Monday, August 27, 2018

Sisters


It's the beginning of the new school year, Jay's first in 18 years without big sister by her side. They were two and a half years apart in age, but only one year apart in school. The only times they were ever separated were the beginning of Junior High and High School for Sarah. But even then, they got ready together, watched Phineas and Ferb together, rode to and from school together. Inseparable.

But the fun started when they were together. As toddlers, Sarah had lost what little speech she had by 18 months, and Jay never developed speech. But they created their own babble language. They'd be riding in their car seats gabbing away and laughing, and I'd turn to look at them and try to join. Stop dead, Silence. "Mom, we weren't talking to you." "Well, ex-cuuuuuse ME!" I'd go back to driving and they'd pick up where they left off. Kind of like getting your nails done in a Korean salon. You KNOW they're talking about you, but you can't prove it. 

In grade school, early years, they developed a system. Jay was cute, Sarah was stealthy. Jay would create a diversion while Sarah sneaked into the snack closet and lifted whatever was in there. Think Paul Newman in The Sting. When Sarah was done, she'd signal Jay and the show would be over. About 20 minutes after they got home, I'd get a call from the teacher, "Hey, yeah, could you check the girls' backpacks? We seem to be missing a package of …" I knew better than to get offended that they were calling my sweet babies thieves. I'd already checked and removed the contraband. It seriously took college educated women weeks to catch on to them. I know it's wrong, but it made me proud.

Throughout their years together, they were best friends. Actually, Sarah was Jay's only friend as she'd tolerate (barely) most people as long as they left her alone. But she was down with whatever Big Sissy had on her mind. Playing in the backyard with Charlie, swimming, swinging, jumping on the trampoline, snuggling up to watch a movie at "nap" time. (They never napped, but I needed the break.) When we lost Sarah, it hit Jay so very hard. I'm having a hard time typing this, bawling, having to stop and wipe the tears, probably why it's taken so long to share the Baby Queen's struggle.

The pain of losing your child is deep and harsh, but coupled with the pain of watching your other child lost and grieving, not knowing how to help, or even if you can help because most days you can't help yourself, is the worst pain I've ever felt. Jay was there when we found Sarah, she saw her body, she was there when the sheriff came, and the EMTs, the justice, and finally the transporters who took her away. When she went to bed, she had her big sister; when she got up, she was alone. She didn't cry. It actually took months before she cried. What she did do was quit. 

Jay was getting over the flu with the rest of us, but she struggled more. And after Sarah's death, she stopped fighting. She didn't eat or drink anything I didn't directly feed her, losing 30 pounds in the first month. She wouldn't come out of her room. Didn't want to go to school, or to grandma and Poppy's (last time she went was Sarah's memorial. She hasn't been back.) She didn't want to watch movies or listen to music. She just laid in her bed, facing the wall, sleeping or not. Her only trips out once we moved to the new house were to doctors. Right after we moved, she fell in the driveway and dislocated her kneecap. The doctor put her in a heel to hip immobilizing brace for two months. This didn't help. She really couldn't get around even if she wanted to. Her knee healed, but she sank deeper. Trips to her psychiatrist to adjust her medicine weren't much fun, and an attempted trip to the Lake pool where she and Sarah spent many happy summers ended in disaster. But it started the tears which I believe started the grieving and healing.

After her meltdown at the pool, I'd often hear her babbling in her room, giggling, and on more than one occasion, crying inconsolably. I don't know if Sarah had come back to check on her or if she was just reliving happy memories, but at least she was starting to reconnect. She would go into Sarah's room which we set up just as we would have if Sarah had been here. All of her things, her books, her new bed, her Prom dresses and homecoming mums. It smells like her. Jay would crawl into her bed and just look at her things. I didn't encourage her, didn't deter her, just let her do what she needed to do. She's picked out a couple of Sarah's things, pictures, to keep in her room. All steps along the grieving path.

So now we're faced with going back to school. Alone. The first hurdle was the backpack dilemma. Sarah was a fashionista, Jay couldn't care less. Every year, Sarah would pick out a new stylish backpack, always some form and design of pink. Jay would get her old one. Potayto, potahto. This year, Sarah's last backpack is literally Sarah's last backpack. I will never get to shop with her again, trying on backpacks like mink coats. I miss that. Do I give Jay the last backpack, or do I start a new tradition getting Jay a new one? I have to admit, my selfishness colored this one. Sarah's backpack still smells like her. Yeah, I sniff it.  A good friend gave me sage advice. Get the new backpack, different from anything Sarah would have picked, and then give Jay the choice. She chose both. Sarah's backpack went back on the coat hook in the laundry room with her lunch box, and Jay took the turquoise with black polka dots. Another reason I love that girl. She thinks like me.

