I get up and do a couple of hours of therapy on Facebook and tumblr. Processing like this helps until I can get into grief counseling which won’t be for another week. My good friend who checks in on me every morning via Facebook messaging checks in. My plan is to go for a power walk by myself, but now it’s late enough I need to check in with Ty about church. It’s Sunday and she normally wants to go. I do not normally want to go, but today I kind of feel the urge.  Church doesn’t normally bring me comfort, but I’ll try anything now. I start up the stairs and right as I reach the top of the stairs, where Shayna’s room is, I just lose it. I open the door to our bedroom, walk over to Ty, lay my head on her stomach and without a word just start sobbing again. No words are needed. No questions. She just holds me while I get it out. Then, I ask her about church. No, not today. She doesn’t want to run into people who will start asking questions. Just don’t have the energy for it today.

We decide to go for a walk together and take the dogs. It’s a nice day and we take a leisurely pace as we discuss everything. I married an amazing woman. I knew she was strong then, but honestly there have been times when I have taken her for granted. She has been there for me every day since Shayna passed, without fail. We typically bicker quite a bit. Not now. We don’t have time for that. We are united. We talk about how we are processing the grief. We talk about how much we miss our baby. We talk about the feelings of guilt we have both had. What should we have done differently? We each reassure the other, we did all we could do. We took her to the doctors. We went beyond what the cardiologist recommended. We loved her lavishly. Then, why did God take her from us? We don’t know, but we do know we have to accept what is.
Upon returning from the walk, I feel the need to destroy something. Fortunately, there are two overgrown trees in the front yard that need to be hacked back. I get out my sawzall and commence to hacking. Cutting and pulling feels good. Ty re-pots some flowers and does some work outside. We have to keep busy. We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. She decides to do some work on a large order we need to get out.

Friends call. They’re going to the zoo. “Would you like to come?” It’s great to have them reach out, but we have plans for the day. We’re still sweaty from the walk. Besides, thanks, but Shayna used to work at the zoo. We’re not ready for that. They say that they almost didn’t call because of that and I stop them. No, please keep asking. I’m glad you asked. Please don’t walk on egg shells around us.

Neighbors stop by. They were out of town the day of Shayna’s celebration. They have come to pay their respects. I have to limit myself on bragging about Shayna. They probably wouldn’t think that was limited, but I could talk about Shayna all day every day for the rest of my life. I tell them how beautiful the celebration was and my delusional idea that we should do that for people while they are alive. Why do we wait until people are dead to celebrate their lives? Oh yes, there are birthday parties and if you make it to 75 maybe you’ll have a life review type of event, but we don’t tell people often enough, while they are live, how much they mean to us. We don’t look back and see all they have accomplished.

I feel like I should be crying, but the tears just aren’t there right now.  Too many tears already today?  Have I used my quota? So, they tell us how strong we are. If you only knew. If you knew I cry at the drop of a hat. If you knew I wake up during the night moaning and with my abdomen convulsing. If you knew the despair I feel. What you are hearing is me intellectualizing, rationalizing. What you hear is me trying to accept the unacceptable, because I simply have no choice. I would give anything, anything to have her back.

My appetite for the world is slowly returning. I watch some TV while Ty works on the order. I plan to watch the Women’s World Cup Finals since the US is in it. Kayla emerges from her room. She had been out with friends and is sleeping a lot when she is home. She was out late the night before and up early to go out with friends, so we haven’t seen her much today. We sit on the couch together and watch some TV.

Upon retiring for the night I decide to forego the Ativan and instead take a melatonin (a neighbor so thoughtfully brought). Sleep comes easily. I wake in the middle of the night to what I’m calling night terrors. It’s that moment of realization of something horrible. This time it’s the unfairness of Shayna being taken from Kayla. I don’t cry. I just moan. I’m not a praying person, but I fell to my knees before getting into bed and prayed for my family- this has hit everyone hard, including my parents who are the most rock solid people I know.
Is this moaning what Paul was talking about in Romans 8:26?

