CS Lewis once said that "grief is like the sky, it covers everything." In recent weeks, our family has found that this is so very true. It seems that there is no right or wrong way to travel this path of grief. I have created this blog in hopes that some day we will be able to look back on our journey and see written proof that our great God never leaves us. God is good all the time.

Celebrating Laynee

You might want to scroll to the bottom of this page and pause the music before playing this video.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Facing Fears

I gain strength, courage and confidence from every experience
in which I really stop to look fear in the face.
I must do the thing I cannot do.
Eleanor Rossevelt

 In the past I have found that our secret fears lose much of the power they have over us once we give voice to them.   I have developed a new and powerful fear since Laynee's accident.  It's a fear that is difficult to describe as it is not fear of a particular object.  It is fear of a concept, an idea, or perhaps it is best said that my fear is of  reality.  I fear, I hate, I despise the reality that my child died....in a swimming pool.....in my backyard.......under the watch of 6 people who loved her desperately.  I fear anything that could, in any way, remind me of this inconcievable truth.  However,  fearing and despising do not make it any less so. 

Without exception, every time I dare to talk about the events surrounding the accident, I am shushed.  People who love me, who mean well, say "ssshhhh, don't do this to yourself.  You don't have to tell me, you don't have to talk about it.  This could happen to anyone.  It was an accident."    The truth is there, regardless of whether or not I talk about it.  It was an accident, this much is true, but it didn't happen to anyone, it happened to us.  To pretend that my fear is not there, to avoid voicing it,  lends power to it and it theatens to consume me, to devour me, to swallow me whole. 

   The warm weather has melted the snow that so mercifully disguised the pool for the entire winter.  It is getting that time of year when we would normally look forward to opening the pool for the summer.  We are also leaving this week for a spring break trip to Gulf Shores, Al abama.  There will be water, lots of it, the kids will be swimming in the gulf and in the pool.  Very soon, I will be immersed in reminders of swimming, water and drowning death.  The time has come to turn around and look my new fear in the face, to do the thing I cannot do. 

Any time I see, hear or smell anything that reminds me of a swimming pool, the icy cold hand of fear wraps itself, like a vice, around me. Every muscle, every nerve stands ready to respond to the intense fear. My hands sweat, my pulse pounds erratically, my airway clogs, and my head fills with a mighty roaring. Call it panic, call it anxiety, call it phobic, call it whatever you wish. Pure and simply,  it is a paralytic fear of reality.

Since the accident, I have avoided all pictures that we have of Laynee in or around the pool, as if somehow that will remove the fact that we even have a swimming pool.   Truth is that we do have a pool.  In fact, we are a family that loves water.   I have been around water all of my life.  I grew up on a farm with a lake in which I spent hours of every summer day.  I grew up with boating and water skiing.  Our previous home had a pool next door that the kids and I swam in almost daily.  Our pool has been a source of therapy for Moise.  We had kids at our house all last summer to swim.  I love water, the kids love water and, in spite of the accident, I am doubtful that any of us will be fearful of water itself.  We will continue to swim, to boat and to water ski.  My fear is not of water, but of the dreadful reality that my little girl died in water.  Avoidance of the pictures does not change the facts   The photos simply do what they are meant to do,  preserve happy memories.  They do not, in anyway contibute to the means of Laynee's death.   

 I go past other houses with swimming pools and I find that most are not enclosed in a way to prevent such accidents.  This observation, which escaped me before, now chills me as I know how fast a tragedy can occur.  I know because reality is that it happened to us.   The color, often referred to as swimming pool blue, now represents horror to me, it's brillance taunting me with cruelty.  The fresh clean scent of chlorine is now a deathly odor.  When I pass the aisles filled with pool toys and chemicals,  a voice inside of my head screams at me, "Your child drowned, your child drowned.  You don't need those toys, your child drowned."  It seems that the more I deny these things, the more I keep silent about them, the more power they gain over me. 

