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, May 29, 2010

Laynee's Flowers

I love flowers and have many of them planted around my house.  Last spring one day when I picked Laynee up at Kathy's, where she went one day a week while I worked, Kathy had dug up some of this perrenial plant for us.  The memory of planting these flowers with Laynee is so vivid in my mind.  She was delighted to be able to help me with the planting.  She loved pouring the water from the sprinkler out and would have given just about anything to put her hands in the bucket of plant food.  What a beautiful little helper she was.  What joy she brought to me. 

Laynee never got to see the flowers on this plant.  They did not bloom last year as they were so newly planted.  Now they are here, so delicate and beautiful.  How I wish she could see them.  The flowers serve as a reminder to me that life goes on.  Things change, tragedy strikes, life goes on.  We keep growing, even through the harshest seasons of our life.   I shall never look at these dainty white flowers without thinking of my little girl and her dear Kathy.  The flowers will remind that joy and sorrow can exist simultaneously within one heart.  They will remind me that our creator is still "growing" me.

Planted just behind Laynee's flowers are some orange lillies.  These have always been a favorite of my flowers.  They bloom in early summer and are by far the most majestic plant in the garden.  They seem to positively burst with life. Their blooms are huge and stunningly beautiful.  Though it was happenstance,  it now seems approriate that these most extrazagant flowers grow just behind Laynee's daintiest of flowers.  It is as though they smile down on her.  A gentle reminder of how great our God is in comparison to us.  Though we are small, we are precious and valued by our mighty God.  Just as He created every detail of these flowers, He is in control of every detail of our life. 

God is good............all the time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Life's Race

This weekend Jamee and Jade both competed in the Illinois State track meets, Jade at elementary level and Jamee at high school level.  It was a long weekend filled with waiting, anxiety and excitement.  The girls did superb and we are very proud of them, not so much for their running abilities but for their self discipline and perseverance.   Long distance running requires a great deal of physical training.  They run many miles, often in extreme weather conditions,  rain, strong winds, sweltering heat or bitter cold.  They often run in the early morning hours, before the average American teen is out of bed.  They exercise self control in their diets, eating only healthy foods and drinking huge amounts of water.  Jade drank a soft drink last night after she was done running, her first since early March.  They have battled through injuries and illness.  Some days they run with seemingly little effort, other days they seem to struggle with every step.  There is much strategy involved in distance running.  I have found, in watching my girls, that the toughest aspect of distance running is the mental preparedness.  It is a mentally gruelling sport.  The months of training is done in hopes of reaching two ultimate goals, to be a top finisher in the state cross country meet in November and the state track meet in May. 

Scripture often refers to our life on earth as a race.  The verse "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith"  II Thessalonians 4:7 indicates that life is not going to be simple walk in the park.  Hebrews 12:1clearly warns us that patience and perseverance will be required of us...... "and let us run with patience the race that is set before us."   In I Timothy 6:12 we are told again to "fight a good fight."  In Hebrew 3"If we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end," then we shall obtain the rewards."  There is an end in sight, there is hope.  All of the sweat and tears that we pour out will be well worth it if we do not give up.

In watching my girls run this weekend, I was continually reminded of the race that we are all on. As a parent spectator, it is painful to watch them running.   They patiently ran lap after lap around the track, staying right with the other runners.   There are many runners, all of them putting forth everything that they have, all of them working toward the goal, all of them hoping for a medal around their neck.  My focus from the stands is on one runner, my daughter.  From my place I can see when the weariness sets in.  I know that my daughter is struggling against exhaustion.I can tell by the look on her face, the way she carries her body, and every once in a while, a faltering step. I can almost see the mental battle that takes place in her mind.  I know that it would be so much easier to give up. But she doesn't, she keeps pressing on. Despite the heat, the tiredness, the aching muscles and mental anguish.  She has worked hard, she has trained and disciplined herself and she will not give up now.  Both girls had the honor of having a medal placed around their neck.  They fought a good fight.

