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.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Prettiest Girl

Good Morning Layne,
"Laynee Bug, Laynee Bug HEY Laynee, Laynee Bug"  You are 3 years old today because it's your birthday.  Birthday's are special.    You can tell everyone just how many years you are by touching your pinky and thumb together and holding up your three middle fingers.  Like that.  It's a little different to do 3 in sign language, and that's important to know, but most people today are going to know 3 like this.  There are 3 candles on you birthday cake.  You can count them, 1,2,3. When you blow them out you have to take a really big breath , 'cause there's three now, not just two.   I bet you are so proud to be 3.  Mama is so proud of you too, but I miss you so much. 

I can't tell you stories about the day you were born because I didn't get to be there.  Remember that you had another mother too, a different kind of mother. The angels up there in heaven can probably tell you all about that day.  You are a lucky duck, because you get to have birthday parties every day for someone in heaven.  But today is your special day. 

I know that your birthday in heaven is better than the birthday party we have here, but I still wish you were here. I would hold you close in my arms and I would dance and sing "happy birthday to you."  If I close my eyes I can see you throwing your head back and laughing.  I can hear your laughter in my mind but I wish I could hear it with my ears. My heart hurts a lot because I want to see your big smile on your birthday.

You would get to choose where we go out tonight.  It's good to have your birthday on a Saturday because you get to go out ON your birthday.  I think maybe you would choose McDonald's.  They have the best chicken nuggets, don't they?  Do you know that silly Brock went in the play equipment the other day?  Grant and Guito told him to and he couldn't figure out how to get to the pink slide.  Now he knows though so he could help you find the pink one, since that would be your favorite.  All those balls at McDonald's, I'm not sure they have them anymore, but I sure know they would make your hair stand straight up.  You have to keep your socks on though.  You cannot play in the equipment if you take your socks off.   After you blow out all your candles you get to lick the cake and frosting off of them.  That's what the birthday girl gets to do.  No one else.  You get to pick what piece of cake you get.  I bet you would want the one with the big 3 on it so that you can remember you are not 2 anymore.  Daddy likes one of the middle pieces best, but on your birthday you don't have to save it for him if you don't want too. 

We got lots and lots of notes from people who miss you today.  You see, it's different here.  It's not like heaven where no one is ever sad.  Here we are so sad because we so badly want  you to be here.  Birthday's aren't the same if we can't see the birthday girl.  But all those notes from people, well they sure do tell an important story.  Many, many people said "I never, ever saw Laynee Grace cry."  or "I don't think I ever saw Laynee without a smile."  They are right too because even I hardly ever saw you cry except when someone left the house and didn't take you with them.  But on those times I don't think you were sad, it just ticked you off so that someone actually left without the princess of our home.   Then it was so neat to run to the dining room window and wave bye bye that your forgot about being mad.  All these notes told about people who are so glad they got to know you. Some of them are from people who are sad that they didn't know you too well, or not at all.  You wouldn't know what to do with all of this sadness.  Whenever someone was sad, you ran and gave them one of your hugs.  That cheered everyone up right away.  But when two people were sad you got pretty worried because you didn't know who to hug first.  All this sadness would have you really concerned I think. 

I think that you weren't here long enough.  I also know that God is much smarter than me.  You know, don't you?  You know why God wanted you in heaven.  Maybe he  decided you were too perfect to be down here with all of us who aren't perfect.  I really don't know but I'm trying hard to trust God. 

We are going to send some balloons to you today.  Pink ones.  You'll love those balloons and you can share them with some of the other kids up there in heaven.  When we send them off, know that every one of them is about how much we love you. We will put your Tiara out on your grave.  We know that you are not there, but everyone who goes there will remember that you were the princess, and like Danielle said in her note, princesses get what they want.  You can look down here and see your cake too.  A cake for our princess.  It's not a big party like the one you get to have in heaven but it means we love you so much and we will never, ever forget that you were the princess. 

Can you hear the song playing on the computer?  That is Jamee's special song for you.  Do you remember her singing it just before you got your angel wings? "From the bottom of my heart I'll sing to you."  It's hard to sing when you are not here but we try, we try hard to be happy and keep singing.  We know that you would want us all to keep singing.  "From the depths of who I am I love you."  That is how very much we love you, Laynee, clear down in the places that no one can see. "With everything inside I'll run to you."  Someday there's going to be an even bigger party than your birthday and we are going to run straight to you for one of your hugs.   It says "all that I've become I owe to you."  Well, really it's God that we owe the most, but he gave you to us so we could learn about joy and love.   "Nothing in this world can ever seperate us."  You are gone from us now, but we know that somehow you are still here and you always will be right here in our hearts.  "Nothing in this world could ever satisfy me the way that you do."  It seems like our hearts will hurt forever but we are happy when we remember you. You will always be our Princess, our prettiest girl. You are our FOREVER LOVE, Laynee Grace Holmes.  Our Beautiful, Beautiful, Forever Love. 

If I could, I would  touch your forehead with mine and look in your eyes, straight down to heart and ask you, like I always did,  "Laynee Grace, why do I love you so much?"
I love you with every breath that I breathe.  I miss you with every beat of my heart. 

