JWVCF, Jen & Lauren (4)The kids and I had just come home from spending time with my mom and the rest of my family after my dad passed away.  Ten grueling hours on the road, left to our thoughts and me as excited as ever to get home to see my bride.

As I walked in the door to see her I wouldn’t know what would unfold in the hours that would follow.  I didn’t know that the next morning, Sunday July 15, when I went to check on her, look into her beautiful blue eyes and tell her that I loved her that it would be the last words that we would speak to each other.  And I certainly didn’t know what it meant to be a single parent.  Navigating life with a ten and thirteen–year-old at the time without the input of your wife, your best friend, is challenging.

Raising a son, well, I’m a dude too.  I kinda get it and understand what is going on in his head.  Ashley, Ashley, Ashley, his car, Ashley, cheeseburgers, Ashley, gas money, Ashley.  I get it. But parenting a little girl who is becoming a woman without her mother… I had no idea.  I’m a dance dad – and I’m proud of it.  I’ve been to see Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and One Direction.  I’ve been to the store to pick up “girlie stuff,” stay up late and talk about boys (or mostly listen) and everything else that I can do to be there for her.

I always wanted a girl.  Sorry Isaac, it’s true, I wanted you to be a girl.  Now, don’t get me wrong –  I’m elated with how things turned out but being one of three boys I really wanted a girl.  I know it’s not a macho thing to say – but oh well!  When Jen found out she was pregnant and we discovered it was a girl… I knew right away I wanted her to be named Lauren.  She didn’t like me much (Lauren that is and maybe Jennifer as she wasn’t able to get an epidural when Lauren was born) until she was a little over a year.  From that time on she was my baby girl.  Now she’s nearly fifteen and when I look at her, and as I do my best to raise her I still remember these lyrics from a Michael W. Smith song:

And she walks with me
And she talks with me
In her eyes I see her truth
Born of her fire and grace
As she finds her place
Cause it’s love that makes her strong

It is love that has made her, Isaac and me strong.  And it is love that gives Lauren the strength to share these words today about her mom who crossed the finish line on July 15, 2012.

“Four years. Four years without your voice. Four years without your smile. Four years without your advice. Four years without you. I can’t believe that we’ve come this far. I distinctly remember the day you left, I was so worried what would happen. How would I even go a day without my mom? 

I was sitting in my room, hearing you and dad listening to worship music and you breathing heavily. All I could do at that moment was turn to God and pray, pray that you would be okay and everything would go back to normal. Unfortunately, nothing was ever the same.

I lost the woman I looked up to, the woman I went to get my nails done with, the woman who taught me how to divide and how to act like a lady, and the woman I loved with all of my heart. How would anything be the same after that? I didn’t understand how He could take you so soon. I still needed you.

Every morning I get up is still hard, knowing that you’re not there to greet me. Going to dances, recitals, family events, everything, it’s hard not having you there helping me get ready, cheering me on, and just not being there in general.

We’ve managed to figure things out. We couldn’t have done it if we didn’t have faith and believe that we could. We couldn’t have done it if we didn’t have all the people who have helped us along the way. Although all these things are hard, I choose to follow in your footsteps and never loose faith even in the hardest times. This one thing you wrote before you passed keeps me going every day, “Even when you feel alone, you never are. God is with you, always, and I will be with you in your heart too. I love you more than I could ever express in words.”

I reference back to the verse dad shared with me a few months back when I was having a hard time understanding things. Hebrew 11:13 says: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” Even though I don’t understand things sometimes and wish you were still here, I will always have faith and trust in God just like you taught me too.

I thank Him everyday for the memories that our family created and the chances he gave us to do so. That’s why I love this foundation, so when families are in the middle of a cancer journey they can take a break and create memories that will last a lifetime, just like we did with my mom. I love seeing the amazing stories and impacts these trips make on their lives. Thank you to everyone who has donated and helped these families. We love you all.

I’m proud of both of my children.  But today I wanted to share my daughter’s heart with you because what I see, in her heart, is a powerful truth.  Love isn’t love until you give it away.  Continue to love when you don’t understand, continue to walk when you don’t see the path, continue to dance when you don’t hear the music, continue to make memories and help others to do the same.

We are more committed more than ever before to help families in the midst of their cancer journeys create memories that will last a lifetime!  We love you and thank you for being a part of our lives.