There are many diffrerent races in track, all at different distances.  Some races are short and very fast, a sprint.  While others, like those my girls run, are longer distances.  The decision of who runs what race is ultimatley up to the coaches,  based on each runner's abilities.  In the race of life, our great sovereign God determines what race to enter each of us in.  God entered my precious Laynee Grace in a sprint.  He took all of her energy and joy and packed it into 2.5 short years.  She tackled life at break neck speed and she won.  She has earned her reward.   For those whom God enters into the longer races, we often face times of sheer and utter exhaustion.  We keep pressing on but we are tired, so very tired. Sometimes we run, sometimes we walk and then there are times when we can't stand up, we must crawl.  We keep going, no matter how much we'd like to give up because we know that at the end of our race is the greatest reward of all, Heaven.   Jamee and Jade have commented how sometimes they envy the sprinters because they get in the starting blocks, the gun is fired and in a few short seconds their race is finished.   Likewise, sometimes we envy Laynee who danced all the way through her race and now has her great reward.  Our race is longer than Laynee's we keep fighting the fight, knowing that our prize will be far greater than a medal around the neck

"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,
but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.
Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

I Corinthians 9:24-25

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Unfair

I try hard not to let the "unfairness bug" bite me and usually I am successful.  As a general rule I don't think of Laynee's accident and the grief we are experiencing as "unfair.  When I see other children her age I long for Laynee but I do not think it is unfair that this child is alive while mine is not.  On the contrary, I would never wish this pain on anyone.  To allow myself to view our situation as unfair would be much like self pity, a sure path to depression and prolonged suffering.

Today I got bit by "unfair."  Jade and Jamee are both competeing at the state level in track this weekend.  This afternoon we went to watch Jade run her 1600 m run (she finished 8th in state).   On the bleachers next to us was a woman with 2 strikingly beautiful children.  This little baby girl and her sister, who looked to be about Laynee's age, were unnaturally well behaved.   They sat on the bleachers for several hours, barely moving and hardly making a sound.  The weather left much to be desired, alternating all day between cold and rainy and hot and muggy.   I kept noticing how beautiful and well behaved these children were.  At one point the older girl began crying about something. The mother yelled very loud for her to "shut up" and "stop crying now."  She was very rough with the child, grabbing her by the arm and slapping her mouth.   I often wonder, when I see such a display, what this mother must be like in private if she is like this in public.  I never have and never will claim to be a perfect mother, but this sent fury through every muscle and nerve in my body.  I wanted to grab the child into my arms and hold her close. I wanted to ask if she has any idea what I would give to have my child crying next to me?

Upon seeing this, the fingers of "unfair" began to work their way through me.  All other coherent thought fled my mind and all I could think was "WHY?"   Why would God take my baby and let this woman keep hers?    Why are children being abused when mine is dead?  Why? Why? Why?  I wanted to stand up and scream to the thousands of people in the stands that "this is not fair!!"

The rest of the afternoon passed with a deep, aching sadness settled around me.  I missed my Laynee so much.  I wish that I could hold her just one more time.  This evening my mind has constantly gone back to this incident.  I've asked my Lord to lift me from the pit that "unfairness" leads to.  I've prayed for this mother and for those 2 precious little girls.  Though I cannot understand it, I know beyond a doubt that his ways are much higher than my own.  It's not about fair or unfair but about knowing that God is in control and God is good.......all the time.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Laynee's gravemarker was set a few days ago.  The one thing I did not want to happen, happened.  I did not want any of us to go to the cemetary and find that, unbeknownst to us, the stone had been set.  I had hoped that we could go, as a family, to see it for the first time.  For this reason, I practically begged the vault/monument company to notify us before setting it.  I specifically said, "I don't want it to just appear one day."  He assured me that would not happen, "absolutely we will call you the day we are going to set it."  They didn't.  I'm not exactly sure why this surprises me as they have been notorious for not calling when they say they will, and for not getting things done in the length of time they give. 

