Arc of Love on Heaven Day

It’s been raining and the sun has been peeking through the clouds today, a perfect recipe for a rainbow on Anna and Abby’s 4th Heaven Day. We headed out on a walk mid-morning in hopes to see their artistic work fill the sky. I prayed for God to release His glory as a sign for my broken heart.

I prayed and prayed.

Then He answered.

Our rainbow today isn’t the traditional arc of colors that fill the sky, but rather the arc of love that has been cast on us from all of you, our community both near and far.

For the past 4 years you have showed up, unconditionally, and honored our girls by choosing to love. You have walked through the shadows with us, held us and cared for our girls by speaking their names, sharing their love and celebrating their joy.

Thank you for remembering, for honoring Anna and Abby and for filling our hearts with warmth and love.

Thank you for being our rainbow.

rainbow tree on heaven day

PS. This happened this afternoon in Forest Grove ❤

rainbow real on hd

Photo Credit: Samantha McKelvey ❤ 

Thank you girls ❤ I miss you so much!

Love Drenched Community

Welcome to FG

I was sitting at my desk in-between preschool classes. I was in grad school at Ohio State and had an Adapted PE assistantship with a preschool program for children with and without disabilities. I absolutely loved graduate school and my assistantship.

The phone rang and it was one of my professors saying he had just got off the phone with a man from Forest Grove, Oregon who was looking for an Adapted PE Specialist with interest in working with people with disabilities in the outdoors. I had modeled my whole education around these two things. I had just told my professor a week prior I was planning on moving West after graduation ~ I was thinking Colorado.

I got off the phone and looked at a map to see exactly how far Forest Grove was from my comfort zone of Columbus, OH.

It was really far.

~

I was new in town and looking for something to do in the evenings. A friend, who was involved in the local soccer program, asked if I wanted to coach a U-6 team. Sounded like fun and it was. Playing with kids out on the soccer field a couple of nights a week, teaching them to want to be physically active and how to have good sportsmanship was the perfect way to spend my evenings. I remember distinctly thinking life was so good and that I loved living in a small town. I was meeting lots of people and feeling very connected and this was very comforting considering my family and close friends were so far away.

~

I was a single mom and I was heading back to work soon. It didn’t seem natural for me to leave my baby with someone else for the day and go to work ~ I had no choice. I started asking around town for a name of a good child care provider. I wasn’t going to leave Anna with just anyone. While at the aquatics center working with some of my students a co-worker gave me the name and number of a woman who was thinking about doing childcare. I called that evening and set up a time to go and meet with her. I knew as soon as I walked in the door ~ not only was she going to watch Anna but we were going to be family.

~

He was part of the community and we were living parallel lives ~ we had never met even though his daughter had been a peer tutor for me a number of times.  One day her dad’s life and mine collided. When he told her about going out with one of her teachers she was super excited it was me and I was super excited she was his.

~

Dinner was over and they asked if we could all go to the park and play. I was making tea and decided to bring the pot and some extra cups ~ I knew that some of the other parents may enjoy a cup too. The kids were all playing lava tag and the parents were catching up and drinking tea. I remember thinking that I had the life I always dreamed of ~ wonderful loving husband, beautiful healthy children, great friends and the most amazing community. Life was so good!

~

It was a horrible night that I really don’t want to re-live. All I know is that I was surrounded by neighbors, friends, fireman, police officers and many others. They held us, took care of us and our girls and grieved alongside us that night.

~

I watched as so many people walked through the doors of the church to come celebrate Anna and Abigail’s lives with us. So many people ~ so much love.

~

I was checking out at our local grocery store, I needed some things for dinner. We find that our grocery lists are smaller these days and if we buy too much on one trip it usually goes bad; Tom hates that.

“How are you today?” the cashier asks with such a caring tone.

“Hanging in there.” I reply with a smile.

He asks me every time I go to the grocery store and each time I can feel his kindness and concern for my heart.

~

I spend a lot of time at the post office mailing Love Rock kits. They know me and when I go in I am always greeted with a kind word of encouragement from the bearded man behind the counter. He has struggles, I have struggles ~ we pray for one another.

~

I was tired, sad and missing Anna and Abigail ~ there was a knock at my front door and through the stained glass window I saw the neighbor girl’s new bobbed hair do. I open the door to hugs and love. They stopped my on their way home just to see how I was doing. We chatted about our day, the playground plans and give another round of hugs. I thanked them for the visit.

~

I looked out my window and I saw a man from our community. He was standing next to Anna and Abby’s tree. He was crying. I said a prayer for him.