As important as it is to face truth, it is equally important to acknowledge the untruth that our enemy would have us believe.  I dread when people, who do not know me well, ask about my children.  Normally my chidren are my favorite topic but now it generally leads to the fact that my youngst child died.  Then, almost inevitably,  I have to speak the painful truth..... "she drowned."  Those words fill me with a sense of shame and inadequacy.  The father of lies sweeps in and fills my head with the question "how could I allow my child to drown?"  This question is invalidated by the word "allow". While the adversary would like nothing better than to have me believe this, reality is that I absolutely did NOT "allow" or "let" this happen. Without question, there were many mistakes made that day, the worst of which was lack of effective communication,  but we did not "let" Laynee drown.  Every member of this family would have laid down our life to save her. 

When we leave for our trip this weekend there is a group of our friends who have offered to come and remove our pool from our property.  It is too painful to look at, a constant, aching reminder of all that has been lost.   I really cannot imagine what it will be like to not have a pool but Jim and I and the kids are in agreement that none of us will ever be able to get in the pool again.  In Jamee's words,  "I know the exact spot where she died, I don't ever want to be in that spot." While it was not the fault of the pool that Laynee died, neither does it serve a purpose other than to remind us of that day.  Therefore, it is with grateful heart that we accept the generosity of our friends.

While I will never, ever understand the "why's" and "how's" of the accident,  I do have confidence and faith to believe that the time had come for our great God to gather Laynee into His loving arms.  I also know that had we not had a pool, He would have chosen another means to bring her home to Him.    When the waves of fear and doubt crash upon me, my God is there to pull me up from the mire. 

For God hath not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of sound mind.
II Timothy 1:7

Because "I must do the ting I cannot do"  here are pictures
of better, happier days spent in the water.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Grief has an uncanny way of stripping us of any and all pretenses or illusions that we may have about ourselves.  It gives us a bird's eye view of how small and insignficant we are in the scope of life.  It thrusts us into a humbling awareness that we are nothing as compared to our God.  

As I trudge along this path of grief, I do so with the keen knowledge that I am nothing and have nothing to bring before my God.  I have been disrobed of status, reputation and prestige.  I have no title, nor degree, nor experiece that is of any value to a God who calms the sea with one word.  Any pride or pleasure that I may have once taken from my own human accomplishments or achievements has been snuffed out. Without the love and mercy of my God and His Holy Spirit I am nothing.    

As I stand before my God today, stripped of everything but His love,  I am achingly cognizant that the only thing I have to give is my broken heart.  He does not need me, but he wants my life.  The sole purpose for my existence on this earth is that of servitude.   I am here only that I might bring glory to my God.  When I consider such a role,  I can  only fall flat on my face before Him, knowing that I am unworthy, even to be called a servant. As I step into the future, with no business, no job, and no toddler to be mommy to, I can do nothing but recommit my life to him. I am stripped bare, undeserving  and yet still I am His child.   All that I can say is "Lord, here I am."    There is soft, gentle healing that comes from the knowledge of who we are in Christ and the assurance that no human being, nor human experience can take that identity from us.    

Commit your way unto the Lord
Trust in him and he will do this
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun
Psalms 37: 5&6

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Out of Control

Yesterday was my last day of operation as a small business owner.  I spent the evening packing up all of the things that were not included in the sale of Java Junction.  It's amazing how many personal things I had taken and accumulated there.  On Monday I will meet the new owner for the final signing and notarization and I will turn the keys over to him.  I can scarcely wrap my brain around the dramatic changes in my life in just over six months time. 

