Jalayne Grace Holmes was beautiful from the moment she took her first breath. There was something about her that attracted people. Of course, most people are drawn to a small child. Children are beautiful and innocent. They bring smiles, peace and contentment. I had 5 small children before Laynee and they, like all children, drew their share of attention. Yet, there was something different in the effect that Laynee had on others. The fact that she has Down Syndrome, I'm sure, played a role in this. But still, there was something different. She had the traits and features of Down's but she was extremely high functioning. Her therapists and doctors marveled at her development. She could be very naughty at times but she was so real, so pure, so without pretense. She did not fit the Down Syndrome mold nor the normal child mold. It is as though she were in a category of her own. Sometimes people felt the need to chastise us for treating her as if she were more special than our other children. I remember one particular instance and have to laugh as I remember the look of utter disbelief on my children's faces. What this person failed to see was blatantly obvious to our children and I believe it was Grant who said "of course she's treated more special, she IS more special." Jim and I did not love her more than our other children. We did not cherish her more. However, we all loved her in a different way. We loved her in a way that was fiercely protective. In turn, we learned from her in a way that we have never learned from another. Laynee was different, Laynee was special.
As I look back to the last week of her life I am keenly aware that her level of "special" went to an even greater degree in those days. She went from being special, adorable, precious to "GLOWING." Days before the accident we were at one of the first cross country meets of the season and Laynee positively oozed with love. I recall a large group of children standing around her, watching her, captivated by her joy. There was one little girl, whom Laynee had never seen before, sitting on the grass and Laynee walked up to her and gave her one of her delightful hugs. A stranger; a total complete stranger, but Laynee loved her. While at that meet, a mother to one of Jade's teammates stood watching Laynee. She looked at me with a look of awe and said "Karol, she glows," Later in the week, at another cross country meet, another mother, whom I've never met, said to me "she is so beautiful, she just glows."
On Sunday, the day before the accident, at Giant City State Park, there were several minutes when Laynee and I spent some time alone. Jim, Grandpa Glueck, and our 4 older children went for a hike that I opted out of. Grandma Glueck, Moise, Jalayne and I walked around the park near our cars. I decided to take a walk to some play equipment with Jalayne. Because the terrain would have been difficult for Moise to navigate in his walker, Grandma kept him near the car. The play equipment had swings, jungle gym and slide with a soft ground cover. There were several other children, all boys, playing here also. I noticed two women that were watching Laynee intently. One of the women was taking pictures of the little boys with a camera that had a large lens. The woman asked me if she could take some pictures of Laynee, to which I agreed. She snapped many pictures of Laynee climbing the little steps, going down the slide, playing in the wood chips. When she was finished she put her hands over her chest and said to me "that child GLOWS." That woman has no way of knowing that she shot the last photo of Laynee's life on earth. She has no idea what a priceless treasure she has in her possession.
At the time, I didn't think much of the use of the word "glowing" in describing Laynee. I thought they were simply words to describe the joy that she exuded. Now, in hindsight, I can't help but wonder, was there something more? Was God preparing her for her quick exit from this earth? Was she touching people in a heavenly way because her remaining time on earth was so short? Did she, in her childlike innocence know her Jesus in a deeper way than those of us here. Was my Lord, unbeknownst to me, preparing me for the tragedy that we would soon face? I cannot know the answers to these questions. I have no proof that God was doing something big in Laynee, right before our very eyes. I will never know, this side of heaven, if my little girl's "glowing" was anything more than a despcriptive word for her joyful countenance. However, these words and the precious memories of her last days give me a deep sense of peace. They are like the soft voice of my Lord saying, "I knew." He knew what I did not; that in just a couple of days he was going to have her in heaven with Him. He knew that she was on the last leg of her race and that she was winning. I believe that he looked down and saw her love, her peace, her trust and joy and he knew. He knew that our little Laynee Grace was just too perfect for this earth.
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.