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.

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

Friday, August 5, 2011

St Jude

Please pray for Jamee and I and the many other St Jude runners that will be running this weekend.   We will be running tomorrow but many are already running, some coming all the way from Memphis, TN.  All runners will be coming into Peoria tomorrow afternoon.  Memphis is expected to arrive sometime around 5pm.   Pray for safety on the roads and in the heat.  Most of all, pray for the St Jude children and their families, those who have fought and won, those who fought and are now in heaven, and those who are still fighting. 

Jamee and I will personally be keeping Nicholaus, Lexi, Brock, and Jada close to our hearts.  And though I have never met them, I will also be thinking of Zoey and Emily, who have fought and thus far, been triumphant over childhood cancer. 

Love and Blessings to all

Monday, August 1, 2011

It Goes Without Saying.....

  Nothing will ever be the same, ever

Love you, sweet baby.