Three Years: Tori’s Resurrection Day

It’s amazing that it has already been three years since our precious Tori entered the arms of Jesus.

Today could be a devastating, sad day. We could choose to dwell on what we “lost” that day, how our world changed, and that would be an acceptable way to spend the day given the circumstances. I mean, we did lose a child. The world would understand. But, as always, we choose to place our focus on where she is and how she is doing, as well as the fact that we will see her again someday and will never have to say goodbye.

Instead of the worldly form of grief, we choose peace.
Instead of blaming God, we choose faith.
Instead of tears, we choose joy.

We decided two years ago that we would always spend Tori’s Resurrection Day (also called Tori’s Day of Triumph) doing something fun as a family. The activities may vary from year to year, depending on the age of her siblings and their interests, but we want to always celebrate her life and her current/forever place of residence.

So, today we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel and had some fried apples (something she LOVED) together:

We went to see Tori’s tree at the Hershey Gardens for our second annual family photo in front of the tree:

We read “I Can Only Imagine: A Friendship with Jesus Now and Forever” to the boys – something we will do each year as we teach them about Tori, Heaven, and faith in Jesus.

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But most importantly, we enjoyed our time as a family:


I promise we aren’t perfect Christians, nor are we perfect people. We sought out the biblical examples of living after a loved one’s death, and we believe that this is how we are to live. The New Testament, especially, is FILLED with verses about death of fellow believers and how Christians should respond, and it’s always referenced with joy. With peace.

We trust that the God who created the universe can be trusted with every detail of our lives, even when we don’t understand the reasons. 

(If you’d like to hear me go more into depth about this and more, here’s a link to a speaking engagement I had in January. You can also read more in my book, Even So, Joy.)

One of the questions I ask in Even So, Joy is this: If we (as followers of Jesus) truly believe God and His promises, if we truly believe that Heaven is where we belong and where we will spend eternity, then why do we follow the world’s example and allow sorrow and grief to overcome us? It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Would anyone CHOOSE to lose a child? Absolutely not. And yet, we CAN choose our reaction and how we live our lives afterward. We see the example of David losing a child (albeit to very different circumstances) in 2 Samuel 12 and his response:

19 When David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. “Is the child dead?” he asked.

“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”

20 Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions,[b]and changed his clothes. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and was served food and ate.

21 His advisers were amazed. “We don’t understand you,” they told him. “While the child was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the child is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again.”

22 David replied, “I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.”

David got up. He worshiped the sovereign God he knew and trusted. He knew he would see his son again someday and chose to live life.

I think about it this way: If it were me that had died, I would NOT want my parents to stop living life. I would not want them to visit my grave (or, as we call it, Resurrection Site). I would want them to remember that the separation is not forever, that I am where we all, as Believers, are supposed to be. That I am finally HOME. 

Brennan and I chose then – and we choose now – to focus on Tori and how amazingly she is doing now. Tori can SMILE. Walk. Talk. Breathe. Play. Be with Jesus. How incredible is that?! Our precious baby girl was so broken here on earth; now she is healed and WHOLE. That is more than enough reason to rejoice!

Brennan and I know and believe that Heaven is real, that she is having an amazing time, and that we will join her someday. Every day is one day closer to that reunion!

You may not be in a situation like ours, but we all have our own challenges and life struggles. No matter what our circumstances, we each have a daily decision to make, a choice for how we view our journey; we have the opportunity to choose for it to be well with our souls and to focus on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).

Every day, we each have a decision to make: where is your focus?

The Joy of Not Knowing

In our culture of Google bringing instant gratification to our curious minds, not knowing the answer or what is going to happen in life typically makes us feel anxious, unsettled. We think that knowing everything when we want to know it is the key to peace.

I don’t believe that is the case.

I write about this today as I am reflecting on March 26, 2016. We had no idea that would be our last day with Tori on this earth. Part of me wishes I had known…but, then I wonder for what purpose? So we could have treasured her more that day? We already did that well. So we could have been more “prepared” to say goodbye? We’d been preparing for fourteen months.

No, I think it’s this: Knowing would have helped us feel like we were in control of an impossible situation instead of trusting the One who actually IS in control.

I like being in control. I like when things go my way (I recently discovered that I’m an Enneagram 1 and I think I’ve accepted that 😉 ). But living like that doesn’t require faith. It doesn’t require trust. Why have faith if we’re going to just take control ourselves?

In this instance, I am certain that knowing the day and time of her final breath would NOT have brought peace. It would have brought anxiety. Instead, our sovereign and gracious God shielded us from that information and I’m so thankful. 

He was gracious to give us warning signs for about six weeks before she was set free from her earthly body. In the end, that’s all we really needed. We see that now.


Another way I’ve seen this idea of “not knowing being okay” play out is in regards to Newborn Screening.

