The first balloon ever released...

The first balloon ever released...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Because she was mine

Here we are again. Every year I think this will get easier and every year I prove myself wrong.

Three years

Three long, life changing, heartbreaking, soul searching years.

Where does the time go and why does it go so fast?

Sometimes I swear it was not that long ago, others I find myself trying to remember the sound of your voice.

The vicious truth is that most of it is forgotten. Your voice doesn't come to mind when I try to replay it in my head. Only in videos can I clearly hear it and find myself saying "Wow, she sounds so much like her sisters.". I go back and even read some of the memories from this blog and go "Oh yeah, I forgot about that.". Memory has never been one of my strongest assets. I have always been forgetful and when you first passed away I remember panicking "Oh no, what if I forget?".

Dominic came up to me before bedtime as I was a little weepy eyed from a long day of holding back my feelings and he gently said "I miss her too" and hugged me softly. He then asked "Do you ever feel like you have forgotten her, not because you wanted too, but because you got distracted by other things, but then you remembered her? I remember her, but I have forgotten a lot.". Surprising how the thoughts of a 9 year old boy could be so fitting to this 28 year old mother. I shook my head yes and before answering him I paused to really think about how I wanted to respond, "There is a lot I too have forgotten because of distractions but also because of time... but when I think of her, I remember who she was in this family then my heart remembers what she meant to me and I hold on to that.". We hugged again and then he headed off to bed with the beautiful new gift our friends had mailed us for her anniversary.

The last 3 years have changed drastically, this past year has probably changed the most. When I think back on our journey I remember a lot of dark times. So much sadness and a never ending pit of hidden anguish in my soul. Constantly asking the question in the back of my mind "Why?". But this year has been different, there has been a lot of happiness. I graduated college and have a great job, Zach is finally getting to pursue his education, and the kids are growing and progressing each new day. I have learned to feel my Saviors love in a new way. I no longer see him as a drill sergeant beating on his soldier but now feel His love and compassion for me. Big strides have been made and I feel like it has done this family much good.

This year Zach wanted the family to share a memory of McKenna so we could put it in a little book. My sister started it in a group message and all day I completely avoided reading them until I knew I would be safe at home to cry. I didn't tell anyone at work, I acted like it was a completely normal day, I didn't even wear pink like I normally would. This is not because I was trying to be sneaky, it's simply because even after all this time, sometimes I still don't know how to bring it up... and sometimes I just want to get through the day without crying. The second I got home I felt it fighting to come out and I finally let it go. After the kids went to bed I read all of the stories and they brought me so much joy. I remember bits of pieces of their stories and bits of her personality shinned through all of them. I don't have many memories but what I can say is I am so grateful for the little bits of memories I do have.

Not only did I avoid the family stories till the end of the day but I even dodged text messages, phone calls, and gifts as well. One comment from a dear friend struck me the most, "I didn't know her but I love her. Thank you for keeping her alive and making us all apart of her life."

I wept tears of joy over that statement. That's all I have ever tried to do, I just try to keep her alive.

Why after all this time does it matter so much to me? Because she was mine.

If I were to stop trying to keep her alive then the precious little memories I do have would completely fade away. I am 110% sure of this and as long as I am alive I am not losing her anymore then I already have, I fight for those memories everyday and I'm not about to stop now.

I was recently reminded of a memory of her that I had almost forgotten:
One time I was picking her up from daycare and she was in a different class then usual. Lots of kids were in there and they were all happily playing together in this giant circle. I finally got her attention and she ran to me SCREAMING with joy, "MMOOMMMMMMMMYYYY" (lucky for me she always did this when I picked her up and luckily this was something I never took for granted. I always loved those excited and tender embraces). She gave me a hug and a little boy said sadly "Aww, I want a hug." McKenna without hesitation heard the little boy and said "Ok" then she ran over and hugged him. Then the child next to him said "Hey! I want one too!" and again without hesitation she ran over and hugged him. This literally continued all the way around the circle till every child had been hugged sufficiently. She didn't even know those kids, she was just in there for a one time thing and yet so much love and patience was shown and she was so happy to do it! I was greatly touched at this sweet and selfless gesture from such a small child that I could not help to think what a wonderful wife, mother, and friend she would be someday, never suspecting that our time together would soon be coming to an end.

I also recently had a memory of her after she passed away:
One night I was having a really bad night. I was sobbing silently by my bedside begging God to let me see her. I had done this every night since the day she had passed. I told him that I would do anything, all I wanted was a simple good-bye and angrily cursed him from withholding such a precious gift from me. Then I felt this prompting to "look up". I was about to look up when I felt a force so strong that it literally made me tremble, I could NOT look up. Fear overcame me as I could clearly feel a force from my bedroom door. I hid by the side of my bed, I could feel it coming closer to me. Like a child, I ducked under my covers and crawled close to my husband who was sleeping. Still hiding and shaking in fear I internally argued with myself "It's her! Put the blanket down! Why are you hiding? Why are your afraid? Just look up!" but I could not. I felt something deep within me, as if my soul could speak to this physical body of mine and it said "I am not ready." I felt the force fade away and after waiting a few minutes I slowly peered out from under my covers. Nothingness. It was pitch black and an empty room. Shame overcame me and still shaken up from one of the craziest things I had ever experienced I closed my eyes and wept myself to sleep.

