Today marks the end of an era. I got word yesterday afternoon that Uncle Ronnie had made his transition. For a couple of weeks, I knew the call would be coming.
Uncle Ronnie is one of those men who are larger, than life. He was a legend in his own lifetime. He could spin a tall tale and keep a room full of people hanging on his every word. The tale might be true, it might not be, didn’t matter.
Uncle Ronnie was there for me since I can remember. He was just 18 years older than me. So, unlike many of my aunts and uncles, I remember his youth. He lived in Cleveland, just a couple of hours by car from us. Grandbaby, his mother, lived with us for several years. So, I saw Uncle Ronnie a lot. He was a playboy in his youth. But, he married at what seemed to me like an advanced age (in his early 30s), and when his kids were born, that Ronnie was gone. He became a dedicated father, husband, and the ultimate family man.
Uncle Ronnie didn’t just take care of his immediate family. He was there for everyone. Last week the show This Is Us did an episode titled “There”. The theme was being there for the family. I could not help but think of Uncle Ronnie as I knew he was lying in his bed in Cleveland, making his transition back Home. I believe it was that night I had a dream about him or with him, I’m not sure which. I can’t recall the details. I just remember feeling his presence, his wisdom, his grace, his love. And, I got the impression he was passing the mantle. I woke up wondering if I had been in his dream or he had been in mine.
I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of miles Uncle Ronnie drove over the years. He was afraid to fly. I don’t know how many times I heard his story of overhearing the mechanic working on engine trouble on a plane he was on grumbling “I hate to work on a plane in the rain.” and how he had gotten off of the flight and rented a car. It never got old. But, not flying didn’t stop him. Family reunion in California? No problem, give me a few days and I’ll drive there from Cleveland. Golf tournament in Florida? It’s only a 20-hour drive. Graduation in Texas? I’ll be there. Nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and nephews, didn’t matter. When Shayna passed, he was here, driving me back and forth to the funeral home to make the arrangements.
One of my earliest memories is of Uncle Ronnie. I don’t remember much before the age of 6 or 7. I must have been around that age. I know we were in the car. I was in the car with him often. I remember him telling me that everything we see and hear is stored in our brains. But, our brains only have so much capacity. If we run out of space before we die, we don’t have room to store anything else. So no more new memories. This way pre-dated hard drives in computers. And it was in the days when I took every word of every adult to be the gospel truth. So, I walked around for days or weeks closing my eyes so as to not waste any space in my brain. Finally, my parents corrected this for me. To be fair to Uncle Ronnie, he was only 24 or 25 at the time. He was probably just having some fun with me.
I was always told I looked like Uncle Ronnie, and I never minded. I was blessed to be born into two outstanding families, the Smiths, and the Englishes. While I’ve always hated my common name, Brian Smith, I’ve been proud of the Smith legacy. But, I was always jealous of my cousins who got the cool surname of English. I didn’t share Uncle Ronnie’s name, but the genetic commonality was undeniable. I was only 5’10” when I graduated from high school. I had the feeling I was supposed to be 6’2″, the same height as my Uncle Ronnie. I think I willed myself to grow those four inches in college. My grandmother had 10 children, each of them outstanding in their own ways. Today, only two are left on this side of Home.
The tears have been surprisingly sparse since hearing the news. Death is no longer the same for me.
I knew I would not see Uncle Ronnie again in the flesh. But, I was at peace with it. I knew he would not want to live in any diminished capacity. He would not want others to have to take care of him. He was a strong, proud, brave man. When I heard he was telling people in the hospital he just wanted to go home, I thought he meant Home. He was able to go home and pass in the family home he created for Aunt Melda, D’art and Myla. I’m glad he did not have to suffer long.
When I want to feel sad, I find myself feeling grateful, grateful I got almost 60 years of knowing Uncle Ronnie. I got to live with him and his family for a while when I first moved to Elyria. Over the years when he would introduce me as his nephew from Columbus to his friends, I felt a sense of pride to be associated with him. He was always the coolest guy in the room. Going golfing with him and his buddies and watching as this skinny coal miner’s son from West Virginia held his own with anybody, was gratifying. He was gracious and extremely articulate. I don’t think Uncle Ronnie paid for a round of golf in his life even though he played several times a week and all over the country. Everybody wanted to bet with him even though no one could beat him. He took their money every time. He didn’t take up the game until his 30s, extremely late in life for golf. But, he was a scratch golfer. I was certain he’d play on the Senior Tour.
I have decades of happy memories of Uncle Ronnie. I know he lived an outstanding life. He was 77 when he passed, well past the average lifespan of a Black man in America. I feel grateful when I think of his life and how he shared it with others. I am jealous he gets to see Shayna before I do. I think of the Homecoming that must be happening! I am overflowing with the joy Grandbaby and Grandaddy must feel to have him home. His baby brother, Uncle Michael is there along with six more of his siblings.
This day must come for all of us when either our passing or the passing of a loved one separates us, for a time. When some people depart, it’s the end of an era. My tears are for that ending. But, every ending is a new beginning. A goodbye here is a hello there. I can imagine the shouts of “Ronnie’s here!!!”
I’m sure Uncle Ronnie has everyone gathered around and is spinning a yarn.
I recently came across this video of Uncle Ronnie a few years ago telling one of his famous stories.
Christmas 2020 it’s the sixth Christmas since Shayna passed away in June of 2015. Over the years, I’ve learned not to anticipate Christmas as much as I used to-, whether I’m expecting it to be good or bad. Let’s just wait and see what the day brings is my new motto. Expectations lead to disappointment.
I’ve learned that every Christmas is different. Being a small child and getting excited about the toys I would get faded as I got older. The joy experienced vicariously through my girls waned, even before Shayna passed away. There was no more staying up all night putting their toys together and preparing the milk and cookies for Santa. They began sleeping in on Christmas morning. Christmas evolved into a lazy day with a special breakfast and seeing a movie in the afternoon.
This year it’s Covid-19. We can’t even get together with our families. Last year we went to Nashville after Christmas and spent a few days hanging out. We thought it might become a new tradition. But, there’s no traveling this year.
Kayla is back with her boyfriend Gabe, who is in Cincinnati for an internship. He couldn’t travel to his home in Michigan because he’d have to quarantine for 14 days on his return. So, she and he spent Christmas Eve and the next two nights with us. It’s a different configuration than we used to have. Kayla has another friend, Darrenton, who would have had to spend Christmas alone for the same quarantine reasons since his family is also out-of-state. So, he joined us for Christmas dinner.
