The “Closet Girl” ~ A Memory Letter

I have been going back through some of the many letters, notes and cards we received after Lauren’s passing.  I wanted to re-read the one we received from her Boss the day of her Life Celebration Service….his “Memory Letter” of her.  I also needed a pick me up…as I have been having some sad days lately…really missing her…longing to hear her voice…her laughter…give her a hug.

Before her service that day I was introduced to Joe, her boss.  He expressed his condolences, hugged me, gave me an envelope and told me it had Lauren’s last paycheck inside….I put it in her bible that I was holding.  I wasn’t interested in her paycheck so I didn’t even open the envelope for well over a week…honestly I forgot about it.  But one day I was reading from her bible and came across it.  I opened the envelope and there was a letter inside…tri-folded.  I unfolded the first part and started reading….then unfolded the next part and two pieces of paper fell out to the floor…but I could not stop reading it….tears streaming down my face….

Mr. and Mrs. Alston, family, and friends,

I am so grateful for the time that I was fortunate enough to spend with Lauren.  She truly was an amazing person to be around, and it was easy to see that her parents had raised her right.  She was gifted in every way…she was smart, beautiful, compassionate and very funny.  I hope that one day I am able to raise a child as wonderful as Lauren. 

I first met Lauren while she was working at the golf course in Nacogdoches.  She wa still new to the job, and was trying to run the cash register for us while the telephone kept ringing off the hook.  Something about her attitude while she was handling everything caught my attention, and by the time we had gotten to the 9th hole I had decided I wanted her to work for me.  I honestly can’t say what it was, but something about her impressed me greatly. 

When she came to work for her first day, it was obvious that she had no idea what was going on, but she never complained.  If I gave her a project, she launched herself into it, and she always completed it faster than I thought humanly possible.  I don’t think she realized what an enormous help she was to the rest of my team, otherwise she surely would have asked for a raise! 

Lauren handled all of the work that was important, and needed to be done, but no one else wanted to do.  I remember someone once asked her what she did, and she replied “Whatever these guys don’t want to do.”  She had a very quick wit, which is almost a requirement for a young woman working in a mostly male office.  She could definitely give as good as she got, but she always kept it in good humor.  She was known affectionately by most as “Closet Girl”, since we had so little room in the office she actually had her desk completely in our closet. 

Lauren made quite an impression on our entire office of 80+ people, one that none of us will forget.  She had an infectious smile, a bubbly energetic attitude, and a laugh that could be heard clear across the building.  I always looked forward to the days that Lauren could come in. 

There is nothing  that I can say or do to fill the void that is left with the passing of your daughter, but I hope you will find some comfort in the knowledge that she was deeply loved by all who met her.  As a symbol of that love, I hope you will accept the enclosed offering.  Our office is like a family, and Lauren was part of that family.  We wanted to do something to help, so we all chipped in what we could.  Please use this offering to help cover the expenses associated with her passing.  We would like anything that remains after the bills have been settled to be used or donated in Lauren’s honor. 

On behalf of the EOG Field Land Office, and with our deepest condolences and all of our love,  

Joe Fernandez 

Lauren and your entire family are in all our thoughts and prayers.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any assistance to you during these difficult times.

I bent to the ground and picked up the two pieces of papers.  It was her final paycheck and another check from her Boss and co-workers at EOG.  It was a very substantial check…oh my goodness…I was so shocked and cried even harder.  I was already overwhelmed from the beautiful “memory letter”…what a priceless treasure in itself….and then the check….wow…I had to sit down before I fell down.  The letter is what any parent wants to know…that their child was a good person, impacted people in a positive way, was loved and will be remembered.  

Several weeks after her service we went to the EOG office to visit with this special group of people…to thank them for their love and generosity…and to give them a Closet Plant for the office…we all laughed, cried and shared Lauren stories.

Her last paycheck and the full amount of the love donation from her boss and co-workers was combined with other monies, that were also generously and lovingly given in her memory, to endow the Stephen F. Austin State University Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship.

About 6 months later, out of the blue, we received a big brown envelope with another letter from Joe and her co-workers.  They had been allowed to name a Gas Well in memory of Lauren.  There are actually 2 units, #1 H and #2 H, and they are in Nacogdoches County… her name is now listed in the County Courthouse records, never to be removed.  I can  just imagine her laughing about “her wells”… producing well.  We have been amazed by the love and thoughtfulness of her friends at EOG.

Memory Letters ~ A Precious and Priceless Gift

It has been 3 years since a good friend of ours passed away….Doug Rogers, 49 years old, had a heart attack.  With Doug and his family on my mind the last week…it got me to thinking about memory letters and how precious they are to receive.