The Pennsylvania NBS Advisory Panel has spent countless hours discussing the ethics of screening for certain diseases – ones with no treatment, specifically. They ponder whether or not it’s the right thing to tell parents that their child may someday develop a disease for which there is no treatment or cure. They wonder if they should screen for such diseases or leave it a mystery.

You may wonder why they would do that, as did I at first, but now I see it this way: if parents find out that their child will someday become symptomatic with a disease for which there is no treatment or cure, is it better for them to know (which will rob them of joy during the healthy times and fill them with worry and anxiety), or to wait until symptoms occur? They can’t change the situation either way, so for some diseases the panel believes that the ethical thing to do is to NOT screen until a treatment is available. And I believe this is the right thing to do.

Knowing doesn’t always bring peace or joy. Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss.


As followers of Jesus, we must trust the One we serve. We must trust that His way IS the best way, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. He must be the source of our joy, even when things in life do not go as we would prefer.

If we TRULY believe that God is sovereign, good, gracious, faithful, trustworthy, capable, then do we actually need to know everything? No. What we need is to put our faith into action and surrender that need. Faith brings joy, deep and unwavering joy.

Someday we’ll know, and we’ll praise Him in retrospect; but, I challenge you to praise Him now, in the uncertainty, because HE is certain and HE loves you. 

H.B. 730 – Time to Take Action

PENNSYLVANIA – it’s time for action!

We’ve been waiting (not so patiently) to be able to tell you that we have important legislation that will be introduced VERY soon, and if it is signed into law (which is likely given the broad support we have) Krabbe will finally be mandatory by default.

Hannah’s Law (Act 148 of 2014) was created to make screening for Krabbe mandatory; however, it has yet to be fully implemented because PA’s NBS system is broken.

This bill will not only fix Pennsylvania’s broken NBS system and ensure that EVERY baby is screened equally (right now your zip code determines what diseases are included on your baby’s NBS panel), but it will fully implement Hannah’s Law at last.

What can you do? If you live in Pennsylvania, you can send a note like the one below (or copy/paste if you want) to request that your legislator CO-SPONSOR the legislation.

It will be called H.B. 730 – in honor of Tori’s birthday ❤ We were so surprised and honored by that!

If you share this post PLEASE make sure our text accompanied it. Otherwise it will just be the link to the memo.

If you want to copy/paste the following, feel free! You can find your representative’s info here: https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/member_information/contact.cfm?body=H

Dear ___________,

My family and I are residents of your district and wanted to make you aware of a bill in hopes that you would sign on as a co-sponsor.

https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20190&cosponId=28612

It will be numbered H.B. 730, the numbers representing a precious girl’s birthday. Victoria Brackbill passed away from Krabbe Leukodystrophy in March 2016 at 20 months of age. Her life could have been saved had she been screened for Krabbe at birth.

Victoria’s family has been working with the Dept. of Health, Rep. Cruz (who authored Act 148 of 2014), Dr. Levine, and others over the past few years to help them to see the weaknesses in Pennsylvania’s Newborn Screening program, and they have listened. The fight has become about so much more than Krabbe being one of the mandatory screenings in PA – it has become about making the program better and more equal as a whole.

Pennsylvania currently ranks 2nd to LAST in the nation for the number of diseases for which every baby is screened. As you will read in this memo, your zip code determines life or death if you’re born with one of these diseases that can be treated if caught at birth. That is simply unacceptable and we’re seeking to change that.

This isn’t a partisan issue – this is a human issue.

If H.B. 730 is signed into law (which is likely will be as the Governor also supports our efforts), Krabbe will become mandatory by default. More importantly, though, every single baby born in Pennsylvania will be screened for the exact same diseases and have the same chance at life as all the other babies.

Thank you in advance for your consideration, and hopefully your support.

Why We Don’t Visit Tori’s Grave

We’ve never written about this before, but I think it’s important.

Let me preface with this: we know many people do things differently than we do so there’s no judgment at all. Everyone needs to do what their hearts need for healing.

This may surprise some of you, but we don’t visit Tori’s burial site (resurrection site, as we like to call it).

We don’t decorate it, we don’t spend time there. In fact, the only times we’ve been there were to show out of town visitors where it is, as it’s difficult to give directions.

It’s been nearly two years since we’ve gone there, and the reason is likely not what you think.

We feel no need to go there because SHE ISN’T THERE. Her soul is in Heaven, and we don’t need to sit at her grave to be reminded of that.

We don’t decorate it for holidays or leave anything there because she isn’t there, she won’t know we did that, and it doesn’t feel necessary to us.

If you’ve read Even So, Joy you know that we believe that death isn’t something to be feared or held onto – it’s a temporary separation and we will be reunited again!

So, for us, it never even crosses our mind to go to where her broken, earthly body was buried. We’d rather focus on changing the world around us and choosing joy as her legacy.


