Baby Braden Petska

Monday, September 21, 2009


Yesterday I went to church (first time in over 2 months - since our pastor left). As I sat waiting for my turn to go up for communion, I whispered...."Oh God, why did you take our Braden....why do you need him more than we need him here on earth?" Since I cannot multi-task (I know, strange for a woman to admit), I did not realize the song that was playing while I was praying. The song was, "Children of the Heavenly Father." This was a song they played at Braden's funeral. Although I wasn't for certain at first, I immediately (and frantically) turned the hymnal to the song and read the verses that were being sung before me. There it was....staring straight at me: "Though He giveth or He taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh; His, the loving purpose solely; To preserve them pure and holy." Was that God's answer right there in black and white? One must believe....

So, lately as I peel the layers of grief, I find it more difficult to "function." The denial is gone and I wish so badly it would return....just to protect me from the brutal reality that it's "forever." The thought consumes me at times and brings me to a state of pain so sharp, it's literally hard to breathe. I know I've stated this numerous times, but I feel like it's more frequent and more apparent as we continue to live and carry on our lives without Braden. All the continuation of "firsts" as fall approaches has me so guarded and unaware of what to expect in the coming months. Grief is a process....a very long, exhausting, taxing process. There's so many "other" things about grief that makes it difficult to put into words - the mental exhaustion, the lag time with getting things done (even the simplest things are tough), difficulty focusing & concentrating (reading the newspaper is even a chore), being insecure especially in public and crowded places, fearing that people will "forget" about our pain especially since it's something we live with 24/7. The catch 22 of wanting that happiness inside to return yet feeling guilty of "moving on" without Braden. Then there are those awkward moments that confront you when others really don't know what to say, so they simply say nothing - not because they don't care, but they just don't know the right words. For me, Braden and his absence is always on my mind, so reaching out and asking how I'm doing or extending your heartfelt thougts will not upset me. If I shed tears, that's okay.....tears are healthy. You have no idea how many tears I've shed just so I can turn around, find my smile, and move on with my day. It's "okay"'s okay to ask about Braden, to ask how we're doing, to share kind words, to offer a hug, to call, to talk to's okay.

Some other unexpected things that grief has done is allowed me to love freely, give more, to hold more compassion especially for those who suffer, not sweating the petty things and realizing there's only so much we can control in our lives, embracing nature as Braden would with discovery and appreciation, declaring time by the noon whistle on Saturdays, noting outloud where the cows are at Deno's in the morning, and knowing I will never again be the same person for knowing, loving, and sadly losing my precious little boy.


**Just a reminder** Our team, Braden's Heart of Gold, will be walking/running in the Briggs and Al Run/Walk for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin on October 10th. The money we raise will be going towards The Playroom of Hope ( Please visit our pledge page:

Also, our charity has decided to put together a little volleyball tournament at KC's Cabin on October 3rd. Please see our website ( for more details.

Thank you Owen for making our hearts smile and bringing joy to us each and every day:


Anonymous Kevin Slager said...

It's funny how many places I see or think of Braden lately. I was on my way to work the other day, and I noticed I was stopped at a red light next to a van that said, "Braden Plumbing". Who knew the kid had his own business! I just sat there, and a little smile came to my face with the thought of that huge smile of his. Every "B" I see belongs to him, and we will never forget how special he was. You are always in our prayers...

The Slagers

8:58 PM  
Blogger mittelmommy said...

I know we don't really know each other, just the times we met through the Slagers, but I think of you so often and read your blog when you post. My heart is so drawn to you, Steph. Praying for you and sending a Hug! Hope to see you at the walk in October!
Chantae Mittelstaedt-Gage's mommy!

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steph and Rich -

I think of you guys often and continue to pray for your strength. I am still so sorry for your loss -- it's just not fair. Hang in there and try to take care of yourselves!

