Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in Heaven?

My little angel,

Just wanted to say that we miss you so much. Got moved in to our new house, and its amazing. You would have absolutely loved it. My thinks that she is big stuff now and apparently doesn't have to follow any rules. She is such a big girl and has been sleeping in her big girl bed all week now. We are so proud of her. I know that she misses you so much. Especially at bed time, when she doesn't have her big sis there to cuddle with. We have finally gotten back into our nightly routine, and it is going great so far. I wish you could hear and see how smart your little sister is becoming. Thank you for being such an awesome big sister for her to follow and look up to.

Speaking of big sister. My is getting close to have a little brother (or sister) to hold, teach, change diapers, and take care of. We cant wait to see how amazing she will be. Mommy has gotten a "ripe" (hey its better than saying big) belly on her. I don't see how that little thing has any room to move. Its only going to be a few more weeks. I hope that you get to check in on us from time to time. Its hard to see where we have come from, and at the same time we are truly thankful and amazed how God has blessed us these past sixteen months. Its going to be different having a baby around the house again, and its going to be different being a four person family again. Although we really consider ourselves a six member family with two kids in Heaven. Even though we never got to meet one , he/she is still part of our family.

Kind of at a confusing spot right now. It seems like there aren't as many people that talk about you anymore. Its not that they have forgotten you, but I think its that they slowly heal and the fresh memories become older and older. To tell you the truth Lei, It seems like so long ago that you were here. We want so badly to keep your memory fresh and alive, but we don't know what to do, where to turn. We pray for opportunities to share your lifesong and our story with others, but it just doesn't happen enough, near enough.

I still think about you every day. As I'm sure that I will for the rest of my life, I can only imagine how big you would be. I see your friends and how tall they are, and I just cant help but to wonder all of the things they we have missed out on. Its only normal I think, and I will never be able to see kids your age and not wonder. Its hard to believe that you would be in the middle of your first grad year. It breaks our hearts so much not knowing what you would have been like. Starting to see some kids close to your age getting saved is a bitter sweet moment for me. I wish so badly that we could have got to experience that with you. What can we do? Live in the "what we have missed", or live in hope. Hope that one day (I believe very soon) we will get to spend forever with you. I don't even begin to pretend to understand all that heaven will be like. I would be willing to bet that everyday is Christmas. Every moment is one of complete celebration and praising and glorifying God. What you must be experience? How you must be praying and anticipating the day that daddy, mommy, sissy, the new baby, and the rest of our family will get to come see you soon.

Love you so much, Miss you even more.
Tell Jesus Happy Birthday for us.
You rock!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Memories To Share

I haven't written in several months. I have struggled with where to take this blog now. It started out as a way to tell Leightyn's story and how our lives changed in such a short amount of time. It then became a way to express my feelings of pain and our journey of how we made it through many "first" the past 16 months.

The last few months I haven't really known what to write about. I just sit and nothing comes.....which means that it isn't the right time to write. I do want you to know that I am in a good place with everything that has happened. God continues to bless us everyday. I now have so much that I want to share about our blessings and God's faithfulness. But not tonight. I have something special I want to share instead.

Back in July we had a birthday party for Leightyn. This was the first without her so we really didn't know what to expect. We invited just the church kiddos. The day was so much better than I could have ever imagined! We asked that the kids bring baby items to be donated to a local Christian ran pregnancy help center/shelter. We were blown away with the amount of items donated!

We also asked each kid to write down their favorite memory of Leightyn. These memories were something that I would cherish forever. I love talking about Leightyn with these kids and couldn't wait to read what they considered their special memory. So, tonight I want to share some of the memories.

"Happy Birthday Lei Lei! The Big 6! My favorite memory is on Sundays. I would always have gum. Leightyn would always come to me and ask for a piece. Once I had sour gum. I told her. She said "it's ok I like it". So I gave her a piece. As soon as she stuck it in her mouth her face turned red. Then she spit it out and said "next time bring sweet gun". So I did and she loved it"
Happy Birthday! I Love You!"

"She was very nice"

"I know it will be a fantastic day in Heaven! My favorite memory is Leightyn coming in the church on Sunday mornings. She ran down the hallway and gave me a high-five or a hug! Priceless! I love you, Leightyn! Your Pastor, Forever! "
Bro. Mike

"I remember when Leightyn went to church camp with us. She was a good listener and was so much fun at the pool. I would always try to sit by her during devotion, but other kids would always get to her first. She was such an angel. At church, I would always see her having fun. She sure loved to sing. We all miss her, but we'll see her again someday."
Love, Grace

"I miss Lei Lei so much! My favorite memory with Leightyn was when we were at the river at Devils Den State Park. Holding her hand across the river. This year holding Mylea's hand felt like holding Leightyn's hand again. I will never ever forget her! Love You Leightyn!!"

