Thursday, October 26, 2017

Living Lauren's Legacy Foundation on Facebook

One of Lauren's nieces who carries her name as her middle name, enjoying some bubbles!!

We've just created a Facebook page for The Living Lauren's Legacy Foundation.  We hope it serves to generate support for great causes, service opportunities, words of comfort and cheer, and to raise funds and awareness.  So far, the Living Lauren's Legacy Foundation has involved itself in many opportunities to help with tuition for needy students, funds to support medical bills, suicide prevention, cancer research, orphanage supplies, the battle against sex-trafficking, homes for abused children in Peru, humanitarian aid in Cambodia, relief efforts in many storms and other natural disasters, and funds for diseases ranging from Cystic Fibrosis to Batten Disease and many others.

When Lauren was given the opportunity to make a wish through the Make-A-Wish foundation, she didn't hesitate before saying simply: "I wish to give my wish away!"  When I questioned why, she replied: "I already have my Happily Ever After, mom ... I want to give my wish to someone who needs it more than I do."

On 11/11/11, our family carried out her wish and presented Make-A-Wish with the funds to give a small trip, new bedroom set, and a computer to a young teenager struggling with Kidney disease.  We also published two books based on Lauren's perspective of why she felt that her life, although threatened and ultimately cut short by cancer, was indeed, already a "Happily Ever After."  We've been striving ever since to make a difference, be it ever so small, to continue giving Lauren's wish away, just as she would want to.

100% of any funds we raise go to these and other projects we feel spreading some of her comfort, cheer, and good humor will be most beneficial.

It's a beautiful world filled with love, beauty, and tender mercies.  Sometimes, we need an extra boost to help us in the inevitable challenges and unbearable difficulties that can also dot our earthly experience.  In these times, we just need to "hold hands and stick together" .... something Lauren's Foundation is specifically designed to do.  Thanks for your friendship and support!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Get Your MOOOOOVE On!!


Get Your MOOOOOOVE On!
Living Lauren's Legacy Foundation Campaign 2017

Send donations or self addressed envelope to:

P.O. Box 9043
Salt Lake City, Utah
84109

loveandlaughtereveryday@gmail.com

You can also donate through VENMO - just search laurensmom and label
your donation for The Living Lauren's Legacy Foundation (or, just "Lauren") 

Lauren's loving nature and humorous spirit is worthy of emulation and repeated tribute.  We wish to spread her goodness.  Living Lauren's Legacy Foundation was set up in perpetual desire to do good and will continue as long as we are able. 100% of the funds we raise go towards helping and lifting others as Lauren consistently chose to do. 

This year, we have created spotted cow rubber arm bands to signify you got your MOOOOVE on and to remind you to find (or create) a little love and laughter in every day --- Just send us a self-addressed envelope and we will send it right to you.

So, go ahead ... GET YOUR MOOOOOVE ON!!  And, thanks for helping us to honor Lauren and spread a little cheer as you do ...

Love,
The Living Lauren's Legacy Foundation




Thursday, May 4, 2017

We Choose Love


We Choose Love

My friends asked me to share how I have overcome fear.  I was hesitant of the opportunity and have really (seriously, really) struggled with this task.  In a conversation with my daughter about wishing I hadn’t accepted, she helped me to discover why all of the other dozen drafts weren’t acceptable and had been scrapped.

I can’t share with you how I have overcome fear … because I haven’t.

Before I shed light on that reality … I’ll share with you who I am.

I’m a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, wife, mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother (Mimi, in my case) to some of the most beautiful souls who have ever graced the planet.  My blessings are numerous, my cup overflowing.  I know the privilege to love and be loved and I cherish life.

Family is everything to me.  Always has been, always will be.  I wanted a dozen children – I wanted to be surrounded by mess and noise and beautiful people to love and fuss over.  I was an author, public speaker, and creator of games on the subject of close, happy families and I did my best as an intentional mother to practice what I preached. 



23 years ago today, 9 days after the due date of a particularly long and challenging pregnancy, my baby daughter (and final child) was born.  I was instantly and irreversibly smitten with her silken hair, soft blue eyes, and chubby cheeks.  She was perfect in every way, and although only my 4th child, she completed me.  And, it was a full, ample, exquisite complete and we lived life accordingly.  As with my other children, I added one more person I now suddenly could not live without.



