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 30, 2011

Sun Ray

I love Laynee's name.  I loved it from the moment we came up with it.  We wanted her to have a "J" name so she would fit in with her sister's.  I guess you could say we made her name up.  None of us had ever heard the name Jalayne before but we liked the way it sounds and people are always making up names these days.  So Jalayne Grace she was.  "Laynee" seemed to just happen. I recall the first time that her "aunt" Karen heard me call her Laynee instead of Jalayne.  She asked "do you call her Laynee?"  For the first time I realized that the nic name had stuck.  Karen loved it, saying "it's just perfect for her."   And it was.

I loved telling people her name.  I still love telling her name.  I love hearing her name but am thankful that it is not a common name as it would hurt to hear it in reference to someone else.  At times my ears seem to positively ache with the need to hear her name.  Often, especially in the car, I will say her name out loud, just to hear it, to feel it's formation on my lips.  People rarely refer to her as Jalayne.  In truth, people rarely refer to her at all but when they do, it is almost always Laynee.

Tonight Jim and I, along with our two youngest boys ran a few errands.   While standing at the checkout at Staple's,  the song "I Got a Feeling" by Black Eyed Peas began playing.  I cannot hear this song without seeing Laynee dancing to "that tonight's gonna be a good night.  that tonight's gonna be a good good night.  woo hoo"    I commented to Jim that "this song reminds me of Laynee."  The cashier asked "did you say Laynee?"  After I confirmed this, she went on to explain that her daughter is Laney and that she loves to dance to this song.  I just smiled and said "our daughter's name is Laynee too."  Her response was that "it's a good name."  We didn't tell her the rest of our story, that our Laynee is in heaven.  Tonight it just felt right to let her think that our Laynee is at home, dancing in our kitchen.  The young lady then went on to inform us that in French the name Laynee means "Sun Ray" and added that this meaning "is perfect."  Of course, she couldn't possibly know that how totally and completely befitting this name is for our Laynee.  She couln't possibly know that she was sunshine to our every day that she was here.  There was no way for her to know that our days haven't been quite as sunny without her. 

When I got home I decided to see for myself if this is true.  I looked up the name Laynee and found the French and Greek meaning to be "bright light." I found also that the Hawaiian meaning of Laynee is "heavenly."  The young woman was right.  "It's Perfect"

Laynee.......  our "bright heavenly light."  How we miss your sunshine.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just BE

One year ago I found myself in a place of complete and utter brokenness.  The tragedy that had befallen our family 6 months previous seemed to have a ripple effect.  Monumental changes continued to hit me in rapid succession, shaking my world on it's already teetering axis.  On March 22 of last year I handed over the keys of my business to it's new owner.  It was a business born of a dream planted many years ago as a tiny seed and realized when the perfect building, along with other timely factors, became available.  Laynee had become meshed into the pursuit of this dream as I envisioned her wiping tables, sweeping floors, and lableing packages, all the while charming customers in the way that was so uniquely Laynee.  I looked forward to the day when Laynee and I would work side by side in my little coffee shop.  The dream died along with my daughter and the building, which I had loved and passionately poured my personality into, became a haunting reminder of the abscence of laughter and little footsteps.  Looking back to that day when I walked away from the business, as well as the dream, I know with great certainty, that those were the darkest days of this grief journey, the darkest days of my life.  In hindsight, I can see that I stood on a precipice.  I would make a choice.   I would choose to cling to faith in a God whose hand I could not see and whose ways I could not understand or I would choose NOT to cling to faith and therefore, plunge over the edge into the desperate, proverbial hands of depression. 

I had been cautioned by many about the sale of my business.  I was advised not to make such an enormous decision in the throes of great emotion.  Well meaning people worried about what I would do without my business occupying my time.   It was suggested that surely my love for this business could return in time and that, rather than dying with Laynee, it could become her legacy.  In truth, I too worried.  Would I find reason to get out of bed each day without a business that demanded my presence?  Yet there was a knowing, an absolute certainty that God had orchestrated an unlikely set of circumstances resulting in the whirlwind sale. Somehow, in the midst of all the chaos, I knew that His mighty hand was at work. 

When I remember back to those days, I recall it as one standing on the outside looking in, as though watching a scene unfold upon a screen.  My body went through the motions of selling the business while my mind stepped away, focusing on one thing.....surviving traumatic injury of the soul.  In recent days I have gone back and read the blog posts from that time.  There, written between the lines of my own words, is proof that God held me close even in the darkest of days.  He gently and patiently pullled me back to him, over and over again. 