"You asked for a memory about Lei Lei so here is mine. I remember when we went to Children's Camp in 2009. Lei Lei went down the slide, and she said "Faith, catch me". And so I did. She smiled and said "Again, again". So she went a whole lot. I always enjoyed playing with her. We will get to see her one day!"

"You know I have more memories of Leightyn then I could fit on this card. There are two favorite memories that come to mind today. The first one is when Lei was just learning to talk and you would ask her what her name was. She would say "baby" or "I sexy" in this cute little voice. You guys would say "your real name, not your street name". I still crack up about that. She was so little! My all time favorite memory though was when Mady Paige was born. I think Lei might have been the most excited. She was so proud when she came over for the first time to see her. Lei just sat down and held Mady like she was a little mother. In the picture, you can see pure delight in Lei's face"

"I asked Hayden and Abby what they missed about Leightyn. Hayden said he misses playing with Leightyn. He then got specific. He said they had a lot of fun playing trains where the little kids room is at church. He misses her so much. Abby talks about Leightyn and everything in general. She misses all of them being together. Leightyn was the leader. Abby looked up to her. She always knew what to do. Abby says everyday that Leightyn is in Heaven with Jesus but Mylea still misses her".
Amanda, Hayden, and Abby

"When I think about Leightyn I feel sad"

"How do you pick your favorite memory of Leightyn? I guess it would be the river last year at Devil's Den. Missy and I were down there with a bunch of kids. Some of them had a snake cornered at the base of the spill way. Leightyn wanted to go see it. As we got closer, she got nervous and I picked her up and put her on my hip. A few more steps and her whole body began to shake. We hollered at all the kids and we got out of there. She loved the river and had a blast at camp. I am so thankful that she got to go"

Here's the kiddos sending balloons up to Heaven for Leightyn.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Seeing the Ordinary Different

So, I just have to share about some of the "Lei moments" I had while we were at Disney. Not that they are that rare, because there are those moments pretty much everyday. Jo, Nige, Miss, Lei, and My all went to Disney in January of 2010. I had to work, so I didn't get to go. I loved talking to Lei that week and hearing about all of the things that they had done, see, and experienced that week. I hate that I didn't get to go, but so glad that she / they all got to experience that trip. I will never forget the night before they were suppose to come home, that Lei told Miss she didn't know why they had to leave, and that "daddy could just come live there".

Well, like I said, its not that I didn't think of her that whole week, or every single day, but just living out the trip that she had went on a little over a year and a half earlier. As a parent who looses a child (which I often don't understand that word "looses", because shes not lost, I know exactly where she is), I believe that we see things in a whole different light than "normal" parents who haven't experienced the home going of a child. So these moments might seem strange to some, but they are seen through different circumstances.

Not in any particular order....

One of the hardest thing for me is to see two little blond haired girls, sisters. This happened on more that one occasion. I remember the first time we were standing in line waiting on one of the many buses. Right there, were two little girls who looked to be the exact same age as Lei and My. It struck me, because I sat there staring and wandering to myself "my, that girl is too big to be Lei, but then I could see it. It wasn't at all, it had been over thirteen months since I had see our little Lei. That is probably exactly how big she would have been. I really miss seeing the two of them together.

As we sat watching the Little Mermaid, which by the way is a great show. There was a song that came on. I had heard it many times before. This time was different. This time I was hearing it as a bereaved dad. (sing along if you want)

"Up where they walk, up where they run. Up where they stay all day in the sun. Wanderin' free - wish I could be part of that world. And ready to know what the people know. Ask 'em my questions and get some answers. What's a fire and why does it - what's the word? Burn? When's it my turn? Wouldn't I love, love to explore that world above? Out of the sea. Wish I could be. Part of that world."