It doesn’t mean we didn’t have our fair share of difficulty, or even at times what seemed to be an unfair share of difficulty.  We just had a lot to live for and we worked hard at what didn’t come easily.

I had an aversion to fear.  Quite frankly, it scared me, so I tried hard not to ever experience it. I shut out thoughts of the horrors of losing any of my children, and taught them to eat their vegetables, wear a helmet and/or seat belt, and what to do in the case of fire.  Our basement had a room stock-piled with enough emergency food, water, candles, and toilet paper to keep at least 5 families our size safe in a disaster.  We would have all we needed in the event (God forbid) that we experienced tragedy.



With my children taught how to turn off the water to the house, passwords memorized to avoid danger with strangers, and my absolute assurance that there was no such thing as monsters to come and take them in the night, they were always tucked safely into bed with a hug and kiss after prayers to keep us safe from harm or accident.  We never went without saying “I love you, goodnight.”  It was our safe haven, and that safety was assured by our preparation, good choices, and blessings from heaven.

Even when I was “brave” enough to pray that I could accept God’s will if it were otherwise, I could never quite end it there and would have to choke out a quick tag line …

            “But, please … just don’t let it hurt.”

Fair weather fan of life, … that’s me. 



Unfortunately, life isn’t all fair weather.  And, fair weather was my life without the reality of something to be truly, genuinely afraid of.  I characterize our life into two phases now, “before fear” and “since”.  And, the reality is that you can’t ever really experience courage until real fear is staring you in the face.

You see, I had lied about monsters coming in the night and nothing in the basement storage room could have prevented or prepared our precious family for the fearful and heart-wrenching tragedy staring each of us in the face.



We now would experience something of which to be horribly, shake in your boots afraid.  That precious baby daughter who was born 23 years ago today had a rare Childhood Cancer.  So rare in fact, that there have only been 200 known cases a year, but so horribly vicious, that it is one of the leading killers amongst all far more prevalent cancers.  5 children (including her) in history have survived a second onset, and of those, none recurred in such vital places as hers.  She is the only one in history to have beaten it three times.  There isn’t a survivor of a 4th onset.  Hers set in for the 4th and final time as she began her sophomore year in high school.  The beast was just unrelenting; no matter how many times she claimed a clean and solid victory over it.  How something so vile found its way into something so perfect is simply beyond me.  How my thinking that basement storage could prevent or prepare for any disaster and grant us freedom from fear is also simply beyond me.



The battle was fierce and intense and full of fear.  There was reason for it.  Fear wasn’t a sin against our faith; it wasn’t a weakness, or an error in judgment.  It was exactly the emotion connected to watching her go through what she had to go through.  No one could anticipate any different.  The love we felt for her was inseparably connected with the fear of losing her … of having to live without her.   The horror was real. It wasn’t just scary; it was terrifying.

And then, she slipped through our fingers and returned to the God who gave her life.



And, we were left to pick up the pieces of ourselves, to somehow discover “how” to live without her.

In doing so, we see that some fear will remain a part of our story, for it is inseparably connected with loving each other.  So, we will embrace it, for it drew us closer to the One who overcame death and hell by his Grace, matchless Mercy, and eternal Love.  Experiencing fear has made us more intimately, personally, and profoundly familiar with the infinite Hope engraved in his hands.

We didn’t overcome fear, but Jesus Christ has, and he will, just as he promised.  I have scooped up all my ashes that he has promised me beauty for.  And, my feet prepare for the day he trades my mourning for dancing.

And, I do not fear that He keeps His promises.

I wasn’t preserved knowing profound heartache and sacrifice, or prevented from knowing gripping fear.  I wasn’t prepared for the profound sorrow and grief that is so intertwined in my story.  There wasn’t chemotherapy in the basement, or a sturdy enough password to keep the monsters out of our dark … but there was a foundation of belief and an experience of his love that assures us a joyous reunion with her again one day.

