Love Letter to Maggie Lee

My precious Maggie Lee,

Your 24th birthday is next Thursday and it is still an outlandish thought that you are in Heaven and not here with us. Time marches on and even the movie Legally Blonde turned twenty this year! Speaking of which, Elle Woods Henson was particularly excited by her prominent placement in this year’s T-shirt graphic. She’s so extra, just like her mommy.

It is always so amazing to see the kindness people perform in your name by many who knew you and even more who never did. I cannot wait to see you again and watch you watch the video roll of all of the good deeds your spirit inspired in people. Who knows but that the box of groceries in Detroit or the simple hand-written note in Phoenix was just the touch God used to restore someone’s broken soul. As you know, kindness is not wimpy and sentimental but rather a force both fierce and transformative.

What began as a simple seed to carry on your legacy of love has grown and next Thursday photos will pour in from different parts of the country where your spirit has spread. Four West Point Grads are having a golf scramble in Las Vegas to raise money for Wounded Warriors, crossing guards in Frisco are being assaulted with showers of Little Debbie’s and children in Jackson, MS are being treated at Batson Hospital because of donations someone made in your name. How wonderful is that?

Amid the celebration, however, there will always be an empty seat at our table. Time forever demarcated before 2009 and after. I suppose this is the frightening risk of loving a soul; the possibility that one day it will be gone. Our insides swell at the thought of love, enlarged by the fulfilled presence of another, but desperately deflated should it be taken away. How miraculous to feel the flat disappointment of grief eventually give way to the infilling of God’s grace? Life can almost kill us and then we least expect, catch it being beautiful once more.

I treasure what we had in you, Maggie Lee. Your sparkle remains like glitter found in the baseboards of an old house years after the craft project has wrapped. Your essence is both impossible to remove and ever present. You will always be the undercurrent in my soul when I react out of love and patience when I have the choice to be selfish. You will always be my inspiration to pull up a chair at the lunch table to make room for one more. You will always be one-half of the best things I ever did in my life on Earth and I cannot wait to celebrate you next week!!!

To join the world wide wave of kindness on October 29, simply go to fb group

Maggie Lee for Good

or email jinnyhenson@gmail.com

#maggieleeforgood #onedayonedeedonedifference #godsgrace #kindnessmatters #grief #daughter #hope #brokenhearted #mourningintodancing #butgod #parenting #parentingtoday #dylandreyer #grievingparents #love #lifelessons #god #help #why? #encouragement #overcoming #thebestisyettobe #motherslove #busaccident #seatbelts

Grieving Parents, Sharing God's Love, Uncategorized

Above and Beyond Expectation

Sometimes life is surreal in awful ways and sometimes life is surreal in just plain wonderful ones.

Maggie Lee for Good the movement turned paperback is proof of that.

Last Wednesday Night was one of those surreal moments. As I sat and listened to Lauri tell the story of losing her 12-day-old daughter and quote words from the book back to me, it was a wonderfully odd sensation. I was burdened by her great loss yet thankful that she found comfort this book.

It seems my main ministry bent in life has been reminding people how deeply God is in love with them. I felt in High School that God really just got a bad rap; like I had this secret which drew me into seeing God in a little different way. Not that I had earned that intimacy but that somehow God gave me this profound knowledge that He was real and actively loving me as well as those around me each day.

Like an inside joke almost was this relationship I excitedly shared, not to win people over to my way of thinking but just to express the profound truth that God is crazy about each of us. Mainly that if God could love someone like me then you are totally in like Flynn.

Jaimie, a friend I met through Maggie Lee’s Caringbridge site three years ago has been longing to express God’s love to a coworker of hers. She wrote this to me this week;

“I have a coworker who always makes sarcastic comments about Christianity. I’ve been praying for her and looking for ways to reach out to her with God’s love.  Last night after work, she made a remark and I felt prompted to take out my Maggie Lee for Good book as the best way to start the conversation. I started reading and she immediately asked what I was reading. I began telling her about Maggie Lee and offered to let her borrow it. She started crying by page 3. I know that God will use His word to plant a seed in her. Maggie Lee for Good.”

Honestly there are millions who are sullied about Christianity and probably some valid reasons why they are. But, as the story we have unfortunately been entrusted with explains, God still loves us. Yes, God allows horrible tragedy. He doesn’t intervene to compensate for the poor choices we make as human beings but even that free will is a loving gift which in his generous restraint he gives.

Maggie Lee for Good was a labor of love for us. I felt an obligation to put down on paper the agony of losing part of my soul and the ecstacy of watching thousands of friends and strangers do a good deed on her birthday. Whether 100 or 1000 people wanted to read the book really didn’t matter to me as it was the only item on my bucket list when I began over 18 months ago.

To our amazement within a week, Maggie Lee for Good cracked the Amazon top 50 for Christian Living Hot New Releases. People like Jaimie have reached out to us to tell us how God has reminded them of his love through this little blue book.

