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, December 24, 2011

How I wish that this were not a part of our lives.   That Christmas did not include trips to the cemetary and lighting candles in rememberance.   Two year olds are not supposed to be in the cemetary on Christmas. They should be singing of baby Jesus and staring with wide eyed wonder at twinkling lights and brightly wrapped packages.  Oh how I wish.............

............but here we are, doing that which seems so incredibly wrong. 
Loving her, missing her and somehow going on without her.

Merry Christmas Sweet Jalayne

It's Christmas time around here, Laynee.  There is much activity and much excitement as we prepare.  Presents are wrapped, food is prepared, lots and lots of sweet things have been made and we are all ready for Christmas.  There are glittering lights everywhere you look, stockings, wreaths, trees and good smells are in abundance.  It doesn't seem much like Christmas because the sun is shining brightly and there is no snow on the ground this year.  But that's okay because ever since you left us and went to heaven, Christmas doesn't feel the same anyway. 

We know that you are happy in heaven, Laynee, and you probably wouldn't come back here to earth, even if you could.  We are happy too but sad at the same time.  This is the third time we have had Christmas without you and it seems like it should get easier but today my heart hurts so much.  When we are all together is when it hurts the most.  In my mind I picture exactly where you should be, who you should be playing with, the foods that you should be devouring, the gifts you should be opening. 

I miss you sweet one.  I miss you so very much.  Have a beautiful Heavenly Christmas.  Tell Jesus "Happy Birthday"  and thank him for the beautiful gift He gave to us.  It is because of His gift to us that we can be happy and sad here without you.  Because with His gift we know that someday we are going to celebrate Christmas with you in heaven.  Someday...........until then we will celebrate, we will be happy and sad and we will miss you every single day.

Merry Christmas Laynee Grace.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Angel By Our Side

There's a song I love.  I first heard it on Jamee's old iPod that I often use when I am cleaning or out for a run or working out on my eliptical machine.  Jade is also heard singing this song quite often.  Lately, as my thoughts are drawn to Christ's birth, and angels, and peace on earth, this song is almost constantly on my mind.

A new ornament hangs from the branches of our Christmas Tree.  An angel, representative of Laynee's third Christmas in heaven.  In the quietness of this morning, I stood for awhile, staring, mesmerized by this angel ornament and the twinkling lights behind it. 
As I stood in front of this angel, waves of emotion washed over me as I reflect upon all that was and is and should have been.   Disbelief still seems to take precedence over all other thoughts; disbelief that she really is gone, that she has not come back and now perhaps most of all, that she has spent more holiday seasons in heaven than she did on earth.  I have lived two years, two months and twelve days with the ever present aching, throbbing awareness that my beautiful little one has gone before me, to a place that my mind cannot begin to wrap around.    I wonder:  How can it be?  How can it be that it has been so long?  How can it be that we have survived this?  And in response, this song filters through the fog of pain and sadness. 

I know that, in reality, Laynee is not an Angel but a Saint.   Regardless, of what we call her, the song reminds me that, even though sometimes she feels so far away, she has been with us.  She has been there praying over us and somehow I believe that she has helped us to get through the darkness that has followed her own earthly death. 

Our sweet angel baby who charmed us in this life, has been constantly by our side. She has done the work of our father and led us through this deluge of suffering, caring for us and loving us from her place in heaven. 

I Love you Sweet Baby. 
I LOVE you and miss you so much

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Long Lost Feeling

This week I felt a stir of something deep inside of me.  It was a feeling so long dormant that it was barely recongnizable, a feeling I never thought I would feel again.  It is a feeling that signifies a measure, regardless of how small, of healing.  

As I was folding laundry, I was thinking of Christmas baking with the kids.  Jamee would be coming in on the train soon, and Jade and I have plans for many delightful holiday treats.  Kiss cookies, cutouts, caramels, and a few new treats are all in the plans.  While I enjoy eating the traditional holiday treats, time spent in the kitchen with the kids and carols, flour, frosting, laughter, and mounds of dirty dishes brings far more pleasure than the indulgence of our creations.

These thoughts of what is soon to come brought true and genuine excitement.  It was not the bittersweet feeling of joy mixed with sorrow.  It was excitement in it's purest form.  For the first time in years, I am excited.  Excited for Christmas and all that it represesents, in spite of the fact that my sweet baby girl will once again be missing this year.  Her stocking, void of brightly wrapped gifts, hangs limp from her stocking holder, a reminder of the love and joy that one little girl brought to our home.  Angel ornaments hang from our tree, symbolic of each Christmas spent without her.    I desperately wish that we had our almost five year old here to add her own personality to this year's holiday baking, to lick the bowls and to eat more than her share of goodies.  Still, I know that even without her the rest of us will be together.  There will be love, joy, and new memories made this holiday season.    It will not be the same but it will be good. 

God is good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

With Thanksgiving

This morning as I lay listening to the quietness of my house, before the world came alive with a new day, I reflected on this season of thanksgiving.  Our third thanksgiving without Laynee. I felt a great sense of sadness as I realized that, as of tomorrow, we will have spent more thanksgivings without her than we had with her. Our last Thanksgiving with her is one that I will cherish forever, I am grateful that it was spent away from home, on the beach,  so that it does not run together with all of the other Thanksgiving holidays.  Laynee was beautiful then, as always.