“Romans 8:26-27New International Version (NIV)
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Well, I’m definitely weak and I definitely don’t know what to pray for. And the groaning isn’t voluntary. I can’t hold it in. I try to keep it quiet to not wake Ty and Kayla, but it just has to come out.

The rest of the night I sleep well. I wake to more thoughts of Shayna. More terrifying reality of the changes in all our lives. I open my eyes and the first thing I see is a baby picture of her. More moaning and groaning. I lay my head on Ty’s stomach. I listen to her heart beat. Why are our hearts still beating and Shayna’s was stopped at 15?

I will myself to stop the moaning and get out of bed. I’m talking aloud to myself now. “Stop it Brian. Stop moaning and get up.” Today is the day I restart my T25 routine. There are orders to be packed and work to be done.

Today, the last of the family left. My brother, his wife and my mother said their good-byes and returned to their lives.  Their support was great, but at some point we all have to go back to our lives. People have stopped just dropping by. This is a good thing. It’s time. We have to have some time to sit quietly and feel the “new normal”. Kayla spends most of the day in her room- that’s normal.  She is a teenager. I get up and mow the lawn. Then, I take a 4.5 mile walk, the first power walk I have taken in the 11 days since she passed. “What will the neighbors think?” Will they think “Good, he’s being healthy.” or will they think “Wow, he’s not still mourning her?”

Ty and I continue to have our own impromptu counseling sessions, just the two of us. It’s still surreal. We still keep expecting her to come back. Every once in a while you glance up at the flowers or the cards and think “What are those doing here?” Then it hits you again. Talking with Ty helps me realize I’m not going crazy. “Good, you’re feeling this too.” The denial is fading, but still there. The mind cannot wrap itself around a thing so shocking, so horrifying. This just doesn’t happen.

I tried to feel Shayna’s presence on my walk. I always teased her about going with me and she never did, not once. I tease her “You have to go with me now.  You have no choice.” I send thoughts her way. Various people tell me various things about the state of her soul now. Is she still near Earth? Is she concerned for us? I release her. “Shayna, I love you and I will always love you, but we’re going to be all right. We miss you and it hurts so much. But, you go do what you need to do sweetie and we will see you when we get there.” I hope she hears me. I don’t want to let her go, but I don’t want to cause her any pain.
Ty and I discuss this- Is Shayna still here concerned about us? Once again, maybe Shayna has given us the answer to this. The week they were in Orlando, Ty told Shayna she felt a bit guilty being on vacation without Kayla and me. They were living it up eating in fancy restaurants, going swimming, etc. Shayna said that she loved us (Kayla and me), but she didn’t really miss us. Shayna knew how to have a good time and us not being there wasn’t going to interfere with that.

A package arrives for Shayna. It’s her Sharps container. I had to give her bi-weekly injections for her rheumatoid arthritis. The used needles have to be disposed of as medical waste. We had just ordered this disposal system because her last one had just filled up. “Fuck!” I scream and slam it to the ground. It’s just another reminder of how quickly she was snatched away- just like every time I open the refrigerator and see her Enbrel syringes. Still half of the package of four left. I can’t bring myself to throw them away yet. The good thing is no more arthritis sweetie. No more shots, even though you took them like a trooper. We still have leftovers in the refrigerator from before she died. Gone so soon and gone so fast. It’s more than the mind can handle.

Kayla finally leaves her room, but it’s to go to a friend’s house. It’s the Fourth of July and everyone is celebrating. That is everyone but us. Ty goes out and runs errands while I mow the lawn and walk. We’re trying to decide what to do for dinner. I got a coupon from Champp’s for a free entree. It’s either going to be very crowded or deserted. I have no idea which. Who goes to a restaurant on the Fourth of July?  Us. That’s who. We are those people now.

I shuffle out to the car. There is no joy. I think again of Shayna, wishing she were jumping in the car behind me- always insisting on sitting behind my seat even though it was pushed all the way back and she was 5’ 10" That was her seat and she wouldn’t sit behind Ty where there was more room. She was always digging her knees into the back of my seat. I think of what she would say if she knew we were going without her. “I can’t believe you are going out to dinner without me.” Well, I would take her if I could. I’d do anything to have her go with us.