Kayla and I kept our 24-year tradition of getting a “Snow Baby” ornament. Christmas Eve, she, Gabe, and I went to the only place in town that still sells them and chose one.
I took my 7-mile hike even though the temperature had dipped drastically to about 15 degrees for Christmas. It was an eerily solitary walk. I think I saw a total of five cars on the road in an hour and forty minutes. The sky was utterly overcast, without even a hint of sun. But, it felt good to be up early and get my walk in before everyone else rose.
Christmas morning, we had our traditional breakfast of breakfast casserole, sweet rolls, and fruit salad. We also had mimosas for breakfast. We opened presents a little bit later on and watched a couple of movies. I started watching Life of Brian which I jokingly call a Christmas movie because it’s about the birth of Jesus, and Brian is my namesake.
Of course, for dinner, we had to have deviled eggs; Shayna’s favorites. I made a prime rib, which I did sous vide style. Since we had extra guests, I wasn’t sure if there be enough food, so I also poached some shrimp in garlic and lemon and butter. I made cranberry salad; Kayla’s favorite and my favorite. And we roasted some vegetables.
It was fun having Gabe and Darrenton here. They added some new energy to the experience. We watched movies again on Christmas night and turned in, the dreaded day behind me once again.
Tywana and I have decided not to give each other presents for Christmas anymore. We each get what we want when we want it. She usually ramps up her purchases around Christmas. This year she bought a spin bike, a cadence monitor for it, etc., etc.
While Kayla was opening her presents she opened a bottle of Eagle Rare meant for me. I was pleasantly surprised because it’s one of my favorite bourbons and I haven’t seen a bottle since exactly a year ago when I found three bottles in a store in Nashville.
Here’s where the sign comes in. I don’t look for signs on big days because I don’t want to be disappointed. Somehow though it seems Shayna always comes through. I never know what it’s going to be. It could be an electrical glitch, a song playing on my iPhone, a cardinal, a coin, a chance encounter with a person, anything really. As I took my walk in the morning, I didn’t see much of anything. It was bitterly cold. Even the squirrels and the birds seemed to be in hiding.
Tywana hands me another box. I remind her that I didn’t buy anything for her and I open it. It’s a bottle of Blanton’s single barrel bourbon.
Let me explain why this is so amazing. A few weeks ago I discovered a Facebook group that has the sole purpose of posting what they’re selling at Buffalo Trace that day. Buffalo Trace is a distillery in Frankfort Kentucky a couple hours from where we live. The products are highly sought-after. Many of them you just can’t buy as in you cannot find them. In the gift shop each day they sell some of their hard to find products. But, it’s random. You never know what they are going to have. So every day someone posts what they have for the day so you can make the trip and have a shot at getting it. I just discovered this group about a month ago. I told Tywana one day when they had Blanton’s I was going to get in the car and drive down. I’ve never had bottle of Blanton’s. When I lived in Lexington over 20 years ago, it was readily available but more than I wanted to spend on a bottle of bourbon. The last couple of years I’ve had my eye out for it but never saw it on the shelf.
I told Ty about the group and she asked why I didn’t have her brother get a bottle for me. He only lives about 20 minutes away from Frankfort and could get it pretty easily. I knew it would be a mad rush before Christmas to get a bottle. So, I decided to wait until after Christmas to make the trip.
So, here I am looking at this bottle of bourbon I’ve been wanting for years and just found out a few weeks ago I might have the chance to get. I take it out of the box and look at the details. Each bottle is bottled from a single barrel. So, the warehouse and even the shelf the barrel was on is printed on the bottle. What’s also on the bottle is the “dump date”.
The dump date is the day the barrel is dumped to be bottled. Some people spend a lot of time looking for specific dump dates- their birthday, an anniversary, things like that. As I look at the dump date, it hits me. It was bottled 11-3. November 3rd, the day of our anniversary. Even more, it was dumped 11-3-2020, the very day of our 30th wedding anniversary. There’s my sign!
Christmas Day is over. Kayla and her boyfriend stay. We have nachos for dinner on Saturday and watch the Disney/Pixar movie Soul. It’s that weird limbo week between Christmas and New Year’s when everyone is usually off of work. But, since no one can go anywhere due to Covid, Kayla isn’t taking off of work. Ty’s not working right now. So, I figure on Monday I’ll just get back to the grind.
Soul is a fantastic movie about the Journey of the soul. I love the fact that there are no religious overtones to it at all. It matter-of-factly presents how a is formed, how it progresses, and about a life’s purpose. There is a great deal in there about the astral plane and being in your zone. They touch on soul guides. The animation is out of this world. After that, because I got in Disney+ to get Soul Kayla noticed that Inside Out was available. Inside Out came out just a couple of weeks after Shayna passed away. Tywana and I saw it at the theaters. We saw it just to get out of the house. But, it was too soon. I just sat in the dark and cried the whole time because I could not get my mind off of Shayna. I felt like I didn’t get much out of the movie. Then, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it again over these last five years because it reminded me too much of that time right after Shayna transitioned.
Kayla said she wanted to watch it. So, I sucked it up, put on my big boy pants, and watched. I’m glad I did. Inside Out is about no emotions and how emotional development works. It’s extremely deep like all Pixar movies- ostensibly for children but touching being human on a level that is surprising.
Monday, January 4th, Kayla went back to her place. She put away her Snow Babies. I have to admit I’m a little sad that Christmas is over. We couldn’t go to the theater. So, we brought the theater to us. We had fantastic meals. I got my first ever bottle of Blanton’s bottled on the day of my 30th anniversary.
New Year’s Day has now come and gone. We did a four-hour Zoom with our neighbors. Every year for the past 23 years we’ve spent New Year’s Eve with the same couples. First, it was having our children do sleepovers in the living room while we rang in the New Year. This year, because of Covid, we thought we’d miss out. But, we decided to see what it was like to get together over Zoom. We started at 9:30. Finally, around 1:30 AM we all decided to sign off. While we couldn’t be together physically, our spirits were together and we rang out 2020 and rang in 2021 with joy in our hearts.
That’s how long it’s been since my life changed forever. June 24th, 2015 was the day that my daughter Shayna Elayne left this Earthly plane. Today is December 14th, 2020
This morning I woke up and thought about how things have changed since June 24th, 2015.
I got up, and I looked at my blog that I started amazingly the day after Shayna passed. Something told me to document this journey similar to what C.S. Lewis did in his book “A Grief Observed”. I didn’t know why I was doing it. I just had to. Then, just a week later, I made the blog public.