While we grieve in a society that tries to stifle it, we continue to embrace the hard emotions that come with life’s experience.  We’ve learned that they are most often associated with loving an angel gone too soon from this life.  So, while it is hard for some to understand, we aren’t trying to “get over it.”  We believe that grief is not something we travel through; it is something we will travel with.  And, while my prayers asked for a pain-free life, it was as nonsensical as asking for a love-free life.  The privilege to love and be loved also intrinsically accompanies this exhilarating journey of life.  Thank heavens (and the CEO thereof) He doesn’t intend to take away our love just to free us of pain or fear ….

While for now it may seem daunting, painful, and often frightening, for me and my house: we choose love.



(This piece was written for MyFearAntidote.com on May 3, 2017 which you can find here:
http://myfearantidote.com/2017/05/03/real-life-featuring-melodiechoose-love/ 
The article and photos are copyrighted by the author/owner and may not be used without express written permission.)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Get your MOOOOOOVE on!!


HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAUREN!!

How we miss that angel girl!!

In honor of her special day, and rather disappointed to be unable to schedule this year's 5K, we're initiating a new event to raise funds for The Living Lauren's Legacy Foundation.

GET YOUR MOOOOOVE ON!!

If you aren't new to the story, you recognize why this is the name for it --
And, it likely made you smile.

If you are new to the story, Lauren loved and collected cows. In trying to live her legacy
by finding beauty and/or humor where others tend not to notice,
we collect them too.  Here's how you can live her legacy too --

There are 4 ways to get your moooove on ...
1) Just do a random act of kindness for someone else. One small step
out of your way to bring a smile to someone else's face
is a great way to live her legacy.

2) In her name, donate time, talents, energy, or financial resources to Childhood Cancer,
a local Children's Hospital, the Make-A-Wish foundation, or the
Humanitarian Aid program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
3) Walk a mile or run a 5K with her name (or some other person you know
and love who has suffered from Childhood Cancer) on your back.
4) Donate directly to the Living Lauren's Legacy Foundation where 100%
of the funds this year will go towards a semester's tuition
 for a deserving student who is pursuing education/research involving Cancer.

P.O. Box 9043
Salt Lake City, Utah
84109

You can also donate through VENMO - just search laurensmom
and label your donation for The Living Lauren's Legacy Foundation (or, simply "Lauren")

Then, report back to us and we'll send you a token of our thanks.
This year, we'll be handing out:
1) Cow spotted rubber bracelets (Similar to yellow Armstrong bracelets)
2) "A Pocketful of Perspective" book we put together
from Lauren's philosophies on life ....
3) "Life is Sweet, Bring it On" T-shirts
4) Depending on the size of the donation, we'll send all 3.

This is a 23 day opportunity (in honor of her 23rd birthday.)

The last day will be Friday, May 26th, 2017.

Thanks for helping us to celebrate her beautiful life in ways that 
make others lives better --

  

(The bracelet, and Carlie wearing the t-shirt when she donated the funds last year.)





Thursday, January 5, 2017

Remembering the blessing of my brother --

 
Lessons learned in mourning with those that mourn


The anniversary of my brother's accident and passing (January 3 - January 5, 2013) has me contemplating just how much I miss him (and why) .... I hope my sister-in-law will forgive my sharing some of the more deeply personal reasons I have mourned so much today.

I've been remembering Lauren's funeral (January 2, 2010) and the days surrounding it.  I've remembered the challenges of planning and preparing in a few short days to celebrate her life in the most meaningful ways before sending my son back to college, a daughter back to high school, and one to return to her mission in Thailand ... and dealing with everyone's opinions and parameters of how I should shoulder this new hollowness of soul that was mine to bear.

As hard as it is to lose a child, and to bury one, which is beyond the comprehension of anyone who has not had to endure it -- there is the burden of complex societal "norms" and "expectations" that those on the "outside" create for those left with a new "normal" far outside of society's comfort zone.  The burden of grief is enough, without the criticism or skepticism of those who would define for the grieving what is or is not acceptable.

We experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly during those times. Sometimes as I remember, the tears that fall are excruciatingly painful ones.  Not out of judgment or resentment, just the true hurt that can be inflicted by insensitivities of those who don't have your best interest at heart.  