There is an odd mix of relief and aching sadness as I close yet another chapter of my life.  The coffee shop was a long time dream, which I was fortunate enough to live out.  As I scurried around last night, gathering together my things and making sure everything was in order for the new owner, I remembered back to the planning phase of Java.  There was so much excitement in taking an old depot and making it into a trendy coffee shop with just the right mix of old and new.  Jim's expertise as a carpenter worked magic on the old building while the writing and pictures on the wall added personality and values to the atmosphere.  While I left a whole wall full of railroad photos, I couldn't bring myself to leave the picture of Laynee on the tracks.  It was with a deep, soul penetrating sadness that this picture was removed and another hung in it's place.  My heart ached to see my employees walk out the door one last time.  I have grown to care deeply about them, as though we were all a part of a family.  Likewise there are many customers whom  will sorely miss, those that came almost daily and often took the time to share.  Yet somehow, amidst all of the sadness, there is also a sense of relief.  The last few months I have struggled daily with going there.  The joy seemed to leave the building right along with Laynee and it had begun to feel like a milstone around my neck.  Java served a huge purpose in the months following the accident, for I question if I would have found the strength to get out of bed, were it not for Java demanding my presence.  The quick sale of the business, only possible by the hand of almighty God,  is testimony to me that it's purpose in my life has been achieved.
Many have asked the question, "what will you do?"  The answer?   "I have no idea."  For the first time in my life, I have no plans, no dreams, no goals, no aspirations or expectations.  I can't even pretend to know where I will be or what I will be doing in another six months.  Since the accident, my every move has been dictated by schedule.  I get up in the morning because the alarm says I must.  I go to work because I am owner and it cannot operate without me.  I go to appointments, meetings, activities because the squares on the calendar say that it is expected of me.  I prepare dinner because the clock says it is time to eat.  What will I do without a packed schedule, without the demands of the workplace?

 Never before have I felt so out of control of my life.  I have always had a sense of what comes next and where I am headed.  Right now I have a sense of only one thing............I am not in control.  My God, whom I serve, has it all figured out.   He knew that Laynee would die, He knew that Java would sell, and He knows exactly what He has for me to do in the future.  My God is in control of every aspect of my life. While it is true we are never in control, we tend to be oblivious to our own powerlessness .  At this point in life I am completely aware of my own lack of control.  There is much freedom in this awareness. There is a great degree of comfort in knowing that God holds us in His hand and He will place us exactly where He wants us.  He has a plan for my life, and there is nothing that I nor anyone else can do that will deter him from fulfilling his plan.  In contrast, if I plan something that He does not want for my life, there is nothing that I can do to make it happen. He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and last. Revelation 22:14   He and He alone controls all things.  There is comfort, peace, and freedom in this complete awarenes.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

One Thousand Words by Jade

Jade recently wrote an essay in class.  The name of the assignment was "A Picture is worth a thousand words."   They chose a picture to write about and wrote in exactly 1000 words.
Here it is.

Safe in Your Arms

I climb up the steps of the large tower in Southern Illinois very slowly as I read all of the colorful names and phrases engraved in the concrete sides. Some random names catch my eye as I climb by because they are familiar, or because of the way they sound, beautiful and unique when I say them aloud. The phrases also capture their fair share of my attention. Not always because it is a Bible verse or saying that I know, but also because I am stunned at the unbelievably crude things that have been written. Do people really have the courage to engrave something so horrific in the wall? Don’t they realize that thousands of people will read this, and that it will be there as long as the tower stands? As I observe this art, I look down and realize that I am standing on the last cracked concrete step.

I let out a long dramatic sigh as I step onto the platform, for I have finally made it to the top! I look around at the few others standing up with my family, and then out past the wooden railing. I feel like a giant now that I’m the one towering over the tree’s green bushy heads, and they are no longer looking down at me. I also realize the beauty of everything around me. It’s not every day that you’re able to see things from this point of view. Usually I am on the down side of things, only being able to see things from my 5 foot 2 inch perspective. From the other side of the tower, I don’t see trees anymore, but the hustle and bustle of life. People are flying out of restaurants and throwing themselves in and out of their cars. Why does everything have to be so hectic? Why can’t we all just slow down and enjoy the beauty of life and the world around us that we all tend to take for granted?

I’m suddenly jarred from my thoughts by my mom’s voice. My sister sends me an oh-great-Mom’s-going-to-make-us-get-a-picture look, and I send it right back. It isn’t unusual for Mom to get hundreds of pictures on a trip, and they are never fun. We knew we wouldn’t get away this time. We knew we wouldn’t be able to slip down the stairs. We knew she would make us huddle together for yet another picture. As we come close together, though, I realize that deep down inside I don’t really mind. These are the moments that I’ll want to remember forever!

