I have not the foggiest idea why the story of Maggie Lee’s life and death has touched the souls it has. Truly, it makes absolutely no sense other than God’s eye toward and passion for redemption. Stories like those of … Continue reading
On October 29th Maggie Lee would have been 21 years old. Schools are gearing up for Maggie Lee for Good Day and the promotion of kindness which will ensue. Candy sales are happening to benefit Maggie Lee’s Closet and sororities are planning events for this annual initiative. It is GREAT news amid all of the tragedy and poignant reminder that God’s wheelhouse is redemption.
Several people have referenced “What I Know Six Months Out,” and asked about it which struck me as really bizarre so I decided to repost. So much has changed, so many millions of prayers of mine have been answered while just as many monstrous fears have fallen by the wayside. Our ten-year-old in his tiny suit who wanted to speak at his sister’s funeral is a college freshman fearful of exactly NOTHING which is God’s grace. He has the 1p.m. Monday DJ slot for Texas Tech Radio KTXT and adores West Texas. I believe we’ve lost him forever to West Texas and I could not be more thrilled! It is a gift to watch his life unfold, even the challenging days.
John and I have found the love of God an enormous sea where drowning is impossible. The only proper response is to relax long enough to float. We are still polar opposites with aligned hearts and shared purpose. He is a good man to his core and prizes the practice of, in Jen Hatmaker’s words, “Pulling up another chair to God’s table,” inviting everyone to God’s redemptive grace while helping them find daily bread, jobs and purpose. He’s aged well although his hair is now more salt than pepper. Still a stone-cold fox- just a silver one.
Here’s the post from what seems a lifetime ago:
WHAT I KNOW SIX MONTHS OUT
I have often reassured myself in the six months since Maggie Lee’s death that although I have no idea what I will do without her, I honestly didn’t know what to do with her when she first arrived, either. Somehow this gives me room to breathe and by the grace of God, I sense that I will adapt to my new life in some measure as I did before.
Of course, birthing a child and burying a child are two radically different prospects. On the one hand you deliver a bundle of dreams wrapped in possibility oozing potential and conversely, in the other unnatural scenario, you lower those most treasured dreams into the ground…forever.
It is a disorienting experience and frankly I am shocked to still wake up every morning. “A Broken Heart Still Beats,” is the title of a grief book for parents and, alas, mine still does. I remember reading a about a friend’s 4-year-old daughter who had cancer two years ago. As I clicked out of the email, I sighed with relief that God had not laid that burden on me because He knew full well that I could never take anything so awful.
And then in a moment, despite the diligent love that you have and the protective eye you naturally cast, a freak accident comes calling and is unaware that your family is supposed to be exempt. As soon as you’re told that your child will die, you begin to ratchet down expectations. You see a child in a wheelchair and breathe a hasty,”I’ll take it,” or one with a contracted little body, but still able to communicate and think,”I would gladly spend my life taking care of her” But, alas, the ultimate bargain isn’t yours to make.
I remember painting Maggie Lee’s toenails crazy colors while she was comatose and massaging her legs when the nurses would let me take the pressure cuffs off. I told everyone that she always wanted to be famous and wouldn’t she be irked that she slept right through it? I distinctly remember the kindness of a nurse preparing her body for burial as it were by bathing her when the end was near; detaching the monitor from her head to wash her blood-matted hair so that I could braid it one final time. I also remember most of all longing to explain to them just who was lying in that bed covered with tubes and monitors, but that proved to be impossible.
It still is impossible, but the urge remains to remind the world that although she only had 12 years, she was truly a phenomenal little person.
I have learned a few things in my first 6 months of new-born grief. Certainly, many more lessons are to follow as I will contend with this ever-present absence as long as I shall live. I have learned that it is impossible to shake a good friend. Most people are lucky to have one true friend when it is all said and done. I have an embarrassing wealth of amazing friends and family who have shouldered the burden of loss with me. Souls who have sincerely attempted to put themselves in our unenviable shoes, anticipate our needs and keep us supplied with books and Starbucks cards.
I have learned to treasure every imperfect day and those who remain. Life is hard and will not for the vast majority of us ever turn out in the way we would choose. I guess that’s why we’re all so cranky. Since Maggie Lee’s death, I have tried to suck the marrow out of life even more than I did before; enjoying my family as they they are, not as they should be. We often unwrap the presents of the people around us with a conditional bent of dissatisfaction; we love our children but try to exact better performances from them. We appreciate our parents but our dad dresses funny and mom has a goatee. We are committed to our spouse but he sets the thermostat too low and never remembers how we like our coffee. Losing someone I love has helped me to step back and be grateful for what and whom I have left.