This post gets filed under several categories- milestones because it’s 2,000 days since Shayna passed, signs because I got a sign today, and podcast for the obvious reason.
First the sign. Today has been 2,000 days since Shayna passed. My YouTube channel has been creeping up on 2,000 subscribers for a while. Today, the channel hit exactly 2,000 subscribers.
That’s how long it’s been since my life changed forever. June 24th, 2015 was the day that my daughter Shayna Elayne left this Earthly plane. Today is December 14th, 2020
This morning I woke up, and thought about how things have changed since June 24th, 2015.
I got up, and I looked at my blog that I started amazingly the day after Shayna passed. Something told me to document this journey similar to what C.S. Lewis did in his book “A Grief Observed”. I didn’t know why I was doing it. I just had to. Then, just a week later, I made the blog public.
As I read those early entries, the whole first week A.S. (time is now measured as before Shayna’s passing and after) came flooding back.
I woke up on what I thought was an ordinary day. I took a 3 or 4-mile walk. I came back and sat down to work in my office. Then, I heard Tywana call to me saying something was wrong. I remembered the feeling that my wife and I had when we found Shayna in her bedroom that morning. She wasn’t cold yet. She couldn’t be dead. My mind could simply not accept reality. I recalled the feeling of total disbelief, the feeling of shock, crying out to God, screaming her name thinking I could somehow shout loud enough to be heard across the Void and call her back to me.
The memories of falling to my knees before getting into the police car came back. I remembered my neighbor coming over and asking if everything was all right and me not even being able to form the words to answer her. The police officer who gave me a ride to the hospital as my wife rode in the ambulance with Shayna, him offering to pray and me not even having a prayer to offer.
I called my parents and asked them to pray. I remember Dad saying that once you lost a child things were never the same. “Why did he say that?” I thought. “I haven’t lost a child.” Shayna will be OK. She has to be OK.
I knew Shayna had not taken a breah in an impossibly long time. Yet, I clung to the idea that she would be all right. This could not happen to us. We sat in the waiting room with friends who showed up to support us. Then, the chaplain came in. I knew this was bad. I didn’t want to see the chaplain. I wanted to hear a doctor tell me she had started breathing and wanted to see us.The chaplain wanted to pray. I could not stop him. He prayed for God’s will to be done. I countered his prayer. “To hell with God’s will, just give me my daughter back.”
When the doctor finally came in and told us that they have pronounced Shayna dead I immediately had the thought that that’s it my life is over. My life will never be the same but immediately followed by the thought that I had to take care of my wife and my other daughter Kayla. That whatever happened, the three of us had to stay together. I knew I had to be there for them. I held Tywana and committed to her that I would be there for her; not having any idea what that would look like.
Walking out of the hospital that day the parallel to the day that Shayna was born 15-½ years earlier struck me. We walked into Good Samaritan Hospital in January 2020 empty-handed and walked out with Shayna. We walked into West Chester Hospital on that fateful day hoping to walk out with Shayna and we walked out leaving her body there.That walk to my brother’s car was the hardest walk I’ve ever taken.
Here I sit 5.48 years later. 48,000 hours later, 2000 days later. I never had any idea that I would still be here. In those early days after her passing whenever anyone said anything to me about the future if it was more than a week in the future, I’d get angry because I could not even imagine living a week without my daughter being on this planet When people talked about years I’d tell them I had no plan to be here in years.
I’ll be 60 in May which to me seems like an old man and I can’t believe I’m still here. What has happened in the course of that 2000 days nothing short of a miracle.
Some things are still the same. We’re still running our business, Treasured Locks. We still live in the same house. Kayla went back to school right away. She got her undergrad degree and will finish her Masters in a few months.
Something had to change. After Shayna passed I realized very quickly that I had to do something about how I lived my life. I could not just accept where I was. I didn’t want to live. My only motivation for staying here was Tywana and Kayla. That was enough short term. But I knew that I could not just stay here and survive, that I had to somehow seek healing even though healing seemed impossible. I didn’t even want to heal. I thought that to honor Shayna that I should be miserable for the rest of my life. I wanted people to say that after she passed Brian was never the same. I thought that would be a fitting way to show how much she meant to me. I remember going to a grief group and early on and a mother was there and her daughter had passed about 10 years prior. This woman was angry and bitter and I believe she went to the gravesite at least once a week. She talked about how unfair it was her daughter at passing how she was miserable and always be miserable and I realize she was making everybody in the room miserable. You know we can learn from everyone we come across. I learned from that woman that day. Her bitterness and anger taught me something. I learned I didn’t want to be that person. Something different had to happen. So, I started reaching out to people and someone recommended to me that I reach out to a guy named Mark Ireland. I had never heard of Mark Ireland but he wrote a couple of books about the passing of his son Brandon. Mark started a group called Helping parents heal along with Elizabeth Boisson. So I wrote an email to a stranger which is so unlike me to write to a perfect stranger. Mark wrote back and sent me copies of both of his books which I read and which were helpful.
The next May, we planned a vacation for the three of us, Tywana, Kayla, and me. The girls loved going to the beach and Kayla decided instead of going to the beach this time, we would go to the opposite. We decided to go to the desert to Phoenix, Arizona. I had spoken to Elizabeth Boisson at this point. But, I had no idea she lived near Phoenix. Elizabeth happened to be just a few minutes away from where we were staying. So we met Elizabeth for breakfast. Long story short, a little while after that, we decided to start a chapter of helping parents heal in Cincinnati Ohio. That eventually turned into the Helping Parents Heal online Group, which I helped to run for several years growing it up to around 6,000 people.
Meanwhile, in 2019, I took mentorship from a business coach to try to improve Treasured Locks. This was George Kao, a guy I had heard on Suzanne Giesemann’s podcast. Suzanne is a world-class medium and someone I consider a friend. I figured if she was using this guy, he must be good.
A friend sent me a message saying she had run across a life coaching course she thought I’d be interested in. This was strange because I had never mentioned becoming a life coach to her. But, since she’s an intuitive, I trusted her intuition and took the course. I thought it could help with my work with Helping Parents Heal. Then, it dawned on me. The mentorship course I was taking wasn’t for Treasured Locks. I was supposed to launch a new business. In April 2019, almost four years after Shayna passed, I started developing the web page and wrote a short book on Grief.
I wanted to create something short and easy to digest from the perspective of someone who had first-hand experience with child loss. I wanted to share the raw emotions I had felt and what had worked for me up to that point. I took everything I knew and I wrote one big Google Doc and created this book and put it. A couple of months later, I started the podcast.
