Tears in the grocery store

I was in the cleaning aisle in the grocery store today.  I was looking at dishwasher detergents when a woman pulled her cart up beside me.  She was shopping and on her phone…she said, “Yes Mommy I am getting those for you and if you think of anything else call me back.  I love you Mommy.” To which I heard, “Thank you and I love you soooo much Honey” and I could really hear that love in her voice.  It really touched me deeply that this lady was in her mid to late 60’s and she is still calling her mother “Mommy”.  I assume her Mommy was in her late 80’s and what sweet music to her ears to still be called Mommy.  My eyes teared up hearing this sweet exchange between mother and daughter.

I still have this sticky note on my memo board that Lauren left me on 4/23/05…yes, she dated it on the back.  Yes, I’m still her Mommy.  And I love you soooo much Honey.

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Our Friend…Joe Lowery

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Photograph by Joe Lowery “Because I love you…”

I don’t even know how to start this post…

 I am so tired of death….

I know it comes for all of us at some point in our lives.  But we have had too many relatives and friends pass away in the last 6 years starting with Lauren.  Most of these are”young” people…friends of my kids in their early 20’s and those I still consider “young”…our friends in the 50-60 yr range.  With the average life span in the US being 78.74 years you expect or hope most of your family and friends to live to somewhere around that age or maybe even longer.  If you make it to around that age everyone considers that a “good, long, full life” or at least long enough to experience most things in life that you wanted to.  Our friends and family have left us from accidents, illness and cancer.  A few of them have been in that “long, full life” category and we are thankful to have had them that long.  It is expected that the “elders” will go before you…although scripture says “our days were numbered before we were even formed in the womb” and only He knows the number.  Of course loosing Lauren is the biggest, most painful loss but our hearts hurt only a bit less for the loss of our friends and other family members.  We are thankful that these friends and family knew Christ as their Savior and now reside with Him in Paradise.  But we sure miss them here on Earth…where we can have daily interaction with them…to laugh together…to share a meal…to hug each other.  I know I should be rejoicing that they now reside in a stunningly more beautiful place with no more pain, sorrow or tears.  But I am greedy and wanted them to be here longer with me.

Our friend Joe Lowery walked thru the pearly gates of Heaven on June 8th after a battle with cancer.   He was one of a kind…a man of faith, wonderful sense of humor, generous with his time and talents, an outstanding photographer with an eye for God’s beauty, a coffee lover, deep thinker, loyal friend to many, a hugger and just a sweet, kind soul who would laugh or cry with you whatever the situation warranted.

Joe called Bryan a week or so after Lauren’s service and invited him on a photography trip to the Hill Country for a few days.  Joe had asked him many times before but this was the first time Bryan went.  I told him to go with his friend…I knew he needed that time with Joe.  It is a 5 hour drive to get to that area and Joe had favorite locations for wildflowers that he checked out each year. So they spent more hours in the car driving through the countryside and small towns to reach those destinations.  Joe would get up real early to catch the sunrise for his pictures while Bryan slept in.  But they had plenty of time for deep, meaningful conversations about life and I will let those thoughts stay between them.   After Lauren’s death we started staying in the Hill Country, for 6 months at a time, in our RV and Joe would pop in on us thru the last 5-6 years.   We told him “his room” was ready when we bought a little bungalow in Fredericksburg last year…but Joe didn’t get to stay with us.  Oh and ask Bryan sometime about a hunting trip with Joe…where he loaned Bryan his gun…his bullets…and then cleaned the deer because Bryan isn’t really a hunter…lol.   Joe cared…about us and many others…that is just how he was.  In the program for his service this is a paragraph that really stands out for me. Joe was a peacemaker and the epitome of 1st Corinthians 13:4-7.  “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love bears all things, hopes all things and endures all things”.  We were all the beneficiaries of that love and generosity.  If he didn’t love you, he just had not met you!  Truer words have never been spoken.

29870_1397058099741_5465753_nJoe also graciously donated a picture for the first fundraiser we had just 3 months after Lauren passed away.  We met for lunch and he let me pick from half a dozen of his pictures.  I picked the beautiful picture above…the white church in a field of stunning wildflowers.  He said I thought you would pick that one.  He had it made and framed for auction.  I named the picture “Because I love you…. 

because God loved us he created this beauty for our pleasure… because of our love for Lauren we created LAF to continue her legacy of helping others…  because Joe loved us he generously donated this picture.

There was a bidding war and Joe said he would have a second one made if we both paid the last bid amount.  He helped us raise over $6000 with his generosity.

Bryan, Joe, Valena

Bryan, Joe and Valena Spradley

Joe was named by Texas Highways Magazine as one of their top 25 photographers of all time.  He was collected by many private and corporate collectors.  He was featured multiple times on the cover and inside Texas Highways and other magazines.  His photos appeared in calendars for Texas Highways, Sierra Club and Barnes and Nobles.  First Ladies, Lady Bird Johnson and Laura Bush sent notes of admiration for his Texas Wildflower pictures.  He would always say, “I just took the picture, God put on the display.”  We always enjoyed getting his Christmas cards with winter scenes and fitting scripture attached.

