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. At the website https://pawskc.org/  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.



Emmaisms: Overcoming Her Fear of Water

Our best friends have a swimming pool. Emma used to love to go over and play in the water.  She wasn’t much of a swimmer and yet you couldn’t get her out of the water.  I suppose it is because of the freedom of movement she’d gain.  Anyhow, I thought you might like this story of when we decided she should take swimming lessons at 5 years old.  Let’s just say, well, it didn’t go well.

emmaisms: How Emma Learned to Swim


When she was five I took her to swimming lessons.   Emma had arrived with much trepidation.  “New” was not Emma’s strong suit.  She was convinced she could not swim and was, how should I say, extremely vocal about this.  After about 10 minutes of lessons I approached the swim instructor in this somewhat crowded pool and suggested this may not work.  The instructor told me this was not uncommon and that she would handle it.

The entire time the poor, determined and soon to be haggard swim instructor was listening to Emma scream as loudly as possible…for nearly a solid hour with all to hear…”Why are you trying to drown me?” Over and over again. 

At the end of the hour the instructor met me, returned my check and said now may not be the best time to teach her to swim. 

Emmaisms: Who Emma Was To Me

Two months ago today my world changed with a phone call.  Rather than dwell today about my loss I thought I would choose to tell you who Emma was to me.  Seems like a better use of energy.

The Emma Lengquist Memorial Puppy Parade

glitches and smiles

Brandon, Marie, Jake, Piper and Emma Disney World’s Animal Kingdom

Emma Lengquist, like all of us, had many sides to her.  She was a complicated young woman.  And like all of us she changed as she grew.  And isn’t that exciting? I mean, really.  As a parent, what greater joy is there than to watch your children grow? Nothing, I suppose.

Emma was pure energy.  Her smile would light up my world.  Her laughter would make this often too-busy-to-take-notice heart stop a beat.  Emma would walk up to any stranger and just start talking.  She’d want to know you. Everything about you.  Boundaries?  What boundaries?  She was an open book and expected the same.

She was creative in her thought…which sometimes was very much the opposite of good.  And she LOVED dogs.  Any dog.  Especially hurt and disabled dogs.  She would lay in the floor and our dogs would lay on top of her.  When she cried Bolt, our Siberian husky, would come and lick her tears.  How that is therapy I’ll never quite understand and yet when Bolt was done she would be calm and she would just embrace him.

She loved dancing.  At the inaugural Night to Remember special needs prom we had a “Teach me how to dougie” contest…oh, how she loved that song.  She claims she won.  I know better.

Basketball was another love.  The first day we brought her home we didn’t even have a hoop.  She found a basketball and stood outside for HOURS and dribbled and dribbled and dribbled.  The next time she came over to visit us, during the pre-adoption phase, I had gone out and got a proper basketball hoop for her and Brandon. They both loved it.

I need to be careful here because I can go on and on and on about the things I loved about her.  Her spirit.  Her determination.  Her passion.

Thank you to all who read my journey through healing and setting my path forward.  Thank you to all who reach out to share your stories and ask that I keep bringing mental health to the battlefield of public policy.  Thank you for all who have supported Inclusion Connections and PawsAbilities and who plan on supporting the Emma Lengquist Memorial Puppy Parade.

Simply, thank you.

And thank you to God for giving Emma to Marie and I if even for only fifteen years.  I can’t wait to see her again.  I miss my buddy.  That is my selfishness of which I freely admit.  She is whole now. She is well now. And she is with her real Father.  In many ways, I’m envious.  My work here is not done. He will let me know when it is. Until then, I will enjoy her memories and the lessons she taught me. I’ll enjoy the man I’ve become and continue to evolve into because of the doors she forced me to open; a better husband, a better father, a better friend and a better employee, leader, worker.  A better human being.