Published on November 20, 2021
“When you get pregnant it doesn’t always mean you bring a living child into the world…but we were so far along, we didn’t think there was any possibility of losing her. Lillian was born at 21 weeks, and we spent a few hours holding her in the hospital before she passed away.”
Rachel Penn and her husband had recently moved back to Nashville after living and working in Asia and were looking forward to being near her parents and starting a family of their own. Instead, they found themselves coping with heartbreak in the middle of the pandemic.
“It was the height of COVID, and we were without physical support. My parents couldn’t come to the hospital to meet Lillian, and we had a funeral without family or friends. The momentum of parenting love and energy comes to a grinding halt when you lose a child, and it has nowhere to go. I knew I needed a way to process and heal and make that energy productive.”
For Rachel, the healing process began with flowers and a commitment to continue her relationship with her daughter. “You want to continue talking to and having a relationship, but it takes a different form. Flowers have a way to express what you want them to express, even in a terrible situation. I brought flowers to Lillian each week to create a routine during a very isolating period. You lose so many of the hopes and dreams you have for that child; this gave me a weekly way to connect and have conversations with her.”
The simple ritual of creating arrangements for Lillian grew into a way for Rachel and her husband to keep her in their lives and invite others in as well. She started a floral shop, Lillian’s Floral Studio, and the story of Lillian’s legacy has brought mothers, parents and grandmothers in to also share their stories of loss. Through the shop they provide bouquets and vase arrangements for all occasions, including grief and celebration, and also contribute a percentage of their profits annually to organizations that offer critical services to loss parents such as Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Sharing of Middle Tennessee and Rooted Bridge.
“We want to create a legacy with her life: sharing the beauty and joy and loss with people has been incredible. We want her short life to always mean more than our loss.”