The restaurant is almost empty. It’s the Fourth of July. Everyone is celebrating with family and friends. The waitress comes “Will anyone being joining you?’ Why did she ask that? "No.” I sad with great sadness. She swears when she looked at the table she saw three menus. No, there were only two.

We eat, we get our check. Wow. This is cheap. Just the two of us now. I look around- lots of “old” couples- we are now one of them. I feel like we’ve just aged. Our girls kept us young. Bills will be less. Our cost of living just went down. There will be no college for Shayna. No more paying for nationals. I feel guilt. I was always complaining about money. We had told Shayna this was her last volleyball nationals. Club volleyball is expensive. Shayna had other plans, already working Ty for nationals for next year. But, is this my fault? Did my complaining about money so much somehow wish Shayna out of my world? No, I didn’t want less bills, I wanted more money. You got it wrong. Bring her back. Crazy thoughts come at crazy times. 

We settle in after coming back from dinner. Let’s watch some TV. Once again thoughts turn to Shayna. The reality is our tastes in TV had begun to diverge and she spent a great deal of time not in the room- sometimes she was physically there, but checked out on her iPhone. She’d pass by, see what we were watching and if it didn’t suit her, she’d go watch Netflix in her room. We also comment on the reality that it’s likely it would have only been the two of us at dinner anyway. Shayna had a full social calendar. She would have had something planned for last night. We realized that the days of the four of us just sitting and having a good time were growing more and more rare anyway. It certainly wasn’t every night even when Kayla was home from college. We so looked forward to the four of us being together this summer, but frankly it wasn’t what we had pictured in the few weeks we did have together and we had already observed that.

10:15 PM and I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. Normally I’m a night owl, but today has just drained me. We retire for the evening- Kayla is still out with friends and Shayna never coming home again. We hold each other and say again we don’t know how, but we will make it through this.

Sleep comes easily tonight. I did take an Ativan. No need to struggle with sleep right now. I need my rest.

The new normal..

Woke up feeling pretty good. Actually made it out of bed without crying- a first. Decided to go for a walk. Gotta get back into the routine. But, when I got downstairs, I started to work on the Tumblr I’m using to document this journey. Did Shayna send this idea to me? Shayna didn’t like to write, but she was a better writer than I am.  She was amazing at writing- like she was at everything. Writing is therapeutic for me. Maybe someday something I write will be worth reading, but if not, that’s OK.

7:45 AM- first cry of the day as I sit at my desk.  I can’t remember what triggered it. It doesn’t take much. I had to get some work done. Went to the basement to pack orders. Just standing there thinking about my beautiful baby girl being gone… here it comes- second cry of the day. The tears could come any time any place.  Two cried before 10 AM

A good friend has called me to meet him for coffee, we change it to smoothies. We meet at Smoothie King. He asks me gentle prompting questions and just lets me vent as we take (an unplanned) 2-3 mile walk. He’s a pastor, but I’m honest with him about my faith, my doubts, my hopes, my fears. All of it. I want to see Shayna again. I need that assurance. I’m concerned for Kayla. She’s vulnerable. An 18 year old shouldn’t have to go through this. I’m worried about Ty. Shayna was the one in the family who not only tolerated her silliness, but loved it and gave it right back. I’m worried about our marriage. We’ll likely suffer from PTSD. Will we be able to keep it together? We can’t make it alone. My friend listens, doesn’t offer a lot of platitudes but encourages me. He uses an analogy that it’s like my heart has been taken out without my permission. I add without anesthesia. But, what comes to me later is it is as if the four of us were sharing one heart and ¼ of it has been ripped away. It leaves a big, gaping raw wound. He says we are doing the right things. He has faith in us, that lifts me up.

The afternoon and evening are pretty good. Family is dwindling down. It’s down to just my brother, his wife and my mother now. The house is becoming more quiet. We need to adjust to the new normal.