There is absolutely no better place to be than in your loved ones’ arms. It really doesn’t matter where you are. It just seems to link you together with those surrounding you. I notice this as I slip one of my arms around my grandpa and the other around my sister. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures with Gramps. He’s the best grandpa in the whole world, and whenever I’m around him he makes me feel so safe and loved. This time is no exception. Although pictures with Gramps are a lot of fun, pictures with my siblings are equally as great. I know that when I am older and out of the house, it will be fun to look back at all of these old memories. So even though at the moment it might not be the most exciting experience, I know that I will be glad Mom takes all the pictures that she does in the future.

This feeling of ecstasy is swept away in what seems like the blink of an eye. I look to my right, and see that my grandpa is holding my little sister Laynee up in his arms and she is above the worn wooden bar that is holding all of our weight. What would happen if she leaned back and fell down the hundreds of feet? What if the bar couldn’t support us and we all fell down to our death? So many questions and worries are racing through my mind. It is almost like there is something evil wrapping it’s arms around my brain, suffocating it with all of these horrible thoughts and images. They are quickly swept from my mind, thankfully, for I know that Grandpa is a strong man and he would never let something bad happen to Laynee. The bar wouldn’t give out… think of the thousands of people that have leaned against this; it wouldn’t give out now. My mind starts to reassure itself as I slip into a moment of relaxed peace.

A soft breeze dances across my cheeks as I drink in the cool evening air. It’s a warm and beautiful Saturday evening. My stomach’s full and content, seeing as we have just finished eating out at a nice restaurant with delicious food. I also think that this is a vacation, and vacations are meant for relaxing, so I just need to wipe all of these other worries away.

My smile starts to quiver and my eyes scrunch up as I realize that we are still getting the picture. My mom is saying, “Okay… 1,2,3,” and then I quickly fix up my smile as the bright yellow light flashes. It’s done; she has frozen this moment forever. The tangled web of our arms around each other slowly comes undone as we all go our separate ways and begin our journey to the steps where we will go down the twirly flight of stairs and past the word infested walls. My worn legs have had their needed break and are now prepared to go back down the tower.

This trip is one that I will always cherish and remember. Although we didn’t know it at the time, it would be the last trip that we would ever take with Layner Bug. I will always remember this weekend of blissful joy that was given to us before our world would come crashing down.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

God Said "NO"

This past Sunday we sang a song  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcHvkxFJy8E&feature=related 
 It was a familiar song, one that we sing often, yet the words struck a chord in me this time.  Here are the words.

I lift my eyes up unto the mountains
Where does my help come from
My help comes from you Maker of Heaven
Creator of the earth

My brain seemed to get stuck on the words Maker of Heaven, Creator of the Earth.  I was trasported in  mind to another day, another time.  I can clearly hear the words of a prayer from six months ago.  I don't know where we were, perhaps on the deck, or in the car, or at the hospital.  I'm not even entirely sure that it was I who prayed, though I think it was.  Regardless of who spoke the words, the prayer that came from the very depths of the soul was this......."Lord God, it was you who created the heavens and the earth and you can save my baby.  I beg you to let us keep our baby."  It is a prayer that I fear will haunt me for the rest of my days. It was a prayer of complete and utter desperation.  It was a prayer of pleading to a God who performs miracles. It was a prayer of belief in a mighty God mixed with disbelief that we were actually living this nightmare.   My God turns water to wine and gives sight to the blind.  My Lord, with the simple words "get up," raised Jairus' daughter from the dead.  In my heart and soul I knew, from the instant I pulled her from the pool, that Laynee was gone from us, but my God could bring her back to me.  He could!!!  But he didn't.  Does this mean that He did not hear my prayer?  Did He turn a deaf ear on the prayer of my heart? Did he choose not to answer? Was He even there?   Because of my humanity I admit to being tempted to see it that way. There is a part of me that wants to say "God didn't answer my prayer."  "How could He have been there and not answer my prayer?" Yet I know, that I know, that I know, that He was there. God did hear my prayer and He did answer.  The answer was "no." The answer that I sought was not the answer that He gave. For reasons that I will likey never learn, this side of heaven, my God said "no." As I've given thought to this in recent days, it occurs to me that because my Lord is full of compassion, it likely pained him to say "no."   Of course, I believe that there was great rejoicing as He brought my beautiful angel home to him, but for me, and for all of us who miss her so much, I suspect He felt sadness. As parents, we know how, at times, it hurts to say "no" to our children, especially when the subject matter is important to them.  Yet out of love, because we see a bigger picture, because we have wisdom where they do not, we sometimes have to say "no" and it hurts.  It hurts us because it hurts them.  God, in His infinite wisdom, because He sees what I cannot, said "no."   I believe that this same God, in His boundless love and compassion, hurt for the pain that we, His children would endure as a result of His answer.   