But, sometimes the tears that fall are the sweetest sensations of love that overflow from a very grateful heart. Those are the memories that scoop me up after the others knock me around for a bit. Those are the ones that testify of a Savior who showers Tender Mercies on the darkest and stormiest of times.  And, a Father in Heaven who is ever mindful.

As I think back to our experience, I remember . . . .

There was a man in our neighborhood who shoveled our driveway every day from the day she died until after her funeral. He did so quietly, early every morning so that there would be no concern for us to remove snow for safety or convenience.  (We have a VERY long driveway.)  We had never asked and he never pointed it out ... I just noticed him outside my window. But, he saw the need and met it.  Jay's kindness will not be forgotten.

I remember Jen re-wrapping hundreds of lollipop's (one of her nicknames) with cow printed paper (her favorite collectible) to give to everyone who came to the funeral.  She also made gold Childhood Cancer ribbons for people to wear for the day.

I remember sweet Jessica who sang so willingly and so beautifully for the funeral (no small task) accompanied by her mother Karen who had to buy a plane ticket to come to Utah and stepped in without having to be acknowledged to provide music before and after the service. 

Mary ... oh dear Mary and my brother Scott.  The subject of another addition to the blog.

Ahhh ... the beauty of real friends.  We were blessed.  

While that isn't all -- my heart (especially today) turns to my dear older brother Thayne and his remarkable family. We aren't just talking about being pall bearers, helping to dress Lauren - (after being the ones who purchased the burial clothing), running all kinds of errands before and after the funeral, taking all of the pictures at the funeral, getting our Christmas Cards out for us that year between her passing and the funeral (to a re-created list {by them} after a computer meltdown) of over 500 that needed to be stamped and stuffed with 3 different items and included about 1200 labels to be printed and applied) . . . I could go on and on about the Festival of Trees tree, the meals they brought, the help with the video, the help procuring the grave site, the love and friendship they offered to my family throughout a very lonely ordeal when others didn't stay . . .

Yep, they were all that. On the morning Lauren passed away, once our family kind of caught our breath momentarily, we called two brothers and their wives ... Scott and Mary, Thayne and Deaun. These were the only people we were ready to share with at the time.  They kept it close and didn't break that confidence.

They came running as fast as they could and wept with us.  

While we went to the mortuary, they cleaned our home, including removing the hospital bed, replacing all the furniture around it, and Thayne took all of the medications to the police department for safe disposal.  No one could have been more kind and loving than these people.

Thayne and Deaun and their family at Lauren's funeral

Two years earlier, I had received the call from them that our mother had passed away.  She was being cared for by them in their home, and I had the opportunity to run to her side before the mortuary came to take her away.  Deaun went with me to dress my mother so I didn't have to be alone.   The day we buried my mother was the day we found out Lauren's cancer had recurred the first time and after their caregiving of my mother, they didn't hesitate to do whatever it took to support us in the next round of our battle ... Again, no one could have been more kind and loving than these people. 

Three years after Lauren's passing, the day after I had been remembering her funeral, I received a call that an unforgiving accident would be taking the life of my brother and I was being given the opportunity to go and give him a kiss goodbye.  I went as fast as I could to say that temporary goodbye ... and to weep with his wife and children who had wept with me.  Years of their love and support flooded my mind as I had no idea what to say in the face of such a tragedy. Being 14 years older than me, this brother had even been a major care-giver to me as a child, besides the comfort he had given me as an adult.  I was overwhelmed to lose the first of my seven siblings, especially since he and his wife had been at every major event of my life and a critical part of my comfort . . . the grief was unbearable.  But, there's was even more than mine and I knew it.

Just because I had lost my parents, my daughter, and now a brother, I didn't know the loss of a husband.  This dear, dear friend/sister-in-law meant the world to me and I loved her dearly ... and even after experiencing their masterful love and support -- I had NO idea what to say or even what to do.  I was so blessed to have her relieve my grief -- and now I needed to find a way to relieve hers.  I suppose we all 'take turns.'  It is one of the great tragedies of grief ... that it is so difficult for those of us required to shoulder it ... to understand what to say or do.  But, it is also, I believe, one of the great lessons of life -- to love one another.  It IS what we have to offer.  While some (like these relatives of mine) know better how to express it than others (including me) ... it is the key to avoiding unnecessary pain in these times of trial.


