The Forgotten Children…..

I’ve had this recurring thought for the past few months that there is a whole section of kids that Smiles From Drew should be helping. We have been blessed enough to help as many kids as we have but normally the kids we help are already signed up for the activity and for one reason or another they need our help. Whatever the reason they have gotten in touch with us to help with the registration fees. But what about those kids that know deep down that there is no way they would ever be able to participate? What about the kids that know that either because of finances or family life that they don’t even dare to think of signing up?

I am hoping that this year these are the children Smiles From Drew can focus on. There are so many children out there, that no matter how the parents try to shield them from the struggles know that their families couldn’t afford it. So what do those kids do? They just never say anything to their parents, they never bring home flyers about the activities. They just silently do without. I know Drew would have been that way. He was just such a caring person and if he knew there was no way I could afford it he wouldn’t even tell me about it. He would take that burden on himself. He would feel that by him not saying anything about the activity he was “helping me”. We need to get to those kids so they don’t have to take that burden on. We need to even for a moment let them be kids and not have to worry about whether or not their family could afford it.

There is a National Organization call The Aspen Institute and they study the effects of sports and social exclusion because of factors out of children’s hands. They have an initiative called Project Play. They want us to “think globally but act locally”. The focus of Project Play to date has been on children ages 6 to 12, who form the base of our sport system, with a shared vision of “an America in which all children have the opportunity to be active through sports.” (https://www.aspenprojectplay.org/) The below statistics don’t take into account the demographics of the children that never get the opportunity to participate in the activities. This study just reflects the percentage of children that are participating. As you can see, in 2016 only 34.6% of children in households that income was under $25,000 were able to participate. That tells me we have a whole slew of kids that Smiles From Drew could be servicing.

My goal is to enlist people to help us find these forgotten children. School counselors, teachers, social workers, and youth leaders. These are all the people are on the front lines with these children and know when and where we can help. Reaching out to these children is going to take all of us to help them. We will need to raise more money. It’s going to be a big a job but Drew would want nothing less of me. I feel this calling to branch out and I know Drew is the one that is pushing me. He has been with me every step of the way in this journey of Smiles. Every single time I have doubted the strength of myself or the ability to keep going with Smiles, Drew sends me a sign. I can picture him beaming that beautiful smile and telling me “Good job Mama but you’re not done”.

So if you know of children that fit this category email me. If you know someone who is a social worker or a contact that you think we should team up together email me. I know deep down this is the path we are supposed to be on and with everyone’s help we can get to those forgotten children and help them feel like a kid again, even if it’s only on the playing field for a little bit.

You can email me at smilesfromdrew@gmail.com. You can always message me on Facebook also. Help me grow Smiles and help these children. Much love to you and thank you so much for always supporting our mission.

To donate to our mission click here

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2019 here we come……

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of the year again. We are finishing up a year and looking back at our highs and lows. We are also gearing up for a new year. The idea of a new year takes on a different meaning when you have lost a child. You have that sense of dread knowing that it is once again another year your child is not a part of. It’s one more year you have to work, struggle, and climb that mountain so that their memory is staying strong. 

It is also another year of opportunities. I will have 365 new chances to tell people about Drew. 365 more days to show people that his memory matters. Drew Alexander Lighthall mattered and will always matter while I have breath in my body. I plan on finding “joy” in telling people about Drew. I will find “joy” in growing Smiles. I will find “joy” in the everyday moments in my life. 

Joy will be my word for 2019. I will embrace the joy that being Drew’s mother gave me and still gives me. When the idea of the word joy coming into my life I felt like it was a paradox with the idea of grief. What I have found out that for me  to survive this journey I need to be able to find that joy deep inside me, the joy I buried deep when I lost Drew.  I will feel the pain of losing Drew to my core but he would want nothing more than to know that I can still feel his love and know that I will have Joy once again. The pain will not go away but I am hoping that I can remember Drew with more smiles to my face than tears in my eyes. I am sure that there will be many time that I will have both at the same time.  

Grief and Joy are like the ultimate Yin/Yang. To have the chasm of grief that you have with losing a child there will always be the joy that they were and are yours. They will always be with you.

“The more unfelt grief we carry, the less we are able to feel joy.  And because we often turn away from our grief in the pursuit of more joy, it follows that trying to always feel joy has the exact opposite result.” https://theunlockedheart.com/blog/2018/2/12/the-yinyang-dance-of-grief-and-joy

I challenge you to choose a word for the coming year. Choose a word that maybe you need to keep reminding yourself to do more, be better. To all those that are grieving remember it’s ok to have the joy with the grief. Celebrate the wonderful people that were in your lives, celebrate that you were honored to have them and experience the joy. 

Not okay…..