I am grateful that my dear friend, Joyce, was walking with me when I saw it for the first time and that I was not alone.  We walk together frequently and always stop to see Laynee at the cemetary.  As we were walking up the cemetary drive I noticed something different and it stopped me in my tracks.  It took my breath and I could feel the blood rush from my face.  My legs trembled as truth registered in my mind.  It was here, the thing that I had been both dreading and looking forward to had arrived without warning.  The black shiny stone, beautiful, but oh so cold is there to signify to all who visit that our child, our beautiful little princess, was snatched from this life long before we ready to let her go. 
The stone is beautiful without question.  The wording that we chose is perfect for Laynee.  However, her picture, etched in a sea of black, leaves much to be desired.  This did not come as any great surprise to me as I was very frustrated as we worked with the artist. The picture looks smudged and messy to me and yet there is no mistaking that the child is our Laynee.  I have accepted the fact that no human hand could ever truly capture the beauty of our little girl.  No pen can place the gleam in her eye nor the laughter in her smile.  

There is a matter that has bothered me ever since the concrete base for the stone was set several weeks ago. It's a small matter, yet it is evidence that she was so little, so young, that she should have had so much life ahead of her.  On the east side of her grave marker there is a large space of undisturbed grass before the place that she is buried.  When the base was first set I thought there was a mistake.  They must have set it in the wrong place.   But after examining it for awhile I realized that there was no mistake her marker was lined up perfectly with the other markers in the cemetary.  The reason Laynee's looks so different from the others is that hers is so small.  The casket was only half the size of normal adult casket, therefore the hole was dug only half the size.   This hurts every time I look at it.  She was just a baby, our baby, and she wasn't supposed to die.  I know that in time the grass will grow and this truth will be hidden to all who pass by but I know.  I know that her body is not buried right there where her marker is.  My Lord comforts me with the truth and knowledge that she is not really there.  She is dancing in heaven with a new body. 

The setting of the stone feels so final.  It was the last piece of official business that needed to be taken care of.  It is a representation of how much time has passed without her.  It's proof that life moves on for those of us who remain.  The stone conveys how much we love her but nothing can ever tell the story of how much we miss her. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


In recent weeks I have had people ask me "is it getting any better."  They are, of course, referring to the pain and difficulty of dealing with the tragic death of a child.   There is no simple, straight forward answer.  I've pondered the question and I have decided that, while the pain does not lessen or "get better,"  our pain threshold increases.

A few nights ago, Jim and I were walking in the yard, pulling Moise in his wagon and discussing what Jalayne would be doing if she were still here with us.  Jim looked off into the distance and said "it's not getting any better."  I could do nothing but agree, it absolutely is not getting any better.  There are moments when the pain of losing her feels every bit as heavy as it did the night that she died.  We still stand in disbelief.   Many nights I wake to the clawing hands of desperation.  Soul searing sadness continues to pierce right through us.   I have resigned to the awareness that this heaviness is now a part of who we are.  Loss is a new, indentifying mark upon us. 

When an athlete begins to train he often lifts weights.   A large, unfamiliar weight placed upon his shoulders will cause him to stagger and strain. If he continues to carry that same weight day after day he will eventually be able to bear the weight much more easily than the first day.  The weight has not changed, it is still as heavy as the first day.  Rather, the athlete has grown in strength and is better able to stand up beneath the weight.   So it is with with the burden of grief and loss.  The weight and intensity is no less, but because we have carried it every day, we are better able to stand beneath the load.

Most of us are familiar with the adage "time heals all wounds" and in a literal sense, this is true.  Fleshly wounds, given proper care, cleansing and time, almost always heal.  However, this saying is dramatically inappropriate in the shadow of death.  It is true that wounds heal, but the death of someone dear to us is not a mere wound, it is a loss of monumental proportions.  Healing cannot come to something that is gone.  There is no "getting over" that which is lost.  As an amputee, we adjust and adapt but we cannot heal.  

 The experience of death, loss, and grief is intensely spiritual.  Mere survival demands that we go to a deeper level of spirituality than I ever knew existed.  Comfort is found only in the grace and mercy of our Lord.  To carry on, to put one foot in front of the other, requires that we dig deep into his word.  In so doing,  our roots go deeper, our shoulders become stronger, our knowledge of hope becomes greater.  As we circle around the cycle of grief over and over again, it becomes more familiar, less daunting and we become better able to adapt to loss. 