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Lauren loved sunrises and sunsets. This was taken on the last morning of Bryan and Joe’s trip.

After Lauren passed away Joe told Bryan, “You will never smile as big or laugh as loud.”  And those words are even more amplified with his passing.  

As you enjoy his works please pray for his wife, son, mother, brother and the rest of his family…biological and those he “adopted” into his familyhis friends.

These are a few of Joe’s photos I have.  Love you Joe…forever in our hearts.

Vivian Lauren

Vivian Lauren Kirk 4-2016

Vivian Lauren Kirk

Vivian Lauren 4-2016

“Vivi Roo” and Bryan

Look at this precious bit of cuteness.  She is another special baby in our lives.  Meet Ms. Vivian Lauren Kirk.  We had a very lovely afternoon with her and her Mama, Emjay Kirk.  Emjay is a long time friend of Lauren’s and when she had Ms Vivi in January she did us the honor of naming her sweet bundle of joy after our precious girl.  I gave Vivian a yellow Feltman Brothers dress and under slip that Lauren wore as a baby, along with a pink blanket with crocheted trim my G-Mom made for Lauren.  Emjay was very moved and cried when she received these personal items of Lauren’s.   I also gave her a book and an owl hooded bath towel for when she was a bit bigger.  We shared “Lauren stories” and caught up on each others lives.  I got to feed Vivian her bottle, it had been awhile since I have done that and I had to be reminded to burp her…lol.  She was getting a little bit sleepy and so I got up and did the “Jasper Jiggle” on her to get her to sleep.  The “JJ” is a proven technique in the Jasper family, we all have the gift…lol, it is a rocking, bouncing, swaying motion.  She slept for about 20 minutes in my arms for a short cat nap.  She woke up a smiling happy girl.  Matter of fact she was a good baby the whole time we were there.  She smiled, did a little talking, like her Mama, and liked to stand up in your lap and look around.  We so enjoyed meeting Ms Vivian and look forward to watching her grow up.

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Lauren and EmJay…one of my favorite pictures of them

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Lauren and EmJay

Ms. Elizabeth Foreman ~ 2016 LHS

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Meet Elizabeth Foreman our 2016 Lufkin High School Scholarship Recipient.  Elizabeth will be attending SFA this fall.  She will be commuting the first year and is looking forward to joining and being active in the Baptist Student Union.  She is majoring in Secondary Education and minor in Mathematics.  She loves numbers and wants to teach High School math.  From there she wants to take night and online classes to obtain a Master’s Degree in Education Leadership with the idea of becoming a Principal should the opportunity arise.

We have no doubt she will obtain her goals and go far in life.  In her thank you note she said, “I have always striven for greater and to make an impact on people’s lives.  I am going to work very hard these next few years so that I am able to eventually give back, as a teacher and possibly a scholarship to future students just like myself.”

Ms. Whitney Scott ~ SFA 2016-17

Whitney Scott

Bryan, Whitney Scott, Suzanne. SFA Ax’em Jacks

Meet Whitney Scott, our SFA recipient for they school year 2016-17.  We were able to met Whitney at the beginning of the year because we went to the School of Human Sciences Honor Convocation on April 12th and presented her with the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship in person.  The SFA Scholarship Star Alumni  Reception is usually when we met our recipient and is held at the end of the school term.  We were excited to get the opportunity to met Whitney at the beginning of her term.  We met her and visited before the start of the program and then met her parents after the program and visited additionally as a group.  When I saw her I quickly noticed her James Avery ring and commented on it.  I told her about Lauren’s love for JA jewelry and showed her the pieces I wear everyday that were Lauren’s.  She then pointed out her JA Texas shaped necklace that  had SFA engraved on it.  I told her part of why we chose her was because of her essay about living with dyslexia and what she had to do to get into SFA…her grades had to be improved. Her determination to attend SFA, after a visit with her sister who is a graduate student, impressed me and I wanted to reward her for her hard work.   She said she is enjoys math and is great at it but her spelling is bad…she gets her letters messed up but not her numbers.  We told her being able to balance her checkbook is an important skill in life…lol.  Whitney asked me about Lauren and wanted to know more about her…that warmed my heart.  She told me she was interested in being an event planner and wanted to know what Lauren had wanted to do…event planning.  She and Lauren shared many things in common…love SFA…go Jacks, James Avery jewelry, Chinese food, event planning and both were super friendly and smiled a lot.  We really enjoyed meeting Whitney and her parents, who came from Ft Worth…her Dad said there was a connection and that it felt like we had known them for years.  We will see Whitney again when she works the Culinary Cafe next spring.  Her thank you note said she would make us proud for honoring her with Lauren’s scholarship…I have no doubt she will do just that.