The sadness remains, deep and profound, but today I choose to be thankful for every moment that we had with her.  Every smile, every hug, every beautiful moment with her was a treasure.  Perhaps most of all, I am thankful the life lessons, the love lessons that only Laynee could teach us. 

Happy Thanksgiving Laynee Grace.  I love you sweet baby girl.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

So Great A Loss

Yesterday we had the priviledge of having 2 little friends come visit us overnight.  My friend, RK, whom I met through this blog, and her husband are celebrating their 11 year anniversary.  Since they would be driving right past us on their way from their home in St Louis, they dropped Braska and Kinlee off at our house.  What a delight they have been.  Still, I have to admit that, as expected, their presence brought a few stabs of pain. 

Braska has Down Sydrome just like Laynee and while she is her own unique little princess, there are some things that remind me so much of my sweet girl.  Braska and Kinlee both have plenty of energy but I have to say that the two combined do not rival Laynee in the energy category.  Her uncle Matt once compared her to a tornado and, well, I think he hit it right on the head.  Braska struggles a little with some feeding issues which was definitely not a problem for Laynee,  the girl could eat us out of house and home. Where Laynee's strongest point was her development of motor skills, Braska seems to excel cognitively.  The similarities between the two come in very tiny little glimpses.Certain words spoken and the soft, husky sound of Braska's voice seems so familiar.   Occassionaly, the tilt of her head, the jutting out of her chin or the upward roll of her eyes brings a breathtaking reminder of our little girl. 

A touch of sadness comes at the realization that there are many things I had forgotten about having little people in the house.  Things like how many times a day potty breaks are needed, how important "snacks" and drinks are,  how sweaty one can become when dressing a moving body, and how utterly impossible it is to get a decent picture of little ones.  Still, there are many things I did not forget like the sweet smell of a freshly bathed child and the luscious feel of a soft pajama clad body. 

The single most profound thought that this weekend has brought to mind is that of the enormity of loss that our Brock has suffered as a result of Laynee's death.  I realized last evening that in my efforts to deal with all of the trauma that each member of our family has experienced, it's been easy to shove aside the pure, unimaginable loss that not only Jim and I, but our children have experienced.  Suddenly, in seeing his interaction with Braska and Kinlee, I found myself staring into the face of what was, what should have been, but of what is not. 

Laynee adored her big brother, Brock, and the affection was mutual.  Brock played endlessly with her.  Our home and the ages of our other children is such that many evenings are spent with only Brock and Moise at home with Jim and I.  While Moise is precious to all of us, his level of interaction with others is minimal.  Moise really does not "play" with anyone.  So it is that Brock often finds himself feeling rather bored.  A deep sadness settled over me as I watched him  making the most of every moment with Braska and Kinlee.   His laughter rang throughout the house as he played with them.  Before this weekend I had never really stopped to think about this aspect of the enourmous loss Brock has experienced. 

Time moves on, life has taken on a new sense of normal, but the magnitude of loss continues to reveal itself at the most unexpected times, in the most unexpected ways.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Saints Rejoice, the People Mourn

Dear Laynee,

Yesterday a new friend came to heaven to live there with you.  I wonder if you have met her yet.  I suspect that maybe you have.  I am pretty sure that when these angels, who are just like you on earth, get to heaven you are right there to show them all around.  I know that you and all of the other saints and angels in heaven are rejoicing to have Maddie there with you.  But down here, for those of us who are left, it hurts so much to say good bye not knowing when we will ever see you again.   So while you and Maddie are dancing around heaven, please watch over Maddie's family for they are going to hurt for a very long time.  Stay especially close to Maddie's mommy and brother, whom I know will feel like Maddie's accident was all their fault.  Those of us here are just people and we make mistakes, sometimes really big ones, but when the price for you mistakes is so high.........well, it just never stops hurting.  So help Maddie watch over them sweet Laynee Grace.  Help them get through this new path of sorrow that they are on.  

I love you and miss you so much.  I want so badly to hold you close to me today. 

Laynee and Maddie
Friends Forever and Ever

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Happy Fall

Happy fall sweet baby girl .  We carved pumpkins today and Dani carved one just for you. It has a sweet happy face and she carved a big letter "J" for Jalayne on the side.  We will take it to put on your grave tomorrow.  Paris and Sienna were tonight too.  You would have loved playing with them.  They picked some flowers from your garden.  I didn't think you would mind.  We miss you Laynee Grace.

I really love the picture of all the girls here tonight
 but I just can't help thinking that Laynee should be sitting right there
 on the other side of Danielle. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Too Much

I come here often and post prayer requests of those who are in need of prayer.  Obviously I do not post about everyone who is in need of prayer, but there are some things that affect me more deeply than others.  I really do not try to figure out why some things stir up more of my own painfull feelings of missing Laynee than others. News of drowning death always, always bring a sick feeling to my stomach.  Having experienced it, I am drawn to news of such accidents and often people in real life or in blog world will bring such things to my attention.  While it is painful, I feel that I can relate more specifically to those whose children drown.  I can pray in a more specific way for these families than I can for anyone else.  There are several women, whose children died around the same time as Laynee, with whom I feel a particularly close bond.  We are at virtually the same place in our grief journey and these women make me feel somehow less alone.

