

How do you explain to your kids one day--when they're old enough to understand life and death--that they have a brother waiting for them on the other side?  They never met him or held him (except for our oldest), or really had anything substantial to hold on to that made him real to them.

I think that was the hardest thing for me to come to terms with throughout all of this.

Also, I was afraid--no, TERRIFIED--that everyone (including myself) would forget him.

So we made a book about him and his life.  His LIFE, you ask?  Yep...more like his ETERNAL life, really.

My mother in law pretty much spear-headed the whole project.  She has a way with words and loves to write poetry.  She's a lot like my husband, where thoughts come directly from above into her mind, so she writes them down.  My husband does this with priesthood blessings--it's almost like a portal is open between him and the heavens and he speaks exactly what Heavenly Father needs to tell him.

If you haven't figured it out by now, this whole blog post is going to be pretty churchy.  That's kind of how this whole experience went with Dean.  A divinely driven journey that grew us spiritually together as a family.  And this experience gave us a little glimpse into a deeper understanding of life and love that this world can't offer, and how families really are FOREVER.

The picture above was sketched by my mom.  It is our little Dean when we laid him to rest in his white satin casket.  I was so grateful to have my mom there with me when I delivered his body. She got to witness everything and see him up close.  Because Dean was so swollen and his skin so red, it was hard to capture his beautiful tiny features on camera.  So my mom took it upon herself to sketch him from pictures we took and from her memory of him.  And when I saw the drawing...I was astonished how much it looked like how I remembered him.  Even Lilly, who had never even seen him before or really looked at the pictures we took of him exclaimed, "Deanie Beanie!!!" when she saw it.  Again...another small reminder from God that He guides people's hearts and hands here on earth.  I am grateful for this drawing of my sweet baby.

And now for his story.
Written by my mother in law, through the eyes of my sweet Angel, Gary Dean Martin:

Gary Dean Martin

"My name is Gary Dean Martin and this is my story.

It may not be a long story, but it is an eternal story.

I am the 5th child of Brent and Erin Martin. I have two brothers, Tanner and Decker.  I have two sisters, Lilly and Daisy.

I was so excited to join my forever family! But I am getting ahead of myself...

I need to start at the very beginning..."

My mommy and daddy holding me in the hospital

"Before we are born, we lived with our Heavenly Parents and their other spirit children. It is here we were taught our Heavenly Father's plan and what mortality would be like. Our time with Heavenly Father was such a special time for we were surrounded by love, harmony and peace. We were told it would not be like that on earth, that there would be opposition in all things. We were taught of the struggle between Lucifer's plan and our elder brother, Jesus Christ's plan. I was there and shouted "Hosanna, Hosanna" along with the other heavenly hosts. What a glorious time that was!"

"I continued along my path toward mortality, and progressing as far as I could without an earthly body. I was so looking forward to my mortal experience.

As I was anticipating the beginning of my earthly existence, a heavenly messenger came to deliver a message from the Father.  He told me of Heavenly Father's love for me and that He was aware of the desires of my heart. Heavenly Father was well pleased with my progress in my Heavenly home. I was instructed that I would receive a body but it would be imperfect. I was also told about my family and how they were looking forward to having me join them. I was surprised when I was told I had a choice as to whether I would accept this body. Even before mortality, we have our agency to choose for ourselves."

"I pondered his words in my heart and I knew the consequences of this choice. I knew I was being sent to choice parents and would be theirs eternally. I also knew that it would break their hearts to never know me in mortality. I knew I would have been loved by my brothers and sisters just as I love them now. I also knew that if I lived, my body would have some serious challenges. I would have accepted that for a chance at life on earth. But I also knew that my mission was to receive my mortal body and return to my Heavenly Father and continue His work on this side of the veil."

"There was a part of me that wanted to say, "But I want a perfect body. I want to live with my family, to play and grow with Tanner, Lilly, Daisy and Decker."

"However, I was taught well the blessings of obedience and sacrifice. I was taught of Jesus Christ, our beloved elder brother, our Redeemer, our Savior. I was witness to His life here on earth and His ultimate sacrifice for all of Heavenly Father's children. How could I be witness to this and so many other great examples of sacrifice and accepting Father's will, and not be willing to say, "Thy will be done"?

And so it was decided."

"I was given one special opportunity before my short time in mortality began. My mommy, Erin, was asked to play Mary in the Stake Nativity program in December (one month before she discovered she was pregnant with me). She sang the most beautiful song to the baby doll representing the infant Christ. As she cupped His little bottom and patted His back, the veil parted and I was there--being held and loved by my earthly mother.

Her love was so pure and so strong--I knew what it would have been like if I had lived. I wonder if she knew that's why she didn't want to leave the baby doll by itself that first performance night. I am eternally grateful to have felt her love for the Savior and for me that night.

(Below is an audio version of Erin singing "Mary's Lullaby" from one of the rehearsals)

All mine in your loveliness, Baby, all mine;
All mine in your holiness, Baby Divine.
Sing on, herald angels, in chorus sublime;
Sing on and adore, for tonight you are mine.
The wise men are coming to worship their king.
The shepherds are kneeling, their homage to bring.
Out yonder, the star over Judah will keep;
No harm can befall thee, then sleep, Baby, sleep.
Oh, let me enfold thee, my baby, tonight;
While legions are singing in joyous delight.
A new star has risen to hail thee divine,
For you are a king, but tonight you are mine.
Away, spectered future of sorrow and plight.
Away to the years that must follow tonight.
The pangs of Gethsemane, let them be dim;
The red drops on Calvary, not, Lord, for him!
Oh, let me enfold thee, my baby, tonight;
While legions are singing in joyous delight.
A new star has risen to hail thee divine,
For you are a king, but tonight you are mine.
All mine in your loveliness, Baby, all mine;
All mine in your holiness, Baby Divine.
Sing on, herald angels, in chorus sublime;
Sing on and adore, for tonight you are mine.