As I write this, it’s a year and a half or so after I started the podcast and wrote the book. The podcast is approaching 50,000 downloads. I’ve got nearly two thousand subscribers on YouTube. A couple of videos have gone somewhat viral with over 20,000 views.
I am teaching classes. As kind of a sidetrack, I’ve developed a course on racism. I taught a class with Robin landsong this weekend. It’s the second time we have offered it- a new way to look at grief and death along with Robin doing singing medicine for the participants. I’ve done classes with Dr. Terry Daniel. We are finishing one up this coming Sunday. I have spoken at the Afterlife Conference and the Helping Parents Heal Conference. I have hosted a grief panel for the International Association of Near Death Studies.
My coaching and grief guidance work continues to grow. It’s extremely gratifying when a parent or any other griever tells me that my work has helped them.
It seems like recently I’ve been coming across a lot of parents who are early in their grief, and I’m talking about weeks or maybe sometimes a couple of months. I’m grateful that I can remember what those early days/weeks/months were like so that I can relate to what they are going through. It’s nothing short of hell on Earth. I wrote about that in my blog in the early days.
Last week I was teaching the class “10 Life-changing Lessons From Heaven” a book and course about wisdom from near death experiences. The group was all women who have children in spirit. Most of the women there were just a few months in, and I want to address those people.
When I first started this journey, I had no idea that I could ever make it and I certainly didn’t think I’d ever be happy again. I remember looking at people like Elizabeth Boisson and others who had been on this journey longer than I had and thinking I’ll never be that what they are. Frankly, I didn’t even aspire to be what they were. They were joyful and doing fulfilling work. That would never be me.
I talked with a mother just a few days ago who was broken, and I mean totally broken. She had faith in God. She had been through other losses in her life, deaths other than the death of her daughter. But there’s something different about when it’s your kid, and she had lost her faith in God, her faith in the Bible, her confidence in herself. Without that foundation of God and the Bible she didn’t know who she was anymore.
I had just listened to a podcast about the value of despair. It’s the point most, if not all, of the saints have reached. It’s known as the Dark Night of the Soul. Even Jesus experienced this in the Garden of Gethsemane as he sweated blood tormented by the thought of what laid ahead of him and as he hanged there bleeding on the cross crying out “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?”
As I spoke with her, my heart went out to her. But, I saw a saint in the making. I saw someone who had gotten to the point where she was broken wide open, an empty vessel ready to receive. The cracks are the places where the light gets in. She was seeking, asking questions, reaching out for a new view because circumstances ripped her old understanding away.
I was listening to a wisdom book a few days ago. One of the things it said was if you’re climbing a mountain and you feel like giving up; it’s okay to give up. Just keep moving your feet.
This gem resonated with me because I heard it listening to the book while taking my morning walk. I’ve walked every morning for the past several years, going back to before Shayna’s transition. After she transitioned, I turned that walk into a walking meditation. I would imagine that each step was a day. As I left my house, each step brought me closer to the step that would bring me back home. Each day brought me one day closer to the day when I would arrive at Home and see Shayna again. A friend I met on Facebook, Carolyn Clapper, not knowing this, messaged me on Facebook one day saying Shayna had dropped in on her and told her that I was walking trying to catch up with Shayna. That was 100% true. I’m not on step 2,000 on my round trip journey from Home back to Home.
Climbing a mountain or taking a walk, the analogy is the same. I don’t always feel like taking my walk. Many mornings when I first leave the house, I don’t think I’ll be able to do the seven miles. But, as long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other, it doesn’t matter what I feel, I will eventually get to my destination.
In those early days, I didn’t think healing was possible. I didn’t even want to heal. But, I kept taking the steps anyway. Even if you’re like I was and say there’s no way I’m going to possibly heal, just keep doing the things it takes to heal.
To this day I have times I don’t feel like I’ll make it. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t long to be Home, NOW. There are times I wake up in the morning my first thought is, “I’m tired. Why do I have to do this again?”
I then do my gratitude practice. I think of three things I’m grateful for, even if it’s as simple as having a nice warm bed. I think of what I need to do today, just today. And, I get up and do it. Doing that enough times has led me to here, 2,000 days later.
The milestones that we go through are opportunities to stop and take stock. Life can only be understood backward but must be lived forward. I thought my life ended that day in the hospital in June 2015. But, our stories never end. It was the end of a chapter. But one chapter closes, and another opens. We think of death as the end of the book. But, even death is just the end of another chapter. Death is the chapter at the horizon that we can’t see beyond. But, trust me, one thing I’ve learned for sure in the past 2,000 days is it’s not the end of the book.
What about you. Where are you on your journey? As I record this, it’s also the close of the weirdest year in the memory of everyone I know; 2020 is drawing to a close. We typically take this time, the New Year, to reflect on where we are and where we want to be. Take some time to reflect on the journey that got you to this point. If you’re going through hell, keep going. And remember what one man can do, another man can do. If I can do this, anyone can.
https://www.grief2growth.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/mile-835774_1280-e1593085416606.jpg4381280Brian Smithhttps://grief2growth.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Grief-2-Growth-logo-for-wordpress-site.jpgBrian Smith2020-06-25 07:42:082020-06-25 07:43:46Day 1827- Shayna’s Five Year Angelversary
Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, all of these things are a confusing mix of emotions after we have “lost” a dear one. Shayna’s 20th birthday was a day that brought a feeling of dread as it loomed larger and larger on the calendar. Starting last week, well-meaning parents in Helping Parents Heal began offering sympathetic messages to me. I couldn’t ignore the day. I knew that I would have to go through it.
I woke up yesterday morning with a download of information from Shayna, an idea for a podcast to explain to others what these birthdays are like. As much as my approach would be to make it a day like any other day to forget it was Shayna’s 20th, that’s not possible. I knew I would be getting messages from people all day long. I steeled myself to face the day and to try to simply endure it.
After I posted the video, the responses started coming in. People were sending me love and support. But, as nice as the messages of “Happy Birthday” to Shayna were, what was uplifting were the messages from people saying how much my sharing Shayna had helped them. I was overflowing with gratitude all day long for all of the support from my friends. And, in case you have lost touch with your family through your loss, I want to add this. All of this support came from people not related to me. None of it was from my family. As I was telling a client last week “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” The bonds that are forged in our bottles are the bonds that endure.