Bridget O'Meara

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your posts are inspirational! For a mother and father to lose such a precious angel, is by far the hardest thing one can endure, you yet find the strength to talk and share your most inner feelings. I am sure it helps tremendously to share these personal feelings with all those who know you, Braden, or your family...but to see you write these words and express your feelings and continue to do so time after time is simply amazing, in your sharing we can all see what amazing parents and people you and Rich are, the amount of strength you have...not many can go through what you have and come out and continue on with such things are your charity and sharing your moments with us all. My heart goes out to you... my prayers for strength continue to come your way.

God Bless

Carrie Nettleton

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It has been a while since I have checked in with your blog as I too have returned to school and coaching. However, you and your family are never too far from my thoughts. Every day when I look at my two boys or talk to the few Bradens in our school, I think of you, Rich, and Owen and say a little prayer for your strength and wellness. Your little Owen is so sweet...he has a beautiful smile. Hang in there. Peace be with you. Love, Kim Funnell

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know God whispers to us in the most simple ways...I am sure that heaing that song and reading those words was not "by chance". Our Lord has not left you or forsaken you...he walks with you everyday and loves you more then you can imagine. Keep reaching for his arms and he will always be there. His picture remains on the fridge where I see it often and think of you and him and whisper a prayer for comfort and peace.
Hugs my heart friend

Good luck with the Briggs walk!!
bring that playroom into reality!!

Tammy :)

12:18 PM  
Blogger Jer, Kari, Alayna-Maria said...

I feel such a warmth thinking of that song playing for you in church, as I know you have been watching everywhere for Braden's presence...Steph, he was there with you, in that moment of grief.
I think grief makes everything sharper and in focus.. pain, but like you said, also appreciation and compassion.
You and Braden are in my thoughts so often too ... I love what someone else said, about every "B" belonging to him.
Praying and looking forward to sharing some time with you..

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steph, I too am drawn to your blogs. I admire your strength but am left with so much sadness for you, Rich, Owen and all of your family. I continue to pray for you every day. You are awlays in my thoughts! Jodi

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think of your family often and I pray that God provides you with moments of peace. Braden is a very special little guy who touched so many lives, even those he never met. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

The Laughlin Family

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing such a tragic story. I've learned a lot from you and the Wallace's. Your pain radiates through your posts and instantly brings me to tears. I cannot even begin to imagine how awful it is. I pray for your peace and comfort every night but it never seems like enough. Take care!

11:15 PM  
Blogger robert said...

Thank you for sharing your personal struggle with readers. You mention how meaningful the words of Lina Sandell's lovely hymn "Children of the Heavenly Father" were to you. As you may know, Miss Sandell's father was drowned, as she watched helplessly from the ship they were traveling on. Her hymn was sung at the funeral, and I'm sure the words you refer to spoke to her in a similar way.

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Karin Kolman said...

My heart aches for you guys. I have imagined it many times having a heart baby myself, but I have not lived it like you guys have. We think about you often and wish we could lessen the pain for you. You are amazing people!

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello i came across your site via kristen lenzer. I hope you dont mind. kristen and i went to school together and we found each other on facebook. As we were getting to know each other agian i mentioned losing my precious baby to cancer. Of course she then mentioned she had a friend who lost her little B. She did not give me any details just directed me to your blog. I have a caringbridge page iam sure your fiamilar with them. Jillianzuelsdorff. Anyway its hard to everyday go about your life like nothing wrong when you feel like shouting why are you all so happy!! My baby is gone!!! I understand. I will not say i know because everybody greives differently and i cannot possabley KNOW how you feel. I can however understand because alot of the same feeling poke their ugly head at me to. Seeing a pair of shoes she would like, watching a little blond haired blue eyed girl play at the beach and completly losing it. Jan 7th of this comeing year will be 2 yrs since my jilly earned her wings. it doesnt seem possable, i look at her picture and my heart brakes over and over. It does not get easier but it does get less hurtful as you start thinking of all the memories you have of your little B Man.(so cute!!) if you ever want to talk or anything i would be glad to!! My email is god bless.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

The grief I can feel in your posts never fails to bring me to tears, and then I remember that you have to live the pain every day. I wish I knew you in real life, so that I could be a shoulder for you to lean on. I can't imagine how hard it was for you to go back to school this year. Thinking of you and your family, as always. Jennifer

11:06 PM  
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