3 Reminders that will help our grieving hearts this Holiday season

Thanksgiving 2019
I posted these reminders in 2017, after our daughter died of a fetal maternal hemorrhage at 18 weeks gestation. Now, in 2020, there are so many grieving across our nation. Grieving the loss of their livelihoods, their jobs, a family member, a loved one, the loss of so many experiences over the last 9 months, and many who will not be able to be with their families this Holiday season.  So, for all of those in our lives who may be grieving this Holiday season, a few kind reminders:
1. Lower your expectations.
Your grieving family member might not be able to do things they “normally” do at the holidays. (Baking, cooking, gathering around the kitchen just to visit, or showing up etc.) Whatever they are able to do, should be okay. Let that be okay.
2. Be willing to change or alter traditions.
In our family we usually take turns around the dinner table saying what we are thankful for. For someone who is grieving a loss, this can be especially difficult. We altered this tradition to have each family member have a spokesperson to “highlight” things the family was thankful for. This should also be mentioned in advance, so people are not caught off guard and can prepare.
3. Try to listen without offering a solution.
It’s hard to see our loved ones sad. But, sometimes it can’t be helped and it is part of the grieving process. It’s better to just be there and say “I love you” and “I hurt for you” than to say the wrong thing.
Psalm 118 says 
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, 
for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!” 
I wrote and recorded this little tune of Thanksgiving, based on Psalm 118, a few years ago. Still giving thanks!
Below, is the original post, written 3 months after Mary-Linda passed away.

It’s personal, y’all.

We know this in our hearts. Deep down. And, yet, when we see a friend grieving we want to tell them it will be okay.
Life will go on.

The earth will keep turning.

But, for your grieving friend, it will never be “OKAY” again.
The deep loss can’t be replaced. In my personal experience, the loss is a child. But, I have many friends who lost their homes and sense of safety and security in the floods during and after Hurricane Harvey. Their “loss” is also one that can’t be replaced.
Life is such an emotional rollercoaster.

The highs so high and the lows, very deep and low.

Several weeks ago, one of my childhood friends (who knows the deep loss of losing a child) texted me that a friend of hers had lost a baby at 39 weeks. The next day, another dear friend of mine was in labor with her seventh baby. I spent the day deeply invested in the outcome of her labor and delivery and in prayer. Her baby was safely delivered in her own hands Tuesday evening.
I received two hope boxes when we lost Mary-Linda. What would I do with two hope boxes?

Hope boxes are a ministry of “Hope Mommies

I soon knew that my extra Hope box was meant for this other mommy who I didn’t know, but I now grieve with. I added a couple of CDs of hope and mailed it right away.
I went to bed that week bawling. I’m sad for my friend’s friend. And, I’m joyful for my friend who just gave birth to her seventh child. (Her rainbow baby)

And, so, I grieved.


It makes me so sad when a family loses a child. When a mommy loses her baby.

I’m also sad as I experienced the joy of my friend’s birth and later grieved that I’ll never experience that joyous birth with our Mary-Linda.
Please don’t tell me that I should be okay because I have four living children.

Please don’t tell those who have lost their homes, that it’s just stuff. It isn’t just stuff.

I know you love us and you want us to be okay.

But, Sometimes we are not okay.

I believe that I am way better than I would be without my four living children, but that doesn’t mean I’m okay with losing a child.

I held my daughter’s lifeless, tiny body in my arms for hours. I couldn’t let her go. She was nine and a half inches long. She was beautiful. She was lean and seemed strong. She was born with her legs crossed and her eyes closed and her head turned to one side. She looked at peace. But, she’s not alive on earth. She’s gone. And, I’m devastated.

I don’t know how I will grieve through the holidays. Or through Mary-Linda’s expected due date.

All I know is that whatever I feel is what I feel.

Baby Jimmie Josiah

A story of our rainbow baby’s birth in 2019

*warning*this post does discuss loss and contains photos of birth

On the evening of May 21st, 2019, we headed to the hospital to begin the induction of labor for our 6th baby- our rainbow baby boy, Jimmie. I was 38 weeks pregnant.

This is Jimmie’s birth story.

