Today, my baby girl turns 6 and it’s blowing my mind how fast time flies. It’s true what they say, the days are long and the years are short. The first couple years of sleepless nights, combined with the constant crying from her colic tummy, seemed to make time creep by and I was unsure if I’d ever recover. Then her sweet daddy, Andrew, got sick and we were thrown into a whirlwind of hospital visits, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, all while being dependent on our family to help us take care of Ellie so I could take care of Andrew.
After he passed away, we moved back to Dallas from south Texas and began the process of adjusting to our new normal. Throughout it all Ellie was such a trooper in adjusting to all the change. Her joy and love kept me motivated to keep going through those really hard and sad days. I wanted to show her it is possible to grow through life’s challenges by holding onto the good, the love, and choosing to become a better, more grateful, kinder, and courageous version of ourselves. Our circumstances do NOT have to define our identity or our future.
As most of you know, I now travel the country speaking about my family’s journey. A few minutes into my speech, I show a beautiful documentary (https://vimeo.com/92164133), shot by Taylor Lord and Claire Huntsberger and gifted to our family by Fotolanthropy, of our final weeks with Andrew. There’s a scene where Ellie enters the video, sits on the hospital bed, and plays and hugs her daddy. A surge of incredible strength comes over me every time I see it. It anchors me and reminds me of why I’m standing on a stage pouring out my heart. That image gives me the courage to get through the entire rest of my speech. To think, my plan was to wait until five years of marriage to start having kids and God’s plan was to bring Ellie into our lives after three. Andrew was diagnosed with cancer right before our 5th wedding anniversary. Although I hate that Ellie lost her daddy, I can’t imagine having gone through all of this without her. She’s been my constant.
As Ellie gets older, I can tell it gets more emotionally difficult for her to understand why her daddy is gone. Recently, she signed up to play soccer and I suggested one of her friend’s dad be the coach. She replied that wasn’t fair. She said if she couldn’t have her daddy as the coach, it wasn’t fair for the others to have their daddies be the coach. On a playdate recently, her dear friend from school suggested Ellie and I come live with her and her family so Ellie could share her daddy. My heart burst with love hearing this. I know how much Ellie misses Andrew, as well as the idea of what a dad is and his involvement in her life. Interestingly enough, Ellie often tells me it feels like her daddy is still here, but gone on a trip. She talks about Heaven with so much excitement as she describes the Heavenly Homecoming we will all one day have as a family (our dog, Keller, is of course included— she can’t wait for her daddy to meet Keller)!
Recently, we went to a family viewing and memorial to celebrate the life of Andrew’s incredible cousin, Ronnie Thompson, who recently passed away too soon after his battle with ALS. At the viewing, Ellie requested to go into the viewing room. After explaining to her what she would see, and feeling a little unsure as to whether I should allow her to go into the room, she assured me she wanted to go. Something inside me let me know she would be OK. We walked into the room and stood over the casket, talking about our beliefs as to what happens to the body and the soul at death. She curiously asked questions and listened intently to my answers. She appeared to be so comfortable talking about these deep and spiritual conversations (she’s her daddy’s daughter, for sure), which seems rare for a child her age, but not surprising considering all she’s been through. It was a beautiful moment we shared. I was reminded God has a special plan for Ellie to go into the uncomfortable places to bring more love and light into the world.
I know as she continues to grow there will be new challenges and obstacles for her to overcome in her grieving process. While I may not know exactly what to do or how to help her, I know I will find her the support she needs and will grow with her through it all. I thank the Lord for blessing me with Ellie. She teaches me something new every day and, just like her daddy, she shows me a different perspective on life. I am grateful to her for continually challenging me to be more openminded and less judgmental in order to love more unconditionally. I love you, Ellie Bear! Happy 6th Birthday.
We all have important people in our lives that inspire us and I want to know… Who in your life motivates you to be a better, kinder, and more loving version of yourself? Why?
As always, thank you for reading and connecting with me today. I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week! Blessings my friend.
PS – Want to motivate, inspire, and encourage a group, company, or church you are a part of? My message is about “transforming life’s greatest challenges into a purposeful life” and I’d love to come share it! Email me today at firstname.lastname@example.org to book me as your speaker.
PPS – If you’re looking for a meaningful gift to share with those you love, please check out my late husband, Andrew’s, book, The Ellie Project! This book is truly for all ages. His drawings are simple and children love them, but his words are powerful and wise enough to carry us all through this life, no matter what our age. Get your signed copy at www.ellieproject.com.
PPPS- Day 24 of Whole30! Clarity of mind, tons of energy, clearer skin, thank you, Lord! This is by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in regards to changing up my diet, but it really is worth it! If you’re on this journey keep going! We can do it!