Friends who have psychic abilities and knowledge are giving me hope. I share some of this with Kayla.  Maybe this was a mistake? Kayla is processing her own way. A few minutes later she is shaken. She is throwing things. She is angry about the loss of her sister. We hold her, comfort her, give her permission to be angry, to throw things to hit things- just don’t hurt yourself. We agree with her this sucks. It’s not fair. It shouldn’t have happened. We are angry together. We cry together. But, once again, like we do at least once a day, we resolve to come through this together. We resolve we will honor Shayna and continue our family legacy by fighting through this.

I don’t know how much an 18 year old cares about legacy and given that she has such a long life ahead of her I don’t know how much hope it gives her that she will see Shayna at the end.  What I do know that I can wrap her in my arms and tell her she is not alone, she will never be alone. We will overcome this.
The evening was good. Had steaks on the grill. I even watched some golf and a little TV. Still no interest in politics or world news, but sports is coming back to me. But, I woke up at 3:30AM again with the night terrors. Not nightmares. I’m fully awake, but the thoughts of never seeing her again hurt so badly, I moan and whisper prayers and petitions and I wake Ty. I can’t help it. It has to come out. I take an Ativan and sleep another three hours.

It’s two days post celebration now and the reality is settling in. My mind wants to reject it, but slowly it’s becoming more and more real, like a fog that is solidifying.

Now that the service is over and I have a moment to breathe, it’s time to start trying to heal. Ty and I have decided since Day 2 that we are going to need help through this. There is no way I can do this on my own and even with the amazing support system we have, we decide professional help is in order.  Grief like this can destroy a family.  It can destroy a marriage. I’ve already felt the almost uncontrollable rage. I’ve had to apologize to Ty and to my family for snapping at them. The rage wells up and it seeks an outlet. That outlet can be anyone or anything that happens to be in the room at the time. I’m resentful of people with more than one child. I look at my own brother’s family and how they are whole and how ours has been ripped apart.  I’m mad as hell.

I call the first of the grief counselors on my list. She talks with me for 25 minutes. I cry.  She lost a husband suddenly. That’s a lot like losing a child. She says things I’m feeling before I can say them. You just want to die, too. She visioned a Star Trek transporter beam taking her to heaven to be with her husband. You don’t want to go on.  You don’t know how you’re going to go on. 

This is good. This gives me a bit of hope.  We schedule an appointment for the week after next when she returns from vacation.  Something to look forward to.

Yesterday was Shayna’s celebration where 500-700 people gathered to celebrate the life of an amazing girl. The more I reflect on Shayna, the more I realize how blessed I am to have had her choose me as her Daddy.

I went to bed with my heart full from all the support given to me, but when I woke up this morning, that joy was gone, replaced by the grief, the tears, the suffering.

I have studied Buddhism to a certain extent.  The Buddha teaches us in the Four Noble Truths there will be suffering.  He teaches us the cause of suffering.  He teaches us the remedy for suffering.  In the 8 fold path, he teaches us how to avoid or at least minimize suffering. 

Simply put, we suffer because we desire what we cannot have. We desire an outcome that is beyond our control. If we can eliminate that desire, we can eliminate suffering. Non-attachement is what we want to achieve. Equanimity is the goal. That makes sense, except when it comes to love.

If you love, you will suffer. The more you love, the more you will suffer. The deeper you love, the deeper you will suffer. These truths are as true as the truths the Buddha gave us.

I have tried to free myself of clinging, to avoid suffering.  But, I chose to allow myself one indulgence, one exception when it comes to clinging/desiring. That exception was my family. My girls, including Ty, I allowed myself to cling to with every fiber of my being. I planned to precede them in death, so this was a pretty good gamble on my part.  God had other plans.

Some have told me there is a kind of love without attachment. The first person to tell me this is a single guy with no children.  OK.  Right.  The second person is a mother, but when I asked her if she could lose one of her children without pain, she admitted she could not.  Yes, intellectually if I know Shayna is in a better place, I should be happy for her. I should not suffer. I should want what is best for her.  Isn’t that what a good Daddy wants?  Maybe, but not this Daddy.