I’ve been trying to write this blog for weeks now. My head has been in a bad place for a little while, to say that I am struggling is an understatement. I have not felt like myself since Drew’s birthday. Then it seemed right after that it was the anniversary of his death.  This year feels so different. So final. I’m not sure why it feels so different. I feel more scattered, more lost, more broken, and oh so alone. To add to the self doubt in my head I was fired from my job a few weeks after Drew’s anniversary. When your heart is in so many pieces it’s hard not to take these things to “heart”.

My normal coping skills have just not been cutting it. Usually when I start feeling that dark veil creep in on me I get busier with Smiles or some other project. I just have no motivation to do any of that right now. I am so tired. I am tired of my heart hurting. I am tired of pretending I am okay. I am tired of not seeing my son. Yea, it’s a bit of a pity train I’m on but I’m not quite sure how to make the thoughts quit swirling in my head.

Drew has now been gone from Molly’s life as long as he was in it. She was so young when he died it just seems like that is my measuring point. The other day we were doing a project for her kindergarten class and it was all about “her”. We were supposed to write things about her so her classmates could get to know her better. I’m going through the list of her many likes: science, bugs, worms, unicorns. Then I say ” You have 1 older brother and 1 older sister”, she looks at me and says “no, I only have a sister, my brother died and that doesn’t count”. It was like my heart was breaking all over again. In her mind does he not count? Does she really remember him? If she doesn’t remember him and just the pictures on the wall I can see why she would think that he doesn’t count. Who does Drew count to anymore? Is he now just a past memory that people say “Oh yea I think I knew him”? These are the thoughts that get stuck in my head.

My house is covered in my kids pictures. To me there is no better art than to see my kids smiles over the years. Awkward school pictures with missing teeth, baby pictures when they were just too cute and squishy and moments we have had together that have always made me smile. The first few weeks following Drew’s death I would wake up several times a night with this overwhelming thought that I needed to take his pictures off the wall. His beautiful blue eyes and radiant smile was everywhere. I would get up when I got these thoughts and go out to the living room and look at the pictures. Some nights I would take his pictures off the wall and then immediately put them back up. I would have that panic filled thought of “what did you just do”. The past few months I would look at Drew’s pictures and I wouldn’t get that flood of comfort from them. I would see a look of blame, disapproval, and disappointment. I took his pictures down and I  boxed his ashes up.

I don’t think I will leave them down forever but that is how I realized I’m not okay. I called my primary doctor and of course they can’t get me in for months. I ended up calling nine (9) doctors in town and the soonest appointment I could get was the middle of November.  I know I called more therapists offices than that and was not able to secure one appointment. We tell people to reach out…there’s always help available. But there isn’t. If I was in a much darker place I would worry. I will do what I need to for my girls. I will keep getting up day after day.

So if you’ve been wondering why I’ve been so quite lately that’s why. I’m not okay……

 

 

Get that camera…

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Drew in his Toy Story pajamas playing Men in Black with the sunglasses.

There is no better time than now to get that good camera. There will be a time when you want to look back at those pictures of your children, whether you are lucky enough to look back at them when they are grown or whether you look back at them because that is all you have left of your child.

 

You don’t want those pictures to be blurry, dark, and just bad quality. That is my problem now that I go back through pictures of Drew and Madison when they were little.

I didn’t realize the importance of it. When they were little we didn’t have digital cameras so you had to buy the camera, buy the film, and try to remember to develop it. You didn’t get to look at the pictures before you just rolled the dice and hoped your kids didn’t take too many pictures of the ceiling or up their nose. I have lots of pictures of Madison’s nose.

I don’t have many pictures of me with the kids. Either we were in places that we couldn’t get anyone to take our picture or they kept me too busy to even bother. It’s quite sad really when you think about it, I have 20 years with Drew and maybe a handful of pictures of him and I together.

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Drew, Madison and I at Six Flaggs in Dallas.

Today, almost all of us have a camera on our phone. It makes it so much easier to get those moments that you wouldn’t have been able to get before. Those look at me Mom moments of them hanging upside down or doing something for the first time. The problem with having all these pictures on the phone is that we don’t do anything with them. I have hundreds of pictures just sitting in “the cloud”. My goal for this year is to make some photo-books with some of the pictures. Take all those pictures I’ve been taking and put them somewhere where we can look back at them in 10, 20, or even 30 years from now.

So buy that camera. It’s worth the money. Don’t worry that you take too many pictures. It’s OK. Get that selfie stick, ask someone to take pictures of you with the kids. You will miss it when you realize that you don’t have any pictures of you with them. As moms we are always doing for others but do these few things and it keeps the memories alive. Print them out. Savor them. Enjoy them so you can remember when.