We've been through two weeks of summer school. The new teachers and aides adore her. She's approved of their service as her new minions. Things went smoothly, and she seems to really enjoy her time out of the house meeting new people. They all know the challenges she's facing and are very sweet and supportive. One of the high school counselors is yet another young lady who was touched by the cute chicks. Shannon was a high school student who worked with the chicks in grade school. She went on to get her special ed certification, then her counselor's certification. She just finished accreditation as a grief counselor. God has placed those two together, and I'm grateful. I'm slowly starting to see her come back to life. She actually giggled this morning. And as soon as she was on the bus, I wept. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

So, here we are

I wander the halls of this big, stupid house in the middle of the night wondering how the fuck I got here. Not just here at this address, but HERE. This isn't my life. My life wasn't supposed to be my life, but after 20+ years of loving the cute chicks, it became my life. And I loved it.

Twenty-five years ago, if you'd asked me, I'd be looking at early retirement after 25 years teaching, my children would be grown and off to college/married/starting their own lives, and I would be starting my second go at life. Maybe traveling. Maybe going after that law degree I deferred. Maybe just sleeping in and being a bum. But life is what happens when you're busy making plans. I had Sarah, who wasn't the child I imagined having, and I had to adjust. I actually mourned her the first time when she was a baby. I had to be able to let go of the child I had imagined and all the things I had planned in order to truly love and appreciate the beautiful soul God gifted me. I went through all the stages of grief after getting her Autism diagnosis ~ denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. It was easier for Jaylee, I had the feeling she was different from the moment I held her in the hospital. And I had experience. But my life trajectory changed dramatically. Instead of a working professional who had children, I was a Special Needs Mom ~ advocate, researcher, teacher, therapist, guardian, full-time MOM. Sarah and Jaylee were my life. Jay still is, she's really the only reason that I get up and dressed most days.

And now, my sweet silly Sarah is gone, and to be brutally honest, folks, I'm not doing well. At all. I can maintain a calm, capable fa├žade when I'm in public, with family who need me to be strong for them, but it's exhausting. To my soul. After Sarah's memorial, two weeks were spent moving and settling Jaylee in. Then she dislocated her kneecap and was in an immobilization brace for two months. During that time, I had to whip the Panhandle house in shape and get it on the market for the Spring housing market. From March to mid-May, I basically remodeled a 1400-sq ft house. Every wall was painted. New wood laminate laid in the living/dining/kitchen/breakfast/utility room. New carpet in the bedrooms. New cabinets and countertops in the kitchen. New refrigerator and stove. My total budget was $7800, I came in just about $10 under. But it was something to focus my mind and energy on. The hardest part was actually being there. Every time I walk into that house I relive February 1, 2018 9:18 am. It sucks. I got to where I could numb myself, feel nothing, think nothing, see nothing but the task in front of me. I had a job and a deadline, and it kept me sane. I'd work from 8 in the morning to almost dark, go home, take care of Jay, take a shower, pass out, get up and do it again. I finished on a Wednesday, we signed with a realtor on Friday, she listed on Realtor.com on Saturday, and showed it 4 times on Sunday. Four days later, one of the ladies who saw it on Sunday made a full-price cash offer contingent on the sale of her house. I know what you're thinking, but I had faith. Long story short, we close August 9. Closing that chapter of our lives. We moved to that address when Sarah was 3 and Jay was 1, it was really the only home they'd ever known. It was Sarah's only home. Her last home. Sometimes I felt changing everything in the house, I was erasing her. Those were the times I ended up outside on the deck sobbing for an hour. I guess the approaching end is spiking my anxiety and depression. I don't know, I just feel like I'm in quicksand and the harder I struggle the faster I sink.

Which brings me to why I'm writing this. My grief counselor wants me to write down as many happy memories of Sarah as I can think of, sharing them helps me keep her close. It's a double-edged sword, it also hurts to remember. So we're going back to her last Prom. You've heard the story of her actual Prom, this is the story BEFORE the Prom. The Preparations.