This morning my heart leapt into my throat upon hearing of a tragedy that has befallen one of these dear women, yet again.  There is only one thought that occupies my mind.  "This.......THIS is just too much!!!!"
My friend Joany  said good bye to her beautiful daughter, Carly, just months after Laynee died.  Carly also had Down Syndrome and I picture them dancing all over heaven.  Last night there was a fire in the George home and their son Brad joined his baby sister in heaven.  Joany's daughter, Ashleigh recently left home to serve in the Navy. 

My brain cannot wrap around this.  There are no words, nothing to say, nothing to do.  This......This is just too much. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Rush of Memories

I should have seen it coming.  I should have expected that going into the hospital for Moise's EEG yesterday would bring back memories.  I should have, but I didn't.  It never even crossed my mind.  The memories came unbidden and unexpected.  They were a combination of horrid and beautiful memories.  They took my breath away and left me feeling weak and heavy hearted, as though my spirit writhes within me from the endless pain.

Needless to say, having gone most of the night without sleep, I was exhausted as Moise and I made our way to the hopital.  The morning was a bit of a struggle as I tried to keep him awake.  I had him in the front passenger seat so that I could keep him from falling asleep during the 20 minute drive.  As I rounded the curving street that goes toward the parking deck the Emergency Department with it's large red lettered EMERGENCY came into clear view.  My heart pounded and my throat tightened as I memories flooded me.  I'd been there before.  I had run beheath those large red letters, through the sliding doors, behind stretchers carrying, first Moise and then Jalayne.  Both of those times I knew that the life of my child was, at the very best, uncertain.  With Moise, the outcome was good, he took another breath and then another and one day he came back home.  With Jalayne, the outcome was every parent's worst nightmare.  She never took another breath and I walked out those same doors, under that same red sign, without my daughter.  Just beyond those red letters is the place where I went from being just a mother, to mother of a dead child.  It was there, beyond the red letters, that this thing called grief became a permanent part of our life. 

My legs were heavy, my breathing labored, my senses heightened as I walked down the long familiar corridor to the hospital.  Again, I remembered.  I remembered the seemingly endless trips to be by Moise's side as he fought so hard to survive.  There, on a window ledge, was the spot where Jim and I filled our minister in on the truth, that there wasn't much hope for Moise.  And there, down that hall was the room where Steve prayed for our son.  I remembered carrying my sweet little boy into and then back out of that place too many times to count.  My mind went back to the day I carried a beautiful newborn girl with almond shaped eyes,  floppy ears and straight lines across her palm, swaddled in pink blankets, down the hall and out of that hospital.  I recalled the relief at carrying that same child out again, this time with the addition of  a pacemaker in her tiny beating heart.  With aching heart, I knew the beauty of  "I'm taking my baby home"  and the horror of  "my baby is gone".

The day before Moise's EEG, someone called to pre-register him.  As she hung up she gave me directions to where I needed to go.  "Take these elevators to the sixth floor and we are on the left."  I mentally filed the information away with the thought that I've been there before.  I never stopped to consider why had been to this particular part of the hospital.  That is, until the moment when the elevator doors slid open.  My heart slammed in my chest cavity upon seeing the dark blue carpet.  I knew, without really knowing, that around the corner would be a large fish tank with bright orange fish.  Yes, I'd been here one other time, for Laynee's hearing evaluation. 

That day is not a day that I would have thought was stored in the pages of my memory.  I never thought about it again, not when she was alive, and not since she died.  But the memories came with such vivid clarity that they seemed to suck the air from my lungs.  I could see her in my mind, black leggings, red and white top, shiny little black shoes.  I even remember the tiny red earrings sparkling in her ears.   She was enthralled with the fish and it was there, on that day, that I taught her the sign for "fish."  There was an older woman sitting in the chairs across from us who was completely dazzled by my little girl and her cheerful ways.  She laughed at how Laynee lifted her leg straight up in the air (as only a child with Down Syndrome could) to climb onto the chair next to the old woman.  Laynee sailed through her hearing test and as we left the audiologist stood at the end of the hall while Laynee smiled and waved at her until she was out of sight.  The memories, though stunningly beautiful, washed over me like mighty waves as I struggled for composure.  The tears threatend but I fought them back. Not here, not now.  I reigned in my emotions, folding them carefully and tucking them away as I remember my mother folding her finest linen tablecloths, neatly, carefully and out of sight, brought out only at appropriate times. 

 I laid beside Moise as he slept through his EEG and  the memories kept coming to mind.  He smelled like I remember both he and Laynee smelling in the hospital. I was shocked by how clear these memories that I had forgotten were.  Once again, I found myself in that place where pain defies explanation.  I held my son close and ached for my daughter.  All the while there was one thought that seemed to scream inside my head.  It's the thought that has gone, like a mantra, through my head for more than two years.   I WANT MY BABY BACK!!!!!!