Brennan and I don’t always feel free to express our perspective on how to deal with child loss because we seem to be the minority. We feel like we have to stay quiet because we are doing so well.

But, here’s our perspective:

If I consider this situation from a different angle, the way to live is obvious.

If I were the one in Heaven, how would I want my parents to live? Would I want them to stay in bed, crying every day, wasting their life away, or would I want them to LIVE an abundant life because that’s what I would be doing in Heaven?

I’d want them to LIVE. To have JOY because of the impact I had on their lives. I’d want them to celebrate my life, not dwell on my absence.

This is how we view our life now that Tori is in Heaven. Our joy doesn’t come from her absence – we have joy because she existed. Her death didn’t change me – her existence did.

Tori comes up in conversation daily, especially now that we see so much of her in her little brothers. We think about her all the time but those memories bring joy, not tears.

I don’t believe that our loved ones can see us from Heaven, but if they can I certainly wouldn’t want Tori to see us wasting this short life we’re given. I’d want her to see us making the most of it, joyfully, just like we would if she were with us.


Tori may not physically be here, but we don’t have to go to her grave to see evidence of her impact. We see it every day in her brothers, in our memories, and in the legacy she has.

As tragic and horrible as it is, I don’t believe that child loss has to derail our entire lives. Shape it, yes. Ruin it, no. It’s a choice that has to be made daily, and we choose to be joyful. ❤️


If you’d like to get a copy of “Even So, Joy: Our Journey through Heartbreak, Hope, and Triumph” you can do so here.

Going Viral

We were so blessed to have the amazing Erin Fortney Photography capture the birth of our twins because it has made me feel like I was more involved and actually present in the room after delivery.

One of the photos she posted garnered a great deal of attention, to all of our surprise:

We love the photo and what it represents, but we didn’t expect what happened next. We were amazed to be contacted by so many reporters regarding our story and it went viral.

They were enamored with Brennan’s persistence in doing skin-to-skin in the O.R. (which to us is interesting because it wasn’t a question in our minds that he should have that experience with the boys, as well) and we definitely talked about that, but we also recognized the potential for Krabbe awareness and made sure they focused on Tori and her story, as well as Newborn Screening. THIS is our true passion in life!

Here’s the current list of publications that have written about us:

Babble: https://www.babble.com/parenting/skin-to-skin-dad-twins-photo/

Motherly: https://www.mother.ly/news/viral-pictures-show-dad-doing-skin-to-skin-with-his-twin-babies-for-a-very-good-reason

Love What Matters: http://www.lovewhatmatters.com/six-weeks-later-she-was-handed-a-death-sentence-how-dads-amazing-skin-to-skin-contact-with-twins-helps-heal-family-after-devastating-loss/

Birth Becomes Her: https://www.facebook.com/56901132/posts/10100975465821040/

CafeMom: https://thestir.cafemom.com/parenting_news/212461/dad-skin-to-skin-rainbow-twins

People: https://people.com/human-interest/brennan-brackbill-skin-twin-sons-death-toddler/

The Epoch Times: https://m.theepochtimes.com/uplift/father-gives-his-newborn-twins-a-shirtless-hug-right-after-theyre-born_2544565.html

The Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5849873/Pictures-father-cuddling-newborn-twins-skin-skin-delivery-room.html

Huge thanks to Erin Fortney for this image and for the write-up on Birth Becomes Her that started it all ❤ :

Dad had requested skin-to-skin in the OR from the moment that he stepped foot in the hospital… he must have mentioned it a dozen times.

He + his wife were preparing to welcome twins in to the world after losing their first-born to Krabbe Leukodystrophy at the young age of 20 months.

Staff told him that it would be tough since he would have two babies and needed to be in a scrub suit over his clothes … So he promptly and without question explained that he had a large arm-span that was ready and waiting to hold his two boys and then took his shirt off and zipped up his scrubs announcing, ‘well then.. problem solved!’

This nurse made sure to advocate for him to all 24 other people in the OR that day — and personally made sure that his request was fulfilled.  – Erin Fortney

Reminders of Krabbe and Choosing to Be Joyful

There will always be reminders of Krabbe and its effects on Tori in the least expected places.

The other night, for instance, on The Good Doctor, they had a patient who was unable to smile because her cranial nerves were not working properly.

Just like Krabbe.

This is just one example, of course. These situations always catch us by surprise, and it’s hard to believe that even just four years ago something like this wouldn’t have phased us. We would have enjoyed the episode of the show but it wouldn’t have made us think about anything else.

When times like this happen, we have a choice: focus on what Krabbe stole from her – and us – with sadness, or focus on all that Heaven restored to her with joy.

And, as always, we choose joy.

Her smile was amazing, even though we only saw it for five months. I think we will appreciate her brothers’ smiles far more because of this. Each smile, each expression…such joy.

We remember her smile with such love and eagerly await seeing it again soon – but not yet ❤️