This is what Jenny posted today, heartbreakingly sad and moving, but wonderful at the same time. I keep thinking of Allie a lot. She just seemed extraordinarily special to me and here for such a short time for very important reasons. Her parents are amazingly strong.
(Disclaimer - will make you cry)
Thursday, Sept. 16th--
12:15am--It's been three days since the death of our daughter. In that time, we have settled arrangements at the funeral home, shopped for clothes, visited with loved ones, attended a private burial, a luncheon, and a memorial service. Every day has started early and ended late. We're drained. But we are loved--by each other and by many others. We saw that firsthand today.
This morning was a private graveside funeral. There were around 100 people in attendance. An intimate setting felt more appropriate for the seriousness of the event. It was simple and short. Our family friend Bob Albritton made a speech about the miracle of Allie. How right he was. We did receive our miracle. It continues right now. Allie's entire life was a miracle. Trust me when I say that Bob said it much better than me. Our family friend, Glenn Weimer, officiated the service. We were privileged to have Glenn marry me and Andrew, so it felt only fitting to ask him to share this time with us. Before the service began, each person was given a triangular envelope with a monarch butterfly in it. Dana had ordered these for us and had them FedExed to her home. Who knew that FedEx could be so useful--ship butterflies and stem cells!
At Glenn's prompting, we all released our butterflies simultaneously. This was to signify our releasing her spirit up to God. The image of over 120 monarchs floating around us will stay with me for a long time. Mine, of course, took a nose dive straight into the carpet. It didn't fly off immediately as it was intended to do. Instead, it got itself caught in the carpet and Andrew had to help pry it out. Sad, huh? Despite that, it was wonderful. Thank you, Dana. You have taught me what a mitzah is. That was a mitzah if I have ever heard of one. As I got up to head to the car, I noticed at least thirty butterflies in the tree next to her plot. In the tree above my father. Both my loved ones protected by that tree and those butterflies. Both of their spirits there with us.
Dana and Dennis opened their home to us after the burial. We gathered with our closest of friends and family to relax and enjoy a little downtime. Before I knew it, it was time to head to the church.
I figured arriving an hour early, not many people would be there. Wrong. The parking lot was started to fill up. I saw many familiar faces as we were walking in, including my friend Staci Cook, who has a daughter, Julianna with ALL (Acute Lympoblastic Leukemia). The family contained ourselves behind the sanctuary to give us time to collect ourselves before entering the main room.
The service itself was as it should be--perfect. Perfect to honor Allie's legacy and memory. It began with a video made by our talented brother in law, Michael Searcy, with the help of Andrew's sister Amie (his wife). When we knew last week that Allie's time here on earth was nearing an end, we asked Mike if he would do this for us. Frances FedExed him (ah--seems to be all about FedEx tonight!) cd's of every still picture and every video that we have ever taken of Allie. The video he put together exceeded any expectation I had. To give our family the chance to prepare ourselves for what we would see during the memorial, we opted to screen the video in our home last night with about fifteen people. The piece begins with my favorite video of Allie. The day we were bringing her home, I had her laying peacefully on the bed. She was wearing her "take home outfit"--a white footed pajama outfit with yellow ducks. I wanted her matching yellow hat on her. So, I gently, or so I thought, put it on her. She went from sweet to screaming in less than a millisecond. I was laughing in the video. Ever my independent, she didn't want that hat. Another video clip shows Allie's bath on Christmas day. Then music starts to play and still pictures of her healthy life pop onto the screen. For those who weren't present at my wedding, the song "I Will" by the Beatles may not mean much. But for me--it symbolizes love. It was the song Andrew and I danced to. And it was the song Mike chose to show during this section. The words ring true in my head...."love you forever, and forever, love you with all my heart. Love you whenever we're together, love you when we're apart." To transition to the next portion of the video, Mike picked the daddy video--Allie says her first word! Little did we know at the time it would be her only word. Andrew asks her, "What'd you say,?" then the video shows into slow motion as the song, "I Can Only Imagine," by Mercy Me starts playing softly. This is the first song from her lullaby cd (I Can Only Imagine Lullabys for a peaceful rest--it was playing as a prelude before the service). We have listened to that song at least once a day, if not more, since the day she came home with us from the hospital on Dec. 19th. Needless to say, the video was beautiful yet emotional. There were moments that we laughed and moments that brought nothing but tears.
Glenn gave a well spoken homily about the lessons learned from Allison Leigh. He pointed out the many things we can take with us from this experience. Then, Marlene Snare, a 12th South Nurse, was invited to the podium. Marlene spoke about Allie and our family. She then sang her own rendition of "Jesus Loves Me." Marlene, who we all called "Mama Marlene," had asked me my thoughts about it the other day. I trusted her. The words were lovely. She sang, "Jesus Loved her. Yes, he still loves her." Thank you, Marlene. We were so very honored.
Our speakers included Dana Eisenberg, Dr. Stanton Goldman, Frances Broussard, and Amie Searcy. Dana came first. As she walked up to the front, Andrew whispered to me, "uh oh, that looks like a book!" He was referencing her well prepared speech. Dana stood directly in front of me. We zeroed in on each other and locked eyes several times as she spoke. She says she did nothing but plagiarize my words. She quoted me from as far back as May to as recent as this week. She found the best passages of good times, bad times, even worse times, and funny times. I don't think many memorial services can say that they have had the words "diarrhea," and "code brown" uttered during a speech. Dr. Goldman talked next. My favorite thing was him telling the story of his offer to babysit Allie sometime in mid-June. Wouldn't you know that she cried right as I stepped in the shower? He was funny and moving with his words. He finished with speaking in Hebrew, showing how Allie can join people, even join religions for one cause. Our love her doesn't see those boundaries. Thank you, Dr. Goldman, for taking time out of your busy schedule with your many patients and families to honor this one particular patient and family. The world should have more doctors like you, Weinthal, and Lenarsky. Andrew's mom and sister, Frances and Amie, concluded the speeches. Frances talked initially about the necessity of blood and platelet donations. They both mentioned the need to carry on with Allie's legacy. Frances ended with the personal note of thanking us for allowing her to be present at both the birth and death of our girl. How many people can say they saw the first breath and the last breath of the same person?
I can say proudly that we didn't have but three flower arrangements. One was from the family. Thank you for making donations to Light the Night, and most especially for respecting our wishes. Since Monday, we have almost doubled our donation total. Our goal was raised to $50,00, and as of an hour ago, we were at $48,220! Thank you.
We had many people from all parts of our life in attendance. I think there were close to 1,000, mainly those that I know. It took quite a while to hug everyone who wanted to see us, but I felt it was necessary. Though I tried to keep each person to a quick hug and small sentence or two, some people's presence affected me more than others. Seeing people that are special to me but that I haven't seen in a long time meant a lot.
I couldn't have asked for a better daughter. I miss her terribly. I miss her most at night. She and I shared a twin hospital bed for four months. I miss the closeness of that relationship. I miss her touch. However, I KNOW that my girl is in heaven. I know that she is now my angel, and I know that she isn't hurting. Her birth was one of the most incredible moments of my life. Her death was even more so. For the first ten minutes after she died (the second time--see below for what I mean), I sat in awe of what I had just witnessed. She was still in my arms and I was touching her head. I just kept repeating, "That was so beautiful. Wow." Think I must have said that to every person in the room. I didn't cry, just felt the warmth of her body and the peace of her spirit.
Her memorial was as fitting as her life and death. It was extraordinary and perfect--just like Allie.