I loved greatly. Thus, I suffer. Greatly. It’s the price I pay and the price I gladly pay for the attachment I had with Shayna. I’d do it all again in exactly the same way, Buddha.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is inevitable. If you are human, you are going to have feelings of attachment to certain people and when those people are gone, it’s going to hurt. But, my Jewish friend said something deeply profound to me the day I told him Shayna had passed. He said “Mourning is for the living, Brian”. The dead do not suffer. The dead do not have regrets. I am a firm believer our souls survive the end of our physical existence. From both a faith perspective, being a universalist Christian and a scientific perspective, as someone who has studied near death experiences, past lives regression and in between life regression, I am convinced that Shayna is in a better place of utter freedom and no suffering.

Yet, we mourn. We know our loved ones are the lucky ones. They are the ones who have seen the thin veil rent wide open and gotten to not only see through, but step through. We know they have thrown off the weight of this world. In near death experiences people look at their bodies with detachment. While they love us, they do not want to return. Shayna, even being the gifted athlete she was never seemed quite comfortable with the burdens of having a physical body. She hated to move. Even getting up off of the couch to get ready for bed, she would say “I wish I could just be in bed.” Shayna had rheumatoid arthritis. I had to give her a shot bi-weekly. She was on methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug. Both these drugs can have awful side effects. I don’t know how much she thought about them. They were not spoken of. But, now all of that is behind Shayna. She is free from the troubles of this world.

We mourn that Shayna will never graduate high school, will never learn to drive, will never become a veterinarian. We mourn that we won’t get to see her bright smiling face in the afternoon when she would finally roll out of bed. But, these are losses for us, not for her. She is on to bigger and better things.

So, yes mourning is selfish. It’s for us and it is something we must do. What we should avoid is wallowing in it; becoming too comfortable or even attached to the pain. We should not punish ourselves by saying “I can’t do that without her being here.” It does not honor our loved ones when we let our lives end with their physical existence. It would be like saying “She went to the beach, so I’m going to sit here and cry.”

Ty and I will always, for the rest of this existence, miss our baby girl and wonder what might have been, but for her sake and ours, we will seek joy again, in this life- when the time is right.

Today is the day that we share our Shayna with the world for the last time. Our hearts are ripped wide open, but we have to get through this. We want those who knew a little of the story of this very special girl to come away knowing more and being nearly as amazed as we were to have had her.

The celebration isn’t until 4 o’clock PM. So, we have a lot of time on our hands. Ty and I love to throw parties. We have an annual Kentucky Derby Party which takes days to prepare for and that first Saturday in May we are buzzing like busy bees getting things ready. This is different. Everything has been done.  Friends have coordinated all of the food, etc. We have nothing to do.  As the hour approaches, we nervously wonder what it will be like.  People have told us to not put any pressure on ourselves. We have been given a room we can escape to if it becomes too much. I’m an introvert.  Kayla is an introvert. We dread the thought of facing God knows how many people for 4 hours. Family visitation at 4, public visitation 5-7 (isn’t that too long?) and the ceremony itself at 7 lasting about an hour.  

I huddle with Ty and Kayla before we leave.  I give them permission to opt out any time they feel overwhelmed. Go to the other room.  Leave the building. Whatever.  This is going to be a long, grueling day.  Take care of yourselves. Let’s take care of each other.

As we pull up to the church (my brother driving us), I see the hearse. Another wave of cold reality splashes over me. I hate funerals. I hate hearses. I hate all that stuff. I barely will glance at a funeral home as I drive by. I know this hearse has brought my baby’s body to the chapel for the last time I will see her. I sob uncontrollably.  

I regain my composure. I don’t have time to indulge myself. I have to be here for Ty and Kayla.  We get out of the car and slowly, slowly march towards the chapel. Kayla pulls back. She doesn’t say anything, but she just doesn’t want to go in. Ty and I gently each take an arm and lead her into the building.  As we enter the chapel, we see the casket up front with our baby’s body in it.  We all hang at the back. They are still arranging the mementoes on the lower half of the casket.  The Girl Scout sash, the volleyball uniforms, the basketball uniform, the penguins all around. Shayna, although in the body of a beautiful woman, was still very much a kid.  