As I reflect upon this post,  I realize that it was in this darkest point of my life that I learned the most valuable lesson of all time.  I am nothing without Christ and I have nothing to bring to him but my heart.  I have no gifts, talents, skills or possessions that God needs.  This is a truth that, on a cerebral level, I have always known but, until now, had never fully integrated into my daily life. 

  Grief has freed me of any self appointed obligations that I may have once had to live up to the expectations of others.  It has taught me to live without agenda or aspirations.  What I am finding is that somewhere along the course of this journey I have learned to live by simply being.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Signs of Life

I spent the afternoon working in Laynee's garden. There are signs of life everywhere.  Tulips and daffodils have emerged from the ground.  Rose bushes have crimson thorns.  Mum leaves are forming fat mounds and her Weeping Cherry tree has tiny buds.  I broke off a piece of a branch from her Beauty Bush and was pleased to see bright green life beneath the bark. I am thrilled that so many of the plants have safely weathered the harsh Illinois winter. 

As I worked in the dirt. my mind lingered on Laynee, as I suspect it will be every time I work there.  I longed for her to be there and wondered what she would be like now.  I remembered her soft, sweet voice and could imagine her chattering along beside me.  As I carefully tended to each plant I remembered whom each plant came from and, in the case of many, the reason they chose that particular plant.  A start of small sunflowers was chosen because Laynee was like sunshine to all who knew her.  One of the rose bushes was given because, while it is pink, it is not dainty and Laynee was most definitely not dainty.  Another rose was given because, to the giver she was a "rose among thorns."   Her Beauty Bush was given for obvious reason:  because she was the "prettiest girl in the world."  As I worked among the tulips I smiled to think of their blooms dancing in the wind and pictured Laynee and her cousin Shaney B dancing right along with them.  Laynee left a legacy of love and it is witnessed  in every plant. I look forward to seeing it bursting with vibrant colors, a beautiful and poignant depiction of the life she lived. 

Aside from her grave, her garden seems to be the place where she feels closest to me.  I found myself talking as if she were there, hearing every word.  It is diffiicult to give words to the emotions that I felt as I worked.  The pain was there with me all the while but it is not the same, life draining pain that it once was.  It is more of a feeling of resignation, a knowing that life has been irrevocably altered.  Even  more than that though, is the sharp awareness that never again will anything in this world be enough.  Life is incomplete........I am incomplete without her and will remain as such until I hold her again in heaven.

 Somehow in the midst of all the sorrow, we have learned to carry on.  God has been faithful.  He has carried us, even when we couldn't feel his presence.  He has allowed spring to unfold and in so doing, reminds us that when the  harsh seasons pass, that which seemed barren and destitute can still have signs of life.

To everything there is a season
and a time to every purpose 
under the heavens 
Ecclisiastes 3:1

Monday, March 7, 2011

18 months

In three words I can sum up
everything I've learned about life
"it goes on."
~Robert Frost~

As I wrote the date today, 3/7/11, like a punch in the gut I realized that today marks 18 months.  In fact right now the time on my computer reads 6:25 pm, which is about exactly the time that she fell into our pool that Monday evening.   Not a single month has passed in which the 7th has not had this same effect on me

Time is irrelevant.  It could have been yesterday or an entire lifetime ago.  There is, deep within me, a quiet resignation, that this pain will not get better with the passage of time.  I have come to understand and even accept this as truth.   As life moves on and days turn to months and months to years, we learn to function beneath the weight of sorrow.  We live, we laugh, we love.  As surely as our love for Jalayne is forever, so also is our grief for her. 

We have been on a journey like none other and our Lord has never left our side.  He's been with us in the deepest moments of despair and through Laynee, he has brought heaven ever closer to us.  There is only one thing that has remained certain through it all...........God is good all the thime. 


Friday, March 4, 2011


As I sit down to write today, my heart aches with sorrow and sadness from the events of my morning.  In the last year we have done many things in Laynee's memory.   We have  framed pictures, quilts, trees, and a beautiful garden, all created  for the sake of remembering her life.  There was one thing left that I wanted to do, one final memorial, which I knew, would be the dearest of all.