I couldn’t have been down if I had wanted to. I felt lifted up all day long. I knew Shayna would find a way to get a message to me. She did a trick on my phone (which I posted about yesterday). She also delivered a hand-written message through my friend Claudia.
In case you can’t read the note, it says:
Hi Shayna, How wonderful to be born in January 2000! I was hoping you might have a message for your Mom + Dad. Love, Claudia.
To my dear mother + father + sister.
I’m all over you. I mean I got this. You guys got a problem- I’m on it. You’re worried about something? I’ve already taken care of it. There’s nothing to worry about anymore.
Dad- what are you gonna do with all that extra time? LOL. You could probably rebuild the catacombs or something.
I do love you all- And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love me.
There’s nothing I’d rather do today than share cake with you- chocolate this time!
There is so much joy here- and I am learning how to share it! Even with you sour pusses. 🙂
I do miss the eye rolls and the protests because “There goes Shayna again.” but that’s just sometimes you forget I’M RIGHT HERE.
I love you all and I’m so proud of you all. I point you out and I say “That’s my family.” and they are all impressed.
Behave yourselves and have fun- or I’ll spook you!!!
Happy Birthday to Me
Love you Bunches!
Tywana and I went out for pizza to our favorite pizza place. We came home, had some champagne (one we hadn’t had in nearly 20 years. Someone sent it to me a few months ago and I was waiting for an occasion to open it). We had tuxedo cake (chocolate). And, I watched the National Championship game.
Thank you to everyone who helped me more than endure the day. Thank you for making it a magical day. And, most especially, thank you to my baby, Shayna.
https://www.grief2growth.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/birthday-1827714_1920.jpg12801920Brian Smithhttps://grief2growth.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Grief-2-Growth-logo-for-wordpress-site.jpgBrian Smith2020-01-14 14:48:362020-01-14 14:48:36Day 1665- The Day After Shayna’s Birthday
Today is Shayna’s 20th birthday. When I asked her for a sign this morning, she reminded me she had given me a sign last night. The Alexa in our office suddenly and inexplicably stopped working with the bedroom lights. Just as inexplicably, it started working again.
This morning, I made a YouTube video using an image I use as my screensaver as the still shot for the video. I posted it to Facebook.
A friend asked if anyone knew a life coach she could refer people to. I replied with a GIF of Will Smith raising his hand.
Someone else replied to her post. So I got a notification. I went to look. What I saw was the still image I had used for the YouTube video. As I looked at it, it changed into the YouTube cover image I had used- right in front of my eyes. Then, back to the still image.
This is NOT what I replied with. But, it’s what I was able to screenshot.
I shut down Facebook and reopened the app on my phone. This is what I had actually replied with.
https://www.grief2growth.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/P1010170-scaled.jpg14402560Brian Smithhttps://grief2growth.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Grief-2-Growth-logo-for-wordpress-site.jpgBrian Smith2020-01-13 17:12:482020-01-13 17:54:45Day 1664- Shayna’s Birthday- Give Me a Sign
Many times over the last nearly fifteen years, Tywana or I have uttered that phrase. “Zoe is the best dog ever.” Zoe was a 60-pound retriever mix. God only knows her true genetic background. She looks most like a flat-coated retriever. We got Zoe in February 2005, only a few weeks after our fur-baby Chloe made her transition. The hardest decision I ever had to make was to let Chloe go. We had decided to wait until at least spring to get another dog so I wouldn’t have to train a dog during the winter. But, a few weeks after Chloe transitioned, Tywana and the girls were on the internet combing shelters looking for our next baby.
The shelter where Zoe was born named her “Curly Girl” because of the curly hair on her ears. The girls wanted to name her Princess. But, since I was vetoed from using the name Zoe for Kayla, and Shayna, and since Tywana had named Chloe, I insisted on naming her Zoe, which means “life”.
Zoe, from the start, was the easiest dog to train. She has always been eager to please and mellow. The only problem with Zoe is she’s too friendly. She loves people, preferring them to dogs. At the dog park, she’d rather play with the people than the dogs.
Zoe was never much for chasing frisbees or balls. She never liked toys. Stevie brought toys back into the house after Chloe passed. Zoe ignored Stevie’s toys. Zoe just wants to lay at our feet.
Six years ago, when Zoe was nine years old, we got Stevie. Zoe was nine and a big dog. I didn’t anticipate she would be with us for very much longer. The girls wanted a little dog that they could cuddle. Zoe took Stevie under her wing like one of her own children. They have been inseparable ever since. They’ve never spent a night apart and on the very rare occasion when Zoe leaves the house and Stevie is here without her, Stevie watches the door and cries waiting for her return.
Zoe, finally began showing signs of aging a couple of years ago. I remember taking her to the vet when she was ten. The vet went on and on for about five minutes for how great she looked for a ten-year-old. Eyes clear, good teeth, not much gray. I’ve been preparing myself for her transition. But, she was showing almost no signs of aging. The last couple of years the gray has been coming in faster and faster. She’s been losing muscle mass. The cataracts were noticeable. And her hearing was not what it was. Zoe still had the heart of a puppy though. She still wanted to run.
I think the signs of aging are a grace given to us to let us know it’s almost time to move on from these mortal bodies. The walks with Zoe stopped a couple of years ago. She would get exhausted and overheated. Stevie is a terrible walker without Zoe. She learned from Zoe and when Zoe’s not there, she’s not interested in walking. Looking into Zoe’s eyes, every time I can see the years have taken their toll. The hearing loss, the lack of ability to get up and down the steps on the deck, these things let me know the day I dread was coming.
When my grandparents crossed over, I mourned but they were old and it was expected. Even with the signs of aging, I could never accept that Zoe was old. She will forever be my baby. She still wanted to run. She couldn’t get up and down the stairs to the deck anymore. She would go down the deck stairs sometimes. But, she would walk around to the front of the house to be let in. She took the steps back into the house with a little leap though, right up until the end.
Two weeks ago Zoe started showing signs of weakness and dizziness. There were times when she cannot even stand. She would collapse to the ground unable to get up. Zoe slept in our bathroom. We had a morning routine. I would go in to get dressed and she would look up at me, usually not even moving a muscle. I would check to make sure she was still breathing because she would be laying so still, it was hard to tell. As I would put on my clothes, wash my face, etc. she would just lay there. When I turned on my toothbrush is when she would come alive. She would walk over and I’d rub her behind the ear for exactly the two minutes it took my toothbrush to go through its cycle. This was the only time Stevie would allow me to pet Zoe without complaining. She knew this was our time. When the toothbrush would turn off, Zoe would obediently walk over to her bed and lay down, all without a word from me.