That same shame has followed me for a long time due to this night. Why didn't I just look up? I am no coward and there is nothing I want more then to see my daughter before me. Everything that happened that night was a once in a life time experience and I blew it. I have never known such fear or felt such a strong spiritual force in my life, things like this just don't happen to me. I have replayed that incident over and over again and have blamed myself for missing such an important opportunity. Over the years though I have learned not to be so hard on myself and instead have sought for the answer of why my soul told me "I'm not ready". Although I still don't really know the true answer, here is what I have come up with so far...

There is a christian song "I Can Only Imagine" by Bart Millard. In this song the writer is actually writing about grieving his father and seeing him again in Heaven. In the chorus he sings:

"Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine"

Maybe the presence of my angel was too much? "I can only imagine" that seeing something so pure and perfect would make the soul quiver the way mine did. Especially knowing that this perfect being was my own child, a child I was desperate to see but hadn't clearly understood at that time what an actual angel she has truly become and how seeing an angel is no small miracle.

I really don't have any idea what was the main cause of that event ending the way that it did but I heard a talk that has struck a cord with me in this past general conference:

"If we let the Lord know in our morning prayers that we are ready, He will call on us to respond. If we respond, He will call on us time and time again and we will find ourselves on what President Monson calls 'the Lord’s errand.' We will become spiritual first responders bringing help from on high.
If we pay attention to the promptings that come to us, we will grow in the spirit of revelation and receive more and more Spirit-driven insight and direction. The Lord has said, 'Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good.'"
"Let The Holy Spirit Guide"
By Elder Ronald A. Rasband

McKenna has officially had more angel anniversaries in heaven then she has had birthdays on earth. She died at almost 2.5 years old. It sucks, I hate that she has been dead longer then she was alive. When people think "Oh 3 years is a long time to grieve" I would like to put in perspective for you that I had her for almost the same amount of time she has been dead. Just like that is a long time to grieve, that is a long time to have someone in your life. There is not enough time to erase grief just like there would never have been enough time to keep her in my life.

I am not sure what I can do to EVER be ready to physically see McKenna in this life but I know I want to be ready and if I am lucky enough to have it happen again, I will look up! With that in mind I have decided to accept Elder Rasband's challenge and am nervously saying in my prayers "I am ready". I know this is a step in the right direction of being spiritually prepared to "look up" when I am prompted too and I never want to miss that opportunity again. I also love the idea of being "on the Lords errand." Every birthday and anniversary I find myself asking the same question, "What can I do to honor McKenna, what is something that would honestly make her happy?" and it always comes back to service. Always.

So with this challenge of "telling the Lord I am ready" and the motto our family has made in honor of McKenna's life "You will always keep us looking up" I am continuing to raise money for the McKenna Eve Bundy Scholarship. This year we will be selling pink bracelets that are double sided. One side states "Keep Looking Up" and the other "Kenna Bear". We are selling each for $5. All proceeds will go the scholarship and we are starting with 300 bracelets. In addition, Dominic has been planning and preparing the past few months to start his first EVER job/business this summer as a.... (drum roll please)..... "Pooper Scooper" (so cute) AND he is devoting ALL of the first month earnings to the scholarship (insert ugly cry emoji here).

We are trying to raise the money by May 18th!

If you would like to buy a bracelet or make a donation, you can do so here:

Thanks to all of you who read this blog, who think about her, and keep her alive in your hearts. We are so blessed with all of the support we get. Below is some of the love we were shown this year:

A personal shout out I gave to everyone who honored my daughter the day after her anniversary. 

A gift from our best friends back in Houston
It's a 3D image of her in this big beautiful crystal heart. I love it because it looks like she is really looking at you. It has 2 different bases: 1 that changes colors which the kids love and one thats just white, which I love. 

Pink roses from my friend. 
The 3 yellow represent the children I have now.
I love when people honor ALL of my children. 

A framed picture of a famous statue of a mother grieving her dead child (Hard to tell in the picture but the mother is made of stone and the child looks like she is made of glass and reaching out to comfort her. I was told it's called "Closer then you know" but I don't know if thats true. Regardless I absolutely love it. 
The friend who got it for me didn't even know this but I have always loved this statue and have told myself someday I will buy it for myself so the picture is perfect. 
The same person who made the amazing McKenna painting in another blog I posted made these little bookmarks for my whole family.
Another friend was celebrating her wedding anniversary in Washington D.C. with her hubby and honored my McKenna on her angel anniversary at this memorial site. 
My sister and the rest of our family wore pink, wrote stories, and released balloons in her honor. 

My kids Easter Sunday
Dom: 9
(Kenna would be 5)
Zoe: 3
Eve: 2
Old picture of McKenna but I felt like it was very fitting with this blog entry.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Unfinished Story

Well today is the day. Today is the day that I lost her. This past week I can't help but think about the day she died and all the days that followed. I usually do a pretty good job of not focusing on that day because it is too sad but today.... I am going to allow myself to feel anything I need to feel and I have decided to share something that I have never shared with another living soul except for the person that was with me that day, which was Zach.