Since the horrific accident that took the life of my sweet baby girl, I have come to know many others who walk in the shadow of death.  The answer to the question "does it get any better" is universal to those who believe.  NO...........it does not get better but we, through the love of our saviour, increase. 

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Today I find myself viewing Mother's Day from an entirely different perspective than ever before.  As a daughter, this day is a day for remembering and appreciating my mother and all that she has done and continues to do.  My mother played a dramatic role in shaping me into the woman that I am today.  I think also of my mother in law, who raised up her son to be the man that I married.  In my book, she did everything right because I could never ask for a better husband and father to my children.  As a mother, this day is for loving and appreciating each of the children that God has blessed me with.  I will never claim to be a perfect mother.  I make mistakes, big ones, but I try and somehow, in spite of all my imperfections and failures, our children are shaping into beautiful young people.

On this day, I think of those who no longer have their mother.  I have prayed for my brother's wife, who is spending her second Mother's Day without her dear mother.  I've prayed also for my dear friend who's mother died in an accident when she was just a child. She has a new mother, but that does not change the fact that she has a mother in heaven.  I've prayed for those who stuggle with infertility and may not feel like celebrating this day.  There are those who've never married, or perhaps married later in life and therefore have no children, who may see this day as a painful reminder of a title they've never officially worn.  Never does this day pass without my whispering a prayer for two mothers who gave birth to two of my children, as well as all other mothers who've chosen adoption.  And for those who've found themselves in desperate circumstances and chosen abortion, I pray.   Though I've prayed and thought of mothers in all of these different scenarios,  I have never thought of those mothers whose child was taken to heaven before she was ready to let them go. 

Today I am mother to 6 children, one in heaven and five who are very much alive.  There is a sad mixture of emotion on this day.  My arms and heart ache for my youngest child, whom I can no longer see, hear or touch.    I continue to grieve for the child that is gone from this earth at the same time that I rejoice for the children with whom my God has so graciously given me another day.  There is something so beautiful in having children on this earth. There is something sacred in having a child waiting for me in heaven.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


There's a question that I've struggled with since Laynee's accident.  The question causes me great distress.  At times when I least expect or desire, it pops to the forefront of my mind.  Without fail, it brings a wave of nausea and desperation.   Though I've mentioned this to a couple of people,  I've mostly kept it to myself.  Part of the reason for keeping it to myself is that  it's horrifc and I try desperately to push the thought from my mind.   Another part of me fears the answer.  But as I've learned, pretending that we do not have such thoughts does not change the reality that they are there.

I am aware that there are forms of therapy that can help with traumatic memories and their resulting thoughts and questions, keeping them from causing serious problems in one's life.  However, I am not so unrealistic as to think there is anything that can ever completely wipe them from memory.  With that reality in mind,  I find it is best to not deny their existence. 

At times, when I think of my sweet Jalayne, the image of her in the pool comes, uninvited, to mind.  Close on it's heals is the thought of her last moments on earth.  Did my baby wonder "where's my mommy?"  Did she question why isn't my mommy helping me?"  Did she think, even for one second, that I had forsaken her?   These questions come at random times, like a kick in the stomach.  The pain from this question snatches the air from my lungs and drops me to my knees.  There are two people that I have shared this thought with and both reminded me that Jesus or His angels were there for her.  There is comfort in this thought and yet, I am her mother, I should have been there for.  She had to have wondered where I was.  Didn't she?  For nearly 8 months this horrific thought has plagued me, creating dreadful images in my mind, waking me in the night, leaving me weak from anxiety.   Many times I have feared that it would be this thought that would push me over the edge of sanity.

This question threatens the deepest of female instincts instilled in both man and beast, the primal need to protect our young.  It screams failure and inadequacy in one of my most important roles, the role of motherhood, second only to my role as christian.  Something inside of me quells at the possiblity that my child for one moment may have thought that I was not there to rescue her.  My heart, so full of love for my sweet little girl, cannot bear this thought. 