(A little off the subject) First of all, its not like I have a death wish, so don't think I'm going all crazy, but its weird. I would be lying if I didn't say that I don't thing about Heaven a lot, A LOT more that I ever had before. Its like when you go out of town that first time after having kids, and all you think about is wandering what they're doing. Before Lei died, to be honest, I was afraid of death. For a couple of reasons. The first underlying cause was doubt. Not knowing 100% that your saved is nothing to mess around with. It took Lei dying for me to let go of my pride, and worrying about what others think. Secondly, just they awesomeness of God. Knowing that I (or anyone) is worthy of what He has done for and prepared for me. Also, not knowing all of the details of Heaven can be a little scary. Once I knew that I knew, the details don't matter as much. Its going to be awesome!

OK, back to the Little Mermaid. I try, but cant fathom what it will be like to be apart of "that World" ... Heaven. Up where they stay all day in the Son. Finally getting answers to the many questions. I look forward to being apart of that world.

Since we are on songs, there's a couple more that really touched me. The next one was from the Finding Nemo production. Nemo gets lost, and sings: " Where's my dad? I'm all alone. I'm too small to be here on my own. I swam away because I got mad. But now I really need him. Where's my dad?" Part of me wanders what Lei was thinking at 637pm, on August 7th, (although we really believe she was already there) as she took that journey to Heaven and finally met here Jesus. Was she asking for her mommy and daddy, wandering what was going on? It breaks my heart to think that she was scared at any moment. Another part (the real) knows that Jesus was right beside her the whole way, her true Father, safe in His arms. As a father (and a mother as well), its the worst feeling in the world to have that helpless feeling. Knowing that there's nothing you can do to make it better, to make life complete again. All we can do is turn to the cross, and trust more than ever in our faith.

Probably one of the toughest times for me was right after one of the parades. I had kinda gotten away from the rest of the fam. Standing in front of the castle, There was a song that was blaring called Celebrate You. "Its the time of your life. You don't wanna miss out on right here and right now. There's so many reason why you don't wanna stop. Here's your chance, live it up. In everything you do celebrate you". I could, in that moment, know that Lei is having the "time of her life". We all should take TIME and celebrate, not only who God has made us to be, but also celebrate the life we have. Its okay to smile, its okay to live life (in a godly way). As my friend Bro. Mike says; "Christians should be the happiest people on earth". Standing there in front of this amazing castle, hearing this song, in this environment, it just all hit. Man, I miss our little girl, our princess.

Wow this is long, so last but certainly not least, was the Beauty and the Beast show. You see that Wednesday before Leightyn died, we all went to see Beauty in the Beast in Fayetteville at the Walton Arts Center. One of the many bitter sweet moments. I am still to this day, so thankful that God gave us that trip. It was tough watching it without her, but just like everything else, we got through it. I thank God for Lei. I thank God for the memories. I thank God that He continues to give us strength and peace daily and that, even though the journey is hard, I thank God that He allows me to see Ordinary things different.

Lub You Lei, CUWWGT

Thursday, September 1, 2011

You're not here

I still think of you every single day that your not here. I still miss you every single day that your not here. Well, we made it. By the grace and the strength of God we made it to the dreaded one year mark. I must say it was a bitter sweet day. As every hour past, starting with the phone call, I would replay everything over in my head again. The call, the drive home, seeing my baby girl laying in the drive way unresponsive, the hospital, seeing you take off in the helicopter (feeling the strong wind as you rode off towards the sky), the drive to Children's, the first time I saw you in ICU. Then the moment came when we got the "good" news, to find out about a half hour later that it wasn't. Its the worst feeling as a father to see your little girl laying there in a hospital bed. Knowing that there's not only nothing that I could do, but from what the doctors said, nothing they could do either. Helpless, hopeless, heartbroken, and praying with all we had for OUR miracle. Then came the waiting, singing, waiting, and the those words at 636pm on august 7th 2010. As surreal as it was, God got us through it. The same God that didn't answer our prayers how WE wanted, was the same God that gave us the peace strength, and the comfort to not only survive, but also to prevail and use our story for His glory. We have grown, and continue to live our lives, but you're not here.