Friday, September 30, 2011

We Can Do Hard Things

Today Jim and I celebrate 21 years of marriage. I'll be honest, I have no visions of flowers, chocolates and fine dining dancing around in my head.   Jim and I have ushered in our anniversary in a rather unusual way.  Today Moise is scheduled for an EEG (sleep study)  in hopes of getting to the root of some strange things that have been going on with him.  So it is, that on the eve and very early hours of our anniversary, Jim and I have tag teamed to keep our very sleepy 10 year old awake.  Jim took the late night hours while I am taking the early. We do this per doctor's orders,  in hopes that he will sleep for his sleep study.  As far as tonight goes, our own lack of sleep, coupled with a long, out of the ordinary day for Moise and I, is probably not the best recipe for a romantic anniversary.

As I sit here typing in the wee morning hours, big black eyes staring at me in complete bewilderment over the fact that I will not allow sleep to overtake him, I reflect over the years of our marriage.  Twenty one years ago we were young (only 20 and 21 years old), crazy in love, and idealistic.  We had hopes and dreams and were completely unsuspecting.   We had ideas of what would be our life.  Those ideas missed the mark of reality by a long shot.  Children were definitely in our plans, but disabilities and child death never even entered the scope of our imagination. 

I suppose that we entertained thoughts of having a strong marriage but we never had a clue of just how strong we would have to be together.  Sticking together then was dramatically different than what it is today. 
I won't pretend to have a perfect marriage.  We don't. We have weaknesses, character flaws, communication issues and things that drive us crazy about each other.  Still, tonight as I type, weariness oozing from my mind and body, there is one thing that stands out above all else.  Jim and I have learned that we can do hard things. 

I marvel at the awareness that 21 years ago, as Jim and I pledged our lives to one another, our Lord knew exactly what was in store for us. He knew that ours would not be a typical marriage facing typical challenges.. He has not been surprised by a single one of Moise's problems or the wearisome effects that they have on us. For him, Laynee's accident was not unexpected or devastating.  He is not surprised by the fact that our marriage has not been strengthened by great success or achievement, but by challenges so great that words defy explanation.  He knew that the unspeakable pain of child death would bind us together in a way that nothing else has ever been able to do. He knew that, together, Jim and I would have to do hard things, the very hardest of hard.

Happy Anniversary, My Love

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hope Blooms

This post serves two purposes.   First, it is granting Jamee's request that we post pictures of Laynee's garden, which is positively bursting with color right now.  Jamee is the only one of my children who has ever really shared my love for gardening.  She would, without question, prefer to be in the garden over inside cleaning or cooking.  Secondly, this post is to share the hope that Laynee's garden brings to me.

When I think of gardening and flowers, I think spring and summer.   I've never really thought much about fall being a time for flowers.  But around the time of Laynee's Heaven Day anniversary, her garden seemed to come alive.  Every plant has exploded into it's most glorious state.   I know that this is due, primarily to the selection of plants. Since it was planted in the fall, most people chose to bring fall flowers.  The color serves as a reminder to me that Laynee, though she left us one early fall day, is very much alive.  Her spirit lives and though we cannot see her, she resides in glorious splendor.  Though we are in a season of living without her here, one day we will see her in all her glory.

Waiting for that day!!!!

The mums in her garden are easily the largest I have ever seen.
The church was full of mums for her visitation and funeral.

The climbing clematis on her trellis is a brilliant white with the
sweetest scent.
Jamee, notice the new walkway border the
Russ just finished.  All that's left is the ground cover
between the stepping stones.  

Our neighboring land owner, and beloved friend and mentor
of Jim's had this tree planted in our yard in Laynee's memory.  The
last two years it's blossom's opened on exactly September 7. 

Love you, Laynee Grace.

Sunday, September 11, 2011



I awoke this morning with heavy heart, not for my own grief but for the grief of thousands of families who lost so  much in the attacks on 9-11. Perhaps the fact that it comes so soon after the anniversary of Laynee's accident makes me even more aware than I would have been otherwise.  While none of us will ever froget the horrific events of that day, I know that the families of the victims were thrown into a life long path of grief and sorrow.  I know that when untimely death strikes a family, the pain lasts a lifetime. 

All of us remember that day in great detail.  It was a day that made history.  It was the greatest devastation that our generation has ever witnessed.  It was a devastation made worse by it's nature, not an act of God, but a direct act of hate and violence against thousands of innocent and unsuspecting human beings.  My heart aches for the those whose hearts feel freshly wounded today.  Those who have, by the grace of God, gone on but are forever changed.  For many of these families, the term "lost a loved one" is truly appropriate as many bodies were never recovered.  These families did not have the closure of saying good bye and a proper burial or cremation.  There are those grieving today who lost sons and daughters and life's natural cycle was interrupted.  Others lost fathers, mothers, husbands, wives and some lost multiple loved ones.  Some struggle with Post Traumatic Stress and will never be the same as a result of having witnessed something so unnatural and heinous.  The enormity of this event and it's effects, not only on our country but on the entire world, is too much for the human mind to comprehend. 