All I knew to do was to try and be there for them too ... and take photos in the blizzard on the day of the funeral. :-) 




And, I'll do my best to stay by her and not criticize how, when, or why she mourns -- just like she always has for me.

A few years ago, I participated with a few of my thoughts for a video for a woman who was grieving the loss of her son and had compiled a book on grief.  I had no idea why I was chosen or what to say, but wound up being part of a group of people who talked about some of their perspective on loss, based on their experience.  Every once in awhile, like today as I mourn again the loss of my dear brother and give thanks for the deep love of him that causes that mourning, I turn on this video and listen again to the thoughts we all shared in our grief to remind myself how blessed I am to have had those I love and been loved in return to grieve with and for . . .


I have friends who during this 2016 Christmas season have lost their father, one who lost their mother, one who lost her dear husband, one who lost his dear wife, a sweet friend who lost her own life, and one who lost her dear son. They come from various aspects of my life, including my loss of Lauren -- who was one of her favorite nurses.  I share not only the loss, but the heartache of grief in a society that doesn't want to deal with it.  Everyone has someone to comfort or cheer ... or simply mourn with.

Grief is all around us, loss is a part of living and the great price of loving. While grief is a privilege of those who have had tremendous love in order to experience tremendous loss, ... it is my hope that those who stand on the outside and look in, will go a little easier on the hearts of those on the inside looking out.  And today, while I deeply miss this kind-hearted, loving older brother gone too soon, ... I give great thanks for those who embraced me and wept with me, and great thanks for those I have the opportunity to embrace and weep with in their own loss . . .



Thursday, December 29, 2016

Incomplete does not equal empty


December 29, 2016 ...

Yes, still grieving.  It doesn't go away.  It shouldn't go away.  My grief will be a life-long experience because my love for my child, gone way too soon, is also a life-long experience.  In fact, it is an eternal one.  So, it is now an integral part of me.

I am not incapacitated by grief ... I am invigorated by it.  It has become a trusted friend.  I don't wallow in it, rather I embrace it and want to do something meaningful with it.

Another year's journey ... 365 days orbit around the sun.  And we are back to the emotional milestone.  Another tick mark in how many years since Lauren slipped through our fingers, returning to the God who gave her life.

And so, reflection begins again in earnest, wondering what we have done with the time, and remembering both the beautiful and the horrific about cancer and its integral (and inescapable) part of our family's story.  It isn't that I don't think about her every single day still.  I do.  Smiles and tears specifically as a result of those thoughts are still a regular and very common occurrence.  I don't wait until this anniversary to ponder.  But, the anniversary and the season it comes in (which she adored) always brings around a different kind of searching of the soul and its proximity to the God I still find peace in worshipping, praising, and loving ... with all of my broken heart.  And, there is still a nagging in my soul to write, to paint, to return to something I knew before in order that I can do my best to preserve and portray all the abundant evidences of His Grace and Tender Mercies that I know because of this experience

Since my life was shattered burying a precious child, I've struggled to sift through all the pieces of who I used to be, to retrieve what was good about me, and shed what was not.  Some of the pieces remain in a neutral category, and some which I know should be permanently affixed or discarded still elude me.  I find that the bad pieces are sneaky and rather sticky, while the good pieces and the beautiful ones I am still aspiring to are very, very slippery.  In other words, if I find the good ones, they are hard to pick up again; but as I try, I note that some bad ones have found their way back to me, unaware.  I wonder if the process will ever be complete, or if this "recovery process", like grief itself, will be perpetual throughout my life.  I don't mind the reevaluation of those pieces, or the remaining "holes" that cannot be replaced ... they are the distinct reality that by this experience, I am, and will remain so throughout my life, unbearably incomplete.  These holes are cherished, in reality, because they represent that she is missing from me.  They also represent that there is still that which surrounds the "holes" ... meaning that incomplete does not equal empty.  I am grateful for the "holes", and still searching/sifting for the pieces worth keeping to surround them.

And, as I sift through those broken pieces, I see true elements of great joy in my life.  As I sift through those broken pieces, the nagging for my soul to record or somehow express the great joy, the Grace and Tender Mercies I know through my experience, continues ...