The last few mornings she was not able to stand through the whole two minutes. She would either go back to her bed or just lay down on the floor next to me at my sink. Our last morning together, yesterday, I went to her with my toothbrush, sat on the floor, put her head in my lap and told her it was the day she was going to be with Shayna.
Thursday night, two days before we put Zoe to sleep, Zoe was so weak I thought maybe I was watching her last moments. She’s been spending all day in her room because we can’t trust her to make it up and down the steps. Zoe would normally spend the day in the basement with Tywana and Stevie while Tywana worked. I cried for a week knowing I was going to have to make the decision with her that I made with Chloe almost fifteen years ago.
Finally, on Friday we made the call to the vet. It was time. I was having to carry Zoe in and every time she had to go outside. Zoe, always, attacked her food with gusto every single morning and evening meal. She was barely eating, finally losing interest in treats, even. When I would take her out, she would do her business then, just look back towards the house, not making a move to try to get back up the stairs, I assume because several times she had collapsed and rolled over onto her side in a seizure just making that small effort.
The vet had an appointment for Saturday morning. Tywana wanted to try to wait until Monday to see if Zoe would go on her own. But, we decided, with Kayla to do it Saturday morning before we moved Kayla into her new house.
I barely slept a wink on Friday night. I wanted to believe I was making the best call for Zoe, not for me. I would live with any inconvenience I needed to make her happy. I would give anything to cure her. I couldn’t believe she had deteriorated so much so fast. We took her to vet just on Tuesday and even though we agreed the day was coming very soon, we knew Tuesday wasn’t the day. I didn’t expect at that time the day would be Saturday.
I did my meditation Saturday morning then went downstairs and sat in silence, still not believing the day had come. When the time came to get Zoe, I went upstairs to pick her up and bring her down. As I went to reach for her, I had a pang of guilt and burst out in tears. I couldn’t do this to my baby. I couldn’t take her and watch her die in front of my eyes. But, I knew what had to be done. Zoe never liked being carried much and never by anyone other than me. She didn’t trust anyone else. I knew I couldn’t be there to carry her in and out every time. And, she couldn’t go on much longer without eating. I didn’t want her to starve to death.
I put Zoe in the car and we made the twenty-minute drive to the vet’s office. They were incredibly kind and understanding. They offered us options for the disposal of her body. Kayla had already made it clear she finds cremains in the house to be “creepy”. I was surprised when she said she wanted Zoe’s ashes back to spread under Shayna’s tree. So, I suppose we will have a ceremony for Zoe then. Tywana found meditation music on her phone and we played it while the procedure began. Zoe was always excited about going to the vet because…treats. But, Tuesday, she didn’t even nuzzle the doctor’s lab coat looking for treats in the pocket. So, I was surprised that when I opened the bag of treats they said I could give her, she popped up and eagerly gobbled several down. I thought for a split second that maybe I had made a mistake. But, then her legs collapsed and she went to the ground. She couldn’t stand for more than few seconds.
They administered the first drug which is an anesthetic. So you know in case you ever have to do this, they don’t feel anything once this kicks in. They kind of go to sleep. But, their eyes remain open. They remain open the whole time. After the anesthesia does its thing, the doctor returns to the room. It takes about ten minutes. Then, they give the drug that stops the heart. I could not even tell exactly when Zoe crossed over unless it was when I experienced a pang of emotional pain so intense that I cried out “O God!”.
I take solace in the fact that Zoe will get to meet Chloe, her older sister that she never met. That morning, as I came down the steps and greeted Shayna, I told her that she better be there to welcome Zoe. I knew she would. But, I wanted to be sure.
I know Shayna was there when Zoe crossed. I had prayed for a shared crossing experience. I wanted to see Zoe running into Shayna’s arms. I didn’t get that. But, there was a shared crossing experience. Someone in the room saw Shayna there, waiting, as Zoe was going through the process of shedding her body. I am so grateful for that. I baby my dogs just like my biological children. Someone has to be there to baby Zoe.
I am happy that she’ll be healthy and able to run again. I cry not for her but for me. In spite of all my grief work, in spite of Zoe trying to prepare me by showing me her age over the last couple of years, it still hurts like hell. I tell myself to focus on the positive, to reframe her passing. Instead of focusing on the pain I’m experiencing now, I’m trying to focus on the nearly fifteen years she brought joy into my life on a daily basis. Not many people get that long with their dogs. Other than Tywana and Kayla, no one else got that with Zoe. I am overflowing with gratitude for our time together.
The tears are flowing and will continue to flow, I’m sure. A friend said that Zoe was lucky to have us as her human family. I am blessed indeed. Zoe is the best dog ever. She will forever remain in my heart. She will remain a part of our family. It’s good to know that on the day I see Shayna again, I’ll also see my other baby.
p.s.- I happened to see that Susanne Wilson was doing a Zoom meeting today, the day after we transitioned Zoe. I had the opportunity to ask Susanne a question. This week I re-listened to the reading she did with me three years ago as the run-up to Zoe’s crossing. It brought me comfort as her predictions were spot on. I know that she’s an amazing medium.
I asked if she had ever communicated with a pet who crossed over and was met by their human. She said absolutely yes.
She asked if I had seen Zoe’s soul leave her body. I didn’t see Zoe leave. But, I felt like I felt her passing through me; which is the way Susanne described it. I felt it as intense emotional pain for me though.
She also said she saw Shayna with a dog and Shayna was rubbing her braids across the dog as it lay in her lap. Lastly, she said that Shayna was there with us when we were there with Zoe. She was standing in the corner of the room! This is exactly as reported by someone who was in the room. Shayna was there in the corner. Shayna set this up, knowing I would be on the meeting with Susanne today to get validation.
https://www.grief2growth.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/IMG_2105_1.jpg15362048Brian Smithhttps://grief2growth.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Grief-2-Growth-logo-for-wordpress-site.jpgBrian Smith2019-08-11 13:32:212019-10-25 08:26:30Day 1509- Zoe- The Best Dog Ever
Thanks to everyone who thought of me today and reached out. It’s gratifying to know how many remember. Today is Monday, June 24th, the fourth anniversary of Shayna’s passing. As I head out for my walk this morning, it’s a day very similar to that day four years ago when I did the same thing. I now know that as I walked, Shayna was in her bed, spirit already gone from her body, and I wonder how I could have taken that walk without knowing, without somehow sensing that she had slipped away.