Even though I never was much of a control freak, I now know that even the appearance of control over my circumstances is nothing but a facade. It is with infinite wisdom that the writer of Ecclesiastes compares our earthly existence with a fleeting vapor. I have learned that even if life would’ve obediently followed my plans, that I would have at some juncture encountered a traumatic blow or two. Time wounds all heels, and many more graphically than mine, just consider Haiti. No purpose is served by pridefully thinking that no ones loss can ever rival mine. If I wear my disaster like a orchid on Mother’s Day, it will only serve to frighten people. Every human being will be confronted by unwanted circumstances to which they can accept, or wander down main street in a nightgown like Mary Todd Lincoln. As for myself, I never looked too hot in a nightie.
I have learned that t-shirt fronts serve as great Kleenex if you suddenly get an unexpected gusher. Gut-wrenching grief is sneaky and will typically ambush you at the most inappropriate moments such as the carpool line, Sunday School or the deli counter over cold-cuts. Some times, emotions are brought on by well-intentioned small-talk such as, “How many children do you have?” or, “Is he an only child?” I have found it best to answer the question as my life is now rather than to thrust my emotional baggage on an unsuspecting Wal-Mart Employee. People by and large are unprepared for the flood of toxic emotions a grieving person is capable of producing.
I have learned that people do indeed want good to have the last word. When our three week ordeal ended, over 250,000 visits had been made to Maggie Lee’s Caring Bridge Site. On October 29th, what would’ve been her 13th birthday, over 18,000 people signed up to do a good deed. On “Maggie Lee For Good,” Day, Lawyers took on cases pro-bono, an American passed out baguettes to the homeless French in the Eiffel Tower’s shadow and one man installed a hot water heater for a disabled man in Louisiana who previously showered on his back porch. Schools had canned-food drives, friends had lemonade stands benefiting Children’s Hospitals and a Pediatrician in Texas forgave the medical debt of a newly-unemployed father, just to name a few. I have learned that when you are determined to wrist good out of tragedy, God and many other people will hustle to help you.
I have learned that although I struggle with God and miss my daughter desperately that I am not prepared to go it alone. I know intrinsically that God is the only path to true healing of which I can conceive. Although there are days that the searing pain wins over me, I have learned that my Heavenly is indeed close to the brokenhearted, and that hope in Christ will sustain me until I see my precious child again.
I have learned that of all the things I have failed to prioritize, that mothering is not one of them. Not that I was or will ever be perfect, but that I was dead-on in living with my family as my priority. I am devastated to have placed so much import on loving my children only to have had one of them die, but grateful that for a brief period of time that I did what mattered most. When Maggie Lee told me that I was the best mother in the world, I would tell her that I was sure she would grow up and need counseling for something I had done or failed to do but that she would know that I loved her with all of my heart. And, she did.
Maggie Lee’s Closet is an awesome responsibility. How ironic that in Maggie Lee’s 12 years of life her closet was a wreck and now the closet which bares her name is a beautiful, organized island of joyful fashion. This organization is owed to the brilliant volunteers who, unlike myself, have the faculty of both brain hemispheres compared with my one.
This week Debbie, Aprile and Beth spent their days washing and ironing tubs of donations because they’re incredible. Lisa and Sharon joined me in the closet yesterday. Lisa has a law degree and is meticulously organized. Sharon is also degreed but more on the party-starter end of the spectrum. Lisa collected extra hangers and color-coded them while Sharon had the kids she assisted run a relay race to see if the new tennies “made them go faster.” The race shot the distance of our hall and the turn-around spot was the glass display case. Why is Lisa friends with us?
Soon after we opened a lady came by with a referral from Catholic Charities. She filled out the application and I asked if her child was with her. She was not but returned with her in an hour. Denise was so precious and when we three learned that she had Picture Day tomorrow we were the freaking Cinderella mice. We all brought dresses, Lisa found shoes and Sharon had the perfect finishing touch- a fringy bag from her daughter she had brought that day.
Denise was a beautiful soul as was her grandmother. They had just moved from California and had nothing but a California Drivers Licence. They were lit up from the inside such lovely people.
“I thought I would have to wear my uniform on Picture Day. I am so happy I came here. I never want to leave!”
So that is what you have created my beautiful tribe. All of you who donate time, talent and treasure to Maggie Lee’s Closet. You create a moment in time where we get to whisper to these young souls that they are amazing and loved and that God has a great plan for their lives.
I was holding up pretty well until I heard my Mom in Houston say these words Sunday morning: “There is a tiny bit of water inside the house. Nothing major and, oh, I just killed a snake in our dining room.”
“WHAT?” I shrieked.
