When you are born and then you die...what's the dash mean?

When you are born and then you die...what's the dash mean?

The title itself may seem strange but it is true that we are all born and then we all die.  We've all heard the saying it's what we do with the dash in between that matter's most. The dash helps us carry on the memory of the person who lived and how they lived their life.  How do you do that and honor a person when they only lived 1 year and 6 days of their life?  How big of an impact can they really make in one short year?  Well, I can tell you for a matter of certainty and factual data that my son Garret has made a huge impact and lived a short life that I can share and honor unconditionally for the remainder of MY life.   

Garret Thomas Rittenhouse was born on June 21, 2005 and he died on June 27, 2006. He was born on a beautiful sunny day. During the “pushing” process of my delivery was a somewhat memorable, funny moments. We live in Nebraska, so the Nebraska baseball team had made it to the CWS (college world series) here in Omaha, NE. Now if you are not familiar with Nebraska, we have no pro teams of any sorts and we strictly rely on our Nebraska Cornhuskers to make it big in every sport and fill our sports fans buckets. So on this day when I was to give birth to my first baby boy, everyone at Methodist Hospital was more interested in the outcome of our ranked Nebraska baseball team vs. Arizona State. I can remember vividly my doctor instructing me to push for 30 seconds and then relax (okay wait for about 2 minutes or so, so they could watch the game or listen to it); at the time I was relieved of the instruction to rest, finding this all too comical watching people, but now looking back at how memorable this was for all of us. The halls were noisy full of cheers for baseball and not cheers of babies being born. This went on for about 30 minutes. Thank goodness my little strawberry blonde hair boy decided enough, wanted to find out what all the excitement out there was and he decided to make his grand slam entrance! (By the way Nebraska ended up losing 7-8 and ended up 5th in the CWS that year). (And no I don't just know these stats...thank you google) 

Garret's death day was no different, it was a beautiful sunny summer day.  I remember vividly the morning I had with Garret and the hugs he gave Graci & I all morning.  I also remember how just incredibly cute he was smiling all the way to daycare and just the excitement and happiness of the day unfolding.  Little did we know that I would never see that again in person, I only have the pictures and the memories to guide me through each and every moment of my days.  The day that Garret died completely changed the trajectory of our entire lives without a seconds notice.  

So the dash---what did Garret do during his time that we are able to constantly live for?! Well...he was just born an angel and he taught us that living with love & laughter was the key to a good life.  He taught his sister that having a sibling is a true gift and that silliness is a must and tickles and hugs make the world spin a little lighter.  He taught us that we can smile again if we just believe that he is safe, completely healthy, and running the streets of Heaven.  He taught us to give back to people less fortunate by guiding us to purchase and place AED machines in 13 different locations.   He taught us that our friends don't know what to do either, but if we all come together and trust the healing journey, it will be the comfort we need and can share with others.  He continues to push his mommy to do things she is completely uncertain on how to do, but guides her with his gentle angel wings on her accomplishing her tasks of her new job.  He also is the one that gives his mommy the ideas to push her business forward each day.  He is in all the rainbows & butterflies I see and gives me that feeling of love that he did the entire year of his life.  Garret got to be the strong one and meet his daddy, his uncle, his aunt and recently his Pa at the gates of Heaven and I know without a doubt he is their guiding light up there.  Am I jealous? You betcha I am, but I'm grateful that one day when it's my turn...Garret will be my welcoming person.  

Garret lived a full life, the fullest life that God gave him; I truly believe that.  I honor Garret's life as much and as often as I can.  I will not ever stop sharing and using HIS name for our purpose of Hope & Healing.   The grief journey is hard, so very hard and the dates and numbers are scattered in my brain and I have to share them with you so we all can take a step back and acknowledge and remember too.  My hope is that it also helps you with any death or person you are grieving. Acknowledging grief & death is the forefront of what I'm trying to do with Butterflies + Halo's.  We have to do better at remembering and honoring our friends and loved ones who are grieving someone.  I have a small, small, and I mean small (1-2 people) that actually go out of their way to remember and honor my peoples lives without me having to remind them.  This is what is so very scary to me.  As the time moves forward where Garret turns 18 this year and he died 17 years ago...people are starting to forget.  I'm not mad about it, it's just very soul crushing.  I also understand that you don't know unless you know.  I say this not out of spite or anything; I'm not asking for anything in particular.  I'm wanting to keep my son's memory alive with every ounce of my being.  If FB or IG went away today...I wouldn't be able to post about Garret's life (or any of the others) in remembrance and I wouldn't receive the 100 comments saying your "thinking of me".  That's WHY I've created my business...it's SO easy for you as a friend to type in the date of someone you want to remember on your calendar and then acknowledge it with a text, card, phone call or whatever!  I've noticed people "like" my posts on socials on these VERY important dates, but I don't receive a message from them say via text until an hour or so later or sometimes not at all (and these are the people who I feel should do this the most); my point, if you have time to like and scroll FB, you have time to acknowledge your friend and send a text immediately (or the card the week before so it arrives around the date).  

