Saying goodbye to your first child while welcoming your second child into the world is such a mixture of grief and joy, making decorating son Levi’s room bittersweet for his mother Jess McClenahan. Previously, the room belonged to his sister Cora, who died of cancer less than a year before he was born. Understandably, it was too hard for Jess to change anything while she was still deeply grieving. After Levi was born she slowly began the process of turning the nursery into his boy room.
Cora’s room was originally pink and green. She had the same polka dot sheets as Levi except in the girl version. “When Cora’s sheets went on clearance, I bought the boy version thinking that maybe we would use them someday if we ever had a little boy.” The boy version of the sheets are green, navy blue, royal blue, and light blue polka dots. Jess used these colors as her inspiration and went from there. She kept the walls the same neutral color that they had painted for Cora’s room and most of the already purchased furniture for her room as well. “We used what we had and added some meaningful and “boyish” elements to the room. I really wanted the room to reflect Levi’s growing personality as well as have a few reminders of his sweet sister.”
Transitioning a nursery from one child to another is difficult as it is. Transitioning it after losing a child is unimaginable. “It is hard to put into words what it was like to pack up Cora’s baby things and change her room, knowing that we weren’t just moving her into her “big girl” room. It was another incredibly hard step of “letting go” that has seemed to continue on in many ways as I grieved the loss of my little girl. While many find such joy in decorating a new baby’s room, Levi’s room was created with many tears. Levi’s room has been a process. I found that I just had to change things as I felt that I was ready to handle it emotionally.”
“Of course, having Levi in my arms made it much easier to get excited about creating his very own space. There is no way I could have made it to where I am today or even found the strength to decorate a room for my son without Jesus by my side. The grieving and pain that comes with the death of a child is very real. It is extremely painful and it is something you just have to go through. It is not a hope that holds onto Cora’s room or her earthly things or even the reminders of her we have around our house. It is a hope that is built on the security of God’s promises that keeps us standing firm even during the storms in our lives. It is a hope that makes me long for eternity in the presence of God…and of course, the day when I get to see Cora again.”
Jess took decorating the nursery one day at a time. Levi’s room wasn’t completely finished until he was 16 months old. “Since Levi was a little older when I was adding the finishing touches to his room, I love that I was able to incorporate his little personality that was starting to shine through. Levi’s daddy is a farmer and he loves cows. He loves the cow picture and the “moo” letters above his bookshelf. I also love how the chicken wire frame turned out. It is so fun to be able to attach pictures and memories that are meaningful to Levi…and we can change them out anytime. Of course I love the little reminders of his sissy scattered throughout the room as well.”
“I love a good craft project, so I tackled as many DIY elements as I could. I made several of the pillows, sewed curtains for the closet, painted the tree mural, spray painted the “moo” letters, made the chicken wire frame, made a felt flag pennant, and attached fabric to the roller shades.
To create extra storage room, Jess took off the doors to the closet and installed a simple closet organizer. This allowed plenty of room for clothes and fabric bins to hold toys and baby stuff. “Since we removed the doors I made bright printed curtains to add to the sides of the closet. I love how they turned out!”
“We love telling Levi about his big sissy. She only lived a short eleven months, but left behind a huge legacy for such a little girl. God has used her story in some amazing ways to change our lives as well as the lives of many who prayed for her through her short battle with cancer. Levi often will pick up the blocks that were sold to raise money for Cora’s Playground or walk around talking to the frame that holds his sissy’s picture. Those elements of Levi’s room not only remind Joel and I of God’s faithfulness through tragedy, but give us the opportunity to tell Levi all about Cora.” Thank you so much to Jess and Joel for sharing Levi’s nursery with us.
If you would like to find out more about where to donate for children’s cancer research, please visit the following links:
The National Children’s Cancer Society
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Children’s Cancer Association