I love you, I love you, I love you

PS.  I think that Laynee would love it if you popped in and visited her virtual princess birthday party at http://www.braskabear.blogspot.com/.  It's a stunningly beautiful party of princesses

Friday, January 29, 2010


Your abscence has gone through me like thread through a needle, 
 everything I do is stitched with it's color. 
WS Merwin


All that I can say is "WOW" in response to the overwhelming number of post comments and emails that we have received in Laynee's memory.  Thank you to all who have shared how Laynee has touched you.  This little unplanned project has turned out to be quite miraculous in that it has taken the desparate sense of loss and mourning and turned it into a bittersweet time of remembering our precious little one.  Together we have read these memories of her in awe at the legacy she has left.  We have laughed at the little rememberances of her.  Some of the things mentioned we remember clearly, others we never even knew about.   The general concensus seems to be that she was quite the bossy little thing. How can it be that a child who didn't evern talk still managed to be bossy? She also was, without doubt, the princess.  Even in death she has impacted lives, for it is this that causes some to hold their children a little closer tonight. 

I've struggled all way week with the feeling that "it's just not enough." Nothing has been enough to fill the wide gaping emptiness that she has left within me.   I go to her room and look at her shoes, jackets, diaper bag, glasses, and clothes. I touch them and  feel them.   I bury my face into the softness of her blankets and bear.    I smell her and sense her but it is not enough.  I look at hundreds of pictures but they cannot fill the void.  I go to the cemetary but she is not there.  Nothing has been able to alleviate the cold, aching emptiness. Tonight as I prepare for bed there is a peaceful, bittersweet quietness in my soul.   The shared memories are proof that though she is not here, her memory lives on forever.  She will never, ever be forgotten.  The written memories have poured into us, filling the emptiness like warm, soothing water. She has left her print on this world, in the hearts of so many.  And for tonight, this knowledge is just enough. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010


My heart aches for my baby tonight.  What would she be like now, just before her third birthday?  How much would she have grown?  Would she know how to tell everyone that it's her birthday?  Would she ask for her own heehee?  Would she be talking in sentences or using many more signs?  Would we have grown her hair long for the winter, with pigtails and ribbons and bows?  (Okay probably not on that one, she really had no tolerance for froofroo hair things)  She was so good at pottying on the big girl potty, would she be wearing big girl pants with Dora on them?  She would be starting school in Miss Ennis's class, would she be really proud of that fact? 

Does she know?  Does she know in heaven that it's her birthday? Does she know in heaven how much we miss her? So very many things that I miss.  So many things that I didn't get to do. 

Her room is so full of Laynee, yet so empty.  Things, that's all that is there.  Precious things, because they were touched by Laynee, worn by Laynee, loved by Laynee, yet nothing more than things.  The smell of her room is becoming stale, losing the sweet Laynee scent, a painful reminder that time keeps going on without her.  My arms, they are empty too.  Empty because my baby has been ripped from them in a seemingly merciless way. 

I really don't know how to have her birthday.  I DON"T KNOW HOW TO DO THIS!!!!!  How do I give my children a healthy way to remember their sister's birthday, but not dwell on death.  The tears are there in their eyes, the sadness is etched onto their faces, the grief is there in the silence, in the unspoken words.  I have a plan of purchasing a cake for her.  I will also get a birthday balloon for her, attach a letter of love for her, and together we will set the balloon free.  The balloon will rise to the heavens and dance away in the wind.  We will never really know where the balloon goes, just as we will never really know, this side of heaven, where our Laynee is. Heaven is a mystery that God did not intend for us to solve.  He gave us just enough truth about heaven to make us long for it but not enough that we can ever really comprehend what or where it is. 

Yesterday a friend unknowingly gave me an idea for Laynee's birthday.  She stopped into my shop with a gift that told me that she has not forgotten Laynee's birthday.  She remembers.  With the gift was a card.  Written in the card were several beautiful memories of Laynee.  Little things that she remembered about her, those things that made Laynee so dear.  Laynee touched so many lives.  She touched the lives of those she knew and those whom she did not know.  She touched lives in her life and in her death.  She left behind a legacy of love and joy.  What greater gift could we give to her than to tell of how she touched so many.  Please share, either by commenting on the blog, or privately through my email kkholmes1@verizon.net how she touched your life. We have a beautiful box with a satin ribbon that was given to us by the hospital.  When we received the box, it had in it a clipping of her hair, her footprints, her handprints and the hospital band from the night she died.  I have added a few of our most cherished items.  I would love to add a list of all the people and the ways that she touched them in her short time here.  Her life was far too short in my opion, but it was not without a beautiful purpose.  Though everything about her death seems terribly wrong, I know that it is not.  It is exactly right because God is good and God does not make mistakes.