One of the biggest things about Prom is the dress. Shopping. Sarah, while she loves the dresses, has a very low tolerance for shopping and trying on clothes. Most of her dresses were purchased online with her picking them out. But this time she wanted the whole experience. She wanted to Say Yes to the Dress. It had become a favorite show for her, and she wanted it. So I called David's Bridal in Amarillo and explained the situation. She needed a time that was slow if not completely empty, I'd like to come in and pre-select several dresses for her to choose from so that she's not barraged by satin and bangles, and we need a really patient consultant. Not a problem, they'll be happy to work with us. I really can't say enough about the ladies at David's Bridal, they were all super-sweet.

By this time in her life, Sarah's weight had really gotten out of control, and there weren't that many options that came in her size, but I managed to pull ten choices, all of them available in her preferred hot pink. We went in on a Thursday morning, thinking we'd be the only ones there. Um, no. We were in kind of a semi-circle of dressing rooms with a big stage surrounded by mirrors in the mirror. We were on one end, and four other girl-mom combos were stationed down the line. Sarah was the first one out, in a bright pink flowing chiffon strapless. And sneakers. While she was standing there getting fussed over by grandma and Angela, the young lady two doors down came out. She was wearing a long gold sparkly fitted dress. Sarah, being Sarah, calls out across the unnaturally quiet store, "Oh my! You look lovely! And so grown-up too!" (line from Aladdin King of Thieves) "Hi, I'm Sarah!" The young lady looked over, startled, and stammered a quiet "Thank you" before turning to her mom. Sarah wasn't having it. "I'm a Panhandle Panther. What are you?" Her way of making small talk. "Um, I'm a Randall Raider." "Is that a cat or a dog?" "I think it's kind of like a pirate."
"Oooooo, Pirates." That got a grin.

By this time, Ladies #3 and 4 were out, one in red sequins of which mom clearly didn't approve and the other in a midnight blue ballgown. Same greeting from Sarah, same compliments on their gowns, and same question, "What are you?" We had a Panther, a Raider, two Eagles, and #5 came out in pale pink satin and tulle to announce she was a Bulldog. Ice broken, they started chatting, asking Sarah about her Prom, talking about sports and band (two of them had gone to the same basketball camp), and boys. Sarah was always sad about not having a boyfriend or a date. She might have been challenged in some areas, but she was all girl in others. And a hopeless romantic. None of the girls had boyfriends, all were going stag, and they all assured Sarah that it was perfectly fine. Boys were mean and stinky. Sarah wasn't buying it.

More dresses were tried on, more giggles and lively chatter, Sarah helped blue ballgown find a tiara, white satin with cabbage roses helped Sarah find her Elvis belt. As each girl made her selection and mom went to settle up, they came over to Sarah, told her how beautiful she was, and how much they hoped she had a great Prom She threw her arms open and declared "Big Arm Hug", and each young lady got a hug. Angela, our consultant, rang up our dress and belt, bejeweled flipflops, and hot pink jeweled butterfly headband, shaking her head and grinning. She told us she'd never seen anything like that, that most of the appointments are really quiet, almost church-quiet, and that she'd really had fun with us that day. All in all, Sarah was there just over two hours, well beyond her stress threshold. And not even a hint of stress or meltdown. I had never been more proud of her.

What brought this memory to mind? Over the 4th of July, mom and I were at the craft fair on the Square in Canyon when a young lady approached us. She said hi and asked if we remembered her, um, no, sorry, were you a classmate of Sarah's? No, she was one of the young ladies at David's that day and was wondering how Sarah's Prom went? Did she have fun? Was she with us? Mom is still struggling to talk about Sarah without crying, so I told her that she had died last February. She hugged me and told me how sorry she was to hear about her passing. Sarah's happiness and friendliness had inspired her to look into special education as a major. She had always wanted to be a teacher, but after meeting Sarah, she decided she might want to teach special needs kids. She'll be attending WTAMU in the Fall. She just wanted us to know what a special blessing Sarah was and that she had a legacy. Mom's in tears sobbing by now, and I'm struggling to talk past the lump in my throat. I thanked her for letting us know and told her we were really proud of her. She'll make an excellent spec ed teacher. She left and we went back to mom and Poppy's house and just sat quietly for a while before either of us could speak. Our girl had a legacy.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Rules for Acceptable Behavior of Conservatives



After the last few kerfuffles where someone said something that made the collective internet heads spin, I wanted to see if there was any rhyme or reason to why some people get in trouble and others don't. I've asked the few Liberals who still talk to me online and have received stunning silence. Apparently, pointing out that, when it comes to Conservatives, Liberals want neither justice nor fairness makes them uncomfortable.