The past few weeks have been no easier. First, we have to deal with the first day of school. I cant believe that you would have been starting first grade. All I can do is wonder what could have been. I know that you would have grown so much, and wonder how much you would have changed. Its tough. Its hard to see all of the many (thousands it seems) of first day of school pics. It makes me sick, jealous, bitter, and down right envious of all those families that get to experience what we couldn't.
Speaking of the first day of school, Mylea started mothers day out. Another milestone! Another bittersweet moment for me. I hate it.. that I do it. I know its not fair to My. We went to an open house on Monday so that we could meet her teacher. I tried not to, but all i could do was think about your open house that we just missed out on by a few days. We had good time, and My was super excited not only for school, but that Annabelle was there too. We got home and got her in bed early. She had an awesome first day of school. I cant wait to see what all she learns and how much she grows. I know you would be and are going to be so proud of her. Did I ever tell you what a great big sister you were (are). Its great that we get to see you through My. The best is when she says "my sissy taught me that".
I don't know what its going to be like when I finally get to see you again. I do know that it will be amazing. I do know that I cant wait, but at the same time, we are going to keep on keeping on. I hope that we make you proud. i hope and pray that we will see what God's will for our lives and the doors He opens for us. Love you Lei. Miss you like crazy since your not here! cuwigt

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Please Pray

This blog was sent to me today from a friend who thought of Leightyn the entire time she read it. Please take a minute to pray for this family and sweet Stella. Stella is almost three. At the end of June, her family was told that Stella had an aggressive brain tumor wrapped around her brain stem. The tumor is fatal. Nothing medically can be done to remove the tumor. Medicine and treatment can prolong Stella's life, but will not save her. The family has decided to bring Stella home and let her live her life to the fullest until the tumor wins the battle.

Their situation reminds me so much of Leightyn. Stella was healthy. She has a brainstem glioma. This is usually detected in kids around the age of 5. Symptoms for this tumor include headaches and throwing up.

I can't imagine the pain this family is going through just wondering what day will be their last with Stella. To know that your daughter is here and one day the tumor will win. They recently returned from a vacation to Sesame Street Land. They are living out their life to the fullest and making many memories with little Stella.

Here is a summary of the beginning of their journey from June. Please take a minute and say a prayer for this family!

Stella was diagnosed with brainstem glioma. This is an aggressive tumor that has wrapped around her brainstem. Stella’s parents and family have had numerous consultations with some of the best doctors in the world about Stella’s health and care. The tumor is inoperable, and also is widely regarded as being untreatable through chemotherapy or radiation. Such methods will most likely only prolong her life for a short time but will have a negative impact on the quality of life. Above all else Aimee and Michi

are dedicated to the quality of Stella’s life and so have chosen not to pursue any harsh and largely ineffective treatments.

A little over a week ago Aimee and Michi noticed that Stella was having some balance issues and some difficulty walking. Last week they followed up with two doctors, and an ear infection was suspected. On Friday June 24th Michi and Aimee took Stella in to Sick Children’s Hospital because of its excellent diagnostic care. In the early hours of Saturday they got the devastating news that it was a brain tumor. A few hours later, they learned it was fatal.

Two of the things that have presented differently are firstly, Stella’s young age. Most children with this tumor do not present symptoms till they are five or six, whereas Stella has just turned two. Secondly, there is usually a great deal of vomiting as a symptom, but Stella has not displayed that either. Because of this several departments are meeting to discuss Stella’s case and on Monday will meet with Michi and Aimee to talk to them about their findings and whether there or not they feel the tumor should be biopsied. With the information that is presented Stella’s mommies will weigh their options and decide what is in her best interests.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Back to School

My Baby Girl,

Looks like it is going to be another emotional sleepless night. I just can't get you off my mind and out of my thoughts. I know I haven't written in so long. It's just seems like I never have the right words to express how much I miss you and how much I wish you were here with us.

I saw a post on Facebook today about 27 days till school starts and I thought " 27 days Leightyn would be going to 1st grade". But the reality is that there will be no buying school supplies and excitement over 1st grade for us. It is still a punch in the gut to think of all we will be missing. I read a blog the other day that talked about missing a daughter's engagement, wedding, and future grandchildren. It made me sad to think of all the big life moments we will miss. But then I thought about all the other big moments we have already missed....1st day of Kindergarten, reading, spelling, birthday parties, sleepovers, Awanas, BFFs....all the little experiences that we could have taken for granted.

I can't believe that we are in the middle of July. A year ago, our lives were perfect. We had the summer planned out and were going to take advantage every day before school began. You were so excited when you found the perfect first day of school dress in Tulsa. You had the best time picking out folders for your backpack. I remember being at GAP and you couldn't choose between a purple or turquoise lunch money purse. Little moments that I will never forget and now that is all the memories I will have of you and school. I see kids your age growing up or hear parents talking about school memories and what all their child has learned and it really hurts. It hurts that I can't be a part of that conversation. It hurts to see your friends making new friends when you should still be a part of the group. It hurts to see lives move on and people grow up.