After we experienced a second trimester stillbirth with our fifth baby- our daughter, Mary-Linda less than 2 years earlier, I was considered high risk. On top of that, I was already 41 years old (which is seriously old lady time aka geriatric for a pregnant mama!). We decided with both of our doctors, that we would induce labor, if necessary and deliver Jimmie at 38 weeks. What should have been a quick labor- since I had already birthed 4 full term babies, and 2 of them without an epidural, was not a quick labor at all. But, (SPOILER ALERT) this birth story does end well!

Almost a year after Mary-Linda died, we learned that I had an antibody in my blood that was detected early in my pregnancy with her and could cause harm to a baby. Since the cause of Mary-Linda’s death was determined to be fetal maternal hemorrhage, we had something to watch for throughout our entire pregnancy with Jimmie. Every ultrasound was always completed with a check for any sign of anemia in the baby. M-L’s anemia went undetected and therefore untreated. We were going to do everything we could do to get this baby here and in our arms, alive. We started the induction shortly after arriving to the hospital on that May Tuesday evening. Our village of friends and family caring for our older Els and making sure they would be at the hospital the next day.

We were told that it was possible I could have the baby very quickly OR we would add induction methods in the morning. We wanted our older children to be present, so I was hopeful that we wouldn’t have Jimmie until the next morning. I labored ALL NIGHT LONG. It was impossible to sleep. I thought I must have made some progress and by morning time, my cervix had changed and opened a little. We were hopeful that starting pitocin would mean that baby Jimmie would be here before lunch time. My doctor even said “the baby will be here around lunchtime.” I remember, because my other children kept reciting this quote as the day continued on into the night!

But, Jimmie wasn’t here by lunchtime and by lunchtime there wasn’t much progress. In fact, we began increasing pitocin and things were getting unbearable. I bounced on the ball. I walked the halls. I moved around. But, it was so painful and not enough was happening. After more than 24 hours of labor, with the last few being extremely intense, I asked for an epidural. I felt broken. Defeated. I had experienced two full-term labors with no epidurals. I knew my body could do this. Neither of those labors needed pitocin. Why couldn’t I relax and allow my body to progress and birth this baby? I was a failure. After more than thirty minutes, (and likely a transition to the next stage of labor) the anesthesiologist arrived. It felt like forever. My contractions were INTENSE at this time and were coming 3 minutes apart with little break in between. But, again, the work without progress feels futile. My mom and children and husband left the room for the epidural to be administered. The rest of the labor story felt familiar. Things began to progress and my pain was gone. I also couldn’t feel my legs, but that was okay! My children became so comfortable as the day went on. Fighting over what we were watching on the television. As the baby’s heartrate began to show signs of distress and I needed to change positions, my older children seemed focused on other things. They seemed honestly shocked when my doctor announced it was time for Jimmie to be born.
And, with one push, Jimmie was out. As my doctor turned him to face me, he immediately began to pee as he cried loudly. The kids were over the moon and the rest of us were completely overwhelmed and grateful that this miracle baby was here, earthside. 
This birth experience, although not perfect, ended in the most perfect way imaginable. 
May 23, 2019 I wrote this: “Yesterday we experienced a glimpse of heaven on earth. Our miracle, prayed for, hoped for, dreamed of, little boy joined our family in dramatic style. He came when he was ready. Momma and baby are both doing well. And all the Els are over the moon for their baby brother. I know Mary-Linda and grandfather are together in heaven rejoicing for us.
 Introducing Jimmie Josiah El-Hakam. Born May 22, 2019. 9:33pm. 7 lbs 5 oz 20 1/4 in long  We love you so much, Jimmie 💙💙”
For Mary-Linda’s birth story, click here (Mary-Linda was born sleeping in 2017)
For Leeland’s birth story, click here (Leeland was born in 2010)

For Trinity’s birth story, click here (Trinity was born in 2008)
For Bakri and Maddux’s birth story, click ….just kidding. I started blogging in 2008. Some day I will sit down and transfer their stories from their baby books. 

Letter I sent to the Houston Astros today…let’s get our favorite Astros’ fan out on the field to throw out the first pitch this season!

Update: On March 19, 2018, I sent this letter to the Astros. After I shared this letter on social media, Many friends and others across the web shared this letter. On July 10. 2018 my husband threw out the first pitch at Minute Maid Park. People from near and far joined us at that game. PS It was a strike down the middle! 