We slowly approach the casket. I haven’t seen her in a week.  The last time I saw her at least she had her color. She doesn’t look like my Shayna. Her color has changed.  They have tried to do the best they can with the makeup. Her lips aren’t the same. Her hair isn’t done the way she would have done it. Shayna would have been appalled. She was a makeup and hair girl spending hours and hours on YouTube and in the mirror perfecting her technique and she had perfected it, too.

I explain to Ty and Kayla this is the best they can do. Shayna’s body is not Shayna and it’s already changing.  

The chapel seats 250.  We have been in Cincinnati for 18 years and know several people, but I would not term us social butterflies. They have asked us how many will attend. We truly have no idea. This isn’t an RSVP event. We figure a lot of kids will show up from the high school, but we think they’ll just pop by, pay their respects and be off.  

Family visitation goes well. Not too crowded. Then, five o’clock rolls around. Time for everyone else.  Wow.  Who are all these people?  They open the doors on the right side of the chapel. The guest book is there. We have taken a scrap book and removed the pages. We have provided Sharpies so people can express themselves. The pages are scattered on tables as you enter so many people can sign at at time.   Ty and I just happened to end up on the other side of the chapel so what happens is as people come through the line to view Shayna, they exit where we are and everyone wants to talk to us.  

The tears are flowing freely. Former teachers, coaches she never got the chance to play for (varsity basketball and varsity volleyball), team mates for club volleyball, former basketball team mates.  Many, many wearing purple, Shayna’s favorite color. The outpouring of love is overwhelming. Ty and I stand for two hours greeting each one. I took a break of about two three minutes to step outside where I realized the line to get in had gone out of the foyer, out the door and around the corner. Shayna touched a lot of people, deeply.

I had three friends show up that I had never met in person. One guy flew in from Atlanta that morning and back out that night. Facebook friend.  Another Facebook friend drove four hours.  Another Facebook friend, who lives in Cincy came.  

We started the service with a looping video of Shayna’s favorite songs and pictures of Shayna living, loving laughing- just being Shayna. I have over 2,000 pictures of Shayna. I was only able to share about 200.  I shared her own video production of the song “Domino”.  I shared Shayna and her cousin in their original composition “Peanut Butter & Jelly” complete with choreography. 

We then had Shayna’s friends do a musical number for her.  They followed that by sharing personal memories of Shayna. The high school principal read Shayna’s favorite teacher’s thoughts on her.  Lastly, Kayla, supported by her friend gave her thoughts on her “Baby Duck” as she called her.

I gave the minister a six page eulogy to work from.  He got a good bit of it in.  I am SO proud of Shayna.  My heart bursts with pride every time I think of her accomplishments, the things she overcame, her spirit and what I was finding out was her ability to touch people.  

We played a Wiz Kalifa song that Shayna and I had both liked. It’s a current song and the gist of it is one friend has gone on and one is left to carry on until we see each other again.  God only knew that would be our song.  I will play it  until the day I die and think about Shayna every time.  The intent was to put up the version of the video with lyrics so people would know what the message was. The audio wasn’t working for some reason though. So I had to scramble to find it on my iPhone.  I pushed my way to the back to see if we could plug into into the sound system.  That took a while because the room was standing room only and there were still people in the hallway. Nope, no plug for an iPhone. So I pushed my way back to the front and held my iPhone up to the microphone. I asked people to sing along. It was magical.

We ended the ceremony by releasing balloons into the sky.  Some say that represents a releasing of Shayna’s spirit. I’m still processing that.  Some say her spirit remains with us for a time or visits us.  I don’t know. I will always hold her close in my heart. In this life, I will never release her. But, I have to release the flesh, the beautiful, beautiful baby girl I had to lit up everyone’s day with that killer smile no longer can do that on this plane.  

It’s a big loss for the world.  Big loss I tell you. Shayna is doing fine where she is. But, here we mourn what we are missing.