As does every grieving mother, I agonized over what to do with all of her things.  Last fall, I completed the heart wrenching task of going through all of her clothes.  We gave a few things to another little girl, most were used to create quilts for each of us, and the others, those most precious to us, were set aside.  Over the winter months my dad built a wooden chest, we stained it, and Jade painted the top of it for Laynee.  This week Jim carefully put the final coat of varnish on it.  Today I filled the chest with all of the precious keepsakes we have of Laynee.  I am not usually one to place a great deal of sentimental value on things, but this chest is priceless.  It's value does not come from being made of fine wood or by a master craftsman, neither was it painted by a renowned artist. None of those things would hold much appeal for me.  The value of this chest comes from being made by people I love, knowing that it would hold the treasures of an entire lifetime......Laynee's lifetime.

As I knelt before the chest and opened the lid, I felt a sense of finalitythat comes from knowing that this is the last tangible thing I will do to keep Laynee's memory fresh in our mind.  I went to her room and stood there for a long time, surrounded by memories, drinking in her scent that still lingers.  I really didn't know where to begin but decided to save the most cherished items for last so that they could be easily accessible for those times when I need to feel her close to me.  I started with the stack of cards that we received in response to her accident.  There are literally hundreds of them, each one filled with words of love for our family, a show of support and encouragement. 

As I began to carefully fold the tiny articles of clothing and place them neatly in the chest I could picture her in each one of them.  These clothes, the ones still intact and in our possession, were the ones that, for whatever reason, had become most precious. There were several pairs of her little pants, her jeans that I so loved to see her in.  I held the waist of her jeans at my fingertips and placed them across my forearm, she was so tiny, her legs so short that the hem didn't even reach the inside of my elbow.  It struck me as unfair that we never got a chance to see how tall she would be.

As I placed her coat and a couple of jackets in, I noted that one jacket still had what appeared to be a chocolate drool mark near the top of the zipper.  Another jacket still had the sleeves rolled up to fit her stubby little arms.  I know that these jackets have not been washed since she last wore them, and they will remain unwashed.  I buried my face in them, hoping to smell her little girl smell within their fabric.

I had kept several of her little dresses and I smiled as I remembered my very unladylike girl running to show her sister's how pretty she was on Sunday mornings.  Her yellow dress with pink and red flowers and berries was my favorite.  The fabric was so soft and it was void of frills and lace with plenty of wiggle space for a child who never sat still for even a moment.  My arms ache to feel her softness through the folds of this dress.

I folded her fuzzy, soft pajamas, remembering how in the morning they would always be unzipped but she couldn't get the snap above the zipper open.  We always made sure she wore something underneath on cold nights so her tummy wouldn't be cold. My heart clenched tight as I placed her Minnie pj's in the chest.  These were the last pj's she wore.   Her PJ's remind me of how good she always smelled after her bath.  I took her bottle of lotion, which caused her to smell so "laynee" and placed it in the chest.
I had kept 3 of her blankets, one was the one she was wrapped in when we came home from the hospital.  One side was satin, the other soft like velvet.  We always took that blanket to nice places.   I also kept the pink afghan which her biological grandmother had sent for her first birthday. My heart wrenched hard at the thought that she never got to meet that grandmother. 

I added her papers from the few days that she attended the daycare and the group picture of her classmates. The pink hanging sign that said "you are my sunshine" always hung on a peg in her room and as I placed it among the other items,  I marveled at how true those words were.  She was joy and sunshine to every single day of our life. 
My longing for her grew more intense, it seemed, with each item that I added to the chest.  The closer the contents got to the top, the more special the items were and the more it hurt.  The air seemed to be caught in my chest as I opened the box from the hospital and touched it's contents.  A swatch of her hair, her hand and foot prints, her I.D. bracelet, the cards from the endless number of flowers and plants at the funeral, the guest book signed by over 800 people at her funeral,  her obituary from the paper, and a bell placed on her grave by her little cousin, all items signifying that this mourning is for real.  The last months have not been just an awful dream. 

I felt a surge of anger as I held the machine used for testing her pacemaker.  I was so diligent in making sure that it worked.  Every month I would hold the doppler to her chest and hold her still while the machine checked her rhythm and sent it to the doctor.  She hated having this done because it required her to sit still for several minutes.  I had learned just a couple of months before that if I let her feed me cookies and I fed them to her, we could get this done without a hitch.  I was so careful, knowing how much she depended on that pacer for her life.  Still, her life was cut tragically short and sometimes it makes me so angry.