Since the Liberals won’t give us a list of Acceptable Behavior for Conservatives, I’m going to start compiling one based on observations. Be warned, this list is arbitrary and subject to change at their whim.

1. It is acceptable to attack a Conservative woman’s appearance. It is NOT acceptable to say anything whatsoever about a Liberal person’s appearance (I didn’t want to assume zer’s gender).

This is okay.
This is NOT okay.


2. It is acceptable to compare a white Conservative to an ape/chimp/orangutan.

3. It is only acceptable to compare a Black person to an ape/chimp/orangutan if it’s another Black person doing it. Extra points if it’s a Black Liberal attacking a Black Conservative.

4. It is NEVER acceptable to assume anyone’s gender/race/species. Always ask them to provide you with a list of acceptable descriptors.

5. The only Caucasian of value is one who is Liberal and deeply ashamed of their appalling lack of melanin. Even then, they are merely viewed as useful idiots.


Please feel free to add more as you encounter them.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Happy Heavenly 23rd birthday, Sweet Sarah

This has been that first hard week. Mother's Day and Sarah's birthday back-to-back has literally taken me to my knees a couple of times. My sweet girl would have been 23 today. It's still so hard for me to grasp, that she's gone and I'll never see her again, get big-arm hugs, sniff her curls and give her warm fuzzies, take her to dances, watch her dance with pure joy and abandon. I'll forget she's not here anymore and think, "I need to pick up some whatever for Sarah," "Sarah needs to see this," "That dress would look great on Sarah." I bought her Jello snacks to eat while she was sick, about the only thing she was interested in, and they're still in the fridge. No one wants to touch them, they're hers. Her bedroom is set up, and she'll never use it. The pool is getting fixed next week, we had planned a pool party for her birthday. She'll never swim in it. So many things we planned to do, we'll never get to do them; but mostly I miss her hugs.



I'm going to try to post some Sarah memories, happy stories, to remind me what a blessing she was.

When she was little, probably about 4-5, we'd go as a family to Furr's cafeteria for a special treat. Since I left teaching to be a stay-at-home mom with her and Jaylee, we were broker than the 10 Commandments, and eating out was a special treat. Sarah was never the most patient person, and standing in line was something she barely tolerated. Furr's was torture for her. Shuffle, stop, shuffle, stop, shuffle, stop. One occasion, after about the fifth shuffle-stop, Sarah decided to get the line moving by poking the guy in front of her. In the butt. Big guy. So she poked and he spun around to see who goosed him. Of course, Sarah, being 5 and short, was under the radar; I, however, was eye level. He spun and we locked eyes, him shocked and me mortified. As I stammered my apology, explaining the true culprit was an adorable little girl, my spouse, being ever so helpful, exclaimed, "Oh my God! I can't believe you're blaming our daughter!" I think they set me up. After that, whenever we went to Furr's, Sarah was sandwiched between us.

She was also quite the vagabond. She was born with wanderlust, and it got her in trouble several times. She always wanted to know what was over the hill, around the corner, beyond. It shouldn't surprise me that she slipped away from us to go explore Heaven. She was also Houdini. There wasn't a lock she couldn't master; our doors always had extra locks at the top which helped until she was big enough to drag a chair over. Sarah had come home in the back of patrol cars more before the age of 10 than most criminals do in a lifetime. It got to the point that I'd write down descriptions of her clothes each morning just in case I needed to describe her to an officer. But as nerve-wracking as it was, it was also one of the things I admired about her. She was fearless, curious, adventurous. And she loved to try new things. And I was usually there with her, trying to keep her safe, but at the same time letting her soar.

This last adventure, I didn't get to be there with her, couldn't keep her safe, but man, did she soar.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Back stories

I'd like to share with you some backstory on the songs picked for Sarah's memorial.

About a month before her death, Sarah noticed the little quote on the Church of Christ's message board as we drove past it on the way to Borger. "This world is not my home." Six words, easy words, that she could read. And she asked me what it meant. Panhandle was her home, and Panhandle was on the world, so what did it mean? I told her they were from an old hymn, one mom used to sing in church when she was a girl. And then, in my off-key, warbling momvoice, I sang it for her. By the time we got to Borger, she had it down. That was one of her gifts, a quick memory and a knack for songs. She had a beautiful voice. Every time we passed the sign, going to and coming back from Borger, we sang the song. But she still didn't understand what it meant. Why isn't the world my home? So I went back to her favorite Bible story, the Easter story. About 10 years ago, a family friend gave her a DVD set of Children's Bible Stories. She watched every single one, but she watched the Easter Story until she had it down verbatim, including the voices. Sarah was also a talented mimic, but that's stories for another day.