As for myself, I, like everyone else, clearly recall that day's events.  Moise was only 9 months old but much like a newborn.  After months of being in the hospital, we were finally home with him and trying to adjust back to a normal life.  Brock and a little boy I was babysitting were here playing in the living room.  My friend Ruth had stopped by briefly, though I cannot remember why.  Jim called and told me to "turn on the TV because the Twin Towers have been hit by planes"  I really could not comprehend what he was saying.  Okay so planes hit the Twin Towers, so........?  Jim's voice has a sense of urgency and he said "it looks like a terrorist attack."  As I turned on the tv I still wasn't really getting what was so big about this, my mind was so focused on being mommy and the survival of my youngest son.  But then I saw.  I saw what "planes crashing into the Twin Towers" meant.  I saw that without a doubt this was a deliberate act. I saw the ripple effect of the impact on the towers, the impact on the entire nation.   As I sat there on my knees with my baby in my arms and a little boy flanking each side,  in front of the TV, I watched as first one and then another Tower, buckled and fell, taking thousands of lives.  The two little boys watched my face closely with concern as tears ran down my face.  My my sister and her husband, an American airlines pilot, were moving into the house across the street. I thanked God for his saftey.   I stayed glued to the tv that day, my emotions raging between anger, fear and sorrow. 

It was a day that is etched into the minds of all but for the families it is the day that their lives crumbled right along with the towers.  My small human mind cannot begin to know how to specifically pray for these families.  So I just pray, lifting them up and knowing that we have a powerful God who knows the needs of each one.  Our God was not surprised by the events of 9-11.  He was grieved, I am certain, but not surprised.  And somehow, though sometimes it's hard to understand, I know that God is good.........all the time.



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Forever Love

My Dear Sweet Laynee,
The last few days have been difficult for many of us here on earth.  It seems almost impossible to grasp the reality that it has been two years since you went to be with Jesus.  Two years since we got to hold you, kiss you or hear your sweet bubbling laughter.  I thought of you all day today.  Sometimes I would think of you and smile, other times I just couldn't keep the tears from falling.  Whether I am smiling or crying there is a pain in my heart that never stops hurting. 

Today I visited you at your grave three times.  First Jade and I stopped by, then Joyce and I stopped on our walk.  But then I went again because I needed to be alone with you there for a little while.  As I sat there in the grass, looking at all the beautiful flowers and gifts around your grave, I couldn't help noticing that many hearts were broken the day you went to heaven.  Many people hurt today because many people love you. 

Sometimes my own heart feels overwhelmed by how much I love you. Perhaps my whole purpose in being your mommy was to show you what it means to be love.   I think that I loved you even before you came into existance.  The first moment I saw you, you were loved.  When we brought you home and the kids gathered around for their first glimpse of you, you were loved.   All those nights of sitting and rocking you in the chair, I love you.  It was because you were loved that you endured surgery on your tiny little heart.   Out of love, we sang to you and read books to you and danced with you in our arms.  Love bathed you and dressed you and combed your hair.  It was with love that I made your large bowl of rice cereal and strawberries every morning.  Love was with you when you wandered out of sight and into the pool.   It was love that tried to breathe life back into you and every compression upon your chest was filled with love.  Love followed behind the ambulance.   A multitude of love fell upon knees of prayer for you that night.  Tears of love fell upon your silent, peaceful face.  Love went with you when your body was placed beneath the earth and love said good bye one last time.   Because of this great love, pain is etched into our souls.  Love remembers the way you smell, the sound of your laughter and the light of your smile.  Love both laughs and cries at your memory.  For two years, love has remained and has not diminished.  Out of love, we ache for you and long for heaven.  From the very beginning, til the very end, and far, far beyond, you are loved.  Love never fails, love never ends. Forever Love.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Life Is Not Fair.

It seems unfair that Laynee died on a holiday. Not only was it a holiday but it was a holiday that does not fall on the same day of the month each year. So it is that the calendar has us remembering the anniversary of her death, not once but twice.

It is obvious by the content of the cards and emails that we have received, most people connect Laynee's accident to Labor Day. And they are right. They are absolutely right. I was constantly reminded of that dreadful day yesterday. As evening came upon us, I found myself reliving the horror of that Labor Day two years ago. Sadness settled around me and devastation took my breath away. As I stepped into the shower last night I had a sudden memory of doing that same thing late at night on Labor Day '09. I recall thinking how inane the concept of showering was in the face of my daughter's death. The duties and activities of life had lost meaning and significance in the span of one nightmarish evening.

Today I spent the day suspended somewhere between remembering the day after she died and the day before she died. In essence, today is both. It is the day after Labor Day but also the day before her Heaven Day.   The seventh of each month always brings painful memories.  With or without Labor Day, Laynee left us on September 7th.  It was that day,  sometime between 6:15 pm and 7:25 pm that our life became divided into "before" and "after."

