A Little Umbrella

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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  1. 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.

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

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 yannabe.com, 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!)

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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…

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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

    Such a beautiful tribute to your baby brother.

  14. 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!

  15. 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 🙂

  16. 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.

  17. 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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