Sleepless Nights: A Child Worth Fighting For

I never fully realized that the Day I Met Emma there would be so many sleepless nights to follow in my life. As every parent knows every child blessed to us will makes us lose sleep for one reason or the other.  Adopting children, especially older children, out of the foster care system guarantees restless nights.

To be sure Jake, Brandon and Piper have caused both Marie and I their fair share of our sleepless nights.  This post and these writings are about Emma: A child worth fighting for.

Emma fighting for fun

Emma Lengquist enjoying a day at Camp Barnabas.

Here I sit at 2:24 am on a Saturday. It’s been 239 days since I received the call that Emma had lost her life by her own hand.  Of all the many brave battles she had fought and won, this one she had lost. I’m different because of this event. I used to sleep like a baby knowing I had worked hard and trusting that God had a plan.

God still has His plan. I still serve him.  But I don’t sleep like I used to. My dreams are different.  My remembrances have new priorities.

Emma had her cerebral palsy to overcome that challenged her physical ability and her cognitive powers. And make no mistake, adoption was a life event she was challenged to overcome, as well.  Then, as her mental illness progressed, there were new battles to fight on top of the ones she never fully conquered, or accepted.

Simply put, it was all too much in the end.

When I wake in the middle of the night it is with those rush of thoughts that come right before your eyes open to the dark. The rush of memories can be startling; the times we fought, the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we hugged…and the times I could have, should have done more…though I don’t know how I would have or could have.  Those raw emotions come screaming forth; anger and laughter, sadness and love, regret, all in one tangled mess.

How do you sleep through that?

I miss her. Each and every day. I know that as some read this they fight their own battles with the recollections they have of their loved ones who bravely fought and lost.  There are those readers here that are still fighting those battles.  To each of you I say to stay as strong as you can and fight each day, each hour to remember the good. Fight for that right to remember the good.  And search for purpose. We may not understand God’s will or allowances for the events we face or have experienced.  We can, however, wake up each day with a vow to move forward and to honor their memory or recognize and do our best to forgive their present.

Emma has caused me many sleepless nights since the day I met her and she still does.  Emma was worth fighting for.  The child you love is worth fighting for.  Any child is worth fighting for.

Happy Birthday, Emma

Today should be Emma’s twenty-first birthday.  Oh boy, did she have plans!  She was finally going to drink a beer that she liked…never-mind that when we were in Mexico she tried and hilariously turned up her nose to beer, margaritas, pina coladas, etc.  In her mind, twenty-one meant that all the sudden she’d like what her dad drank.  (No amount of explaining that she didn’t have to like alcohol seemed to matter.)

She had other plans, too.  Some too wild to put in writing. Some funny.  Some serious.

And here I sit today thinking about what could have been.

Emmaisms

Emma Lengquist celebrating her birthday at Red Robin

Six plus months have gone by since that day.  About a month ago I began to drift back into myself.  My humor began to return as did my outlook.  Yet, not a day goes by that something doesn’t just stop me in my tracks and remind me of her;  smiles and snuggles we shared as well as traded words that both of us immediately regretted.  Thoughts of what I could have done, should have done…

However each day I wake up, fight through the “should haves” and choose to focus on the memories that reinforce my love for that child who became a woman in front of my eyes.  How I longed to see her outgrow and overcome that mental illness. How I longed to see her lead a happy and fulfilled life though saddled with challenges none of us would ask for.

I choose to focus on how she hunched over and giggled while watching Snow Dogs or the way she would say with exasperation “Daaaad!” when I shared with her a joke that I thought was funny.

Today Marie and I will stop by Costco, pick up some paper towels and disinfectant and deliver it to Emma’s favorite animal shelter, Unleashed.  It’s also fitting that today Inclusion Connections marches in the Old Settler’s parade. She loved doing that.

Tonight many of the people that loved her and fought for her will eat at Red Robin to celebrate her memory and maybe tell an Emmasim or two.  She loved the endless fries and the colorful restaurant.  We’ll toast to her memory and talk about the day we will meet again.

Happy birthday, Emma.  I’ll always love you.

Puppy Parade Thank You

Wow.  I had a good time.  I hope you did as well.  This is my Puppy Parade Thank You.

Emma Lengquist would have LOVED Saturday.  I mean there were bubbles.  There was music.  There were lots of people. And, oh boy!, there were dogs, dogs, dogs.  I spent so much of my time greeting people and thanking them and finding out their connection.  There were friends of Emma’s. Friends of ours. People who knew other people.  People who saw it on social media and KCTV5.

And, I know of at least two dogs that were adopted because of the event so I guarantee you that Emma would have talked about that all afternoon.  Thank you to Unleashed for bring those dogs out and making them available.

Puppy Parade Olathe Kansas small dog winner

Everybody loves their dogs.  Everybody loves a party.  And everybody loves a parade.

We gathered so many great pictures and video snippets that we are still culling through them. It is our intention to have a short video put together by this time next week that we can share.  And since I believe in total transparency, especially when it comes to money donated to charitable organizations, we will publish how much money was raised, how much money needed to be reimbursed or spent on expenses and then how much money ended up in the hands of Inclusion Connections / PawsAbilities and the Olathe Animal Shelter.

Inclusion Connections Puppy Parade

Thank you for taking part of you day to celebrate Emma’s life with us.  Thank you for bringing awareness to suicide prevention, mental health and physical disabilities.  Thank you for interacting with and cheering for some of our special needs community.  Thank you to all who participated in any small way.

Puppy Parade in Kansas City Olathe

#OlathePuppyParade

Emmaisms: Why Do You Always Want Me To Wear Dresses?

Sometimes there is a disconnect between the expectations of a parent and those of the child.  I know, what a surprise, right?  Well, when we first adopted Emma, in fact when we were still going through the adoption process, Marie was so darned excited to have a girl coming in to the family that she got a few dresses for Emma to wear.

To say Emma was more than a little uncomfortable in a dress would be an understatement.  Emma was always hyper-conscious that her legs were different in both looks and functionality.  Emma was always concerned her feet didn’t “work” in fancy shoes.  Emma was not, shall we say, proper.

mental illness blog

Emma approximately 7 years old

“Why do you always want me to wear dresses?” Emma would asked so exasperated.

As a father/husband, I watched with great joy those early “battles of will” as to whether or not Emma would wear a dress.  In the fifteen years we were blessed with this child I believe I only saw her in a dress 10-12 times, max.  School dances, Easter, those kind of things.  Dresses just weren’t her thing.

Anyways, needless to say, as in most cases, the child eventually wins. And frankly, it didn’t really take all that long for Emma to wear Marie down on the subject.  Parents, you know what I’m talking about.

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

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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.