My God did not say "no" without promise that He would see us through.  Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.  Hebrews 13:5   His word promises that He has whatever we need to get through this.  My God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19  Though Jim and I and our children have been faithful in holding each other up through this time of grief, we are human, with human weaknesses and frailties.   We are nothing and can do nothing for one another without our Lord.  Our hope of surviving this, our hope of seeing Laynee again, our hope for healing, is in Him and Him alone. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Romans 1:12
    As the rest of the song says, I hope, and I pray, and I wait.  Someday I'm going to see my Laynee Girl again.
Oh, how I need you Lord, you are my only hope
You're my only prayer
So I will wait for you to come and resue me
To come and give me life

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Six months ago this morning, life seemed pretty close to perfect.  We had 6 beautiful, happy and reasonably healthy children.  I say "reasonably" because Moise certainly has his share of health issues but, for the time being, they are managed and under control.   We had two successful businesses, lived in a great community, were surrounded by friends and family.  Six months ago this evening our "perfect" life turned upside down.  Two days later, Jade tearfully exclaimed that "nothing is ever going to be alright again." And it hasn't been.

For six months, nothing has been alright.  It has been six months of going through the motions of life, because we must.  For six months we've pretended that everything is okay, that we are fine, but we're not.  We are not fine, and it is not okay that our little girl drowned.  It has been six months of reliving horror, tragedy and trauma.  Six months of mourning and weeping.  Six months of empty, aching arms and hearts to match.  In the past six months we have heard every platitude under the sun.  I've decided that platitudes are for the speaker, not the recipient.     We've longed six months, for one more kiss, one more hug, one more glimpse, with no relief.  We have seen six months worth of children her age and felt the ensuing pang of sorrow.  For six months I've seriously questioned if perhaps I have one foot on the other side of sanity.  We have endured six months of being jerked relentlessly between sadness, anger, and desperation.  Six months of wishing to turn back the hands of time.  Six months of regret for those last few moments. Six months of beating ourselves up for our own fatal mistakes.   Six months of endless tears and heartache.  Six months of unspeakable sorrow and pain.  Six months of inadequate words of expression.  Six months of trying and failing to understand.  Six months of not caring.  Six months of exhaustion.  Six months of wondering if I can do another day.   Six months of clinging desperately to each other and to our Lord.  Six months of basic survival.  Six months of strength that can only come from the one whom we serve. Six months. 

Six months without Jalayne. 

The Lord God is my strength
and he will make my feet like hind's feet
and make me to walk upon high places
Habakuk 3:19

Friday, March 5, 2010


Two years ago I began a venture, a new business that I'd dreamed about for many years.  I had a vision for a small coffee shop, a place where people could come for great coffee and a warm, safe, Godly atmosphere.  An oppurtunity came up and I opened Java Junction in the old train depot in my hometown.    Today I sold Java Junction and my head is reeling from the whirlwind of activity that has taken place in the 5 weeks since I posted a "for sale" sign. 

Java Junction began with so much excitement, vision and a little apprehension as well. The first year was rather tumultuous as we experienced the do's and don'ts of small business. We learned many lessons the hard way.   After some rather painful but necessary changes, the second year went much more smoothly.  By late summer of the second year it began to look like we had established a successful business.  And then Laynee died.  My world turned upside down. I lost my focus, my vision, my creativity and my drive. 