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Suzanne, Bryan, Whitney and Dr. Judy Abbott, Dean of College of Education

Mr. Brandon Chaddick ~ SFA ~ 2015-16

20160412_173948 Last week we went to the School of Human Sciences Honors Convocation at SFA.  We had the pleasure of meeting one of our two recipients for this school year.  We were able to meet Mr. Brandon Chaddick.  He was there to receive another memorial scholarship for this coming school year.  We were able to visit with him after the ceremony.  His parents were there and we “stole” him away for a little visiting and pictures.  He was so happy to meet us as he hadn’t had the opportunity yet to meet any other of his donors for this past school year.  He was such a humble and thankful young man.  He smiled a lot and told us many times during our conversation how thankful and appreciative he was for receiving the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship.  Brandon will be a Senior this coming year and will be working the Culinary Cafe this fall where we plan to catch up with him again during a dinner or lunch on campus.  Lauren also participated in the Culinary Cafe class for a semester.  If you ever have the opportunity to go you will be quite impressed.  The students plan the menu, help cook, serve the meal and decorate the tables according to the theme of the meal.  The food is always delish and visually appealing, the students do a fantastic job.

 

Below is just a few paragraphs from his last thank you letter dated Jan. 5, 2016.

“As I approached the Fall 2015 semester at SFA, I was a bit unsure of how I would be able to afford all of my classes for the semester, as I was placed with the formidable task of funding and completing 16 course hours.  Fortunately, I was given the ability  to afford my classes through scholarship funds donated by generous individuals such as yourselves.  Thus, after receiving the scholarship, I made sure that the resources provided to me would not go to waste,  I buckled down, studied hard, and for the first time in two semesters, received an “A” in all of my courses.

Overall, my experiences in my last semester proved to me that hard work pays off and can sometimes even be rewarded. It truly is the least that I can do, as the amount of money provided by your donation has been both substantial and vital to my continued education.

Once, again, I am genuinely humbled by having the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship bestowed upon me and I truly hope that I am continuing the make you proud of my achievements, which would be far more difficult to attain had I not been provided with financial assistance.  From the bottom of my hear, I am truly thankful.”    Sincerely, Brandon Chaddick 

26th, 27th and 7th

I have troubles this time of the year.  Chest pains, anxiety, irritability, sadness…I squabble with Bryan over the “littlest, stupidest things”…sometimes I recognize it for what it is and sometimes it sneaks up on me.  I have to tell myself to calm down…take deep, slow breaths…it will be ok…you can get through this…   again.

 

Me and B Oct 2015Our Anniversary is February 26th and this year we have been married 33 years.  That is a really long time…maybe even more than the average marriage lasts.  Marriage is in itself a challenge to communicate, live with, understand, compromise with another person…daily…even hourly.  It takes constant work and evaluation to keep things going and on an even keel.  Add to that the additional stress of losing a child.  We process things differently, grieve differently than each other.  Bryan grieves deeply but tends to keeps things in and I tend it let it out…it usually shows up physically for me.  I have read that 16%-75% of couples get divorced after losing a child…not sure what is correct number but none of them are good and add to that the average divorce rate of 45%.  So yes, we struggle but we have beaten the odds.  I have good memories of past anniversaries…I’m so happy we have made it this far…I deserve to be joyous about this day in our lives…to be proud of “us”.

 

Baby TFebruary 27th is Taylor’s birthday.   I went into the hospital on the morning of our seven-year anniversary to have him.   I had the “7 year itch” alright…the itch to get him out.  But he wanted his “own day”…. soooooo he made his grand entrance the next evening.  He has turned into a fine young man…he isn’t perfect, no one is…but a good man we can be proud of.  He turned 26 this year, he is in college…again, lol…for a drafting degree this time.   He helps his grandparents with any “electronic problems” they have, cares for his 2 dogs, votes, is up to date on world issues and can carry on an intelligent conversation about it,  loves watching the History and National Geographic Channels and learning new things, he opens the door for his girlfriend…I could go on about the good qualities he has.  It is a joyous day…his birthday…and I deserve to be happy for and proud of him.

 

080March 7th…the worst day of my life.  A day I would give anything…I mean anything…for it not to be…not to have happened…to not lose our first born…our only daughter.  It has been six years and it seems like yesterday…the pain is a little less raw but still gut-renching, heart-breaking, lonely, sad, bodyaching, nightmare-ish and a joyless day.  I struggle to get out of bed…not cry all day…to breathe…to make the chest pains go away.  I struggle to focus on her “goodness and joy of life” attitude and not the loss of her precious life.  I try to honor her life by eating one of her favorite foods…spaghetti this year…by playing games she liked…Farkle or Sequence…by doing random acts of kindness…taking animal food and toys to a local shelter…to try to see the goodness and beauty in the world God has created…to feel the wind, see the sun, smell the flowers…for her.  I was glad to be with Taylor this year…our physical family of three… but missing our fourth.

family of 3 March 2016

 

So I’m a big mess during these 10 days.  I have 2 happy, joyful events and dates… but I know the worst date of my life is right behind those…lurking, with chest pains and sadness, stealing my Joy from those days.  I got through it…  yet again…   breath…  deeply, slowly…   breath…