Completely above and beyond expectation.

Christian Faith, Maggie Lee for Good

Benjamin’s Life…Changed for Good

When Chick-fil-A owner John Roden of Bossier City, Louisiana, heard Maggie Lee’s story at his church in early October, 2010, he wanted his restaurant take part in Maggie Lee for Good Day.  He shared the story with his marketer, Renee Wilson, who contacted us and asked if we were open to his Chick-Fil-A Restaurant (and, eventually the other two in the Shreveport / Bossier Area) to join in the second annual event. Of course we were ecstatic to have Chick-fil-A on board.

A week later Julie Babboni approached Renee Wilson in hopes of doing a fundraiser to help cover the astronomical cost of a trained service dog for her son, Benjamin. 4 Paws for Ability is a non-profit organization whose dogs perform life-changing and even life-saving service for disabled children and adults. The timing seemed to be divinely inspired. Typically shying away from individual fundraisers, Renee still somehow felt like assisting in Benjamin’s quest for a service dog was the perfect project for this day. On October 29th, 2010, we met The Babboni family and was taken with this little guy whose life would be changed forever by a sweet, enormous canine named Hachi.

As seen in the video, Renee is explaining that at lunch on Maggie Lee for Good Day, every 29th meal was free, given in honor of Maggie Lee’s birthday and every customer who was given a free meal donated to the fundraiser for Benjamin. Donations included an anonymous gift in the whopping amount of $5,000, practically 1/3 of the cost of a trained service dog.

For three Octobers, Maggie Lee for Good has been a great rallying point around which generous enthusiasm is drawn.  Whether it be a fun run benefitting North Carolina Organ Donation,  a food drive in San Angelo, TX or even a service-dog fundraiser in Bossier City, LA., it is a tremendous phenomenon to watch. We are thrilled by the divine orchestration which led our lives to cross with so many of you and we are also happy that Benjamin has a faithful companion and protector in Hachi.  Here are a few remarkable stories from Julie:

  “We met Hachi for the first time on Aug 2, 2011.  We had just been emailed  a photo of him a week prior!  When Hachi and Benjamin met it was an immediate bond and Hachi also began alerting to the Electrical status (seizure discharges) that Benjamin constantly has going on in his brain.  It was amazing.  Since then the two have slept together every night, and lately Benjamin has taken to Hachi’s bed so they both sleep on a huge dog bed! But at least he’s sleeping.
A month after having Hachi we no longer took Benjamin’s wheelchair to school.  Hachi is trained in tethering/mobility, which means he wears a sturdy leather harness that has a handle for Benjamin to hold on to, and then we use a padded dog collar around Benjamin’s waist and tie them to each other with a bungee type leash.  Hachi walks slowly next to Benjamin and bears his weight when needed (ie stairs) but mostly helps Benjamin keep his balance and use his leg muscles by walking.  It is also a godsend because now out in public we do not have to confine Benjamin to his wheelchair for safety because he would always take off.  Hachi is trained to stay down or standing no matter how much hard Benjamin is pulling on the leash trying to get away.
He is also trained in tracking!  Hachi is amazing at finding Benjamin, it is his favorite game.  We’ve practiced in parks, woods, around the house, stores, in the house, and even the underground tunnels up at the mayo clinic!  We spent 2 straight weeks training with Hachi and his trainers, and he it was one of the best trackers of his class!  So if Benjamin ever does get away from us at home or in public then Hachi will be able to “hunt” him down!!!
As I mentioned before Hachi also does seizure alert.  Benjamin’s has had 3 physical seizures since we got Hachi, and Hachi alerted about 6-8 minutes before each seizure.  Since Benjamin usually doesn’t have physical seizures we were very surprised.  Hachi is used to Benjamin’s constant electrical activity in his brain,  ( he has ESES epilepsy as one of his diagnosis’) but Hachi will alert a few times a day, and that is when Benjamin is having a full seizure in his brain and we are only aware of it because of Hachi, Benjamin may be sleeping or playing at the time and shows no physical signs of it.
His last two things he is trained in are Behavior Disruption, and Emotional Support.  We have Hachi “give kisses” or lay on Benjamin’s lap as distractions when he is starting a tantrum and it works about 85% of the time and then Hachi is just Benjamin’s best friend. 
Having Hachi is like having another child to get ready and feed and tend to, so it is not always so easy for me, but seeing what he does for my son everyday makes every second worth it. 
We did go to Disney and Sea World this past November, and the first day at the park Benjamin walked tethered to Hachi for 3 straight hours, he’s never walked for more than 20 minutes straight before.  Having Hachi is building muscle, increasing his independence while keeping him safe, and giving him a sense of belonging.”
So if you ever wondered about Benjamin and if he ever got his service dog, there’s the rest of the story.

Benjamin and Hachi at Disney