wedding Photography Jill Thomas engagement engagement sessions Travel Photography Kids Photography infant photographer LA Photography travel photographer Los Angeles Photography senior photographer teens Photography Family Portrait Newborn Portraits Pregnancy Pictures Children Pictures Children Photography Children Photography
kids photography
wedding photography

three years

| Aug 22, 2015

Penny BW23

Three years. just saying this out loud carries so much weight.   I am not a writer.   First, please know this and I apologize for my future posts and this one.   I usually avoid writing.   however, I have avoided it long enough and there are somethings I wish to share or just collect some feelings for myself.   In the last three years I have grown, changed, made mistakes, and have learned so much.  In one week from today, I have my daughter Penny’s anniversary.   We call it a “anniversary”, as it is the day we lost her.   The whole month of August is a difficult one for me. I relive what we did that last month with her, but the last week, that is the hardest.   as I thought what I would do this week, I decided I wouldn’t relive it like I normally do.   that I would share, each day this week, something I have learned or experienced.   I do this selfishly and also hoping it may touch one person and help them.

So back to … three years.   I don’t talk much about that day.   You wont find it anywhere on this blog, on facebook, or on my instagram where I explain what happened.   I have never written it down publicly or privately.   I have told people close to me and that is about it.   When people ask, I just say “it was a tragic accident, she was 21 months old.”   This is not going to change.   However, I will tell you why.

My daughter died in our swimming pool.  How she died is not important, neither are the events before or after it.   It is not what I dwell on.   She went home and it took me a long time to accept that.  I am not a mother that lost her daughter in a water incident, I am a mother who has a daughter who made it make to her maker.   Penny was and is incredibly special.   Everyone who met her knew this.   She pulled people in one by one and every person felt connected to her.   I do not want how she died to define her or me.  During her life she was loved and I mean really loved.   We obsessed over her as a family.   It is incredible to say, that i have no regrets to her life.   I loved her enough, I told her this enough, I hugged and kissed her as much as I was physically able, I played with her, sang to her, put her to bed, took her with me everywhere.   She traveled from Italy, to up the California coast, to Lake Powell, all over Utah, and Arizona.   I took her to every single one of my favorite places.  She lived at the beach and loved the beach, I took her there almost daily.   This is what I want to remember and I want you to know.

Over the next week, I hope to write posts that will help you understand this more.  However, inevitably someone will ask how she died.  I hate that question, so so deeply.  However, I know it is just human nature.   So there you go, done.

People have tried to connect me to others that lost their children the same way we lost Penny.  To put it lightly, I have not loved this.  This does not mean that I don’t try to help others that are going through the same kind of loss that i experienced, because I do,  but I find it more helpful to connect with others that grieve the same way you do.   It’s not about how you lost your child, but how you can come together and help one another as you grieve in similar ways.   I have been around all kinds of grieving mothers over the last three years.   I have seen angry ones.  I have been angry, dont get me wrong, but I hated being around mothers that were filled with so much anger.   It was hard for me.  I have been around mothers that have been depressed, or mothers that are doing very well and are too encouraging.  I hated both of those.  I soon enough found how I grieved.   I sought knowledge.   I wanted to know truth.   So I studied, and studied and studied more.  A couple months after losing Penny, I heard the most amazing talk by Jeffery R Holland.  Please listen to it, it is the best way to experience it and you can do so here.

This talk illustrates what “could have” happened when Christ asked Peter three times “do you love me”.  Here is what Elder Holland says,

“Lord, … thou knowest that I love thee.”
“To which Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my nonscriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do.”

This hit me so hard.  I imagined Penny saying this same thing.  Do you love me?  Then how did I change you, what did I teach you?  Don’t come back to this same shore with these same nets.  What are you going to do with this?  She had a mission and a purpose and I was going to make it all worth while.

It has been three years and I know i have not done everything right that I had hoped I would do.  I know I am not done.  However, I have done a lot.   So thank you for letting me share somethings with you over the next few days.

If you know of anyone that could use this message, please share it with them.  You can also contact me at

**This image was taken by Jonathan Canlas.  We did not do an open casket at Penny’s funeral (or what we call her “celebration”).  I did not want anyone to remember her that way.   Instead we put photos everywhere of her lively, beautiful little self!   That morning just I was going to go see her one last time, my son asked me if he could come too.  Jonathan captured this very special and sacred moment as noah and I saw her one last time.  I am still amazed at how young Noah looks here.  My little son, just 7, looked up at me and said what I already knew.  “It’s not her Mom”.  It wasn’t her.  It was just her body that I got to touch and hold one last time.

  1. Jessica

    Thank you for sharing such a vulnerable, tender post. It touched and changed my heart as I’m sure it will many others. I can just imagine Penny back at Home, her true home rejoicing that she had even a brief time with you as her mother and your precious family. My thoughts and prayers will be with you and your family this week as you celebrate her life.

  2. Kim McEvoy

    Jill, thank you for your strength and knowledge. My heart aches with you. You’re a great example and have helped me to soothe my own grief and losses. None of which amounts to losing Penny. Every time My thoughts travel to our old house, your family or Penny it’s such happiness! For you are all amazing people with amazing talents. It’s a bittersweet happiness because there is that aching chapter, that raw loneliness. Thank you for not being a angry and depressed mourner. Thank You for being you, which by definition is absolutely amazing and truly unique. Miss you all!

  3. Andrae Kelly

    I truly love you, Love you for this and so much more! This truly touched my heart. Three years, I’m trying to wrap my mind and heart around it myself. Sending all my love, thoughts and prayers your family’s way!

  4. Brooke

    Jill, I found your IG and blog around the time of Penny’s death and have followed you since, and seen how tenderly and honestly you have grieved. As a mother of a little one who is about the same age as Penny would be now, I felt the twinges and aches deeply as I watched you go through this process. You are a beautiful woman and mother and I very much appreciate you continuing to be raw and real and to pursue to love and the aches and pains of vulnerability in love through having more children and the beautiful life you have intentionally created. Thank you. Bless this family, lord Jesus, with your tender love and comfort as only you can in this coming week.

  5. Natalie McCance

    Bless you Jill and family. You write so beautifully. Love and comfort to you and your family this week and always. Love from Winnipeg Canada

  6. Ali Lindgren

    I often wonder how you do it and now I understand that you have God on your side. Thank you for the reminder that with God and our Savior and our loved ones beyond the veil anything is possible!! Thank you for sharing your heart. Love and prayers with you always

  7. Lindsey

    I have known you always to be one who seeks knowledge and to find truth in things. You have always been a rock and example to me in that aspect. I have seen you grow and in no way know what you have experienced these past 3 years but I have been moved and impressed with your desire and fight to accomplish what you set out looking for. You have a way of always “making things happen”. The Penny Ranch is just one example of that and it’s an incredible place. Penny really is everywhere there. You are amazing. Those sweet babies are amazing. Memories are amazing too. I love you friend and pray for you this week.

leave a reply