 It was a Friday afternoon and Bryan and I were driving to Fredericksburg to stay for a couple of months.  Doug, or BamBam as we called him, called Bryan just to chat and check on things.  Bryan talked with him for a bit but we were having some truck troubles…we were pulling a 36ft 5th wheel and in long lines of “stop and go” traffic.  We were afraid of breaking down and backing up traffic even more and decided to pull off the road to check it out…so Bryan said he would call him back later.  That was the last time Bryan spoke to him….we got “the call” on Monday letting us know he had passed away.  We couldn’t get the truck repaired in time…so we weren’t able to drive to Tulsa Oklahoma for his service…we called his folks to let them know.   So I did the next best thing I could think of…something we thought his folks might like…I wrote a memory letter.

 I told them how BamBam had just been at our house a few weeks earlier.  He had come to visit and work on a rent house of ours that our son, Taylor, was going to move into.  How he taught Taylor new construction skills and tricks of the trade.  How I enjoyed cooking for him… a single man who really appreciated my home cooking… and always cleaned his plate…literally and figuratively…then thanked me for making the meal.  How there was much laughter and joking going on.  How he talked about what joy and satisfaction he got volunteering at the Salvation Army…and buying milk for the kids there because it wasn’t often they got it… how the kids called him “The Milk Man”…and  how much he loved milk too…we went through gallons while he was at our home…lol.  How he talked about getting back into reading his bible more and what he was learning.

His Mom called us, after receiving the letter, to tell us how much it meant to them and what a precious gift it was to hear stories about their beloved son.

The letter I wrote was just about our time together, funny things that happened, the joy and laughter we had just hanging out.  It didn’t have to have fancy words…or be super long…or about some major event…just the simple pleasures of life we shared with their son.

We made a donation to the Tulsa Salvation Army in memory of Doug “the Milk Man” Rogers…asking it be used to buy milk for the kids.

Little did we know…that a short 6 months later…we would be on the receiving end…

of Memory Letters…

those precious, priceless gifts.

Inspiring Women ~ The Journey Magazine Article

I got to stand with two beautiful women who inspire me to keep going and keep looking up.

Joy Scott Killam and Tricia Chambers

   The Journey Magazine August 2012

 Our lives will never be the same…us three…we are now members of a group no one wants to join…we lost a beloved child.   I am the “oldest one” in the group…with 29 months behind me…but the pain is still real… can come over me in waves… will never go away… but it is less raw… I feel like I am finally starting to catch my breath again and come out of the fog.  One thing we have learned is…there is no right or wrong way to deal with this…it is a life long journey…we are each on the same path but will walk it differently.   Each child… Lauren… Patrick… Taylor… was different…and so are we…so will be the way we can and will deal with our grief…but some parts are universal.   We cry for what we lost…we long for another day with our child…to hold them….to hear their laughter…to rejoice in their accomplishments….and yes…even to scold their misbehavior.  And us three…we look forward to the day we will see them again…in Heaven…because we have the hope that comes from… our salvation and their’s… in Jesus Christ our Lord.

LAF gives to Lauren Lognion’s World Race

 We are happy to announce that we have sent monetary support to Lauren Lognion’s World Race.  

Below you can read an exert from the First United Methodist Church bulletin about her 11 month 11 country world race.  We know Lauren from church, and she is a friendly and outgoing young woman with a love of people and God.

“On September 5th I will be leaving to begin The World Race.  The World Race is an 11 month  mission trip, each month moving to a new country allowing me to serve “the least of these” across the world in various ways while living in their real and raw community.  My team and I will partner with local churches and ministries and our work will vary each month from working in orphanages and schools to digging wells and building homes.  To be a part of the World Race I am required to raise $15, 500 which will be used to fund my travel and most importantly to help the communities which we will become part of.  Having to accept that I cannot pay this money on my own has shown me that God’s plan cannot be accomplished by one person alone.  I grew up in this church and this summer I am serving as the Youth Intern.  I can’t say that I am surprised to see the beauty of the Church coming together to support me and God’s mission, because that is what this body of Christ does!  Instead I am humbled…the Church has helped me with a garage sell raising $2000 and held a luncheon last Sunday raising over $800, not to mention the many personal donations.  I am now $6500 away from being fully funded.  I am truly blessed to be part of such a loving church family and excited to begin this adventure serving the Lord and walking daily relying on His love to provide.  For updates while I am away please visit my blog at   laurenlognion.theworldrace.org              Lauren Lognion”

You can also go to that site and read more about Lauren’s life, her family, her beliefs and to make an online donation if you like to help her make this trip.  You can also sign up to be a “follower” of her blog… as you can with mine.  We wish her safety and God’s blessings on this life changing journey…not only for her but for those she comes in contact with.

Her Cross ~ 884 Days

I wear her cross every day

since she died

It has a new chain

since it broke in the accident or the hospital

don’t know which…but it doesn’t matter

I still have her cross

and get the privilege of wearing it

every day

so far

884 days

She loved it

and wore it almost every day

since she got it

and now I wear it for her

In her memory

in her honor

along with the ring

she had on too. 