This matter is trivial.   I know that.  Still, somehow it feels like another twist of the knife in my already wounded and hurting soul. Whenever I think of something being unfair,  I am reminded of the words of one of my college instructors.  The words were spoken many years ago, but left a lasting impact within my 19 year old mind and it rings clear to me today.  She said "Life is not fair, but life will go on."   When I ponder the idea of something being unfair, I look to the cross and there I find proof that, indeed ..........Life is not fair.

The problem of expecting to live in a perfectly fair world
 is that there is no grace in that world,
for grace is grace, only when it is undeserved. 
Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised 

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Story Without End

It seems my life is filled with wishing these days.  Wishing is good but not when the wishes we wish are impossible. I wish that things were different, that I could change the way things are.  I wish that I could turn back the hands of time and do Labor Day 2009 all over again. 

Where Laynee is concerned, there is no end to the things that I wish for but lately it seems that one of the things I wish for most is that I could lay beside her in what would be a big girl bed by now and tell her stories.  I can only imagine how nice it would feel to have her tucked into the crook of my arm as I tell her stories.  She would smell like lotion and powder from her bath.  The sound of my voice and my continuous stroking over her hair would lull her into a deep slumber.  I would not take for granted,the steady rise and fall of her chest as she breathes deep.

Tonight as I was walking with Moise it occurred to me that if I could tell her a story tonight it would go something like this:

Once upon a time there was a mommy.  When this mommy was younger, she always wanted to have 6 children but she only had 4.   Then a little boy came and she became his mommy.  This little boy caused a lot of work for the mommy and she didn't think too much about having 6 children anymore.   Even though she didn't think about having more children, she always felt like something was missing or incomplete.  This mommy didn't know it, but she needed another little girl, a very special little girl.  Then one day, when it was very cold outside, a little girl was born and this mommy, who needed another little girl, became her mommy.  The little girl was happy and so beautiful.  In fact, she was the prettiest little girl in the whole wide world.  The little girl made the mommy and the daddy and the brothers and sisters very happy.  She was funny and made her family laugh all the time.  The mommy thought her family was complete with all of the 6 children.  But one day, angels came and took the beautiful little girl to heaven.  Just like that the little girl went away from the mommy. Just like that, the family was incomplete once again.    The mommy was so very sad, she missed the little girl so much.  She knew where the little girl was, but she couldn't see her or hear her.  She ws sad because there is  something missing again.  The mommy knows that now it will be imcomplete for a very long time.  No matter what, if her children get married, even if she becomes a grandma, there will always be something missing without the prettiest little girl.  But someday, when the mommy gets to heaven, it will all be complete again.  Someday the mommy and the pretty little girl, and the daddy and brothers and sisters are going to live happily ever after.  This story is a special story because it does not say "The End"  It does not end until the mommy gets to see the little girl in heaven and then.........it will be the beginning. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Final Days

Yesterday, as I checked the 10 day forecast, I received a hard kick to the middle.  Ten days takes us to September 7th.  My mind traveled back two years, trying desperately to remember the details of the last ten days.  Panic grips me as I realize that I can't remember.  I know nearly every detail of her last three days.  But ten??  I don't know how her final ten days with us were spent.

 I can remember a few things that I know happened.  One afternoon she had what appeared to be a stomach virus.  Grant and I had taken her to Walmart and I had just begun to put things in our cart when she grew pale and started coughing a little as though she would retch.  We immediately left the store, groceries could wait.  As I carried her to the car I heard the rumbling of her intestines and though she did not retch, what came out the other end was not pleasant. Later that evening we chuckled as she stood, legs apart, with a bewildered look on her face as her intestines worked again. I know that I called one of my young employees and she agreed to cover the coffee shop while I stayed home and enjoyed some rare moments of Laynee sitting still and snuggling on my lap.  I also know that on Monday, 7 days before she left us, she dazzled everyone at a cross country meet.  Her final three days are memorable because they were out of the ordinary, a weekend get away.  I will forever be grateful for how clearly those days are etched into the pages of my memory. 

I wish that I could say that on this day two years ago we did this or that.  But I can't.  We were busy living, never imagining for a fraction of a second that we did not have many more days with her.  We lived and I know that we loved but those are only generalities.  I can't recall if we danced in the kitchen, how many times we walked over to see the hee hee's,  or if she stuck her tongue on the mirror in her froggy book.  It seems absurd, hideous, inexcusable that I cannot recall the last ten days of her short little life.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Just Away"

Last week we moved our first child, Jamee, into her dorm at Saint Louis University, where she begins a new, exciting and maybe a little scary chapter in her life.   She will be studying Nuclear Medicine Technology and will be running with the SLU Billikens' Cross Country and Track teams.  We've had a few teary phone calls from her, as we knew we would. Stepping out of the safe, secure bubble that is Tremont, Illinois, where family resides at nearly every corner, will not be easy.

As her mother, it is difficult to be away from her.  I want everything to be smooth sailing and easy, though I know that wouldn't really be best.  I want to take all of her fears and uncertainties and cast them out the window. Unrealistic as it may be, I want to know that everything is going to be perfect for her.  It is painful, yet beneath all of the emotions, I know that all of this is normal. As parents, we spend 18 years preparing our children for such a time as this.  We teach values and responsibility so that one day they are capable of leaving home and surviving without our constant supervision.

