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.

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


  1. Oh I can't even imagine. Kristen's things are still pretty much where she left them. Her drawers are stacked with neatly folded clothes and her clothes still hang in her closet. Her shoes sit on my nightstand. My heart really hurts as I read about your special chest. There really is no closure is there. I don't think there ever will be. How true it is, they really are bigger than life.

  2. No mommy should ever have to do this.Not ever.And as I look above,at my sweet friend Polly's comment,I too am filled with a bit of anger along with my deep heartache for all of you.I try to balance that anger and faith,but on somedays that is really difficult.But God usually comes out on top.Just as it should.And in the 2 of you and so many of my friends here from our cancer days,if you all can hold tight to our Lord,I certainly can.

    Love and prayers and peace and strength to you Karol.

  3. That is so beautiful Karol!!! I can't imagine how hard this was for you but the way you describe every special item was so touching. As always, I am sobbing as I read this and wish so much that I could just give you a big hug!!!

  4. I know this was so hard for you. "Hard" doesn't even scratch the surface, I'm aware. Thanks for sharing it so beautifully with all of us.

  5. It felt like being there with you, filling this trunk. Oh, Karol. I don't know how anyone is expected to do this. What you said about how the trunk wouldn't close, because a life just cannot fit inside a trunk... And least of all Laynee's life, which was so full of exuberant joy and enthusiasm and running here and there.

    Several mothers have said that seeing their children's shoes is the most painful thing. Makes complete sense; what a bitter reminder that the little feet that once pattered through the house are not there to do it. Sheer agony.

    I never read one of your posts without crying out to God: How Much Longer?? How Much Longer?? The separation is unbearable. I want you to be with her - and I want to be there, too.

    Cathy in Missouri

  6. Always keep the memories of her close. I miss Laynee so much. I can not imagine the pain you are going through. I will never forget your sweet little Laynee

  7. Thanks so much for sharing this with me and for your encouraging words. It's so hard to feel alone and I am so comforted by other moms that walk this path. I've read about your sweet Laynee before but missed this post. I just love what you did to honor her and her beautiful life. I hope that I am able to find something that will be a treasured keepsake in our home. Hopefully soon.