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 life....like 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 anyway...you'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 away...it 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. Mike......no 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 Courtney.....love 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