After Laynee died we received several cards that had the quote "she is just away."  With no disrespect to anyone who may have sent these cards, I must say that this was not my favorite thing to read.  I understand that this refers to our loved ones being in heaven where they are not gone from us forever.  It refers to the hope we have through salvation.  Knowing that those cards of purest motive, I still could never feel comfortable with those words.  Jamee is "just away" Laynee is not. 

In contrast to the way that Laynee left us, Jamee's leaving home is natural and even expected.  It is what we want for our children.  Every young person chooses a different course after they graduate from high school.  Jamee's course has taken her two hours from home. We spent several days preparing her for this move.   Now that she is there, we support her in whatever ways that we can.  We can sense how and when she needs us and act accordingly.  I can hear her voice, talk to her on the phone and in the span of one conversation, hear the apprehension in her voice turn to the strength that we know Jamee possesses.  I can encourage her and tell her that as she makes new friends it will get better and she will feel less alone.   Always I know that if she really needs me, I can be there for her in 2 hours.  With today's technology I can skype and see her beautiful face.  In seconds, I can send words of encouragement via text message.  Care packages will be sent to brighten her day and remind her that she is dearly loved.  While I know all too well that life can be taken in a moment, as long as there is breath, there is hope that I will see her, touch her, embrace her again very soon.  Thanksgiving and Christmas will not be lonely without her, for she will be with us. I can hear my name come from her lips and speak her name directly to her.  I don't have to wonder what she is doing in her new home because she can tell me.  I knew that yesterday she ran for time,  she met one on one with her coach.  Last night she went to her first soccer game.  Today she is attending church with our very dear friend.  I know all of these things because she is just away.  She is growing and learning from this experience.  She will face many difficult days and sometimes there will be tears but she will mature in them.  In the meantime, I pray with a constant fervor, asking my Lord Jesus to hold her close to him, to guide her footsteps and her heart.  I rejoice when I hear her say that she has spent much time in God's Word and that she appreciates her family so much.  I know by what she tells me that, already, she is being a shining light for Jesus through her actions and her choices.  I know that she is just away.

Perhaps all of this can be summed up by simply saying that because she is "just away" she still needs me.  For two years my soul has writhed against the lack of being needed by my beautiful little girl.  To send my child to college is part of the natural, onward progression of life.  To bury my child is utterly unnatural, an antithesis to the way things should be.  Jalayne has gone to where I am not needed.  I cannot hear her voice, see her smile or pray that she makes good choices.  I cannot do anything that a mother does for her child because she is not "just away"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Friends With History

Yesterday I had the beautiful oppurtunity to spend the day with one of my dearest friends. Rachel and I became friends years ago when we were first married.  Jim and I, Rachel and her husband, Glenn, and 4 other couples that attended church together formed a group that we referred to as our "Potluck Group." On a regular basis we would take turns hosting the other couple at our homes for a potluck dinner.  The frequency with which we were together built lasting friendships.  Together we learned the art of cooking, often among some rather comical "flops."   Given the personilities of the men in our group, one thing was always a guarantee......laughter.  We shared countless hilarious moments and made priceless memories.

This group is and always will be special as they are a very important part of the early years of our marriage.  All 6 couples were married around the same time and are close in age.  We were there for each other during job changes, home relocation, pregnancies and raising of our children.   Most of all, we shared a deep faith in our Lord Jesus. 

  In addition to much fun, laughter and faith, we shared in each others struggles.   As I look back, I stand in awe of the depth of struggles that we shared in a few short years, all before any of us ever reached our thirties.  We rallied around Tim and Ruth when 2 year old, Levi, suffered a heart attack and was diagnosed with Kawasakis Disease.  We wept with Doug and  Jill as they experienced multiple miscarriages and then rejoiced when they carried and delivered healthy twin boys.  We cheered Kevin and Jody through months of bed rest to deliver their own healthy twin girls.  Though at a loss for words, we quietly lifted up Glenn and Rachel, with love and prayers when they said good bye to their beautiful Clark at just 3 days old.  Jim and I felt the love and support of all these dear friends when Moise came into our lives, through his illness and later his devastating diagnosis of Cytomegalovirus.  As a whole, we took some mighty bumps and bruises together.  We weathered some of lifes greatest storm being lifted up by each other's prayers.

Our special little group began to break up as first, Glenn and Rachel took a job and moved to Minnesota.  Soon after, Doug and Jill found employment and moved to Arizona.  The marriage of the sixth couple in our group, sadly, ended in divorce.  Life happened and our little group was no longer a group, but the love and memories and fondness that we feel for one another remains. 

Every time I was pregnant, Rachel was pregnant also and we waddled through it together.   Her Clark was born weeks after Brock and my heart could not imagine the pain of losing a child.  We sent our children to kindergarten together and now we are sending them to college.  On Saturday, together, we walked through the cemetary which holds the bodies of both of our babies.   Together we stood there looking at the names on the markers....Clark Eward Steiner would be 13 and Jalayne Grace Holmes would be 4. 