Our Little Bean
Gary Dean
"Mommy loved feeling me grow. My first flutterings felt like butterfly wings in a gentle breeze. Those first stirrings of life brough such love to her heart. Mommy loved hearing my little heart beat. Each beat was a witness to my life. They became the testimony to my short time spent in mortality.
I know how sad Mommy and Daddy were when they found our that my heart was sick. They were also surprised that I had Down Syndrome just like my big sister Lilly. They came to understand that I would be a great buddy for Lilly. AND I will be a great buddy, I will always be close to her. I loved my big brother Tanner's reaction. When my parents told him that I might have Down Syndrome he shouted the biggest "WAHOO" and had the biggest smile on his face. I love my big brother."
"It's hard to say goodbye when you never had the chance to say hello. I may never be able to hold them in my arms, but I will always whold them in my heart. They are part of me. Because of them, I walk softer. Life is more fragile, more precious."
By Janene Wolsey Baadsgaard, July 1989 Ensign. 
"My mortal life was only 24 weeks long. It was too brief, but it was enough and my weak heart finally gave out and I returned Home. Perfect and strong in every way.
There was a touch of heaven in the hospital room as my lifeless mortal body was brought forth. I was only 8 inches long and I weighed 11 ounces. I was so tiny."
"I witnessed the heartache and loss in that room, especially as my dad cradled my tiny body and bowed his head in grief."
"Both sets of my grandparents were there at the hospital. Forever they will be witnesses of my life. I was named after both my grandfathers; Gary (paternal) and Dean (maternal). It is an honor to bear the names of my two Papas into the eternities."
Clockwise: Mommom Kathi, Papa John Dean, Nana Katie and Papa Gary
"I was able to receive a name and a blessing and be included in my family's earthly records.  Along with my two papas, my daddy lovingly placed his hands on my head and asked Heavenly Father to watch over and protect my body until my spirit and body are reunited one day. I am grateful to have an earthly dad who loves the gospel and honors the priesthood powers he was given."

"Daddy asked my Nana Katie to make my burial clothing. With a spirit of love and reverence, she sewed a white satin and minky bunting that was so soft. She and my daddy gently laid my tiny and frail body into it. It was tied with ribbons to protect me from any further harm."
"She also knit the smallest white beanie for my head. I would have loved to wear one of her snowboarding beanies--the kind with the fun earflaps. Because my skin was so fragile, Nana had to cut the beanie up the back in order to place it on my head. Nana thought that was ironic considering she was frantically knitting in the car on the way to the hospital with only her phone light to help her see. Nana did not mind at all that she had to cut the beanie, she knew I would love it."
Love is a soft and cozy blanket to snuggle in.

"Nana also make a matching white blanket with my name on it, and my big brother Tanner wanted a matching pillow for my little head, so he helped Nana make that. He also made the best card for me." 

"I was lovingly wrapped up and then my mommy held me for the first and last time. I knew her heart was breaking as the numbness of grief settled in."

"It was so hard to watch my parents and grandparents grieve over my loss. I couldn't help but think again of Heavenly Father's grief as he watched His Son suffer for all of mankind."
"He took upon the heartache and suffering of my parents so they could have their burden lifted by Him. My heart soared as I reflected on this truth. I know my Redeemer lives and I know I will have the opportunity to be raised by my earthly parents."

"Like the intense fire that transforms iron into steel, as we remain faithful during the fiery trial of our faith, we are spiritually refined and strengthened." --Elder Niel L. Anderson, Oct Conference 2012

"A man from the mortuary came to the hospital room carrying a white wicker cradle. My daddy gently laid me to rest inside. No one wanted to see me leave. Mommy told the man to be sure to take good care of me. He understood her pain and concern, and said that he would. Daddy walked down with him and my mortal body was taken away.

In so many ways I wish my story could have ended with "and they lived happily ever after," but my story is not a fairy tale and mortality is our testing ground.

For some of Father's spirit children, earth life lasts many, many years. For others, it ends all too soon. We must live by faith and accept the Father's will in all things.

Just as my heartbeat was a witness to my life here on earth, it also was a testimony to my passing through the veil. My little heart had endured enough and was stilled.

My mission was complete and I was called Home to continue my Father's work on the other side of the veil."

"Saturday morning dawned a warm and sunny spring day in Sunnyside. Daddy, Tanner and Nana went to the mortuary to make the final arrangements. Daddy had worked the previous night on my little white casket so it would fit inside the burial vault. There was even a plaque that Daddy engraved my name on."
"While Daddy and Tanner helped transfer items for the funeral service from his car to the mortician's car, Nana sang me lullabies and primary songs. All the ones she would have sung to me if I had lived"
"Tanner and Daddy came in and Tanner was able to hold me--and to see my tiny feet, tiny hands, and my little face. He was so careful and gentle with me. I know we would've been great buddies. He would've taken really good care of me if I had lived."
"Tanner carefully placed the pillow Nana made for me into the casket, then Nana placed my body into Tanner's hands and he gently laid me onto the soft white satin bedding. The white bunting that Nana had made for me to protect my body had turned pink like my skin from the amniotic fluids that had caused my body to swell in utero. It was a quiet, beautiful moment, and I could feel their love for me as last goodbyes were said, and finally the casket lid was closed."
"Tanner saw the tears in our Daddy's eyes, and like a dam bursting, he laid his head on my tiny casket and sobbed, "I'm going to miss Dean! I'm going to miss my brother!" 

We are blessed to be an eternal family."

Part two of Dean's story will be continued...

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