We talked about how sad Jesus's disciples were when he died and how happy they were when he returned. And then devastated when he told them he wasn't staying. She recited:

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Her ability to memorize the dialog from a hundred movies still amazes me. 

But I told her we were just staying here waiting for Jesus to bring us to our forever home in Heaven, and she smiled and said, "Okay," and that was the end of the discussion. No arguing, no doubting, just total acceptance of a pure soul. 

So that's why we sung her hymn first. This world was not her home.


The second song was always one of my favorites. Growing up, I loved the melody and message. The deep assurance that no matter what was going on, God had His hand on the rudder and all was well. Even in the deepest grief. Even in my grief. A few days after her memorial, one of Sarah's teachers who had been in attendance shared the story of the song. Please go read it, and then listen with a new heart.






Monday, March 5, 2018

Shit, here goes

I really had no idea when I put this on ice if or when I'd ever come back. I'm still not sure.

When I dropped it, I did it for Sweet Sarah. She had been having increasingly difficult times, dealing with transition, dealing with changes in meds, just dealing with life in general. Leaving Panhandle schools was tough on her, it was her home away from home for 19 of her 22 years; and seeing Baby Queen (who by the way is Jaylee Diana, or Jaylee Bean) go back without her in August tore her up. The meltdowns increased in occurrence and intensity, landing us in the ER a couple of times. We changed her meds, and it got better. For a while. Starting the Borger dayhab  program wasn't as easy a fix as I'd hoped. Change is change, and it's all hard for someone on the Autism spectrum.

Different people, different place, different routine. All sucked. Sarah's anxiety ratcheted up exponentially with each change. She was brave, she did her best to adjust and fit in; but they weren't prepared for the Sarah-sized meltdown that happened just before Thanksgiving. She grabbed one of the counselors, and instead of dealing with her one-on-one, they surrounded her and moved her into the kitchen area where they isolated her until she calmed down. She put her fist through the window in the door, and yeah, that calmed her down quick. By the time I got to the ER, she was in tears and greeted me with, "I'm sorry, mom, it's all my fault." She hated the meltdowns, think scared cornered animal, the complete loss of control. When it passed and she came back, she was always horrified by it, very sorry, and scared of the consequences. It broke my heart every time she apologized for something that truly wasn't intentional or her fault. I held her and kissed her curls while the nurse put 22 stitches in four deep wounds. I told her it was okay, it wasn't her fault, and we were going to find a way to make it better. My first promise broken to her.

After that, she was assigned an autism behavior specialist who came to the house and worked with her twice a week. Angie was amazing, and we could all see a huge difference in Sarah. She seemed so much more at ease. We agreed she'd start back at Borger after Christmas, twice a week for two hours a day, and Angie would be there to work with her and the staff. It seemed like a great plan. The first week of January, Sarah was back. Unfortunately, she carried deeper scars than those on her hand. She was terrified to go back. As much as she could explain, she was afraid they would judge her, shun her (I won't have any friends), or she'd lose it again and do more damage. We sat in the momvan for a good 15 minutes while I assured her they were anxious to see her again, she was going to be fine, Angie was there to help her. She slowly got out of the van with her backpack and lunch box, and I could hear her whisper as we walked to the door, "I'm okay, it's okay, I'm okay, it's okay..."
I sat in the parking lot of WalMart, 7 minutes away, and prayed for two hours. Good reports, she seemed happy, life moved forward. But I don't think the fear ever completely left her. For the eight times she got to go, it was the same routine, "I'm okay, it's okay, I'm okay, it's okay."

During this time, we decided to move to Borger, probably not a good idea to inflict another change, but we wanted to be closer to where the girls were going so they wouldn't have to ride transit or have me drive them. We found a house 5 minutes from the Borger dayhab, a little HUD repo, see Here. We got it for $26 a square foot, and some serious cosmetic renovation. Sarah LOVED it. The first time through, I was on the phone with mom and Poppy and they were laughing at her comments. "Oh boy! Another sink!" (the house has 11 sinks. seriously.) She picked out her room, we picked out curtains and new bedding.  She made a sign to go on her door to let everyone know that was her room. We closed on the house on January 31, the realtor brought us the papers to sign and we signed via FaceTime in front of a notary.