March 19, 2018

Dear Houston Astros,

First of all, a huge congratulations from our family to yours on the 2017 World Series Championship! We couldn’t be happier for our favorite team!

I wanted to reach out to tell you a little bit of our story. My husband, Moustapha and I both grew up Astros fans and returned to Houston after getting married in early 2004. Attending Astros games with my brother and his wife, quickly became part of our regular routine. In 2005, we welcomed our first son, Bakri (now, almost thirteen years old) and started off his journey to become a lifelong Astros fan. Even taking him to a World Series game dressed as a bumble bee!

Over the next five years, we would add three more Astros’ fans to our family- Maddux-11, Trinity-9 and Leeland-7. Each of our children loves the Astros, but especially our Bakri, who can hardly wait for the season to begin again each November. Bakri was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at five years old, when we had four children under the age of 6. It has been a challenge for our family and especially for Bakri. However, he’s met the challenges head on and has already excelled beyond many of our hopes and dreams. He’s a seventh grader at the Meyerland School for the Performing and Visual Arts concentrating on Vocal Performance and Piano. He’s a member of the Houston BoyChoir Chamber Choir and has been absolutely delighted to sing the National Anthem for two Astros games!

Early during the 2017 season, we found out we were expecting our fifth child! We even had an opportunity to do a photo shoot at Minute Maid Park- on the field and in the dugout, as a surprise for Father’s Day for Moustapha. In July, we learned that our fifth child was a baby girl. We celebrated and our four other children were beside themselves happy. In mid-August, our daughter, Mary-Linda, was stillborn in a Houston hospital. We were and are devastated. It has been the most difficult thing we’ve been through as a family. Within a few weeks, Harvey hit and our friends and family were hit hard. We continued to mourn and look to our Astros for an outlet. They were struggling and we just wanted them home. Going into the playoffs strong, meant the world to us. Moustapha made sure that he and the older boys were at MMP when we clinched the pennant. A dream come true.

We made it to every home playoff game and as the ALCS series was returning to Houston after being in NY, we were nervous. So Dad, aka Moustapha, called a family meeting and we decided that as fans, it was our job to help the Astros get their bats going. So, that is how the clapping batting helmet fan (87 million views on his GIF) was born. All six of us attended game 6 and we were so excited to get that win! Moustapha would wear his batting helmet and gloves every time the Astros batted and take it off when we were fielding. We felt like, as fans, we were part of the Astros success.

For game 7 of the ALCS, we only had four tickets and Bakri had a Houston BoyChoir concert in midtown at game time. We decided to split up- Dad would take Maddux and I would bring Bakri later. During the Houston BoyChoir concert break, I went out to check my phone to see a ton of messages alerting me that Moustapha had been on National television. I thought it was cool, texted him, but didn’t think it would be as major as it was. Memes, and tweets, Instagram posts, and articles popped up during the game, all talking about this amazing, intense, clapping, Astros fan. By the time Bakri and I arrived to the game, the internet had exploded. Over 70 million views on the MLB gif before we left the game. And, the Astros won! Off to the World Series we go! Our family needed this so much and now Moustapha was experiencing another piece of it, with this sudden Astros Fan fame.

It couldn’t have happened to a better guy at a better time. What happened after, was a storybook tale. News story features, articles, and a Law and Order type scene for MLB Network! And, after attending home games of the World Series, the ending was the best of all.

It’s easy for outsiders to empathize with a mother’s loss of a child. Even so, It’s difficult for some to understand, because they feel as though we didn’t know her or we should be happy because we have four other children. Not understanding that losing her and holding her little body in our arms, forever sleeping, is one of the few experiences we got with her. We mourn that she’s not on earth with us. We mourn that she’s not going to grow up with her brothers and sister. We mourn. People understand that more easily for a mother. But, our sweet Moustapha has mourned very deeply. He lost his dear baby girl and this has been a very sad time for him. This experience with the Astros, gave joy back to our family, when we needed it most.

