Rachel George, 30, a coffee shop owner from Danville, IL and her husband, Sam, 31, a purchasing manager, have lived through not one, but two of the greatest tragedies imaginable: the loss of both of their children. First, they lost their son Clive Samuel, who passed away at 5 weeks old, and then their daughter Winnie Joy, who died when she was just 9 days old.
While both of their babies passed away in the hospital as a result of heart conditions, the children’s deaths were not genetically linked or at all related. The passing of Clive and Winnie appear to be the result of what Rachel describes as “horrible cases of lightning striking twice.”
Clive, who would now be 2 years old, was born with a rapid heart rate and arrhythmia that did not respond to treatment. Winnie, who would have been 8 months old, had an undetected heart condition that caused her sudden death, despite several scans and heart monitoring that came back normal. “She was incredibly sweet, calm, and peaceful,” Rachel describes.
Rachel documented all of her pregnancies — including her first miscarriage before Clive, and the loss of her children — on her Instagram feed. Although she says her story is “horrific” to read, she shares her journey in the hopes of focusing on the love her children had and brought into this world, however briefly. “We are so glad to have met our children and shown them love for their entire lives,” she says. “They are incredible blessings and have taught us so much.”
Today, as the couple continues to process life after loss, they have decided to pursue adoption. Settling on domestic adoption, they completed a home study and are waiting for placement, which could take up to two years. And while they wait for the child they hope to receive the love they have to give, Rachel is raising funds for their adoption in the best way possible: with a line of T-shirts that celebrate the beauty of coffee.
The T-shirt line Rachel designed for her Etsy shop, Trees & Flowers, focuses on coffee because the couple owns a coffee shop, and also because, well, coffee. And they are absolutely perfect. My personal favorite is the one about Gilmore Girls, because if there are two things I love most in this world it’s Gilmore Girls and drinking coffee. Heck, I could even watch Gilmore Girls while drinking coffee while wearing this shirt!
For Rachel, the T-shirts came at the perfect time in her life, when she needed a special project to keep her going. After quitting her job as a teacher to focus on raising Winnie, the heartbroken mother says that she found herself questioning her identity, value, purpose, and life. Her Etsy shop provided her with hope and healing.
“My plans for raising Winnie been completely smashed … my job of ‘mom’ was ripped from me again,” she says. “It all sounds so dramatic when I write it down, but I really think that making my first batch of Trees & Flowers shirts last year brought a tiny sliver of meaning back into my meaningless days. My hands were busy, my mind was distracted, and a making some silly shirts just might have saved my life.”
It’s hard to imagine anyone going through so much pain and loss in their lives, but Rachel says she and her husband choose to cling to the hope of what their family might look like someday. “We look forward to the day that we will have a house with children in it,” she says. “We look forward to the joy that we will get to experience in seeing our children grow.” And when those children do come into their lives, the proud parents will waste no time in telling them about their big brother and sister who will always be watching over them.
“We can’t wait to tell them about Clive’s huge grin, fighting spirit, and strength,” Rachel adds. “We can’t wait to tell them about Winnie’s sweet, tender personality, beautiful lips, and peaceful spirit. They will always be a part of our family.”
And just like one of Rachel’s most popular T-shirts, it really does take a village — even if that village looks like themed T-shirts, different journeys of parenthood, and the love of coffee that ties us all together.