As I retire for the evening I write this:

“My
heart is full tonight and this time not of grief.  That will return the
in morning, but the outpouring of love tonight for Shayna and for us
was overwhelming. I’m going to guess 500 or more people came through.  
The line to see Shayna and greet us went on for two hours and extended
outside the chapel doors, outside of the outside doors and around the
corner of the building.  Shayna touched SO many people.  And they
came out in droves to honor her life. Thank you for one of the most
memorable days of our lives. To know that our little girl touched so
many makes us even more aware of how special she was.  Tomorrow I will write more, but for tonight- thank you, thank you, thank you.”

First of all, I would suggest simply not planning a funeral for a child.  Do not make it dim and dark and morbid.  Make it childlike. Let the service reflect the character of your child.  Shayna was a partier. Shayna celebrated every day of life.  Shayna liked for people to have a good time.  We wanted the last thing people saw of Shayna to be a celebration. Every time someone said funeral, we said celebration.  We are here to honor what this kid did in her fast and furious 15 years.

We had never done this (like 99.9% of people) and needed a lot of guidance. When we met with the woman who was helping us with the chapel where we would have the services, she handed us a suggested outline. The funeral director gave suggestions on visitation, funeral, burial ceremony, etc.  We took this and made it our own.

We decided to go with everything on one day. That is easiest on the out of town guests and on us not having to gear up to perform two days.  A late afternoon family visitation followed by a public visitation followed by the service itself.

As I mentioned, the chapel director gave us a suggested outline for the service.  It was helpful.  My wife asked “Can we do this?” or “Do we have time to do that?”  I reminded her this was our service and we could do whatever we wanted.  Don’t let anyone impose any rules on you.

We told them this would be a celebration of Shayna’s life. They said the visitation is usually with subdued lighting and soft music playing in the background.  Nope.  Turn up the lights and I’m going to play a slideshow with Shayna’s favorite songs and  pictures of her 15 years showing her in action- living, laughing and loving. We included a video that Shayna had done when she was 15 years old- her singing the song Domino by Jessie J.  She did an amazing production. She had done a video a few years before I always threatened to play at her wedding, but I didn’t want her haunting me, so I skipped that one.  We also played a video of Shayna and her favorite cousin doing an original song called Peanut Butter and Jelly. It brought back memories of the hours they spent writing and choreographing that before they proudly showed it to us.  It brought smiles to everyone. This video was on loop for the entire three hours of the visitation.  Laugh, smile, remember me, tell funny stories.

As for the service itself, with Shayna being so young and being taken so suddenly we wanted to include her friends and make it as comfortable as possible for them.  Shayna loved the color purple. We asked people “Please no mourning clothes.” and we informed them of Shayna’s favorite color.  Many people showed up wearing purple in solidarity with us. Ty and I dressed casually in purple. 

We asked her musical friends if they would like to do a song for her. They wanted to know what we wanted.  We told them choose something they thought Shayna would want. They know her musical tastes better than we do. They chose Paradise Waiting by Relief. Fine. Go with it.

We asked any and all friends if they’d like to give thoughts about Shayna.  If they weren’t up to reading them, they could have someone read them for them.  We asked Shayna’s favorite teacher to speak. She couldn’t speak because she was out of town, but she wrote her thoughts up and the high school principal delivered them.

We had one scripture reading, given by Shayna’s uncle.  I wrote Shayna’s eulogy.  Unfortunately, I could only edit it down to six single spaced, 10 point type pages.  So, the minister couldn’t deliver it all, but he painted a picture of Shayna’s life that let others know a little more just how special her time on Earth was. 

There is a current song that had a lot of meaning for our family and Shayna. We played that video with the lyrics and had everyone sing along.

Every step along the way, the question was “What would Shayna do?’  I knew she wouldn’t like the picture I chose for the obituary because Shayna always had a better idea, but she wasn’t here to tell me, so I did the best I could.

I would suggest when you plan the celebration for your little one, throw out the rulebook and do what brings a smile to your face and to the faces of your guests.  Plan something that you want to remember.  Have your guests leave thinking that they just celebrated an amazing life and inspired to go out and live their own just a bit better.

Ty’s mother (who has dementia) was appalled at it.  No one else expressed any concerns. We didn’t announce it (except that I’ve made it clear on Facebook and tumblr).  We just didn’t have a burial service.