Thank you to anyone who takes part in this.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

And Lions Roar

Anyone who knows me, who has taken the time to truly know my heart, knows that a few years ago, I was deeply inspired by a book called "In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day."  This inspiration came right around the time of Jalayne's birth and subsequent entrance into our lives.  The book,  written by Mark Batterson, pivots around a little known biblical event in II Samuel, the story of a man named Benaiah.  Benaiah, who later became a great leader in David's army, chased a lion.  "Benaiah chased a lion into a pit, then despite the snow and slippery ground, caught the lion and killed it"  II Samuel 23:20   I have to insert here the fact that I am always somewhat amazed at the mention of snow.  When I think of the ground on which our forefathers walked, I imagine dry, desert lands with hot, dusty conditions.  Snow does not fit my mind's image.  Nevertheless, snow is a virtually insignificant observation in this text.  The amazing question is this.......who in their right mind would "chase a lion?"  I'm fairly confident if I'm walking along and happen upon a lion, chasing it is not going to be one of my first instincts. In the event that I did chase it and managed to get it into a pit, climbing down into the pit with the lion wouldn't seem like the wisest of choices.  The scripture does not give much more information about Benaiah and what possessed him to do such a thing.  There is another scripture that tells us that Benaiah also fought an Egyptiam by wrestling his own spear from his hand and killing him with it.  Forgive me for saying so, but Benaiah doesn't seem like the brightest light on the block.  To the average person, these were foolish acts.  Yet, it was these seemingly senseless acts that turned out to be Benaiahs greatest blessing.  They won him favor in David's eyes and a spot over David's bodyguard.  Later, in I Kings 2:25 Solomon appoints Benaiah leader of the army in Israel, in place of Joab.  Blessings came for Benaiah out of an act that seemed utterly foolish.

The truth is that sometimes life does not make sense.  At times we are asked to do things that make no sense.  Other times life just happens and it makes no sense.  When we were asked to take Jalayne into our home, it made no sense, not to us and not to those around us.  Our plate was full, we had one severely disabled child already, how on earth would we handle a child with Down Syndrome?  Not only "how" would we handle it, but "why" would we handle it?.  Jim and I were terrified, filled with dread.  We knew full well what we were getting into.  Life with a special needs child is no walk in the park.  It is grueling:  physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially gruelling.  Many, if not all, of the people in our social circle questioned our wisdom and our sanity.  Some felt it their God given duty to tell us their views on our taking on another child.  It simply did not make sense and we knew it.  Certainly Benaiah must have known that chasing a lion probaly wasn't his smartest move yet.   I recall sitting in the chair in the neonatal intensive care unit, holding this tiny baby, my heart already melting for her, and asking God "WHY,  why are you asking this of us?"    We didn't have to say yes, we didn't have to take this child, we could very easily have said no.   But our lion was roaring.  God was saying "feed my child, take my child, love my child."   I shall never forget the words of Gretchen,  Moise's physical therapist, days after Jalayne's arrival.  We were at a therapy session for Moise, and Jalayne, only days old, was with us.  I explained that we didn't know at that point if we would adopt her, that she may be with us only temporarily, that it really didn't make sense for us to keep her.  Gretchen looked me square in the face and said  "don't think on it so much, just do it."    In other words, quit worrying about how God's going to work this out, just trust him.  And we did.  Then God took this situation that made no sense at all and he made it more beautiful than anything we could ever have imagined.  He formed Laynee into this incredibly beautiful creature with a sparkling personality.  He made her so beautiful that no one could resist her.  He molded her into the hearts of each of our children in a way that no "normal" child could have done. He made her just perfect for our family.   He gave new meaning to the words Down Syndrome.  He poured love into her that spilled over to us and we in turn overflowed right back to her.  Imagine what we would have missed had we not taken the "senseless" oppurtunity that God so lovingly placed before us.  Right now I am overwhelmed with emotional gratitude that our lion roared and that we chased him.  Thank God we climbed into the pit of uncertainty. 

Just as Laynee's entrance into our life made no sense, neither does her death.  It simply does not make sense that Laynee be taken from us.  We have so say in this matter of death, no one asked us,  there was no choice.  Still, God roars, he asks us to trust him.   I cannot begin to imagine how even a God as big a mine can bring something good or beautiful from the death of our sweet baby. I'm not entirely sure I know how to trust him in this.  It seems like most often when He asked me to trust him there was something tangible that he wanted me to do.  This time he has given me nothing that I can do with my hands or my mind.   He is asking me to do nothing but sit and trust him. I am not geared that way, I am an action person, I need to DO something.  My lion is roaring and God says sit?    SIT?  Are you serious God?    Just SIT?  I don't know HOW to SIT!!!  I have a visual of God actually chuckling at my horror of being told to sit still.   I can't audibly hear God, but my heart and soul know that his answer is "Sit, Stand, whatever, I don't care, but there is nothing you can do.  You must trust me."   Be still and know that I am God Psalms 46:10

I don't understand Jalayne's death but I do trust him.  I know that my God is good.  I know that he can "work all things together for good to them that trust him, to them that are called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28  My lion is roaring.  Okay God I'll SIT, but please don't ask me to chase a real life lion.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Birthdays for angels

Laynee is so heavy on my heart tonight.  The waves of desperation that I spoke of in my earlier post are proving to be relentless today.  One week from today, Saturday, January 30 is Jalayne's birthdate.  I know how to throw a party.  I can bake and decorate a birthday cake.  I can light candles, string streamers, and blow up balloons. I can wrap presents and sing Happy Birthday.   What I don't know, is how to recognize the birthday of a 3 year old little girl who went to heaven a few months ago.   While we do not throw large, lavish parties for our children's birthdays, we always celebrate.  There are gifts, special meals, cake and candles. The birthday kid always gets to choose where to have dinner out and on Saturday morning, that child and I go out for breakfast, just the two of us.  I'm supposed to be going out to select a birthday gift for my sweet Laynee.  I find myself wondering what would be her latest interest now.  Would she still be carrying around her beloved heehee's and moos?   Would she need new books because her's are worn from so much use?  Would she be ready for new dvd's that she could sing along with? 