I’ve received cards, calls, messages from many people. People continue to remember and honor Shayna and I am proud and humbled at the same time. Many of the parents I know say their families and friends don’t acknowledge these days and they feel alone because of it. They are not alone in this regard, not a single biological family remember has reached out to me. My family doesn’t read my blog. They don’t listen to my podcast. They don’t even comment on my Facebook posts. This isn’t uncommon. We have to find our new tribe. We have to focus not on the friends we have lost and the family that has either forgotten or finds it too uncomfortable to reach out. I choose to concentrate on the blessing of my new friends, my new non-biological family like the members of Helping Parents Heal and Voice of Our Angels.
I try to tell myself that the 24th of June is a day like any other day. It’s just one of three hundred and sixty-five on the calendar every year. Ty has put it on the calendar this year. I don’t need to have it on the calendar. I know June 24th as well as I know January 13th, the day Shayna joined us on the planet.
Last night as we were heading off to bed, Ty said to set an intention to have a dream of Shayna, a sign that she’s still here with us. I don’t think any of us had a dream with Shayna in it. But, I had two dreams that were heavily influenced by her.
In the first dream, Jay Leno is at our house interviewing us. For those of you who are a little younger, Jay Leno had a late night talk show, like Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Fallon. Jay was asking us about Shayna and I remember him saying, “It’s so great that you keep her memory alive.” I replied, “It’s not just her memory that’s alive, Jay. Shayna is still right here with us.” He said, “Well, it’s cool that you believe that.” And, I came right back with, “I don’t just believe, I know. Shayna existed before this universe began and she will exist after the universe stops. I don’t know if the universe will exist another day or another trillion billion years. But, I know that consciousness is fundamental and precedes the material, as Max Planck said over 100 years ago.”
The scene shifts and I’m in a large room sitting at a soundboard like in a studio. I’m preparing for a radio broadcast. Someone walks up with a t-shirt that says “Anon Bible College”. It’s a misspelling of Aenon Bible College, a college co-founded by my grandfather, in 1940. When I wake up, I remember that my father and my uncle used to man the sound booth on Sunday mornings, recording Pop’s sermons for broadcast and I think of how, due to Shayna’s passing, I’m following in his footsteps with the launch of the podcast.
Thursday and Friday of last week I recorded two interviews for my podcast. Friday, I spent three hours with Sandra Champlain, one of the first people I listened to after Shayna’s passing. Two hours were me sitting in on a demonstration of mediumship. The third hour was me being interviewed for her show. I’m on We Don’t Die as a guest! Over the course of the past few days I’ve listened to podcasts with Susanne Wilson, Suzanne Giesemann, and Elizabeth Boisson, all Sandra’s guests and all people I know very well now and I think of everything that had to happen over the last four years to bring me to this point.
The image that headlines this post is what I think of when I think of Shayna. She was two years old when I snapped this. I walked in to see her making this phenomenal tower. We knew the first day with us she was going to be special, determined, focused, and indomitable. The nurses at the hospital told us. We had no idea we’d only have 15 years with her here, physically. We knew her life would have an everlasting impact. We did not know how.
As I reflect today, four years after her transition, I am awed by how her ripples continue to spread.
The year Shayna passed, someone put purple bows on the stop signs in the neighborhood. By the first angelversary date, the ribbons had become tattered and faded. Then on June 24, 2016, they were replaced. They were replaced again in 2017 and 2018. One year, I know they will not be replaced. Maybe this will be the year. As I leave the neighborhood, before seven AM, the old ribbons are still there. That’s OK. Then, as I’m coming home, around 8:30 AM, I see this sight.
There is a group of girls that played a big role in Shayna’s life. They call themselves the Shayna Six. They graduated from high school last year. They are off at various colleges and in the military. They’ve made it a tradition to come by the house on her angel date. Again, I know one year this will stop. But, yesterday, Taylor comes by to pay her respects. She apologizes that she can’t come on the anniversary day. But, she has to be back in Columbus on Monday. This evening, the other five come by and spend over two hours at the kitchen table talking to Ty and Kayla, telling stories about Shayna and wondering where she’d be right now had she stayed with us.
I watch television while they are chatting and head upstairs after a while. My new friend Daniel John is doing medium readings on a Facebook Live. So, I listen in for a while, watching others get incredible validations that their loved ones are still here with us. It’s a great way to end the day.
As happens so often, this morning a song came to mind as I thought about this day. After all, it’s just another day, day number 1461 without her to be precise.
It’s another milestone along the road Home. I am proud of Tywana, and Kayla for how far we have all come with our little angel leading the way back. It’s not just another day. Each of these milestones shows just how far we have come. They are times to reflect and to celebrate our resilience.
When you come home
I breathe a little faster
Every time we’re together
It’d never be the same (it’d never be the same)
If you’re not here
How can you stay away (how can you stay away)
Away so long
Why can’t we stay together
Give me a reason
Give me a reason
I, I don’t wanna say it
I don’t wanna find another way
To make it through the day without you
I, I can’t resist
Try to find exactly what I missed
It’s just another day without you
It’s just another day oh
https://www.grief2growth.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/103-0337_IMG.jpg12001600Brian Smithhttps://grief2growth.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Grief-2-Growth-logo-for-wordpress-site.jpgBrian Smith2019-06-24 17:18:182019-10-25 08:29:01Day 1461- (Not) Just Another Day
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, a day to celebrate the woman who brought you into the world. Or, if you are fortunate enough to be a mother, a day to celebrate you.
But, for millions of mothers, Mother’s Day is more bitter than bittersweet. For mothers whose children have preceded them in death, Mother’s Day can be a cruel reminder of what you are missing. If you’re a mother whose only child has passed into eternity, you might feel like you’re not even a mother anymore.
I’d like to give you a different way to look at this Mother’s Day. In fact, this is a different way to look at every holiday and even every day of the year. Yes, I know I’m not a mother. But, bear with me.
I look at life as a long hike. The people in my life are on this hike with me. We are all walking each other Home. Each day is another step along the road to our common destination. I walk 11,000 steps every morning. As I walk, I think of each step as another day in my life. I know that if I continue to put one foot in front of the other, I will get to my goal.
For those of us whose children are no longer in the physical world, our children have run ahead of us. It’s just like Shayna to do that. So, it’s not a stretch for me to picture it that way. Shayna has finished the race and is waiting for me at the finish line.
As you’re on a long hike, you’ll pass milestones, occasionally. If you’re running a marathon, you’ll pass mile markers that indicate how far you’ve come. When you see those mile markers you rejoice. You’ve put another mile behind you. You have one less to the finish line.
