After our daughter was born, it was incredibly important to us that we figure out ways to include Patrick, our son who died, in our family’s traditions. As Halloween approached that year, kicking off three months of holiday celebrations, I yearned for ways to include him. So, during our first trip to the pumpkin patch with our 9-month-old daughter, we chose a white pumpkin for Patrick. That trip to the pumpkin patch also fell on October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, which made it even more important to acknowledge him and the hole in our family. We decided a white pumpkin was the perfect way to remember and include our son.

Picking a white pumpkin on baby's first trip to the pumpkin patch

Picking that very first white pumpkin. Author’s Personal Collection/Valerie Meek

Each year since we’ve chosen a white pumpkin at the pumpkin patch.

We don’t carve the white pumpkin. Instead, we keep it, and during the month of November, it becomes our gratitude pumpkin where each evening of the month we write something we are grateful for, giving it even more special meaning and connecting us with him. Last year, completely unprompted, our daughter’s first thing she added to the gratitude pumpkin was “Patrick.”

The White Pumpkin - gratitude pumpkin

The Meek Family’s 2019 Gratitude Pumpkin. Author’s Personal Collection/Valerie Meek

The last three years, when we went to the pumpkin patch, our daughter has insisted on picking Patrick’s pumpkin first.

The White Pumpkin - remembrance pumpkin

Our 2020 trip to the pumpkin patch. Author’s Personal Collection/Valerie Meek

It fills my heart with so much joy and love and pride for both of my children. It’s become such a special tradition for our family. And, it’s been inspiring to see this tradition grow throughout the loss community as we all cling to ways to include our babies who died in our families, our traditions, and our lives.

Child picking a white pumpkin at the pumpkin patch - The White Pumpkin for Baby Who Died

Our family’s trip to the Pumpkin Patch in 2022. Author’s Personal Collection/Valerie Meek

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure where I discovered the idea to get a white pumpkin to remember and include Patrick. I’m sure it was something talked about with other mamas in the loss community. But, in October 2018, another loss mama, Jennifer Giles, shared a poem she wrote about the meaning of the white pumpkin for her family. This precious poem went viral.

The White Pumpkin

by Jennifer Giles

This is the story
Of a pumpkin of white
What is its place on this autumn night?
Amidst all the orange and colors of fall
It seems out of place; not belonging at all
But oh what a place, and oh what a story
You see, in its face lies the image of glory

Of babies so small, so incredibly tiny
Perfect in purpose, their souls shining brightly
No less a baby, a child just the same
As one who was held and called by their name
Was my baby a he?
Or was she a she?
What would my child have grown up to be?
Yet bigger than questions and what ifs and whys
Is the comfort they feel when they look to the skies
For their hope is the truth that they so tightly cling
“I’ll know all the answers, understand everything
on the day that God hands my child back to me”

This pumpkin is sweet baby boys and girls
Who never opened their eyes to this world
Never cried, never feared
Protected from pain
Touched by their innocence
We’re never the same
Lives perfect and pure
All things lovely and sweet
And we honor them here
‘Till heaven we meet

This pumpkin is all of the sweet little ones
Whose lives although short were covered in love
In kisses and snuggles, rocking and playing
Their parents not knowing they wouldn’t be staying
But the time that they had they would never trade
Even if they could be saved from the pain
Their cribs may be empty, but the promise remains
One day they’ll hold their babies again

This pumpkin is for all these sweet angel friends
Whose parents all know this isn’t the end
And how they are doing
Tonight up in heaven
Is better than anything we could imagine
Though we’re missing our children
And we’re still on this side
Our hearts will continue to swell with pride
At the special, the wondrous, the out of place things
Like this white pumpkin, and the joy that it brings
A reminder that our children are more than alive
They are perfectly whole, all things are made right

Angel parents, I know there’s still tears to be shed
But I hope that this pumpkin brings peace instead
Our babies are promised forever in heaven
And that’s the best gift we could ever be given

I have since had the pleasure of getting to know Jennifer.

She is a mama to five children. Her two oldest are boys, Caleb born in 2013 and Joshua born in 2015. In 2016, she and her husband were ecstatic to find out they were expecting a baby girl. But tragically and unexpectedly, Madelyn Grace passed at 38-weeks and was born still. In 2018, Madelyn’s little brother Samuel was born, and in 2020, the family welcomed baby five, Andrew.

The Giles Family - The White Pumpkin

The Giles Family with their Madelyn Grace bear. Photo credit: Veronica Jackson Photography

Jennifer told me, “Our life has been one of much heartache and sorrow, but also immense joy, blessings, and peace that surpasses understanding.”

Since Madelyn’s death, Jennifer has felt the call to ministry work. She started Strongheart, a group for women who have experienced infertility or loss. She also began writing music again. Music had always been a passion of Jennifer’s, but over the years life prevented her from giving it attention. Once she began writing again, it came flooding out and hasn’t stopped. Last year during Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness Month, she released “I Choose You” in honor of Madelyn’s 2nd birthday.

And in 2020, she launched The White Pumpkin Project.

Jennifer wanted to give families her White Pumpkin poem in a tangible way. She went in search of someone who could create white pumpkins to honor our little ones gone too soon. She found Jessica on Instagram, and they found they had so much that connected them, including daughters named Madelyn Grace. They have become dear friends. And they created a beautiful remembrance pumpkin, customized with the baby’s name, for loss families to add to their own fall holiday traditions.

Patrick's White Pumpkin

Patrick’s pumpkin. Author’s Personal Collection/Valerie Meek

When Jennifer shared these pumpkins with me, I immediately knew I needed one for Patrick. It was the first fall holiday decoration I pulled out at our new house when we moved in 2021.

Flowers in a white pumpkin vase - The White Pumpkin for Baby Who Died

Flowers in a pumpkin vase that we decorate with each fall. Author’s Personal Collection/Valerie Meek

And each year, we add a new decorative white pumpkin to our collection, along with picking a white pumpkin at the pumpkin patch. It’s become such a special tradition in our family. One more way to include our sweet boy in our holidays, home, and life. What a precious gift.

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*A version of this post was originally published on October 20, 2021.

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