How do we celebrate her birthday when our hearts are filled with heavy sadness?   I do not see how we can let the day pass without remembering it in some special way.  January 30, 2007 marks the beginning of an entire chapter in the book of our life.  It is a chapter that began with apprehension and uncertainty as we considered the monumental decision of another special needs adoption.  It is a log of the journey through illness and surgery and miracles performed before our eyes.   Laynee's chapter tells of joy and happiness and laughter brought to us via one small child.   In one tragic, heartwrenching moment Laynee's chapter ended with the words "time of death."  The end of Laynee's chapter in our lives has given way to a new chapter, the one that we live out at this moment, the chapter of grief and sorrow.    Is it possible to mourn and celebrate all at the same time? 

On the birthdates of Moise and Jalayne, our two adopted children, my heart is always with the women who gave birth to them.  I wonder if they remember that this is the day that they brought forth new life.  Do they picture, in their mind's eye, the child that they never really had oppurtunity to know?   This birthday of Jalayne's is no different.  My heart wonders and aches for another mother.  My prayers lift her up.   Does she miss Laynee too?

Last week I went into a store, a completely girly store filled with ribbons and bows and jewels.  There I found something that I knew would be just perfect for Laynee's birthday.  In place of a pointed party hat she should wear a beautiful tiara with gawdy pink jewels.  What could be more perfect for a little tomboy princess.  I bought the tiara, I needed to buy something for her.  I know that it will never grace her beautiful head but we can put it there upon her grave for anyone who goes there to remember that she was our princess.   Most likely I will order a cake for Laynee too, a pink one maybe, something for us to remember her sweetness. I want to remember her with love and laughter.  I know that there will be tears.  Tears are the voice of the soul and our souls long to have her here to blow out her candles.  Yet we will remember, we will celebrate her life, the time that we had with her, the joy that she brought to us.

Full Circle

 I think I am beginning to understand some things about the journey through grief and all of the emotions that are encountered along the way.  What I'm finding is that there is a cycle in this grief process, a definite coming and going of an myriad of emotions.  Like an ocean tide that never rests, sometimes the feelings move quietly in and out, while other times the waves come crashing with fierce, destructive force.   Though the strength and frequency is unpredictable, there is one thing that remains steadfast and sure.  Always, without fail, the tide recedes and we come full circle to a place where the waters of grief relent just a little.  I have lived and breathed this cycle in my own heart over and over again.  So also have I witnessed it in the lives of my husband and children as together, yet individually, we struggle to maintain footing on this ground of ever shifting sand.  I have also found that no matter how big the waves, nor how deep the water, there is no place so dark or treacherous that our Lord cannot go with us.    Joshua 1:5 ....as I was with Moses, so I will be with you:  never will I leave you, never will I forsake you

The emotions of grief have become very familiar.   One or all of them are present in our home and in the hearts of our family at all times.   Shock, disbelief and denial are evident as we all try to grasp the impossible  truth that death has visited our home and there is absolutley nothing that we can do about it.  There seems to be a cocoon around us that refuses to allow reality to penetrate.   Anger presents itself at the most inoppurtune times, often adding very interesting dynamics to an already hormone filled house of teenagers.    Sadness is characterized by quietness, far off distant gazes, and tear filled eyes.  And then there are times when the violent waves of desperation smash into us.  In those times, the aching, desperate need for our little girl threatens to swallow us.  We cycle through the feelings and emotions many times a day.    Our hearts run the whole gamut of emotion even within an hour or one conversation.  Always, the hand of our Lord, the hand more powerful even than the waves of grief, reaches out and carries us.  We are able to look back and know that, once again, He has brought us full circle.  There is a cycle, a pattern, a path that is becoming well worn.   By observing the signs along the path we gain the assurance that even when we think we cannot go on, our Lord will carry us through.   There is hope, even when all seems lost. 

At times my soul feels as though it will erupt with anger at the seeming injustice and unfairness.  The questions, which have no answers this side of heaven, roll over in my mind.   "Why?"  "Why, God, would you take her when we loved her so much?"  "Why are there children out there being abused but you took my child who was cherished and treasured?" "Why would you sustain her life through illness and and surgery, only to snatch her healty body and glorious smile from us?"  "Why are other people's lives going on as always, while ours has been turned upside down?"  But God, in His infinite power and understanding,  lovingly allows my rantings and railings and then ever so softly reminds me that it was He who gave Laynee to us in the first place.  Job 1:21 The Lord giveth and the Lord hath taken away;  blessed be the name of the Lord

 The waves of desperation are so forceful at times that I fear that I will not be able to get up.  They beat upon me with violent force.  Smashing me to the ground. blinding me to the good that surrounds me and snatching the glimmers of hope from my vision.   In these desperate moments, the pain of missing her spreads through my being like a vapor.  The viciousness of despair purges all coherent thought but one, the absolute certainty that I can't do this.  Those are the only words that my brain can piece together amidst the sea of despair.  I Can Not Do This.  But my Lord does not leave.  He is there to tell me "yes you can."  Sometimes He throws me a lifeline in the form of a trusted friend, a song, a card in the mail, a verse that speaks to my soul.  Always, he reaches out and plants my feet on firmer ground.  Once again, I know, that my Lord has brought me full circle, he has calmed the waters as he does every time the tide rises.  I admit that sometimes the waves are so deep, so thick, so dark that I lose sight of my Lord.  I cannot feel Him, I cannot see Him, I cannot hear Him.  Yet He is there.  Hebrews 13:5 Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. 