The Cord

My beautiful friend, Tammy Miller, sent this to me on the first Mother’s Day without Lauren.   Lauren used to baby sit Tammy and David’s children…and they were special friends and wonderful mentors to her.  I am thankful they were in her life and still are in ours.

THE CORD

We are connected,
My child and I, by
An invisible cord
Not seen by the eye.

It’s not like the cord
That connects us ’til birth
This cord can’t been seen
By any on Earth.

This cord does it’s work
Right from the start.
It binds us together
Attached to my heart.

I know that it’s there
Though no one can see
The invisible cord
From my child to me.

The strength of this cord
Is hard to describe.
It can’t be destroyed
It can’t be denied.

It’s stronger than any cord
Man could create
It withstands the test
Can hold any weight.

And though you are gone,
Though you’re not here with me,
The cord is still there
But no one can see.

It pulls at my heart
I am bruised…I am sore,
But this cord is my lifeline
As never before.

I am thankful that God
Connects us this way
A mother and child
Death can’t take it away! 

~Author Unknown~

Tattoos ~ A permanent mark

Tattoos…I have changed my thinking on them…I used to say they were “ok”  for others but not my family.  I know how people are judged by them…I had done it myself and I didn’t want my kids to be…I didn’t want them to lose out on a job…or be less thought of…I didn’t want them to be negatively affected by them.  

Lauren wanted a tattoo starting when she was about 15 yr’s old.  She had become friends with a young man from New York, who was full of life experiences and travels, and had a saying on his collarbone written in Gaelic…yes Patrick is Irish… that said “Journey with purpose.”  Oh we tried to talk her out of it and then we tried reverse psychology saying she could have one when she turned 18 yr’s old…thinking she would forget about it or change her mind by then.  Well that sort of worked…and it helped that she hated needles…she reached 18 and didn’t immediately run out and get that green four leaf clover tattoo she wanted.  Not long after she was of legal age to get a tattoo… I started to rethink my stand on them.  I had two friends who had gotten them and they explained why they choose to get one and the meaning behind their special art piece.  They were done for significant events in their life…for retiring after 20 years from the fire department and for getting out of a controlling marriage…both were gotten in celebration of life.  Okay…that makes sense to me…I can sure understand that reason….it wasn’t gotten on a whim…picked out of a book or off the sample wall at the tattoo shop.  So then my stand turned to…if you are gonna get one it should be for something important and meaningful in your life…don’t get one because “everyone else” has one….it should be unique to you.  

Well fast forward a few years and Lauren was getting ready to graduate from SFA…so she was thinking of tattoos again…in celebration of that major life event…of her future and the starting of her adult life.  She was scheduled to graduate in August 2010 and was almost finished with her course work and only needed to do her 300 hour internship that summer.  Our life and family was shattered on March 7, 2010…never to be the same…a life changing event…a permanent mark.  Weeks later as we went through Lauren’s things and were looking at pictures, videos and other things on her laptop computer…we found examples of tattoos she was using for inspiration to create her own unique tattoo…a pineapple for her degree in Hospitality…wings for her faith…and yes…four leaf clovers.

Taylor…our 20 yr old son at that time…Lauren’s younger brother…quickly said he wanted a tattoo in her memory.  He carefully thought it through and took his time deciding just what he wanted…a back piece with her full name and lyrics from a song he partially rewrote…for a sister he loved…and would never forget.  Bryan and I went with him to get his unique…special…memorial marks on his body.  I too said I wanted a tattoo and knew right away I wanted her literal signature and heart/cross she would make after her name at times…and her birth day and angel day dates…permanently inked…marked on my skin…for a daughter I loved…and I would never forgot.  Bryan and Taylor were with me, a few months later, when I got my mark and Bryan is now considering a portrait piece on his arm. 

I know the Bible says we shouldn’t mark our bodies.  But she had already “marked” my body and soul in other ways…some visible…laugh lines…gray hair…stretch marks…drooping parts… and invisible ways…heart full of love…a hand reached out to others… hugger and kisser…looker for joy and laughter and… now a hole in my heart that will never be filled.  

Lauren and I shared an aversion to needles…yes at our ages…we still hated needles and shots.  But as nervous and scared as I was to get my tattoo…as soon as he started marking me…I felt a peace and calm come over me…I know it was her…I know she approved it and was right there with me…holding my hand.  And as my tears of both joy and sadness were rolling down my face…I think God was too…gently smiling and saying…I understand…this need to mark your body…for the one who left a permanent mark on your heart and soul. 

The tattoo is Lauren’s literal signature and heart/cross she used to make after her name at times.  It was taken off a napkin she wrote it on a few days after her 16th Bday and could drive by herself.

I chose the placement of my tattoo carefully.  I wanted it to be discreet but easy to show…and most importantly…where I could see it and touch it anytime I wanted to.