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.


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


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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Register Now


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