The third song on the playlist located at the bottom of the blog, is a new song by Kutless, entitled "What Faith Can Do."  I heard a few days ago for the first time and the words resonated within me.  As I live and observe the cycle of grief and watch as the circle is completed time and time again, I grow in trust and confidence in our Lord.  I become increasingly aware that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.  Lamentations 3:22  It is only by faith in a God whose love knows no bounds that we can survive.  It is only because of a God who goes with us into the harshest waves that we can withstand the brutality and force of life's raging sea.  It is only because God is good.......all the time

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Too much love?

I have, for quite some time, been in the habit of journaling my prayers.  I have found that if I write (actually I type them on the computer) out my prayers I am much better able to focus and keep my mind from being distracted as I pray.  I enjoy going back and reading old prayer journals as it is proof of where I have been, how I have grown and how God has prepared my heart.  

I've gone back and read the journal entries from the days before the accident.  There is one thing that stands out in nearly all of the entries,  my love for Laynee Grace.  There are clearly praises for all of my children, I thank God for every one of them and for their individuality.  In the days and weeks leading up to the accident I praised God for Laynee in nearly every prayer.  I praised Him for the way that He orchestrated events to bring her to Peoria, Illinois and into our home.  I praised Him for her simplisity, for her joy and happiness, for the hope that seemed to ooze from her.  I can't help asking myself, did I love this child too much?

In the years that we had Jalayne, we encountered some very rough times where Moise was concerned.  Soon after Laynee's arrival, Moise began having seizures.  We went through different cocktails of medications, trying to find the right doses and combinations that would control the seizures while allowing him to be functional as well.   The medications produced a great deal of negative behaviour, making life with him very challenging.  More times than I can count, I found myself at the end of my rope.  I often despaired, wondering if I could take much more of the awful and aggressive behavior.  I told many people in those days that Laynee helped to offset the challenges we faced with Moise.  Her bright happy face was always their to bring joy to my days.  I couldn't wait to get her out of bed in the mornings.  When I snuggled her little body close to me, it was like receiving a hug from God himself.  You couldn't be sad when Laynee was around.  Her smile was so very contagious, you simply could not stay sad for long.  After particularly trying "Moise days," Jalayne was always there with her sweetness to "make it all better."  I believed that God new that we would need Laynee to help offset the constant battles we faced.  For this I praised my God over and over again.

The realization of how often I gave thanks for her, creates a mix of emotions.  On one hand I'm so thankful for the fact that I never took her or her presence in our life for granted.   I felt honored to have been chosen to be her mother, even though she was not formed in my womb.  I knew that God had a special purpose for her with us and I praised him for it.  Jim adored her.  Our children melted over her.    I'm grateful that we have not one single regret.  We loved her so much, there was no room for anger or harsh words, only a great deal of love. 

On the other hand, this proof of my appreciation for her brings the question WHY? to the forefront.  Why, when I loved her so much , would she be taken from me?  Why would she die when I need her so much?  Why? Why? Why?  Again I ask, is it possible that I loved her too much.  Can it be that perhaps I depended too much on the joy that she brought to us?  I've had a number of people over the years who have come to me with questions regarding adoption and foster care.  There is one piece of advice that I give to all......don't hold back love, whatever you do, don't try to protect youself by holding back some or all of your love from a child placed in your care.  We fell head over heels in love the minute we laid eyes on Laynee.  We poured all the love we could into her.  Was it too much?  Did I love my baby too much?  Is that why it's so hard to give her back?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Painful Reminders

I had an  unpleasant experience this morning.  About every 6 months we have a round of doctor appointments. Most of their specialists want to see them bi-annually, for routine check ups.  Because Moise and Jalayne saw many of the same doctors, I often tried to schedule them together.  Today I received a call from one of the offices, confirming their appointments.   My heart pounded and my hands shook as I told her that I need to cancel the appointment for Jalayne.  She asked if I would like to reschedule and I simply said "no." She then voiced her concern, saying that "she really needs to be seen" and questioned if I had plans of switching to another doctor.  She also was concerned that we had not done the "telephone check" of Jalayne's pacemaker for several months.  There was no way around it, I had to voice the dreaded words.  "Jalayne died in September"  I told her, to which she responded with profuse apology and the rote words of sympathy.  I think that I shall never get used to saying those words.