~

The dining room was filled and there was laughter and joy coming from every corner. Kids were hiding Love Rocks and every time they pass by they give Tom and I a hug. There was a lot of people dressed alike ~ all wearing Love Rocks shirts or hoodies that just arrived in the mail. I heard their names in conversation ~ Anna ~ Abigail. Abigail’s friend gave me a smile to show me her new braces, they are alternating blue and purple. My heart was so full of love.

~

Seventeen years ago I took a huge risk and moved across the country to a place where I knew no one. I became part of a community that many only dream of being part of. This town we live in is truly something special and we feel very blessed to call it home. This community we belong to holds us in a way that I didn’t even know I needed. They celebrate with us the lives of Anna and Abigail, and as a community, we all, take pride in the fact that in Forest Grove OR, we choose Love and Joy.

 

 

 

It Takes a Village

It was a Monday and I remember I was sitting in my advisor’s office chatting with him about where I was planning on applying for teaching jobs. I was finishing up my graduate degree in Adapted Physical Education at Ohio State and finding a job was on the horizon.

I told him I wanted to move West to ski real slopes, paddle in the ocean and climb mountains instead of small hills. I was thinking Colorado, Wyoming or Montana.

The next day my advisor called me into his office to tell me that someone from a small town in Oregon was looking for an Adapted PE Specialist and someone to run an outdoor program for people with disabilities. He handed me a piece of paper with a name and number on it and told me to call saying it sounded as though this was the perfect fit for me.

I went back to my office and looked at a map ~ where exactly is Oregon?

I called and 5 months later my car was packed and I was headed West to start an adventure of my own.

on the road

For years, when talking about home, my mind would always go back to the house I grew up in and the small town in Ohio that shaped and molded me. I would think about the brick driveway upon which I rode my bike, wiffle ball games in the back yard with the neighborhood kids, the 18 ft christmas tree we decorated every year and of course my mom’s cooking.

Yesterday, as Tom and I were traveling home from a visit with my family back in Ohio, I couldn’t help but realize that now when I think of home I think of my community in Oregon.

Tom and I are fully aware of the gift we have been given in terms of our community. We will never take it for granted that we live in a truly  special place and we know we are blessed to be surrounded by so many loving and caring souls.

I’ve always known that it takes a village to raise a child but this past year I learned that it also takes a village to grieve and celebrate a child ~ in our case children. Our village was there for our girls before they went to Heaven and are definitely there now to celebrate them.

When I moved to this community 16 years ago I knew it was a special place, it is now so much more than that ~ it’s my home!

Heroes

fire and rescure

Last night was Forest Grove Fire and Rescue’s annual awards and recognition dinner and it was held at our church. Tom received a call from our Pastor asking if he would like to welcome them and help get them set up. Tom jumped at the chance to be in the same room with all the men and women who were there the night our girls went to Heaven. He asked me to come along but I couldn’t.

Yesterday I was sinking in my grief and I just couldn’t go; my PTSD is intense right now and I’m having a hard time with flashbacks from the accident. Something I know that I’ll live with the rest of my life. It’s part of my wet suit. I woke up this morning with a lot of regret that I didn’t go.

I’m sad that I missed a chance to be there with these amazing men and women. I am so grateful for everything they have done for us and for our community. They have loved us and cared for us in our darkest hours and in ways I couldn’t imagine. Words really can’t express my gratitude for these men and women. I am proud to say they are my communities firefighters.

They are my heroes!

Our dear friend, Chad, received the Firefighter of the Year Award. We are so proud of him.

When he became a firefighter my girls were proud. Having your best friend’s dad be a fireman was so cool.  Whenever we would go over fire safety Anna would simply ask, “well if there is a fire, Chad will come save us right?” I think they had a peace of mind knowing that Chad, the firefighter, was in our lives; it was a good thing.  I can hear them say now in Heaven, “Firefighter of the Year, that’s so awesome!”

The night my girls went to Heaven there was nothing the firefighters could do, nothing Chad could do to bring them back. My girls, without pain and suffering, were on their way to Heaven before they even got there. Abigail, being bigger and stronger, was able to give the gift of life to others by being put on life support for a few days in order to find the perfect matches for her precious organs. This was a true gift from God and the joy that came in the hours following the worst night of my life.

Chad, along with many others, took care of us not only that night but for many nights that followed. He interacted with the media, he coordinated projects around our house, helping the firefighters to deal with their own trauma from the accident, and he loved us. My girls, I’m sure, are so proud of him and how he took care of us.

These men and women were not able to save my girls but they did save us. They, along with Washington County Law Enforcement, stood and watched over us, they prayed with us and took care of our community and gave us hope in the good of humanity.  They remember our girls and honor the beauty of their lives. They will not forget and they do everything in their power to keep our community safe. For this I’m eternally grateful.

So yes Anna, Chad will come with his friends and save us.