I respectfully request that the Astros organization honor this special Astros fan during the 2018 season. Specifically, by calling on him to be recognized as an amazing Astros fan by having the honor of throwing out the first pitch at a regular season home game. Our son, Bakri, will be singing the National Anthem again with the Houston BoyChoir when the Astros take on the New York Yankees on April 30th. Wouldn’t that be a perfect game? But any will do and your consideration is deeply appreciated.

So, again, on behalf of the El-Hakam family, thank you Houston Astros! You are our favorite team and your win came at a perfect and much needed time for our family. We love you.

Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam

Standing up for Melinda- added link to song YOUR PROMISES on YouTube


The first time I remember doing it, I was just a kid. We were in a Summer track program. And, somebody was making fun of her. Laughing at her and calling her “retarded.” And, I was spitting mad. I mean, furious. I remember wanting to physically fight for her. Instead, I yelled at them and told them she was my sister and to “shut up!” And, if you know me now or if you knew me as a child, rather, you would know, I was as mild-mannered as they come. But, those were fighting words and for her I would fight. Her name is Melinda.

She is my big sister. I didn’t know she was different. I didn’t know that expectations would be different for her than me. That she would always live with our parents. That she would grow up and be more childlike than not. That she would always be my biggest fan. All I knew was that she was my older sister, my best friend, my entertainment and my family. I don’t remember ever being told that Melinda had Down syndrome. It was just a part of her and totally normal for our family. She was eight years old when I was born. In some ways, she thinks of me as hers. And, I think of her as mine.

 Her response to hearing the r-word, either said around her or, on the rare occasion, about her, is always the same,”I’m not retarded. I’m a brain-injured woman!” She would say this when she was twelve. She’s forty-two years old now and this is still her response. It definitely gets a laugh, but I also think it teaches a lesson. If someone like Melinda hears the word and is offended, why do we use it?

 I’ve always felt passionate about the issue. When I was in college I started hearing it more and more in pop culture. It was used in movies and by young stars. At that time, if I was around someone who used the r-word, I would say something. It’s not like I expected them to feel the same way I did. But, I thought that I could educate people one-by-one and make a difference. I think it worked. I never wanted to make people feel guilty, so I would try to be happy and casual in my response. For example, I might say “oh, I’m totally not a fan of that word. My sister has Down’s.” Or, “that is one of my least favorite words. It’s one of the few words still being said that should be on the ‘not politically correct’ list.” Or, “you know, that is the one word that I hope people will stop saying.” Usually, it would lead to a nice discussion. And, most of the time, I would never hear that person use the word again. Or, if I did they would tell me they were trying to get out of the habit.

 When I lived in Los Angeles, it was the same experience. My friends were mostly professionals, college-educated, and many were in the music business or movie business. It was easy to share my story with them and to talk about Melinda. Most people when they think about it, really think about it, understand why the word shouldn’t be used to describe something that doesn’t work or in a self-deprecating way to call yourself stupid. It’s hurtful to a group of our population that can’t easily defend themselves. But, it is also hurtful to those who love them. And, it is unnecessary. There are so many other words that we can use instead. 

Melinda has always made friends with my friends. She’s hilarious. She’s witty. She’s loving and she’s never met a stranger in her life. My high school friends were her friends. My college friends adore her and her them. My Los Angeles friends and co-workers are the same way. One time Melinda came by herself to visit me in LA. We all did karaoke together, went to Disneyland and the beach and had the best time. My boss, a well-know Public Relations Exec in Beverly Hills, even hired her to “clean the office” for a couple of hours. She loved it! She’s awesome. She deserves better than the people of the world using the r-word incessantly with no thought whatsoever of who they are hurting.

 I got the shock of my life after interviewing for public relations jobs in Houston, accepting a position and starting my new job. As soon as the interview process was done and I was officially an employee, it started…the endless and continuous use of the r-word by nearly everyone in the office. They used it to describe themselves when they were unhappy with their performances. And, they used it to describe their laptop when it didn’t work as it should. They used it to describe their driving when driving like a bat-out-of-hell. And, they used the word regularly in front of clients. All of these were work settings. And, to me, at least, all of these circumstances were extremely inappropriate times to use this word. I had heard it said before. But, never in professional settings. And, never by anyone in the PR industry in Los Angeles/ Beverly Hills. I was appalled and completely shocked. But, it is the next part of the story that shocked me more than anything. I believed that once I met with my boss(es) and told them about Melinda and told them how I found the word to be extremely offensive, they would realize the error of their ways and institute a new “no r-word policy” at work. Yes, I was nervous to meet with them and I tried my very best to present it in a way so they wouldn’t feel judgment from me. I just wanted to further educate them and I thought, especially in the public relations industry, they would be sensitive to words that are not politically correct and not socially acceptable. Even if society is still catching up, I believed people in the PR business would want to present themselves and their clients in the best light. Excessive use of the r-word, in my opinion, is not the best light. It’s nowhere near the best light.