I have other friends who have lost children, but with Rachel it is different.  I was there when Rachel's baby died.  I saw her grief and sorrow and sadness.  I remember feeling sad when we were together and Brock was growing, healthy and happy, while her heart was broken.  I remember her telling me how her arms ached to hold her baby.  I was a part of her history and she is a part of mine.  Though I do not remember much of the days after Laynee's accident, I do know that Rachel called me from her home in Minnesota.  I have no idea what was said, only that I heard her voice.  The next day, all the way from Minnesota, Rachel was here. 

Rachel and I do not pretend to know exactly what the other has experienced.  I have no clue what it's like to never bring my newborn home from the hospital, she has no idea what it's like to have a 2 year old taken.  However, both of us know the true meaning of the word devastation.   We know what it is to have God say "no" to the greatest pleading of our souls.   We both feel deep longing for heaven and that day we will hold our babies again.  Rachel did not flinch as I shared my heart with her, telling of the areas in which my faith has faltered in this current storm. 

I only have the pleasure of seeing Rachel about once a year.  When I see her, the time and distance between us melts away in one single heartbeat.  I have many dear friends whom I love and cherish but there is something different and irreplacable about a friend with whom history is made. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Forget Her Not

Tonight the pain and sadness of missing my little girl weigh even heavier upon me than usual.  Sleep evades me as my thoughts keep returning to her and the wide, cavernous hole that remains in her abscence.   I have no explanation for nights such as this and have long ago quit trying to figure out why some days or nights are more painful than others.  Tonight it could be the date, yesterday marked another month without her.  It could be that today was a particularly trying day where Moise is concerned and I miss the peace and contentment that holding her always brought to me at the end of days such as this.  A host of other things could be contributing to tonight's sadness or it could be, and most likely IS, simply that this is just the way it will be.  Some nights the pain will cut deeper than other nights. 

As I lay awake tonight I kept thinking one particular thought, which came to me yesterday as we stood in the line waiting for our final run, as a group, at the St Jude Benefit.  There were so many people there, all for one purpose.  Yet, in my soul, I knew that there were those among us whose passion for this effort runs deeper than anyone could ever imagine.  These were the parents whose children have fought and suffered because of childhood cancer. They are parents who raise their fists in protest at the ugliness of child illness and death.   Some of these parents probably knew victory over this disease in their child's life and want other parents to know that same victory.  Others are left with that ever present hole and recoil at the thought of any other parent living with the same grief.  Regardless of the circumstances, those parents were there, I just didn't know which ones they were. The stories of heartache were written on the hearts of many but I didn't know those stories. In the same way, there were few among the thousands that could possibly know that, while I cannot begin to understand the pain of watching my child suffer, I do know the grief of saying good bye far too soon.  I spent the entire day running alongside of people who had no idea that we have lost a child.

 Laynee's is a story that, as time goes on, will be told with less and less frequency.   As new events and experiences fill up our lives and ultimately, identify us, Jalayne Grace Holmes and her memory will begin to fade into history. New acquaintances may never know that we have 6 children, 3 daughters, a little girl with Down Syndrome or that we have a child, our daughter and sister, who died suddenly and tragically. I suspect that, even now, there are people with whom I work, those I did not know until this year, who do not know about Laynee. As Jamee begins to enter into the college phase of her life, most of the people she comes in contact with will never know the story of her littlest sister. As I have accompanied her to meet with some of her potential college advisors, I have heard her tell, when asked, that she has 5 siblings. The rest of the story remains untold. As a general rule, in everyday conversation, we do not make a point to tell others about this pain of ours. So it is, that as we move along with the steady progression of life, Laynee's impact on this world will become lessened.

While those close to us, perhaps even all who faithfully read here, will never forget that Jalayne was and is a huge part of our life, there are those who will forget.  Though it seems impossible that anyone, regardless to what capacity they know us, could forget such an event, my eyes were opened to this probability a few months ago. In December, I wrote a post about the foster child that lived and died with us when I was a teen. After writing that post, I was amazed by the number of people who told me, "I had forgotten about that," still more people never knew about it. This has been a heavy reality for me ever since. My mind cannot fathom that anyone who knew even a glimmer of my little girl, could forget her. However, I suspect that somewhere, sometime, somehow, someone will forget.

I know that, in the big picture, this really does not matter. Laynee has and will continue to touch each and every life that she was meant to touch. The fact that some may forget or never know about her does not make her short life any less meaningful. Those who love and support us will never forget. I know that with absolute certainty. Perhaps the thing that bothers me most about this is knowing that anyone who does not know about the priceless treasure of Jalayne's life or our horrific encounter with grief, can never truly know our hearts.  While I do not want to be forever remembered as "the one who's child drowned," neither do I want anyone to forget her.  I want everyone to remember, to treasure, to cherish her. 

                        Please do not forget the prettiest girl

her pure love

her complete happiness

her utter joy

her perfect simplicity

her stunning beauty

                            REMEMBER HER ALWAYS