With Open Arms

With Open Arms
I wasn’t looking forward to 2015. A new year was starting but I wanted desperately to stay just where I was, living in the year that Audrey did as well.

I was comfortably stuck.

Emotionally, and almost physically, I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to leave her year behind, for her to fade in the rearview mirror…for those balloons to drift so far they couldn’t be seen.

Much to my dismay, the clock struck midnight and 2015 began.

Early in the year, a friend said to me, “I worry about you. I worry that Audrey will be your story…instead of Audrey being a PART of your story.”

“Of course she is my story. She will always be my story”, I thought to myself. But…that isn’t the whole truth. As hard as it is to swallow, Audrey doesn’t define me. I’m also a believer, a wife, a mama to Cooper, a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, a friend and a colleague. I realized that I was allowing her story to chip away at those areas of my life instead of making me better, like I promised it would. It wasn’t honoring to her in the least.

And now, as I come around to the other side of the darkness, I understand that I didn’t really want to move forward. I feared that healing would mean she would feel less real and that I would begin to lose her. The pain became comforting because it made me feel closer to her somehow.

I know that’s ugly. It’s dark and where is He in those statements? He never left my side. And I depended on Him. In fact, I felt closer to Him than ever before because perhaps I better understood even a smidge of His own anguish. He understood the inner-workings of my twisted mind and yet, He showed me grace through it all.

There were days and weeks after Audrey’s passing when I withdrew from friends and family. What if they said something that was full of truth and helped me heal? I didn’t want to. I wanted to hold on to her. I wrongly assumed I couldn’t have both. Thus, I clung to her instead of healing.

But then that wise friend said the thing that I just couldn’t let go of. Something that I didn’t really want to let sink in but it did anyway. Audrey is absolutely and will forever be a part of my story.

My dad emailed me after I had a conversation with him and my mama about some of this. He typed a simple truth and brought such comfort over me because I believe it:

“Healing does not mean loving less or forgetting. It is His way. I pray He will free you from any guilt or other negative thoughts that work to pull you down. You have done this well, you have honored Audrey beyond words. You gave her life and loved her well. You did all you could and more than could be expected. That love will never cease. You will never lose sight of the balloons. It is okay to find joy in the journey again. That will honor her memory. We must choose to live while we are alive.

I think if Audrey had words, she would say, “Thank you, Mommy and Daddy. You tried so hard. I love you and look forward to the day when we get to be together again. Until then, I am so happy and whole. You be happy too, Mommy, Daddy and brother Cooper. It’s okay for you to be joyful.”

Gulp. It is really okay?

Yes in fact, I’m learning it is.

The most beautiful part? My daughter feels just as real now as she did when I was stuck and using pain as my security blanket. I get to have her forever.

Audrey’s life makes me feel more whole as a person. I understand a depth of pain and darkness I simply couldn’t know before. I felt and continue to feel a closeness with Him because I allowed Him to be in control. I no longer fear the unknown because we have survived it. I now understand loss.

And that’s just a “whole” for now. God only knows what is to come. I welcome the good, the bad, the sickness and the health with open arms. I will not run, I will not hide.

We have a special event coming up later this month as a fundraiser for Wings for Audrey. We will share details in the coming weeks. As of today, we have all raised an incredible $46,927! Who might your donation save? How many more days, weeks or months might the research give to a baby in need? We will see, warriors, we will see.

Love + Hugs,


8 thoughts on “With Open Arms

  1. Dear Leslie….

    I have left posts on your blog and I read each message, over and over, because it gives me such admiration for your strength and faith. I have wanted to share my story with you, since Audrey got her wings.

    Actually, it is more my sister’s story, but as you have come to learn, our loved ones’ pain is ours, as well. Your family hearts, collectively and individually for you, yet, for their own loss and pain. In 1991, the day after Christmas, my 5 year old nephew was outside, playing with some Christmas toys. His parents and his older sister were outside, too, as they prepared to go on a Christmas break trip. In an instant, my nephew ran into the street, to retrieve a ball. It was so fast, that even his parents’ screams and efforts, didn’t stop him. He was hit by a car and died, instantly. The driver was never found. Not only was it the day after Christmas, but the day before his mother’s birthday.

    I struggle with this, to this day. I was sharing your story with my sister, with whom I am very close. I asked her how she endured those first months and how she endures it to this day. Here is what she said: “It is like someone put a 500 pound weight on my back. At first, I couldn’t even get up off the ground, then, in time, I barely could take a step, until gradually, I would walk and experience life, again. The load is still there and will never go away. I just very gradually learned to carry it.”

    That was such a stunning visual, for me. I can picture her, carrying that enormous load, all stooped over, and gradually standing tall. The load is still on her back, but she carries it, w/out faltering. I am sure she “falters,” w/in herself, sometimes, even after 14 years. But she carries the load, with grace.

    You had asked that we share stories with you, but I was reluctant to intrude. However, your message, today, gave me the faith to walk through that door and tell you about my precious, sweet nephew. Like you, we shall never forget. It is easy to remember his face, his funny personality, his boyish antics, his adorable baby face.

    I think about you and your family and sweet Audrey-Bunny, and my prayers continue. Easter season is upon us. May His Grace shine on you.

    With love,

    Susan Simon

    The story of Audrey [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com] Sent: March 01, 2015 7:09 PM To: simon@fprealtors.com Subject: [New post] With Open Arms

    rleslie84 posted: ” I wasn’t looking forward to 2015. A new year was starting but I wanted desperately to stay just where I was, living in the year that Audrey did as well. I was comfortably stuck. Emotionally, and almost physically, I didn’t want to move. I didn’t “

  2. I read this quote once when I was going thru some personal grief in my life and it was very helpful to me.
    Grief never ends….But it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay.
    Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…. It is the price of LOVE.
    Thank you for sharing your story and God’s goodness and faithfulness. Your story is truly a love story. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

  3. To My precious, my wonderful & amazing daughter:

    I sit here, as on most occasions after reading the sensitive, most intimate & expressive details, that God inspires you to write, and find myself with tears rolling down my face, my breathing become hard from the depth of the sobbing. The deep seeded ache in my heart and soul, is touched by these intense expressions of what you are going through. as well as the reminder of the things, we who love you most and know you best, cannot change or carry for you.

    I hope and pray that you continue to know & feel how desperately we would take any or all of this burden for you or from you, if it were possible in any way. Yet we KNOW, so very deep inside of us, that is just not Gods plan………HE has designed us to NEED Him. And boy, have we NEEDED Him………….Always and Forever……………………………………………..
    We will need Him, and He WILL be there.

    He has given us a new kind of love to experience, and set within us a grander yearning for Heaven.
    We deeply love and miss our most precious, sweet baby Audrey, we will carry her with us & in us……………
    Always and Forever!

  4. No one ever doubted or will ever doubt your undying love for Audrey. She is and always will be a huge part of your life. You give us all so much inspiration with your love. You are an amazing person and forever my friend. I love you as so many others do.

  5. I lost two brothers. One 51 years ago. the other 9years ago . Their memory, nor my love for them have never faded. Please find comfort and peace in your life. You and your family deserve it. May god guide you and comfort you.

  6. Beautiful, Rachel. Very wise friend you have -Audrey will always be a part of your lifetime story, but so will many days of happiness (which is much deserved!). I pray for you and your sweet family often. Take care, Maggie

  7. Your dad is a very wise man. I appreciated reading his words as well … (also appreciated the other comments above) You are surrounded by people who love you, and that’s a blessing.

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