 I met with my female boss first, and then the male boss. I had heard them both use the word too many times to count. But, they weren’t my friends, they were my bosses, my “new” bosses. And, I was extremely thoughtful in my approach, knowing I should talk with them privately and not in front of any of my co-workers. That is what I did. It was awful. I originally thought that I would talk to her first and that I would never need to talk to anyone else at the company about it. But, since she didn’t offer a resolution that involved banning the use of the r-word in the work place or even toning the use of the word down, I couldn’t let it lie. The next morning I met with the boss of the company. He was already aware of my concern, as she had filled him in the evening before. He had time to think it over and prepare a response before we met. His response was unbelievable to me at the time and it still is. He was defiant and defensive of the right of all of the employees and our superiors to use the r-word freely and as often as they would like. What!?!? Seriously? This was a company that specialized in public relations and who proudly wanted to alienate a large part of our public by using a word that is offensive to them and their loved ones. We continued to discuss the matter. But, in the end, I was left with a choice, stay and work in this environment which I believed was now hostile toward me or stand up for Melinda and no longer work there.

 I chose Melinda and every other mentally-challenged person I knew and everyone who loves them. I chose to stand up and to move on. This choice meant that I wouldn’t have a conventional job for the next seven years and counting. It changed the entire course of my life, freeing me up to do what I’m meant to do, as I prepare now to record my first full-length Christian worship album. Who knows what would have happened had I stayed there? But, I know I did the right thing. And, I have no regrets.

 For more information and to pledge not to use the R-Word visit: R-Word, Spread the Word to End the Word http://r-word.org/

Rebekah and Melinda

A song I wrote inspired by Melinda, my Momma and all who have struggles in life where holding tight to God’s promises is the only way we can breathe. This is for you. Photos and videos and home videos from my grandmother, now in heaven. The song is “Your Promises” from the album, Radiant You by Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam. smarturl.it/radiantyou

Health Update for Rebekah-May 2009

First of all, I am sorry for not sharing this sooner. I really should have asked for more prayers while we were waiting this out. You’d think that since I have a blog, I’m not all that private of a person. But, when it comes to stuff that is just about me and not the Els, job, husband, house, etc., it is harder for me to share.

Sometime in January, I started having heart palpitations (sometimes called fluttering) a few times a day. Initially, I thought I was probably just experiencing some anxiety and I moved on. But, this persisted over the next few weeks and seemed to worsen as the symptoms came more often. I also experienced chest pain during these episodes. We decided I would see my regular doctor.

During this appointment I had an EKG which appeared normal except for a heartrate of 42. (this is a little bit low) I also had some other tests run and was referred to a cardiologist. We met with him and he placed me on a heart monitor for 30 days. This monitor can store 3 EKGs at a time and all I had to do was call them in. What this did, was validate everything I was experiencing and gave the doctor a clearer picture of what has been happening and how we can move forward. Basically, it comes down to this.

The first thing I have is sinus arrythmia- which is fairly common and just causes benign extra heartbeats. This is no big deal. The second thing that was detected is PVCs (premature ventricular contractions) which is a rarer condition. My cardiologist does not believe there is any damage to the heart. I’ll check in with him again next month. Currently, my treatment is going to include exercise and that’s it. He could treat me with a beta-blocker, but that wouldn’t be good for Trinity. It would also slow my heartrate- and that could be dangerous since my heartrate already gets into the below normal range on a regular basis.

So, basically, he described this as more of a nuisance than a serious life-threatening cardiac condition. I am thankful for his insight and diagnosis and pray that my symptoms will decrease soon.

Please keep me and my family in your thoughts and prayers.

lots of love,