I haven't painted in years now, nor have I written anything substantial.  Blank screens, papers, and canvases have become haunting, and I have grown very weary of the phrase "I used to ..." but, I am still sifting and trying to rediscover the personal purpose and meaning after.  The last painting I did was a failed effort to paint her as I believe she looks now, holding our firstborn grandson with the a bow and a tag that said "MOST!"  (Lauren loved to play the "I love you, I love you more" game ... and she was good at it.  Never would admit defeat.)  It was the perfect idea -- except I couldn't pull it off.  It didn't express the real Lauren -- I left it unfinished, and as it has been tucked away in the basement, it has been smudged in several places.


My wise art teacher told me it was time to paint something 'less emotional' to me.  She asked me to paint a landscape, a flower, a tree ... something I had enjoyed enough to photograph -- anything that wasn't so excruciating.  I expressed to her that I wasn't interested in painting something less meaningful to me and wasn't capable of painting that which was so profoundly meaningful to me.  She kindly begged and gently encouraged.  I diligently looked for a photo that I had taken that "meant" something to me without a person (especially Lauren) in it.  I didn't find anything that spoke to me.  I didn't return to class.


Lauren's unfinished painting (nearly complete, but not quite) was finished by
a great friend and artist Judy Cooley (seriously, google her --)
and donated to some of her best friends at Primary Children's Hospital.
Her greatest painting (which she finished during excruciating treatment)
is still displayed at PCH every Sunday outside of services
and portrays who Lauren really is.  There isn't a match or a replacement for it.


The last writing I really attempted was a failed effort to finish the book she had started.  The first lines of her book expressed perfectly who she is and how she lived.  And, it was another claim of victory to all of us who opposed her in her "love you most" game.

"I was born in Fort Collins, Colorado on May 3, 1994 to the coolest family ever.  We've been arguing over who loves who most ever since I could talk and one day they'll realize that I have always been the winner and I will always be the winner.  It's just the way it is.  I love them more than all the drops of water falling from the sky and drops of water in all bodies of water.  My love is more than infinity, more than every blade of grass or grain of sand, more than Mickey loves Minnie and Pooh loves honey.  They are the best family any one could ever ask for.  They love me and care for me.  They watch over me and worry about me.  They support me and make me feel better.  I always have one of them with me and I can always count on them to say something to make me feel better, laugh together at stupid jokes, or simply hang out together in good times and in bad ones too.  They do love me and I am lucky.  I just love them more."

She was (is) witty and clever, and I was out-geniused by her every minute of every day.  Why in the world I thought that adoring her was enough to represent her is beyond me.  The elements of it that I wrote for her are painful - and practically unreadable, while the elements she wrote for herself are optimistic and upbeat.  With failure now part of those 'pieces' and haunting me every time I think of it, I determined that there might come a day when I could do a "better" job and pulled the book from the website where it could be purchased and tucked it away on another painful shelf where those pieces of me are still scattered.


So, in the meantime, full of love for her, and God, and the rest of my family, I've tried to take up a few alternative hobbies that are inspired by this girl who graced my life for a short 15 years and has altered my soul for eternity.   There is still the hope that one magical day, my pieces will align into the right combination of "used to be" and "the new me" and I'll be able to stave off the bad for that which Grace has altered in me, and grief for this angel has created in me.  And, hopefully, by His Grace, I'll be able to find expression of that Grace that so fully He proffers me (and all of us) . . .

His love is everywhere ... especially when we look for it, and sometimes even more so when we don't.  But it is always there.  So, I'll keep trusting, loving, and praising the Source --- and anticipating the reunion he has promised me --

And, in her honor, I'll keep playing the "love you more" game -- pretending I can somehow play at her level . . . . 


Yet, something tells me she is still determined to be the winner
("always have been, always will be"):

  





As usual, I am in over my head ... 
And, that is where I can "Be Still and Know that He is God",
and be free to fully love and grieve in peace that surpasseth understanding.










Tuesday, May 3, 2016

It's a Cow thing!

Lauren's Cow Painting (2008 or 2009)

May 3, 2016  Happy Birthday to the girl who loves cows ....