A couple weeks ago, Mylea attended a VBS here in town. She was so excited to go. When we got to her class, she asked me to stay until it was time for them to walk in. I gladly stayed. As it came time for the opening assembly, Mylea did fine walking in until the girl in front of her had a complete mommy melt down. Mylea looked up at me with big eyes and asked if I would be there to pick her up later. We talked for a second and she gave me a kiss before going in the building. In that moment, I didn't see Mylea. I saw you standing there. It was like we were dropping you off for school. I lost it! It was a total emotional breakdown for this momma. I walked quickly back to the car with other parents looking at me. I could hear their thoughts "Wow...that momma needs some's just Bible School". But it wasn't to me. I just remember sitting in the car thinking that that's how mommas feel on the first day of Kindergarten.

Speaking of Mylea....she has grown up so much these past few months. She talks about you every day and tells me how much she misses you. Today we were in bed watching Caillou. I made a statement about Caillou and Barney being your favorite shows. Mylea quickly responded that she remembered watching these shows with you and that they were her favorite shows too. She talks about you and Heaven so much. Sometimes I think....should any 3 year old know this much about death and Heaven? She has had to grow up quicker than she should. Mylea often asks when you are going to come home from Heaven and live with us again. That's a tough thing to explain to a 3 year old. I try to do the best I can. She wants to know how come you can't come back since Jesus made you better. She asks how come we can't go to Heaven to get you or just to visit for a little. Mylea misses you so much. I watch her around kids and it often looks like she is still looking for you in the group. She'll ask me how come other kids have a brother or a sister to play with and she doesn't...... it breaks my heart. I don't have an answer for her. To be honest, I often wonder the same thing. Why can't you be here with us. Why didn't we get our miracle? Why didn't we have signs that something was wrong? Daddy and I often talk about the why's and what if's. It sure makes me second guess stuff and gets me wondering "why us".

Daddy and I got the house painted a few weeks ago. We talked about moving or building but at the moment, we aren't sure what we are going to do. Anyways the house is all neutral......blah. Talk about depressing. This house that use to be so full of life is now completely a shade of sandstone. No pictures on the walls. No picture frames on the table. No more green and pink polka dots in your room. No more drawings on the wall. No more blue and red in My's room. No more ketchup art in mommy and daddy's room. It's all kinda depressing. The house seems to reflect our past year.

Your 6th birthday was a few weeks ago. As we were eating lunch, Mylea made us all stop eating and quickly reminded us that we didn't sing Happy Birthday to Leightyn yet. Mylea gladly belted out the song and was having fun singing to you. We went on and had a special birthday party for you. We kept it low key and invited the church kiddos. It was something I struggled with, but knew they deserved the party as much as you would want the party. For gifts, we collected baby items to take to the Hannah House. I was blown away with all the items that were collected.....way more than I ever expected. I also asked that the kids give me a card with their favorite memory of you. As I read the cards, I just cried. I could remember the moments they were talking about. Some of the kids told me how sad it makes them to think about you being gone. Some told me how much they miss you and wish you could come back from Heaven. It was all real. Real memories and real emotions. The cards are something that I will cherish forever. Back to the party, they kids and I had a great time. We kept things fun and of course had a water slide. Someone asked my why we were having a party and my response was: Leightyn loved her church friends. These church kids loved Leightyn more than anything. They still love her and miss her so much. I talked about our Leightyn conversations in Children's Church. I talked about how we have all laughed together and cried together. I said that these kids love and miss Leightyn as much as I do. They are the ones who have been by my side since the beginning. The ones who love me and accept me.....tears and all! The ones who have tissues ready for me during song time at church. Leightyn is a memory that these kids want to keep forever. There hearts are broken still. They deserved a fun party that celebrated Leightyn.

And this is where I shall say good night and try to get some sleep. I love you so much. My heart is still broken and will never be complete until we are all reunited together again. Hug my little baby tight and give him a kiss from momma. I love you Leightyn Nan!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wow, 6 Years!

To my Precious little girl,

I have got to say that it was difficult to have your birth - day, with out you. It seems like yesterday when we were setting in the hospital holding you for the first time. I remember that first little smile that just melted my heart. You couldnt have been more than a few hours old, (maybe a day). It was just me and momma in the room and she was holding you and you just, out of no where, let out the biggest grin (not sure if there was any gas involved, but none the less). It was absolutley priceless! We actually have it on video somewhere, but we cant find it for nothing. Hopefully one day it will show up, and it will become another one of My's favorites. As rough as it was for me, momma, my, and others, I can only smile as I imagine what your sixth brithday party must have been like in Heaven. Just like everything else, simply amazing!