Last week my aunt called me and we talked for quite some time on the phone.  I expressed this thought to her and she reminded me that no matter how much I loved her,  Jesus loved her even more.  This thought brought great comfort to me.  It seems that simply knowing that He was there to welcome her was not enough.  But to be reminded that my love pales in comparrison to that of our Saviour  gave me a new vision.  It occurs to me that it is rather vain of me to even think that she would still long for her mama in the presence of Her Jesus.   Laynee was viewing, for the first time, a place and a face more beautiful than anything known to this earth.  She found love in it's purest form.

Even with this new, comforting thought, which I've always known, but needed to hear again, I still struggled.  I'm not even sure what it is I struggled against.  Perhaps a need to express my love for her.  Perhaps a need to forgive myself for not being there at the pool.  Perhaps to forgive myself for the latch on the gate that never seemed to work properly and we had become lackidaisical.  Perhaps the struggle is with the fact that I had felt the need to hand wash the car that evening, instead of playing exclusively with her.  Obviously I struggle with my own human weakness and shortcomings.  Regardless of the reason, I could not release the agony that came from the question I thought she may have asked....."where is my Mommy?" 

After talking to my aunt, even with the new comfort of knowing how Jesus loves her, these thoughts plagued me with renewed force.  Until one morning, in the quiet solitude of my home, after all the children were off to school,  I cried out to my God in a mixture of sorrow, anger, and remorse.  I begged God to tell her how sorry I am that I wasn't there.  God in His peaceful way spoke to my heart saying, "you weren't there but I was.  I did not take her from you, I brought her to me."  In my unwillingness to let it go, I foolishly challenged God with "I don't think you know how much I love her."  To this He quietly replied "I loved her more."   I pratically screamed at God  " I would have given my life for her!!!!!"   In a final, climatic moment of understanding and peace,  Jesus said  "I alreay did." 

Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Sunday, May 2, 2010


We spent a lovely weekend with lovely people, doing lovely things.  My friend Randa Kay and her girls, Braska and Kinlee spent Thursday thru Sunday with us.   They watched Jade run in her track meet on Thursday. Unfortunately, it was ridiculously windy,  but we cheered Jade on anyway.

On Friday RK helped me with some computer things I was wanting to accomplish.  The kids got out of school early that day so we all spent the afternoon together.  We took the little girls to see Laynee's beloved "heehee's"  but they didn't think they were quite as neat as she did.  Jade had fun on the trampoline with them.

 We went to visit Laynee at the cemetary and for some reason Braska cried hard the whole time we were there.  This was very interesting as we hardly saw her cry any other time.  The kids all babysat for the girls while RK and I enjoyed dinner out. 

There is something healing about being around Braska.  She has Down Sydrome too and she reminds us of the beautiful simplisity of those who share the common bond of an extra 21st chromosome.   She is so like Laynee in many things.   Like Laynee, she shares her love to all.  When she walks across the kitchen floor, her steps sound just like Laynee only quite a bit slower.   She is happy and content and requires little to keep her happy.  There is also healing in seeing how dramatically different she is from Laynee.  Laynee did everything fast while Braska moves slowly.  Laynee was a leader, Braska a follower.  Both their own unique individual, yet both possessing universal characteristics of Down Syndrome that make them so incredibly special. 

On Saturday Jamee got all dressed up for her prom and Braska wore the shiny dress that we sent her at Christmas time.  Both Jamee and Braska were very lovely.  Later that night we were all excited when Jamee was crowned prom queen.  I could just picture Laynee clapping her hands in excitement over how pretty her big sister was.  I wonder if she could see her from heaven?  I wonder if she knows that part of Jamee's loveliness comes from knowing Laynee?  I wonder if she knows how lovely she was when she walked on this earth?  I wonder if she knows how much we miss her?  I wonder if she knows that there will never, ever be another like Laynee Grace Holmes?