10 years ago in 2006, life was (mainly) bliss and free from fear.  It was Lauren's 12th birthday, and the lively, enthusiastic, funny girl was consistently making a mark in the lives of all those around her.  Life was sweeeeet to her and she made it sweeeeet for us too.   We celebrated BIG, like we traditionally did in our family.  It was our way of giving thanks for bounteous blessings.

There wasn't a sign, a notion, or a minuscule inclination of what was to come for her.  It wasn't a "that won't ever happen to me" sort of thing, but not even on the radar of possibilities that her life was in danger.  It wasn't even in the realm of our thoughts.  I often tell people that at this point in my life, I didn't even know what an oncologist was.  Naivety doesn't buy you freedom from devastating reality.

And, then the world as we knew it came crashing down.  Venomous cells started multiplying without reason and without restraint and the hideous monster came like a thief in the night when we least suspected it, or knew to fight it.  The perfect, innocent, angelic young woman was thrust into a battle for her cherished, appreciated, well-loved, sweeeeet life ... 

She took it on like a warrior and I took it on sobbing in a fetal position ... but, holding on to her (for dear life), I was able to borrow courage I did not have of myself.  I am still borrowing.

One of the things we learned in the next 3 1/2 years (besides what an oncologist was and that we had the best in the world fighting with us) is that Lauren had (has) an indomitable, unsinkable spirit.  We had long noted her optimism and been blessed by her perspective which awarded us many smiles and much laughter over her short span of life, but now it was different.  Now we saw something 'fierce'  and intensely courageous behind her smile, her light-heartedness, and her contagious, quick sense of humor.  Her catch phrase "Life is sweet" gained a tag line ... "Bring it on!"  And, her collection of cows (which grew tremendously during her battle) brought on a whole new and deeper meaning.

Cows became a symbol of Lauren's perspective.  She could always (and I mean always) find beauty or humor in anything (and, I mean anything). How else could she think to re-name Chemotherapy, Che-MOO-therapy?  It is why, as a family, we continue to "collect cows".  It is, simply put, a way of trying to live her legacy ... to find beauty and/or humor where others tend not to notice.

It enhances every day of my life to 'collect cows'.  Yes, that means that the world over, I take photos of cows, and buy souvenirs with cows on them to add to the hundreds that still sit on her bedroom shelves.  But, more importantly, it means collecting new perspective and experience in making life sweeter and more cherished.  While not anywhere near her flawless execution, I've started raising my face to feel the rain fall on it, instead of bowing my head with my hands over head.  I've started noticing the silver (or better said, gold) linings, and looked for beauty or humor in situations instead of succumbing to the 'stylish' drive for disillusionment so prevalent in today's world.  I am nowhere near the level of my masterful daughter, but my perspective has changed (and is still changing) to recognize the sweetness of life and to live it to its fullest.  Most importantly, in following my angel daughter's example, I am learning to recognize and give credit (and thanks) to the One who gave us this life as well as His Son who succors us in it, whether our current experience and condition is dark or bright.

It has even encouraged me to embrace my grief, to not put away my mourning.  It has helped me to see it as an opportunity to raise my face up to feel it, rather than to hide that face in the fear of actually feeling and experiencing it.  It has encouraged me to love deeper, which creates abundance in my life I cannot contain, and increased the impact of the hole that is so much a part of me now that she lives where I cannot see or touch her.  With the gift of Lauren's perspective, even that pain (which is excruciating) can be seen as a privilege, for I could not hurt so deeply without knowing this incredible LOVE that goes beyond any of this mortal experience I wish I could rewrite another way.

I don't apologize for my tears, nor do I apologize for my smiles.  They are both a reality of my experience.

Today, like every day, I'll try to collect a few cows ... find some beauty or some humor in honor of my baby daughter who graces my life still, ... long years after she slipped through my fingers to return home before me.

Maybe you could collect some cows in her honor, too.  Find some beauty or humor and pass it on to someone else who could use the lift.  That is Living Lauren's Legacy.

Yes, Happy Birthday to my cow-noticing, cow-collecting, cow-loving girl whose halo and wings may just have cow spots on them .....