Tears breached my emotional levee as she assured me that it was “More like a baby snake. A worm, really” and my intentions to encourage the Steel Magnolia wound up in contraflow as she calmed my nerves. She developed a nasty cough last week and so it was hard to catch each word she spoke but her placid tone convinced me that she would indeed be fine.
Last week I pleaded with the matriarch to come to Shreveport and get out of harm’s way but like all of my Houston family members and friends she did not leave. No one that I know did. Nobody. There was certainly no mandatory evacuation.
As it turns out the flood waters in Mimi’s house was contained in our fabulous sunken dining room. Classic Brady architecture. The water never amounted to more than three inches inside and her Nissan Rogue was completely unscathed. Her next-door neighbors The Sheridens were not so fortunate, they received over a foot of water throughout their home.
Neighbors Jane and Dean spent the night Sunday Night and would have certainly offered the same hospitality should my Mom have needed it. When I asked her what the tornado plan was she said that The Sheridens helped her clean out an inside closet for their storm shelter.
Thankfully Sunday Night held nothing for Mimi’s small area of Southwest Houston but receding water. The front and back yards were no longer lakes even though other parts of Houston and Texas were totally submerged.
By Monday floodwaters had seeped back outside. She has flood insurance which will help with repairs especially since her never-before-flooded home is on the market. You can actually spy the realtor’s sign in the river of her front yard if you can look closely enough.
Nothing remains the same but change and change the neighborhood has. The “Michael Dell House” caddy-corner from Mimi has long since changed hands and changed hands again. Herod Elementary, the foundation of my childhood was raised to make way for a new Herod. One which my Ex-pat friend in Ireland, Christie Taylor Seaver saw underwater on the news.
Houston is my hometown. She is Pine-tree sap on my fat little Kindergarden hands and Christmas work at Neiman Marcus. Faith in God I found at Westbury Baptist and the love of good parents. Houston is a gang of friends from Caversham who played Breyer Horses instead of Barbies (I had the blonde ones) endless birthday cakes and streamer-wrapped rooms.
My hometown memories are James Avery bracelets and Halloween Carnivals and doing life with those from other countries, beliefs and perspectives. Houston is Jill and Colleen’s adventures and Amy Skjonsby’s Duran Duran posters.
To see so many hometown friends and acquaintances’ social media posts of homes underwater and offers of help is completely surreal. I cannot fathom how bizarre it must be to live there right now. I asked Mimi for a picture to prove that she was O.K. and she sent me this pictures of her neighbors & herself.
BRAND NEW Khaki Fair Video here
Our sweet Maggie Lee passed away eight years ago and to honor her, we are once more having KhakiFair this Thursday, August 3rd at 520 Olive St. in Shreveport. We remember her in fun ways which makes the world a happier place. It’s a pretty great gig!
-What the HECK is Khaki Fair?
A free uniform give away to bless the children of Shreveport-Bossier from Kindergarden-8th GRADE. Maggie Lee’s Closet, a non-profit organization, is a year-round free clothing closet and Khaki Fair is the biggest party of the year.
–Where is this fun event taking place?
520 Olive St. in Shreveport at 4 pm on Thursday, August 3rd. First-come, first-served.
-What do I need to bring if my child needs a uniform ?
Your CHILD. No uniforms will be given without kids present.
-How can I get in on this fun deal?
Volunteer! We need 3 more sweet Maggieleestas to do nails for the event and 5 more uniform-deliverers. It’s fun, easy & organized in a way which makes it a breeze to hop in there & make peoples’ day. Please arrive by 3:30. Send a message to jinnyhenson’s FaceBook page or the MaggieLeeforGood FB page or post a comment.
If you feel inclined to give a tax-deductible donation to provide a uniform, you’re awesome that way. Uniforms are $25.00 and you may send a check to Maggie Lee’s Closet 520 Olive St. Shreveport, LA 71104
We have adorable donation cards so include a name & address of someone you’d like to honor with that donation and we’ll get that done.
Secure on-line donation instructions are also on maggieleeforgood.org
Thank you for reading this post and bringing goodness into the world.
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Right behind abdominal cramps and losing a six-pound bass inches from the boat come photo shoots on Jack’s list of beat-downs. Despite his disdain for taking pictures at least he smiles on que now. Nice to have gotten past the “stare in the opposite direction of everyone in the picture” phase. He would be bodily present in the picture but made you regret forcing the issue.
Jack has made significant strides in modeling. I gotta give him his due. But after 2 hours of Senior pictures we look up and notice Jack is striking the mother of all Harlequinn Romance Novel Cover poses. Pearl snap buttons unsnapped and face seriously funny. There is something so primal about humor. It is the language of choice in our family and Jack is a master linguist at it.
Here’s to the class of 2017. How entertained we are by our Senior.