A few Sundays ago, mommy and I got to talk about your Lifesong and our testimony to a Sunday school class. It was a first for me (well, besides the morning after). Mommy has got to talk about our story to other groups. It was a great experience. We love to talk about you, we love to tell people how God chose our little girl to touch so many lives. I know I have said it before, but you couldnt even begin to imagine the impact that your five short little years has had and contiues to have on people's lives. I am so honored and so proud to call you my daughter. Speaking of Sunday school, we are finishing up our session on Heaven. I must say that it has truly opened my eyes to things that I never had thought of before. My mind cant even begin to imagine what you are experiencing right now, and what awaits all Christians. To see Jesus and Live with God on the New Earth. Wow!

But as it is written: "Eye has not see, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into
the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him"
1 Corinthians 2:9

I'm so thankful for what God has done through His Son Jesus, so that we can spend eternity with Him and with each other.

Well, I just want you to know that we love you and miss you bunches and bunches. Give everyone hugs and kisses from us. Ill see you when I get there!

Until that day,
Love daddy

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Saw Leightyn!

After 9 1/2 LONG months, I finally saw Leightyn in a dream last night. I was in a roomCheck Spelling that overlooked a gym. All of the sudden the doors opened and the gym filled with kids around Leightyn's age. There Leightyn was! As beautiful as I remember her. She had on her blue zebra shirt, a colorful hairbow, and a huge smile on her face. She was having the greatest time running around and playing with the other kids. I didn't know any other children. Maybe these are all of her new friends in Heaven! She was laughing and loving she did on earth. Thank you God for letting me see my baby and for letting me see that she was happy and ok!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just Have To Share

Right after Leightyn went to Heaven, we were given a copy of the Arkansas Baptist News that had published a story telling the journey of a family who had lost their daughter to cancer. As soon as I began to read the article, I had to share it with Landen. So, while Landen drove home from church, I read about the Sullivan Family.

Hannah had prayed that God would give her a storm that she could use to share her faith with others. Her storm was cancer. Their journey is incredible and I hope you take the time to read about it. A few days after we received the newspaper, Landen emailed Jill and just said thanks for Hannanh's story and for the encouragement it gave us.

Jill has been there to give us advice of how to get through the "firsts" we have experiences without Leightyn. At the beginning of April, Jill and Brad, hosted "While We're Waiting". A retreat for parents who have lost children. The retreat was wonderful. We gained so much from other parents who have been where we are. I will post more about this retreat in a few days......

Jill posted the following about a month ago. As I read it, I could relate with every word she said. I knew I had to pass it on. So, enjoy!

A few weeks ago, there was a post going around on Facebook titled "Things Bereaved Parents Wish You Knew". There were eighteen items on the list, and, of course, I could totally relate to all of them. But since this is Ten on the Tenth and not Eighteen on the Eighteenth, I decided to pare the list down to the ten things that meant the most to me personally.

So here goes..."Ten Things Bereaved Parents Wish You Knew".

1. Please don't be afraid to talk to me about my child. My child lived and was very important to me, and it is a comfort to me to know that he or she was important to you, too. My child is pretty much always on my mind're not going to "remind" me that he or she is gone.

2. If I cry when you speak of my child, it isn't because you have hurt me. My child's death is the cause of my tears. You have talked about my child and allowed me to share my grief and I thank you for both.

3. If I seem absent-minded and forgetful, that's because I am! "Grief Brain" is a common malady in bereaved parents. I'm really not losing my mind, but sometimes I may feel like I am.

4. Please don't expect my grieving to be over in six months, or even in a year. The early months may be the most traumatic for me, but please understood that my grief will never fully end until the day I am reunited with my child in Heaven. And though it may sound strange, I don't really want my pain to completely go helps keep me connected with my child.

5. When you ask me how I'm doing, that's a really hard question for me to answer. I will probably tell you I'm fine or I'm doing okay, but neither one of us has enough time for me to fully and accurately answer that question.

6. Please excuse me if I seem rude at times. Sometimes I just don't have the emotional stamina to participate in the small talk and keep the smile on my face. I may just have to "check out" for awhile.