Now, I want you to try an exercise. Close your eyes and imagine you and your family, including your child who isn’t with you this year. You’re holding hands and walking along a road. She drops your hand and runs off ahead of you. You know she’s OK. She’s just going to meet you at the finish line. You continue your walk, enjoying the scenery. Every so often you pass a mile marker. The mile markers in this analogy are birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries and Mother’s Days.
Tomorrow, celebrate your child, as they are celebrating you. Celebrate yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back. You child is proud of you for making it another year. They want you to be happy and continue to enjoy the walk. And, as you continue to put one foot in front of the other, covering the miles (years) between now and the time you reach the finish, you grow closer to hearing the cheers as you cross the finish line. Enjoy the hike and take everything in as you cover the miles.
Five years ago almost to the day, Kayla graduated from high school. I was heartbroken. My baby would be leaving the nest for the first time, moving three hours away and calling the University of Toledo her home for the next four years. For 17-1/2 years, she had been under my roof, my first born, my pride and joy. I couldn’t imagine life without seeing her every day.
We had no idea what the coming years would bring. I thought Shayna would be here for another four years. Then, she’d be off to OSU, my alma mater. Instead, a few weeks after Kayla finished her freshman year, Shayna crossed into paradise on June 24, 2015. Kayla was on vacation with friends in South Carolina. She had not seen her sister, her best friend in over a week because Shayna was away at a volleyball tournament for a week and Kayla left for her vacation the day before Shayna came home.
That night, when I met Kayla getting off of the plane, I could see the look in her eyes “Please tell me this isn’t true.” I so badly wanted to tell her it was a cruel hoax, a bad nightmare that we’d all wake up from. But, I couldn’t. All I could do was hold her and tell her that it would all somehow be all right. I could only tell her that I’d be here for her as I always had from the day she came into my life. We would find a way to make it through, together.
When we talked that night in the kitchen, I feared for Kayla’s very life. I didn’t know if she would be able to survive the loss of her twin flame, her soulmate. I certainly didn’t know if I’d ever see her smile again, ever have joy in her life. I doubted my survival. But, I didn’t care about me. I was old. I was ready to go at any time. Kayla was 18 years with her whole life ahead of her. She had to go on. I would do everything in my power to make that happen.
Kayla didn’t have the benefit I had (or so I thought) of knowing that we can never die. We hadn’t talked much about spirituality since she told me she was an atheist a few years earlier. Rather than try to “convert” her back, I tried to lead by example. Had I done enough to prepare her for this moment? Would she think Shayna had vanished?
We offered Kayla the option to stay at home for a year or at least a semester. But, she went right back to school in the fall. Maybe because of Shayna’s passing, she realized that her biology major with the goal of becoming a Physician’s Assistant wasn’t bringing her joy. She changed her major and added a minor. She met a young man who has been a rock for her. Gabe is now her boyfriend of over three years. Gabe never met Shayna. But, he’s been there for Kayla, helping her. Shayna approves.
Four years later, here we are. Kayla has not only survived; she has thrived. She has taken the blow and come back stronger than ever.
As I sat in meditation on graduation morning, I was prompted to open my eyes. It was 5 AM. There was only a little moonlight lighting the birch tree outside. As I watched the leaves blow with the breeze, I wondered “What happened to the green?”. I looked down at my shirt, a bright yellow t-shirt. It was a shade of gray. I looked at my shorts. I knew they were a bright shade of blue. But, in this light, they were only another shade of gray. As I looked around the room, I thought “Nothing has any color.” What had changed? Did the things around me not have color simply because I couldn’t see it? I thought about walking into this room if it were pitch dark and the only sense I had was my vision. Would the objects still exist even though all I could see was blackness?
Then, I thought of Shayna. It seems like she’s not here. I can’t see her with my eyes because she doesn’t reflect light the way our bodies do. I can’t hear her voice because her vocal cords don’t move the air to create sound vibrations the way our voices do. I can’t feel her with her hands because my fingers don’t meet the resistance of her skin and cause electrical impulses to course through my nerves to my brain, saying I’m touching her skin. But, because I can’t perceive her with my limited senses doesn’t mean she’s not there any more than when there’s not enough light to trigger my optic nerves the objects around me don’t have color. I immediately knew Shayna was right there. I knew she had been with me and would be.
We made the drive to Toledo and met my parents, uncle, and sister. We didn’t get to see Kayla before the ceremony, but we saw her and texted with her. In her gown, it was apparent my baby had grown into a beautiful young woman; even more beautiful inside than out. When it was her turn to walk across the stage, I watched her walk proudly and confidently to receive her diploma in front of thousands of people, on camera. And, knowing her the way I do and sharing the same sense of stage fright, I was doubly proud of the glowing smile on her face. It’s not easy for us to be the center of attention. I used to tell Kayla “fake it until you make it.” I don’t know if she was faking it or not. But, she was doing it!
When Katie Holmes, the featured speaker, talked about how each of the students had faced hardships, I thought, “You have no idea.” as my thoughts immediately went to Kayla and how she has overcome. I could not possibly be more proud of the woman she is.
After the ceremony, we took Kayla and Gabe out to lunch, then back to her apartment to pick up a few items that we’d be bringing home for her. She’ll be starting her first job post graduation in just a few days. She’ll move back in for the summer, then off to the University of Cincinnati to work on her masters.
Last night as Tywana and I got into bed she said to me “We did it.” I know what she meant. We were both petrified with fear the day they gave us that little bundle to bring home and said “Good luck.” Neither of us knew what kind of parents we’d be. We only knew that we’d do our best to be there for every step of the way, willing to lay down our lives for her if necessary. But, I had to say to Tywana, we didn’t do it, Kayla did. We were only there to support her.
I say this to Kayla. You might feel as though you’re alone in the world now. I know you’ve been calling yourself a “baby adult”. I love that phrase. It shows your maturity. As you’ve made the transition from high school to an 18-year-old, then to a 21-year-old, you recognized that you didn’t suddenly become totally independent. I love our relationship. Maybe now that you have that diploma, you feel you’re a “real” adult, alone in this world, on your own. I make this commitment to you. You will never be alone. Anything I can do for you while I am here, I will do. And, when the day comes in the future that I am no longer in this form, remember this. I will never leave you, even for a second. I am with you always. When I’m in the next form, I will be with you even more. Shayna and I will be there, paving your way. You will never be on your own. And, I’m ecstatic that you know this, sweet pea.