The above statement sounds like a pity party for me, but it's not.  Loss is so very hard and unless you have lost a person that you almost can't bear to live without, you have no idea how a day feels or a birthday or a death date feel.  I will repeat over and over, it's acknowledgment to the griever, your friend.  I'm not asking for people to hold my hand all throughout these days still, I'm asking a friend to send me a card or ask me to lunch or breakfast.  I'm asking you to just say "I remember and I'm thinking of you".  SO, if I'm asking this...there are thousands of other's just like me who are desiring the thoughtfulness and kind gestures on these milestone dates.  We as grievers are feeling the feels more than anyone, so please give us grace as we honor our loved ones and shout their names out to all.  

I do have a question?  How do you feel as a friend looking in from the outside?  Do you feel awkward? Do you feel unsure?  After so much time has passed, do you feel like we should be in a different place?  I'm totally curious and would love for some of you to message me directly and let me know.  

So, as you move forward in life, ask yourself how can I live my dash?  Is it acknowledging and honoring a friend's broken and grieving heart?  Is it giving back to a community however that looks with either volunteerism or gifts?  Is it just living the happy life, full of laughs and tickles and jokes just to get through each day of this broken world we are living in?  I know how I'm living my dash and it all begins and honors my people who are gone.  I also live my dash by loving and cherishing the people who surround me with all the love they have.  Thank You most to my daughter Graci and my husband Chantz, without you two, the world would be completely dark.  

The following is the poem my first husband Jack (Garret's daddy) wrote for him a couple nights after Garret died. This was read at the funeral and is engraved on Garret's headstone.  


Fear not my son, for you are not alone;

We are with you both heart and soul,

You came into this world as a happy boy,

Full of life and full of joy, 

Even though you were only with us a short time,

You will always be in our heart and our mind. 

I want you to know that you will always be in my sight, 

Even though I sit here wondering if you are all right, 

You made us laugh and you made us cry,

But I can’t figure out why we had to say goodbye,

I am not sure we will ever know,

Just why you had to go,

You gave us strength and gave us joy,

By simply being our innocent baby boy,

Your sister Graci is not quite sure what to do,

But one thing I can say, she will sure miss you,

Your mom and I will always be here,

To provide you comfort when you have fear,

And one last promise we want to make you,

Your Mommy, Graci, and I will always love you. 


This blog is in memory and honor of my son Garret Thomas who will be "Forever1".  You are reading this blog during the in between (dash) of his Birthday and Death Day.  My goal is always to leave Hope and inspire all of you to live a full and complete life without hesitation.  The world is hard without all the "other" stuff, grief on top of it makes it really really hard.  Grace upon Grace is what we need to give ourselves and others always.  We are definitely BETTER TOGETHER if we can all lift one another up when it's needed the most (and especially without reminders).  

(If you are interested in watching the 11 minute video of our tribute to our little guy, please click on the link below.  This was made for our remembrance and love for a sweet sweet little boy). 

Video of Garret



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Hey Ang,

First off I’m so sorry I’ve put off reading your blog for many years. I have no excuse.

This blog is absolutely beautiful, breathtaking and bonding. It hits the heart and soul with memories and sad feeling as well as happy memories, as does it help heal the heart and soul.

You and I share a special date. We lost my sister Julie 40 years ago on June 27th, 1983. We were blessed by her presence and so thankful for the years we had with her. She definitely taught me a lot during her short life and bigger lessons following her untimely death.

The poem Jack wrote is amazing and what a gift you have with his words forever engrained.

My love, thoughts and prayers go out for you, Graci and your family.

My apologies again for waiting so long to read a blog entry. I promise ti read the future posts. They really are healing.


Lisa Robb

Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful video of Garrett! He was an adorable little guy and is was wonderful to be able to see him!! Your words and advice are so appreciated by those of us who never know what to say! It is helpful to know that saying something, even if it is awkward, is better than saying nothing at all! You are such an inspiration and have an positive impact on everyone who is lucky enough to know you!!!

Christie Dean

You are alway, ALWAYS remembered in my heart and thoughts during the month of June.


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