7. Please don't tell me that you understand or that you know how I feel. Unless you have lost a child, you cannot understand how it feels. I pray that you will never know how I feel.

8. Being a bereaved parent is not contagious, so please don't shy away from me. I need your support now more than ever before.

9. You may see me struggling emotionally sometimes, especially when I'm at church. This does not mean I have lost my faith. For a variety of reasons, church is just a very emotional place to be.

10. Please understand that the loss of a child changes a person. When my child died, a large part of me died with him or her. I am not the same person that I was before my child died and I will never be that person again.

So, there it is. Ten Things Bereaved Parents Wish You Knew. In the course of making this list, I actually changed it up quite a bit from the original Facebook version. Now, I would never claim to be a spokesman for all bereaved parents. But over the course of many conversations with parents who have lost children, I've found these things to be common to many of us.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Leightyn's Decoration Service

Sunday morning we all headed to the cemetery for their annual decoration service. This service is something I can remember attended since I was a little girl. I was excited and thankful that our family had made plans to attend Leightyn's first service. We got there is time to check out the flowers and visit before the service began.

The service started with a few old hymns and a then there was a wonderful song call "Wish You Were Here". I don't think I have ever heard it before....but it was a beautiful song. I could see Leightyn telling us how wonderful Heaven was and that she wishes we were all there with her. Here are the lyrics to the song...

I can just see them walking on the shores of Heaven
Praising the Lord and watching the tide roll in
Friends that have gone on, oh how I miss you so
And somehow I know if you could, that you’d let me know
That you’re doing fine and it doesn’t hurt anymore
Things couldn’t be better and Heaven is worth waiting for
That you miss me too and till then you’ll be praying for me
And I know if you could talk to me now then here’s what you’d say to me

Wish you were here it’s such a beautiful place
Wish you were here nothing but clear sunny days
It never rains, and no one complains, and we haven’t seen a tear
We’re having a great time, wish you were here

I can just see them walking on the shores together
They’re talking with Jesus safe and secure in His Love
Friends and loved ones walking in Heavenly peace
And I know if they could talk to me now then here’s what they’d say to me

Wish you were here it’s such a beautiful place
Wish you were here nothing but clear sunny days
It never rains, and no one complains, and we haven’t seen a tear
We’re having a great time, wish you were here

It never rains, and no one complains, and we haven’t seen a tear
We’re having a great time, wish you were here

The service was great. The preacher talked about the importance of decoration. The importance of honoring those who have gone on. He reminded us of the legacy that many have left. He also encouraged us to live a life that would leave a legacy to those that are behind us. I kept thinking about Leightyn and the lives she has changed. Her legacy, her lifesong, continues to live and work among us.

I LOVE this picture of Mylea and Leightyn. I think it speaks a million words. She misses her sister so much. Mylea talks about Leightyn and how much fun they had together. Mylea also reminds me that Leightyn and Grandma Sissy are having fun with Jesus in Heaven.

This is off the subject....but, the other day I was replacing winter clothes with summer clothes. Mylea asked where the Tinkerbell pajamas were and I told her that I didn't know which ones she was talking about. She said the yellow ones. I still was clueless. In a split second, Mylea said "oh yeah, that's the ones that Sissy wore to Heaven". And she was right....Leightyn had on a yellow Tinkerbelle pajama dress when she went to the hospital. Talk about a whoa moment!
Leightyn's Belle....this holds many meanings to us. Landen took this to the cemetery a week after the funeral. Both the girls love Belle. They were always dressed as her, she was their favorite princess at Disney. Beauty and the Beast is their favorite movie. We also went to see the Broadway Beauty and the Beast two days before our lives changed forever.

Tootsie Roll from Grandad. Grandad would always carry Tootsie Rolls in his shirt pocket. Leightyn knew that she could always find some candy when Grandad was around. For Leightyn's first Halloween, she was a Tootsie Roll.
Beautiful flowers for our beautiful girl!
Red rose from Uncle Nigel....goes back to the Beauty and the Beast rose.
Flowers from LaLa and WeWe's group
Mylea, Lloyd, and Landen

Mylea and her boyfriend Brian
My Mom, Dad, and Brother
Brothers and Wives
Landen's Family
Flowers from Aunt Dell

My Family

After the service, all of us (21..I think) went to eat lunch before everyone had to head back home. It was a great way to end a great weekend celebrating Leightyn's life. Thanks everyone who took the time to come honor Leightyn and her legacy with us!

