From Tears to a Smile

Last week I stopped by Sweet Tee’s Coffee shop in Olathe and when I came back out to start the car the song that was on my Sirrius/XM radio was “Teach me how to Dougie.” And that is when I realized that my grief had evolved from reminders making me cry or stop and sadly reflect every time. At least most of the time, my healing has moved from tears to a smile.

special needs

I was all smiles and giggles as I drove to work. Quite simply, I cannot hear that song and not think of how much Emma loved to “dougie.”  Heck, I’m still not 100% sure I know how to “dougie” even though she showed me a thousand times.  Then there was the ever famous inaugural “Night to Remember” Special Needs Dance where her an I had a contest.  (That is worth following the link to view, if you have a moment.”

Still, I see her everywhere. Yesterday I was blessed to be surrounded by people I know, love and respect.  Yet, I couldn’t walk around their swimming pool without seeing Emma floating around for hours, catching the football, telling me she only likes Doug’s shrimp because he knows how to make them right and asking for a few more minutes when we said it was time to leave.  I readily admit some of the visions made me smile.  None brought tears.  A few made me pause.

Because still, I want to talk to her and hold her and let her know how much she meant to me.  Still, I long to see her again…one day. I don’t know when that day will be. Tomorrow or forty years from now, it is not my timeline to know.  However, I don’t fear that day like I did as a young man. My spiritual beliefs and research tell me all I need to know. For me it will be a day of rejoicing.

In the mean time, I cannot wait to celebrate Emma’s memory, all of her positives and challenges at the Emma Lengquist Memorial Puppy Parade.  We are now only 29 days away.  This is gonna be fun. Get registered today so we can raise awareness for physical and mental disabilities, raise money for Inclusion Connections and share some smiles and some memories.

Emma Lengquist Memorial Puppy Parade

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Am I a Father of Four of 3/4 of a Father?

Today is Father’s Day, 2018.  Of all the things that raced through my head, and continue to echo, in the days following the death of my daughter, Emma Lengquist, was/is “How do I answer the question of how many kids do you have?”

emma lenqquist

Do I just say “Four” and move on?

Do I break the casualness of the question by explaining in great detail “Four, but…”?

Do I really have to be reminded each and every time someone asks a basic societal question that part of me is missing?

Spiritually, I know where Emma is. And I’m happy for her.

Selfishly, and very much so, I miss what she could have been.  What she was.  And what she still is to me, if only in memory.

I feel I have a clear picture of Emma.  The real Emma. Not a made up tribute-memory. With all the ups, all the downs and in-betweens, I’d take her back faster than any thought you could ever have.

Today will be fun.  I’ll grill out a bit.  There will be a long dog walk.  I’ll work as the later evening approaches getting ready for my week.  I’ll spend time with my sons, the women that they love, my daughter and my wife.  It will be good day.  I’m appreciative of each of  them in my life. Of that, there is no doubt.

And I’ll wrestle with the question, “Am I STILL a father of four, or 3/4 of a father?”

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The Emma Lengquist Memorial Puppy Parade is
August 4, 2018

Get Details and Register NOW

Why Do I Visit Her Grave?

I lost my mother in February of 2013.  I was fortunate enough to be by her side when she drew her last breath. And I like to visit her grave on or about her birthday each year.  I don’t really know why I chose that day. Good as any other, I suppose.  She is buried in Rockville, MO so it does take some effort to get there.

From a spiritual point of view, I realize that I do not need to visit her grave to remember and laugh and, heck yes, just to talk.  Yet once a year I go.  It’s a need, really.

why do i visit her grave

Emma and Marjorie Lengquist

On the other hand, Emma is buried close.  She is interred here in Olathe, KS and once again I found myself standing there last evening in the middle of a a cemetery talking to my daughter.  Why do I visit her grave?

Losing my mother wasn’t easy.  I still miss her.  She gave me life.  She instilled in me my work ethic.  She took me to church.  She showed me how to care for people even if they didn’t necessarily deserve it at that particular moment.  No doubt, she is a huge reason I was on board for adoption when Marie brought it up.

Losing Emma was something altogether different.  A child going first isn’t how we write our stories, or build our futures, or…  Losing a child is like losing a piece of yourself.  Is that why I visit her grave and talk to grass?  Logically and spiritually I know anything I can say to her there I can say anywhere.

Emotionally, that seems to be another story.

Heck, earlier this month I treated myself to a convertible.  The first thing I did was swing by her grave-site to show it to her.  Does that make any sense to anyone?  Why do I visit her grave?

To be closer I suppose.


Emmaisms: Marry a Rich Man, Raise Dogs

When Emma Lengquist was younger she had a consistent dream: Marry a rich man who owned a lot of land and raise dogs.  As she would describe her future life she would get so passionate about all the details; lots of land, a training place for the dogs, what kind of dogs, dozens of dogs, rescue dogs, happy dogs, sad dogs, etc.

“I’m a great dog trainer.”  She taught our dogs to sit, spin, lay down, shake hands, etc.  Her whole life’s plan had dogs involved.