Yesterday I walked out to our shed in search of something.   It's strange how few times I've been out there since the accident.  I'm not sure why, except that there are so many beautiful, heart wrenching memories of Laynee and her daddy.  Hanging on the bulletin board with push pins, is her little jacket that she wore just days before the accident.  She went into daddy's shed,  straight to a bucket of grease, naturally getting it everywhere before daddy could redirect her.    That jacket, badly stained with grease, is testimony of a curious, little girl who once occupied are home and our hearts.  As I went into the shed yesterday my eyes were immediately drawn to the red cooler sitting on a table.  I've known that the cooler is there for awhile now.   This cooler's significance is that it was with us on our wonderful trip to Sounthern Illinois Labor Day weekend.  I had taken food for all of us to eat for lunch at the park.  Pepper Jack Cheese will always bring bittersweet memories because Grandma, that day,was unprepared for such a taste and dubbed it "EVIL Cheese."  One day, I did open the lid to the cooler, only to close it quickly  upon discovery that it still contained that weekend's food.  Laynee's death washed away the importance of all tasks such as emptying a cooler.  I know that someday I will have to empty the cooler but I continue to put it off, dreading the idea that there may very likely be something in it that will bring another flood of heartwrenching Laynee memories.   I'm quite certain that the contents of that cooler are "growing" by now but I guess they will have to keep growing because opening that cooler, for some strange reason, is something I just cannot do.  And so the red cooler sits, there on the table, a mere object, yet so full of memories and reminders that the joy and sunshine of that weekend is gone.   I know that Laynee's light has not gone out.  It shines in heaven, brighter than it ever did here on earth, it's just that I can't see it. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Precious Girl, Silly Ways, Priceless Memories

How can it be that I am still finding "Laynee Things" around?  I guess because she was everywhere.  She was ornery and mischievious and into everything.  This morning, while preparing to go grocery shopping, I was checking to see if I had something in one of the lower pantry shelves.  I moved a couple of bottles around and noticed something towards the back that didn't belong.  I reached back to get it and my heart nearly stopped.  I had in my hand, a granola bar, still in the wrapper yet all chewed up.  Without question, this was Laynee's doing.  Just below that shelf is where we keep all of our snacks, granola bars, nutrigrain, oatmeal cream pies, etc.  Laynee loved that cupboard.  Sometimes she wasn't supposed to be getting into these things but she had a tendency to do it anyway.  Instead of seeking help with opening her goodies, she just chewed on it, wrapper and all.  I always knew when she was getting into the cupboard because she couldn't do a single thing gently and I'd hear the cupboard door hit the wall behind it as she threw it open.  She would hear me coming sometimes and throw the munched up treat back into the cupboard and slam the door shut, running as fast as her little legs would take her, thus the stray bar today.  Sometimes she would chew the desired treat beyond recognition and then throw it in the garbage.  Naughty??  Maybe a little, but oh so precious.  She didn't understand the concept of "not before dinner"  or "you already had one."  Since the other kids go to the cupboard for their own snacks, she saw no reason not to as well. 

After the initial shock of finding the offensive looking granola, I sat there, on the floor, my mind flooded with all of her little girl ways.  Joy and grief, laughter and sorrow collided as I remembered her.  I pictured, in my minds eye, her twinkling eyes as she would reach into the cupboard wondering if this time was okay for a treat.  I recalled how natural it was to her to go to the cupboard and grab a bag of chips, just like the older kids did from time to time.  The only difference being that she inevitably carried them upside down, leaving a trail behind her. She loved paper and would grab sheets from the desk drawer and carry it around, along with pen or pencil.  Eventually she would crumple up the paper and toss it in the trash.  How we laughed when she would help fold clothes by putting a pair of someone's clean underwear on her head.  So many times she would come from her bedroom with a pair of short's on, both legs in one hole and the shorts creating nothing more than a band around her waist.  I miss the foam puzzle pieces with chew marks, the pile of toys that she threw down the steps,  and seeing her tail end as she disappeared into the drier whenever the door was open.  I long to hear the girls yelling because Laynee had gotten into their bathroom cupboards and "Laynee, where did you put my lotion" or "Laynee stay out of my room."  There's no longer a need to close all the doors.  When in Daddy's office, she would pull everything from the drawers and climb into the cupboards, she fit perfectly.  Sometimes she would head for Daddy's file cabinets but that was one of the biggest NO, NO's.  While I was dressing Moise she would grab his shirt or sock and run out of the room, laughing all the way. 

So much laughter.  So much joy.  Everything an adventure, full of wonder and excitement.  She played so hard and then she slept so hard.  How I wish I could carry her warm sleeping form in from the car after a day of making Kathy, Karen, or Aunt Fern chase her around.  I recall the feel of her breathing soft against my face, the tousled hair, the smell of a little girl who played hard all day.  She would not flinch as I gently laid her in bed, her legs like wet noodles as I removed her shoes and covered her up.  So often Iwould stand there for a long time, just watching her even breathing,  marveling at modern medicine, without which she would not be able to play so hard.   I would Praise my God for her as I kissed my fingertips and placed the kiss to her soft cheeks. 

I love to remember her, to talk about her, to write about her.  It hurts!!!! It hurts in a way that mere words can never describe but I so love to remember the beautiful things about Jalayne Grace.  Thank you Lord, for every memory and even for the hurt, for it is through this that I am reminded of blessed we have been.  If we had not loved like crazy, neither would we hurt like crazy

This pictue is so endearing as her face looked much like this
the last time I saw her. 

This is a great place for playing.  Lots of clothes and
warm too.