Getting Ready for Decoration

Mylea, Mom, and I headed down to Leightyn's cemetery last Thursday to get things ready for Leightyn's decoration service. Uncle Bill and Aunt Darla met us there to help with the flowers and cleaning.
Darla brought her daughter (fourth child) Isabelle. Mylea loved getting to watch Isabelle play in the stroller.
The cemetery was freshly mowed so Leightyn's monument needed a good cleaning. Mylea took it upon herself to clean Leightyn and everyone else in a close proximity. She loved the bucket of water.
Mylea picked out some flowers for Grandma Nancy (Sissy) and for Leightyn. After finding the perfect place, she stuck them in the ground.
If you look closely, you can see that Mylea's flowers have a pink glitter bunny, a sparkly yellow bunny, and a orange egg (that some little girl took a bite out of).
Darla made a beautiful arrangement with my favorite flowers and Leightyn's favorite colors.
Mylea helped straighten up the angel next to Grandma Nancy.
I love this little girl that Janis brought down. I have one at home and it reminds me of the many days we spent outside blowing bubbles.
Flowers from Grandad and Jo
Mylea decided to move her flowers to a different "perfect" spot.
White, yellow, and red roses from Grandad.
Flowers from Daddy and Mommy. As soon as I saw them, I knew they were the ones. The wildflowers remind me of the flowers Leightyn would pick in the yard and at the park.
We were there about an hour and a half and it was HOT! Notice the Mylea had stripped down because it "was hot for working".
Taking a break

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Little Lei Lei's 5K Memory Walk

Back in October and November, Landen and I began talking about using Leightyn's story to help others. We weren't sure what we would do and who we would help, but we came up with the idea of hosting a 5k and Memory Walk in Leightyn's memory. The idea was tossed around for a few months but we never did anything to get started on it.

During the Christmas holiday, Landen and I went with our youth group to the Children's Emergency Shelter to host a Christmas party. The youth bought presents to hand out and we sang Christmas songs. It was a great night that made an impression on us. After talking, Landen and I decided to use this race to benefit the shelter in Ft. Smith.

We decided to wait until after the holidays and our beach trip to get started on organizing the race. Let me say right now that Landen and I knew nothing about a 5k....we had never even been to one. I had to ask Landen how far a 5k was......that just tells you that we really had no clue what we were doing.

Finally in March we decided to get busy organizing. We went to people we knew and asked them to be sponsors. My dad did a great job getting his friends on board with the idea. My Uncle Bill and Aunt Darla have no problem asking any stranger for donations and to be a sponsor. They collected a ton of door prizes and sponsors.

The last two weeks have been busy busy busy for my mom and I. We had to get goody bags together, get the bibs for the runners, and make sure everyone got their shirts. We were blown away with the response we received from the community.

This past Saturday, May 14th, was race day. Landen and I were so excited for the day and also sad that it was almost over. The morning of the race was amazing. The sea of blue shirts looked awesome. We had over 300 participate in the race. We raised $9703.00 to give to the Children's Shelter. It was just an amazing day.

We can't wait to do it again next year!

Beware.....lots of pictures ....
Cousins racing to the end
A race to the finish line
Uncle WeWe was so proud of himself for finishing.
Sweet Momma Courtney and Sweet Bryson
Landen and Bro. comment on the picture :)
"Duppy" at the end
The McCain family. We met them a few months ago in Hot Springs. We attended a retreat for parents who have children in Heaven. Their story is very inspiring. They drove up from Hot Springs early Saturday morning. (I still need to post about the retreat)
Uncle Lloyd finishing up. I forgot to mention that the mile markers were pictures of Leightyn throughout the years. Lloyd (and many others) said that he never expected the pictures and it really reminded him why we were there.
People cheering the runners on.
Mylea's church friends
"Bette's Daddy" Mr Orville at the finish line. He loves our girls just like they are his own grandkids.
Neighbors Macy, Curtis, and Mady
Sweet Jenna.....Leightyn loved this little girl!
Sweet church ladies Ms Kathy and Ms Margaret
Landen's family
Waiting for door prizes
Our youth group did an awesome job helping at the finish line

Leightyn's fan club
Me and this girl!
Uncle Bill and Ms Debbie's group
Mylea cheering on the runners

My mom and day (Jo and Grandad or Big Toot)
Landen's family

Sweet church kids

Jonathan (JonBoy) and Josh.....they are awesome with Leightyn and Mylea