A Little Umbrella

July 25, 2013

Thirteen years ago this November, my dad stayed at the hospital with my youngest brother, Shepard, while my mom took the other four of us children to do some Christmas shopping.

Earlier that year, Crawford (who was 4) had gotten a little Winnie the Pooh umbrella that he absolutely loved. Shepard was really enamored with it, and so I picked out a little 101 Dalmations umbrella for him.

I paid my $10 for it at Dillard’s, then brought it home and put it away, ready to be wrapped for Christmas morning.

Shepard died of cancer just a week or so later, at the age of three, and that little umbrella remained in my closet, unwrapped, for several more years.

When I got married, and Bart and I bought a house, I brought it out to Texas along with most of my other belongings. It made the move to Boston with us, and then survived the great purge when we sold nearly all our belongings and moved back to Texas.

Two weeks ago, when we packed up all our material possessions again, that umbrella got put in yet another box and drove all the way to North Carolina with us.

On Monday night, the day before Ella turned three, I finally pulled that umbrella out and wrapped it up.

After all these years of seeing that umbrella, unused with the tags still on, it chokes me up a little to see another little blond three-year-old finally getting to enjoy it. I think Shepard would approve.

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  • Reply diana banana July 25, 2013 at 11:20 am

    awwww totally cried when I realized where you were going with that! so sweet!

  • Reply Elaine July 25, 2013 at 11:21 am

    I agree that Uncle Shepard would approve. Ella is clearly delighted. That is a very sweet story and tears are just flowing down my cheeks.

  • Reply Señora H-B July 25, 2013 at 11:41 am

    What a sweet way to share your brother with your daughter. Thanks for warming my heart this morning.

  • Reply Kimberly F. July 25, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Crying. What a perfect way to celebrate your brother and your daughter.

  • Reply preethi July 25, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Just turn my heart to goo, why don't you. The sweetest gift.

  • Reply Sarah Spitz July 25, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    How sweet- love the pics…so much light. It really looks like summer.
    Finally summer arrived in Germany as well:

    Love from Germany,
    Birdy and Bambi

  • Reply Julie Allen July 25, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Some day I plan to do the same thing with something of my brothers. Hope you guys are doing well:)

  • Reply Lisa July 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    That made me cry, right here before work. Thanks.

  • Reply Ash July 25, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    What a sweet and precious gift. I love this.

  • Reply Lisa July 25, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Tears. Very, very sweet.
    I don't comment much, but I love your blog. 🙂

  • Reply Norby family July 25, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    This was a very sweet post, thank you.

  • Reply Ralphie July 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I love this post Janssen. It's always a wonder when you have known someone for so long and then find out something new about them. Such a great story.

  • Reply Bmar July 25, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    so, so, so sweet

  • Reply ellen July 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Very sweet.

  • Reply Isabel July 25, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    What a sweet story. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Erica July 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    please stop making me cry at work. this was beautiful.

  • Reply Amy Jo July 25, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    I am sitting at my desk at work crying; after reading the comments I know I am not the only one. Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing that.

  • Reply Kelly @ July 25, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    What a perfect way to honor your brother. Thank you for sharing this sweet story.

    (p.s. I used to be a book blogger at, and I pop in on all my old favorite book blogs from time to time – just wanted to let you know I still follow! Bummer to lose you in Austin but I hope you enjoy NC!)

  • Reply Lindsey July 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Yup. Totally spilled tears. What a beautiful tribute to Shepard. As always, I'm grateful to bloggers that share personal moments like this with total strangers. We are so much better for it.

  • Reply Jon and Laura July 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    So sweet. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply heidikins July 25, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    This is just beautiful, thank you for sharing.


  • Reply Vanessa July 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Oh, this is so sweet. What a gorgeous way to remember your little brother.

  • Reply Landen July 25, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I am so glad you shared this, Janssen. I had no idea you held on to it for all those years. I am glad that a sweet three year-old will get to play with it finally.

  • Reply emandtrev July 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    This is so wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing this story. That last photo, especially, warms my heart. I'm sure your brother and heaven are smiling down on you and yours…

  • Reply Amina Elahi July 25, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    What an inspired why to create beauty out of loss. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Amy Johnson July 25, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    I don't know what to say that other people haven't already said, but I want to say SOMETHING because that is such a touching story. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Peaceful Reader July 25, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to your little brother. I'm sure he approves. Something about umbrellas and small children (or any of us) are perfect together. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Miriam July 25, 2013 at 11:16 pm


  • Reply PrivatelyPublic July 26, 2013 at 12:09 am

    So sweet. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Jessica July 26, 2013 at 12:38 am

    What a sweet story. Great post-thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Audrey July 26, 2013 at 2:28 am

    Wow, my heart. How amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that. I am so very sorry to hear about the loss of your little brother.

  • Reply Steph July 26, 2013 at 3:37 am


  • Reply Blakely and Lindsey July 26, 2013 at 3:45 am

    This warms my heart. Hugs to you, your family and sweet little Ella.

  • Reply deepdork July 26, 2013 at 4:28 am

    I'm sending you a big, two minute long hug, from New York.

    Such a beautiful tribute to your baby brother.

  • Reply Lindsay July 26, 2013 at 5:21 am

    This was such a wonderful post! I had no idea you'd lost a brother to cancer. I'm sure he'd be happy to know that his niece was so excited about his umbrella. My heart goes out to you!

  • Reply kristen July 26, 2013 at 5:54 am

    You made me cry! That was so sweet- thanks for sharing!

  • Reply runtspickins July 26, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    What a touching story. I'm so sorry for your loss. <3


  • Reply Sarah S. July 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    this is such a sweet post. thank you for sharing.

  • Reply C July 26, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Such a sweet story, thank you for sharing. My little girl adores her umbrella as well, and what a special way to pay homage to your brother and connect him to your daughter! My heart goes out to you 🙂

  • Reply Holly Hoffman Spears July 26, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    oh my gosh, I just bawled my head off. such a sweet story!

  • Reply Sherry July 27, 2013 at 12:49 am

    I'm thinking a three-year-old Shepard would not have been keen to give his umbrella away. But a sixteen-year-old Shepard is happy as can be to see that umbrella go to such a darling recipient.

  • Reply Becca July 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    This is beautiful, Janssen.

  • Reply Bethany July 30, 2013 at 4:02 am

    So, so sweet.

  • Reply Melinda July 31, 2013 at 3:20 am

    Love this. So much sweetness and pain. I'm sorry J.

  • Reply Ashlea with an a August 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    That story is amazing, what a great way to share with your littles, so so sweet.

  • Reply Meghan August 26, 2013 at 5:17 am

    Thanks for sharing such a personal story. Love her facial expression. 🙂

  • Reply Lauren and Joe O'Brien December 12, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    I teared up reading this. What a sad trial for your family, but beautiful to see your little daughter with it now.

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