Better head out before someone finds me here

OOF!!  That's a tough climb

Wait a minute what's that? I didn't see that before

Oops!  I've been caught.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Missing Laynee, Missing Downs

Yesterday afternoon we had the beautiful priviledge of meeting Nebraska "Braska" Larae Woods.  I've written of Braska before.  Her mother, RK, and I met on an online Down Syndrome Forum.  RK has helped me with the blog background and so graciously allowed us to send clothes, which we would have chosen for Laynee, for Braska to wear for the holidays.  The Wood's family was meeting friends in Morton and came to visit us as well.  I admit to being a bit apprehensive about this visit, uncertain of the direction my emotions would take upon seeing sweet Braska, who has become so dear through reading her own blog and pictures.  Braska is her own sweet, beautiful little person, so unique and individual.  As is so typical with Down Syndrome,  she has certain areas of developement which are lagging behind and others in which she excels.  She gave hugs willingly, without reservation, and oh how good those hugs were to all of us, soft and squishy with the "floppiness" of low muscle tone.   RK allowed me to talk freely and openly about Laynee.  I think I said "Laynee would........"  or "Laynee always did....." more in those hours than in the last 4 months combined.  RK and Braska's daddy, Muncher, looked at pictures of Laynee from her birth up to her last weeks of life.  Our kid's, with the exception of Grant who was at a wrestling meet, were completely enamored by Braska and her sister, Kinlee and vice versa.  It was impossible not to note the DS traits that Braska possesses.  Universal traits familiar and dear to a family who has loved DS.  Braska, like Laynee, was quiet, at least while she was here, her voice soft and slightly husky. Her eyes,  her nose, glasses, the soft, wispy hair, short fingers and tiny feet, all bittersweet reminders of a little girl who is gone from us, a little girl who also was blessed with an extra chromosome.  She had certain ways that she would hold her hands, gestures that we once took for granted, now so endearing.  At one point, she snuggled up close to me for quite some time and my heart ached for my own sweet baby girl.  For while this child was beautiful in a way that only Down Syndrome children can be, she was not my DS child.  Indeed,  there will never be another child quite like our Laynee Grace.  As they were leaving we said good bye, and Braska's sweet "bye bye" could have been a recording of Laynee's own softly spoken "bye bye." The words wrapped tightly around my heart and eye contact with Jade told me that the similarity was not lost on her. 

I've always been amazed by the beautiful people that I have met as a direct result of being mother to Moise and Jalayne.  This experience with The Woods Family was no exception.   Indeed, many of my most cherished and valued relationships are those which originated because of my being mother to these to lovely little people.  I find also that it is these relationships that prove to be the most sustaining on this difficult path of sorrow.  I read somewhere a few days ago that the greatest friends are not those who have been with us the longest but those who are willing to walk along side of us through the darkest times in our lives.   I praise God for my friends, old and new, who have gone, time and time again into the pit of darkness and despair with me.  They hold me up in my weakness.  They pray when I can't remember how.  They allow me to talk about my Laynee, laugh with me, cry with me, get angry with me.  It is evident through this relationship with the Woods' family, that although Laynee is not here, she's still being used to bring amazing people into our lives.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


My Beautiful Laynee Grace, how I miss that grin

Today is the seventh day of the month.  Another angelversary for Laynee.  We've lived one quarter of a year without her sunshine.  The days since returning from Florida have been bitterly cold.  As brutal as winter in Illinois can be, grief is much more brutal.  During midwest winter there is a certainty that warmer, more pleasant days are ahead, that spring is just months away.  However, there is no absolute that there is such a thing as springtime in this place known as grief.

While in Florida for the holidays, there were brief moments which felt like reprieve.  In these instances, while I was busy snapping pictures of the kids in the ocean, or watching them open gifts, the pain of losing Laynee was not at the forefront of my mind.  Death, trauma, and loss very briefly took the back seat to present time.  I even dared to entertain the thought, the hope, that perhaps if we survived this first holiday season without her, grief would lose some of it's debilitating power over me.  As we returned to the harsh, cold, winter in our home state and the routine of every day life,  the icy hand of grief has once again wrapped around me.  The powerful grip threatens to consume me and drag me into it's abyss.  Reality of death has pummeled me with renewed force. 

No one ever told me that grief looked so like fear.  Six months ago, these words written by CS Lewis would not have made a bit of sense to me.  Today, I find that those words resonate within me for I am living them.  When I wake each morning there is a clawing, groping sensation inside of me, a feeling much akin to panic.  I cannot help wondering if it is possible to survive one more day without her.  At times the truth sends tingling, chilling sensations throughout my body. There seems to be a physical, driving force pressing upon me, paralyzing me, squelching my ability to accomplish anything outside of existence.  I cease to function as I once did. I can no longer think complex, intellectual thoughts.  I've lost my ability to retain basic information.  Things which once stirred excitement and zeal in me, now leave me with little more than apathy.  Exhaustion has taken up residence in my mind, body and soul.  The simplest of tasks seem insurmountable.  At times, the tsunami of grief seems to have purged me of all that I was and what I had hoped to become.  I feel like one who is lost, wandering aimlessly from one day and into another.  There is no focus, no goal, no direction.  Instinct tells me that I cannot go around this barrier, that I must go directly through the brutality of grief.   