I'm not sure why it is, but her shoes are one of the things that I cannot look at without being hit by an onslaught of emotion.  Perhaps it is because I so deperately miss the uneven sound of her footsteps on the floor.  The tears came like a flood as I held each little pair to my chest before placing them neatly among the other items.  Her play shoes still have a pair of light purple socks in them.  Apparently they were last taken off somewhere other than in the house and the socks were stuck inside the shoes to prevent them from getting lost. Her camo crocks are a favorite for all of us.  They were the only shoes she could put on by herself and always, always they were on the wrong feet.   They were the last pair of shoes to touch her feet.  She had them on that evening when she played outside, but the next day they were at the foot of the stairs leading to our deck. Her shoes tell the tale of a little girl who played hard all the time.  Her play shoes are scuffed and worn, the dressy shoes never had a mark on them because she simply would not tolerate them.

I continued to add her possessions and wondered if the chest would be adequate for all of the things that needed to go in.  I looked through her favorite books before placing them inside, hearing her sweet voice making her beloved animal and tractor sounds.  Her school bag and diaper bag, still holding their contents were lovingly placed inside.  I did take out the containers of food that were in the diaper bag and was stunned to see that the expiration date on a pudding snack was 9/7/2010, exactly one year after her accident.  I found her sunglasses, diapers, a change of clothes,  diaper ointment, her insurance card and a small bottle of children's tylenol in the bag along with her pink princess phone.

The chest was getting full but I added her baby dolls and stuffed animals.  I carefully placed her little glasses in their case and closed it.  A few pieces of her foam puzzle with teeth marks all over them went in. I went to my bathroom drawer and took out her tooth brush, all the while imagining Laynee standing there with her very dramatic sign for "brush teeth"  She didn't sign this with just her finger, she used her entire arm.  A toothbrush............ such a simple, everyday item....... but when the child who used it is gone, that simple item becomes a treasure worth more than gold.   

One of the last things to go in the chest was a small princess music box that Laynee had confiscated from Jade.  It was filled with "junk" that never seemed to stay in the box when she was here.  As I opened it, I found two small strips of paper stapled together to form what I think was meant to be a cross.  In childlike handwriting the name "JESUS" is written across the papers.  This cross brought more sadness as I recalled the day after the accident when our youth pastor and his little daughter came to see us.  Jada had made this cross for Laynee.  I had written Jada Rumbold Sept. 8, 2009 on it.  I sent up a prayer for Jada as I held this because  Jada is now fighting a fierce battle of her own, a battle against cancer. 
I struggled some with the last item that should be placed in the chest. Her black and white panda with tattered blanket around it has been my comfort countless times in the last 18 months. Bear still smells strongly of Laynee and I really didn't know if I could put it in this box. With a painful groan I willed myself to put the bear in the box. However, I must confess that I have taken it out several times to smell it. I don't want the smell of wood and lacquer to overpower her smell. With the addition of the bear, my task was completed. Every single treasure of Laynee's life is safely tucked inside the chest. It is placed at the foot of our bed and I know that it will bring a small measure of comfort to have her things so close to me as I rest. As I reached up to close the lid, it felt so final but I know that even this will not bring an end to all the pain. I have come to realize that there is no such thing as closure when one must say good bye to her child. I felt an odd sense of satisfaction when I discovered that the lid would not close all the way. It is so full that there is a small gap between the chest and the lid. How appropriate. One cannot put a whole lifetime in a chest and close the lid, not when that child is bigger than life.    

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love,
 the things you are, the things you never want to lose.
 ~From the television show The Wonder Years

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Speak Up Lord

Tonight one of my friends on facebook posted this song by Sara Groves.  It is a song that I am familiar with but this time, as I listened, it felt as though she had lifted the words straight from my own heart.  For months I have struggled to find contentment and acceptance in the place where God has me for now.  My soul seems to constantly be in search of something, though I don't know what, and I have grown incredibly weary of the hunt.

The truth is that I feel lost without Laynee.  I am not sure if this sense of having been misplaced comes from not having Laynee here or if it is simply a symptom of grief. I suppose the two are ultimately the same, as I cannot experience one without the other.   Everything that I do leaves me feeling incomplete and unfulfilled.  I have recently attempted to take a few baby steps back out into the social realm but find that it leaves me with little more than feelings of apathy.  I have made an effort to offer myself up to serve in various areas, hoping that this will spark something inside of me that resembles life.  Yet, I walk away feeling empty. After the great challenges and even greater joys of being Laynee's mommy, every other job or task feels insignificant and menial.   I have become a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. 

God seems so silent and so far away.   Daily, hourly I find myself asking "Lord, where are you, what do you want from me?"  I have been wandering in the wilderness: seeking and searching, wondering how I fit in a world without Laynee.  I know that God has a plan for my life but I need him to speak up, I can't hear him.