PLEASE NOTE THAT HER DREAM NEVER HAD ANY DETAILS ABOUT THE RICH MAN!!! He only needed to provide her with enough so that she could have enough space for all the dogs she needed.  <<SMILE>>

olathe puppyparade

Not the greatest pic…her and her dogs; Spot, Princess and Bolt.

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Come celebrate Emma’s life at the inaugural Emma Lengquist Memorial Puppy Parade.  Here is what you need to know….

Direct Link to Registration and Donation Page
Details about the Puppy Parade

Please plan on costumes or floats for you and/or the dogs. Emma loved dressing our dogs up and will smile from ear to ear when she see all these dogs in full regalia.

This is gonna be fun.  Register TODAY.

Inclusion Connections Puppy Parade

Parenting a Special Needs Child

Parenting a special needs child is not for the faint of heart.  Let there be no doubt. Though I would offer that the parents of special needs children, whether those special needs be physical, mental or otherwise, will learn more about themselves and have insights in to human behavior than parents with 100% normal families. (Or, is there such a thing?)

Emma Lengquist - Parenting Special Needs

Emma Lengquist at Camp Barnabas…sitting next to a very bored brother. 

First, relax.  I am going to assume the following;

  1. You love your child.
  2. You are doing the best you can.
  3. You are following your faith…as best you know how.

You will make mistakes.  You will be judged.  You will be embarrassed. You will have regrets.

And…so what?  Your child is worth all of that. And so are you.

Nothing is more trying than “What if?” or “If only.”  This is who your child is.  This is who you are.  These are your strengths as a family.  These are your weaknesses.

Getting better each year, improving, reading and researching. These are all actions to become the best you and your child can become.  It’s not about bigger houses or more friends.  It’s about the maximization of what you and your child are capable of accomplishing.  Heck, that may be just getting through dinner without regurgitating the entire meal for some kids.

Whatever limitations you face and whatever markers of progress you set, accept them and improve. Run towards something. Not away.

With physical disabilities we would find joy in Emma’s progress.  The surgery that allowed her to walk without falling down.  The tendon releases that allowed more muscle movement, etc.

With the borderline personality disorder we learned to enjoy the times (sometimes quite limited) when Emma was whole and free from the BPD demons.  Admittedly, there can be whiplash when dealing with mental health issues.  One minute there is shouting and anger and the next minute hugs and laughter.

Through it all, be grateful.  Everyone’s life can be better.  And everyone’s life can be worse.  Comparing yourself and your child will get you nowhere constructive.  Compare yourself and your child to yesterday. What progress is there?  Look for progress and celebrate.

Register NOW

for the inaugural
Emma Lengquist Memorial Puppy Parade

Emmaisms: I NEED A BAND-AID!

You know how kids will associate a Band-Aid with pain relief? I mean, really, by the time you get to the Band-Aid portion of the healing process the pain has already begun to subside, right?


Well, our first visit to the pediatrician there in Jenks, OK was quite an adventure.  During the course of the visit we knew we’d have to get a shot for her and we knew she was extra sensitive to pain.  Now, this extra sensitivity wasn’t just a “head” thing.  It was real, as we learned over the years.

Anyway, when it became time to give her the shot it took three adults to hold down this 5 year old girl who was nothing but pure muscle.  I mean, she didn’t have an ounce of body fat on her.  As soon as the shot went in she let out a shout “I NEED A BAND-AID!!”  And repeated that about four times.

It was funny…and heartbreaking all at the same time.  She really did feel things differently.  It is one of the reasons she was so very fond of anything tactile to comfort her; Beasley, her stuffed dog or a koosh ball or a simple piece of velvet.

Emma’s body tormented her and played tricks on her during the entire span of her life.  We find smiles in some of the memories.  I’m sorry, yelling “I need a Band-Aid!” loud enough for the entire building was so funny.  And, as it was with so many other things with Emma, it carried a bit of a darker connotation with it.

Mission of the Emma Lengquist Memorial Puppy Parade

Mission of the Emma Lengquist Memorial Puppy Parade

To Honor Emma
Emma was a dynamic personality with an electric smile until mental illness slowly stole her away.  She had care and compassion for nearly everyone she met. She loved dancing, dogs and Inclusion Connections.

To Create Open Discussions About Mental Illness
Too often mental illness is discussed in hushed whispers or ignored altogether.  At the government level mental health care is all to often first to receive cuts in funding and last to receive consideration for reinstatement.  Currently the State of Kansas is well below recommended levels of care for mental health, though some progress has recently been made.

Fundraising for Inclusion Connections and PawsAbilities
Emma loved Inclusion Connections and the jobs program she helped to pioneer, PawAbilities.  Emma believed fervently that people with special needs should get to work, get to dance, get to socialize just like everybody else.  Every day she would come home and tell us all the wonderful things PawsAbilities was doing for her co-workers and the dogs she met.  Oh, how she loved dogs.