Though I was unaware at the time of how very much a part of Java Junction Laynee was, it became glaringly obvious after the accident.  Laynee was a part of my vision and future for the shop.  Knowing that she would likely never move into the world as most of our children do, with college, careers and families, I envisioned Java as being a job for her someday.  I could teach her to wipe tables and chairs, help prepare gift baskets, use the price gun, and label merchandise.  All of these simple jobs which she would take so seriously and with so much joy.  Of course, I figured that customers would come just to see her.  She would be my "Coffee Shop Princess." 

Laynee was there at the start of the business.  I recall setting up her pac and play in the restroom during remodeling because it was the only place safe and quiet for her to nap.  She hated to be confined and sometimes it was challenging to accomplish tasks with her getting into everything.  Like everything else in Laynee's world, Java Junction, was all hers.  My friend Karen would bring her in to see me while babysitting and Laynee marched in there as though she were in charge.  The sound of her slightly unsteady gait on the hardwood floors has haunted me everyday since she left us.  At times I think I'll go crazy for needing to hear that sound.  Laynee attended daycare two mornings a week, just across the street from Java.  Every day I watch as parents come and go, dropping of their sweet little ones and I ache to be able to hold her hand and walk across the street with her just once more.  Songs play through the sound system and I remember her silly little dance to them.  Everytime I wipe the wooden highchair I remember her trying to stand up against the restraint.  Memories of her are everywhere in that building.

I ask myself, how can it be that something that I was so passionate about 6 months ago, has lost all appeal to me?  There have been many well wishers who have voiced their opinions and concerns about my decision to sell.  The bottom line is that I don't want to run Java without my Laynee.  I have no reason to run Java without her.  The memories there are endless.  The memories at home are so painful, having them at work as well, leaves no oppurtunity for healthy grieving.

Letting go of Java feels much like letting go of another part of Laynee, another step in the grieving process.  It hurts, it leaves me feeling confused and uncertain.  I have no idea what I am going to do now,  yet somehow in my soul I know that this is the right step.  I most certainly never imagined that the business would sell in just a matter of weeks.  Once again, God has proven that he is on his thrown, he is in control. 

Laynee was a huge part of the creation of Java Junction, and as it continues under new ownership, her memory will remain there forever.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Etched in Stone

I received a call yesterday from the vault and monument place.  Laynee's headstone is ready for approval.  They want us to go in an look at how everything is laid out before they etch it in stone.   His words were something to the effect of  "we have 'your daughter's headstone' and you can come in and look at it at anytime."    My daughter's headstone.  My 2 1/2 year old baby girl's headstone.  There is something terribly wrong about those words.  They are backwards, mixed up, twisted and turned.   They are not the words that mothers are supposed to hear. 

Jim and I have allowed our children to lead the way in determining how and when to take some of the painful steps that must be taken after the death of a loved one.  Sometime in November Brock said to me  "Mom, when are we going to get a headstone for Laynee?"  If it were up to me the answer would have been, "never."  But it's not up to me, it's not about me. Laynee needs a headstone, something tangible to signify her life here with us.  More importantly, our children need a headstone because it is a step in the grief process, another move toward closure.  And so we went together to find the perfect headstone for our little girl.  The kids had ideas of how it should look.  Left up to to them, it probably would have been a monument of gigantic dimensions.  However, with a little guidance from mom and dad, a headstone was designed just right for Laynee.  We were given a time frame of when to expect it to be completed and it seemed like a long time.  It wasn't.  That seemingly "long time" is past. 

With our satisfaction and approval, the etching will begin.  Laynee's life and death, all two and a half years of it, will be etched in stone. There, etched into the shiny black, will be proof to all who pass by that this little girl danced on this earth for only a very short time.  There too, I hope, will be testimony to a child loved, cherished and treasured: a child who loved hee hee's, a sister, a daughter, the prettiest girl in all of the world.
Much as I don't want to approve a headstone for her, I will.  This task will be accomplished just as every other task has been.  The etching will begin but there is no tool that can etch as deeply as her beauty and joy has been etched upon our hearts.  That etching could only be done by our God, the Master craftsman.