Every one of us had the flu that week, starting with Sarah. Sunday January 28, she developed a deep hacking cough and was having trouble breathing. We hightailed it to the Borger ER urgent clinic where she was swabbed, diagnosed with Flu type A, given chest xrays which were clear, and given an albuterol nebulizer treatment. I cuddled her and kissed her curls and promised we'd get the Tamiflu as soon as the pharmacy opened in the morning. Everything was going to be okay and she'd feel better soon. Second promise I broke to her. We were all on Tamiflu by Tuesday, all running fevers and coughing and hacking, but Sarah seemed to respond well to the meds. She had an inhaler for when her breathing got rough and it really worked well for her. Wednesday night, her fever broke and I was helping her take her first shower in a couple of days. She wrote "I (heart) mom. I (heart) dad." on the steam on the door. As she toweled off, she asked if we could go to Borger beauty shop before the Valentine's dance and get hair, makeup and mani-pedis. Damn skippy, we'll go, we'll have a mom-big girl beauty day. Third promise I broke to her. We kissed her and put her to bed, and then collapsed in our own bed. We were all out before 9. The next morning, we slept in until 8, when Jay woke us up for the day. It's extremely unusual for the girls to sleep in that late, but it was the first night they had slept without getting up coughing every three hours. Now this is the bit that keeps playing on a loop in my head.

It was after 9 and still no stirring from Sarah, and I started to get worried. She has a habit of locking her door from the inside, but I had a store of those little wire "keys" to open it. I couldn't find one of the damned things. I finally found a slender eyeglass screwdriver that worked. I opened the door and felt it. Too quiet, too still, too empty. But she was lying there in her bed, on her back, eyes closed and hands relaxed like she was sleeping. I went to her and knew. And I lost it. Somehow I managed to find my phone, call 911, get her dad who was looking for a screwdriver to take the door off, and uncover her. She'd been gone long enough that lividity had already occurred, she was cold and felt like wax. I kept stroking her face and crying, kissing her curls and willing her to get up. The sheriff came first, then the EMTs, then the Justice to make the declaration. All of this is so sharply burned in my brain, and yet I can't remember her voice. I can't remember what her hair smelled like or her hugs felt like. But I remember every hellish second of that day.

She was taken to Lubbock for an autopsy, and then back home. We had her cremated. I've never been a fan of burial. Or funerals. But everyone wanted a memorial and she deserved that much from us. Her mom and Poppy picked out a memorial box for her, but it didn't make it in time for the service on the 7th, so she sat in my lap. It was truly beautiful for not having a funeral director and considering her dad and I were still struggling with flu aftermath. Floral arrangements poured in, beautiful PINK flowers, two huge peace lilies, and three potted arrangements. Her aunt and grandma gave her calla lily bulbs in full bloom. Sarah called them fairy lilies; she thought the yellow middle was a fairy and she'd tickle it with her finger. Her Miss Betty, who'd been her aide through PPCD and grade school, and Tank (the young man who escorted her at Prom) sent beautiful Star of David lilies with one Pink Rose for Sarah. The gentleman who did her service took so many of our stories of her and gave a very special tribute. We sang Sarah's favorite hymn, "This World is Not My Home" and my favorite "It is Well With My Soul." There were 138 people in the small church on the hill. Every one of them sharing their love for Sarah with us. She only lived 22 years, but she lived a very full life. And she was not afraid to love, evidenced by all who loved her.

I'm still dealing with shock, denial, I still think she's here somewhere and is going to come running in for a hug at any minute. I wake up every night at 3 and roam the house, go sit in her bedroom (we went ahead and moved all her stuff and set it up for her) and talk to her. Every day goes by, and she's still not here. But I am, and I have to find a way back for Jaylee Bean.

I'm going to end this here, I need to go for a walk and clear my soul. But I want to share some pics of her service with all y'all.

Lastly, but most importantly, I want to thank each one of you for your love, prayers and donations. I wanted to send individual thank yous, but your response was truly overwhelming. So much love from so many people. I have a list from the PayPal donations, and bless him, Ken sent all the envelopes to me from everyone who mailed to him. This way, I know. I'll always know, and I'll always love you guys for it. Thank you from the very depths of my soul.