From inside, looking out my window, there is beauty in winter.  The world appears to be silenced by the white blanket of snow.  The plants cease their growing,  the lake appears still and lifeless.   The trees, though heavy with snow, are majestic.  Beneath the dormancy and harshness of winter is growth and life.  Life lies beneath winter's disguise, just as hope lies beneath griefs darkness.  There is comfort in knowing that though the seasons of the year and of the heart may change, though they become brutal and harsh, my God remains on his throne.  ......and He is good.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year

The beginning of a New Year is a time of looking ahead, as well as reflecting on the year past.  As I look back over 2009, there is a part of me that wants to call it the worst year of my life, the year that our baby was taken so quickly from us. The year in which our world threatened to stop turning.  The year in which life, as we knew it, ended.    Like Noah's flood, our recent grief washes away all else and makes it nearly impossible to remember anything that happened, save this one heartwrenching event.  However, to call 2009 a terrible year, is to minimize the beauty that our precious little girl brought to our life.  I must remember that in 2009 Jalayne Grace Holmes, our beautiful little girl, our daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, whom the world may view as imperfect, danced for 8 months and 7 days.  She danced across our floors, in our arms, and in our hearts.  She lit up lives, both old and young.  She giggled, and laughed, ran, played, learned, as well as, taught and dazzled many with her radiant beauty and smiling face.  She brought sunshine to many lives. 

The Lord has blessed 2009 in many other ways as well.  Jim and I own and operate two successful business, even in the face of economic recession, because God is good.  We were part of the Easter Seals VIP campaign, raising money for children with disabilities, because not only is God good, but He works in the hearts of men, causing them to give of themselves.  Our five living children have grown and matured and blossomed, because God is good.  Our daughter Jamee was named an All State Runner in Cross Country and was part of the track Honor Roll. She ran an entire year, injury free.  She plays basketball, works part time at the coffee shop and is an excellent student.  Grant is learning to drive, worked all summer for his dad, and is also a good student.  He downed two deer in 2009, one with his bow and one with shotgun.  Jade was a brilliant student in 2009, earning near perfect grades.  She was also a two time state track medalist, as well as placing ninth in state cross country despite the fresh weight of grief that she carried upon her shoulders.  Brock, also a great student, continues to be his dad's shadow.  He's developed an interest in books and reading this year, something we've tried for years to instill in him. He ran his first cross country season.  Moise went an entire year without a seizure, major surgery, or illness.  A high blood pressure scare turned out to be nothing to be overly concerned over.   Through hard work and determination, he has learned things that no one would ever have dreamed possible. Our little deaf boy with microcephally and calsification on the frontal lobe of his brain, is learning to read.  All of this because God is good........ always, all the time, God is good and God does good.

As I have found with every trial that God has allowed in our life, difficult experiences allow for new and beautiful relationships.  Through the sorrow and heartache of Laynee's death, new friendships have been formed and many old relationships have been rekindled.  God is good.  This year has provided our family with oppurtunity and even necessity to view life, as well as death, from a very different perspective than ever before.  Heaven holds new appeal to each of us because Jalayne is there.  As we flew home from Florida on New Year's Eve, the Lord created a masterpiece of art for our eyes.  The sun began to set as we flew above the clouds.  The clouds, billowy and soft, lay like a plush carpet just below us while the sun in radiant color made it's decent.  The view from the window next to Jamee and Brock was stunningly beautiful.  On the other side of the plane, through the window next to Jade and Grant, darkness began to shroud around us.  On that side, the clouds below us were illuminated by the light of a huge radiant moon, which appeared to be close enough to reach out and touch.  Though this masterpiece lasted only a few minutes, it was awe inspiring. We were surrounded, on all sides by God's majesty.   It was the hand of God saying "Trust Me, I am good."  Jim, seated just behind me, said the words that were in the hearts and minds of each of us.  "Picture Laynee dancing across those clouds."  That night as we went to bed Jim said, "I wouldn't have minded if our plane had gone down right then."  My response was that yes, I had the same thought, all of our children with us, ready and waiting to see Heaven, to see our Lord and to see our precious Laynee girl.  Then, in the car on New Year's Day, Jamee shared that she had the same thought.  Because Laynee is already there, our anticipation for heaven is greater than ever before.  Our hope comes for the Lord, because He is good.

In summation, 2009 was not the worst year of our life, not by a long shot.   The most traumatic?  Absolutely! The most tragic?  Definitely!  The most sorrow filled?  Without a doubt!   Yet, not the worst, not if we choose to remember that God is Good and, even when we don't understand, God does Good

        And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus 
(Ph 4:19)

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth
(Ps 72:4)

A friend loveth at all times  (Pr 17:17)

....yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation
(Habakuk 3:18)

 Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep
(Romans  12:15)

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,
if ye have love one toward another. 
(John 13:35)

Behold I am the Lord God of all flesh, is there anything too hard for me 
 (Jeremiah 32:27)

How great are his signs and how mighty are his wonders....
 (Daniel 4:3)

Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulation for you, which is your glory
(Ephesians 3:13)

It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not, they are new every morning. Great is they faithfulness 
 (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord 
(Ps 31:24)

Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him all ye stars of light 
 (P2 148:3)

Look unto the heavens and see: and behold the clouds (Job 35:5)
But our God is in the heavens, he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased (Ps 115:3)
Dance In Heaven, Laynee Girl.  Dance for all of us here
God is Good, Laynee.  You know that better any of us