After we arrived at the hospital, after we found out she was dead, after the cops questioned us, we stood in an empty hospital room with just us; Zach, myself, and McKenna. For some reason Zach and I knew RIGHT AWAY that McKenna was gone. I have seen in the movies were people just don't believe it and they keep screaming "WAKE UP, WHY WONT YOU WAKE UP!" but Zach and I... we didn't do that. We stood at the foot of the bed and stared at her. The most resistance we showed was when a nurse walked in to grab something and I asked in a very quiet voice "Did you try to revive her? Did you already do CPR and everything else possible? Is there nothing we can do?" With sadness in her eyes she said "I'm sorry, we have done everything we can. We tried for a long time but in all honesty I think she was gone from the beginning." "Thank you." I responded and the nurse walked away with tears in her eyes.

We took a seat by her side and just stared in silence "She doesn't look dead." I said to Zach, and she didn't. She looked alive and healthy, like she was taking a very deep nap. "I know she doesn't but she is." he replied back with a shakey voice, once again I whispered back "She doesn't look dead." Immediately after Zach began to share soft sobs of grief and I just sat there and stared. I could feel nothing, I was completely numb, it was like I had ran face first into a giant brick wall and my body was no longer comprehending sensation. I looked at Zach and wanted to cry with him, I started feeling more numb and more distant from everything in the room like I was not really there and was asking questions as if I was an observer of myself and the situation, "Why am I not crying?" "Your in shock" "No, I don't think so, something is wrong with me, I should be crying right now." "Your in shock Shannon, it will come later, don't worry, nothing is wrong with you." "Am I a bad mother, shouldn't I be freaking out right now?" "Shhh, it's ok, your not a bad mom, it's ok, shhh".

I remember calling my dad, he was the first person we told. There was not a single tear in my eye but I could feel the enormity of what I was about to tell him and I had no idea what to say. "Dad, are you at home?" "Yes" "I have something to tell you, are you by yourself?" "What's going on? Whats wrong?" "It's really bad dad, I need you to be somewhere you can hear this and be safe." "Just say it! What's wrong?" "McKenna is dead, she drowned at moms house, we are at the hospital with her right now." I felt like a robot, my dad went silent. I don't remember what we discussed after that but something about him coming to the hospital immediately. After that, I don't remember how everyone else found out except answering the phone for my friend who had been studying with me only an hour ago for final exams that were next week.

I touched her body and it was warm, her hair was still wet from swimming. As time went on she slowly began to change and she no longer looked alive and healthy but I won't go into that. Some things should never be a visual for anyone and this is one of them.

People came in and out of the room, every entrance was the same, they would see McKenna first and have a look of absolute sorrow then they would see Zach and I and put on a brave face. We just continued to sit with her. I gave her little kisses and told her how much we loved her. I stroked her hair and so badly wanted to look into her eyes one last time. Hours had passed, people kept asking me to eat but I was not hungry or thirsty, although I had begun to fill very nauseous and asked for a throw up bag because I felt at anytime everything might come poring out. It never did.

I remember taking a step out while others came to say goodbye and sitting on a dirty floor in a long empty hallway, dry heaving into a plastic bag, with my sister close by my side. I remember wondering why it was so empty back there and assuming this must be where they tell people that someone you love is dead, they give you a whole section to lose your mind. I still wasn't crying. I still felt very numb and was worried I was going to leave that hospital and regret not saying my proper goodbyes.

I went back into the room. Once again it was just Zach, myself, and McKenna. "What happens now? What do we do from here?" That is when I realized we don't just stay here forever with her in the room and mourn, eventually we are expected to leave, eventually... they will take her to the morgue. This is when I was starting to be sucked back into reality. "I don't want them to take her to the morgue. I don't want to leave. I don't want to say goodbye." but the time was coming, I could feel it.

As I sat next to her one last time I touched her tiny hand. It was ice cold. Like a hammer on a nail everything came sharply out and I finally cried. She no longer looked like herself so I focused more on her hand then her face and as despair started to fill my entire body a song I learned at church when I was a little girl, one I sang with McKenna many many times, came out of my mouth from no where. "Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way, teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday.".  Zach joined in and together we finished the song.

Anyone who is LDS knows this song, its a very common song, one of the first songs you learn to sing because of its simple melody. I have never thought much into the song before this moment. What was the song really saying? "Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way" I originally thought it was talking about Heavenly Father watching over and protecting His children but in that moment I realized it is talking about the parents, our spiritual roles in our children's earthly lives. Our job to "lead them" and "guide them" in this short mortal life so one day they can return with God for eternity. Is that what this song was telling me? That I had done my job and now it was time to let her go?

Many people talk about signs from loved ones after they have passed. I can honestly say we have not received such things. Maybe small ones, but always the "maybe",  never sure if we just made it up to make ourselves feel better or if it was really her but this song, this one is different. I was not thinking about that song, I was definitly not in a mood for singing, I was surprised when the words were flowing out of my mouth, and I even had to contemplate "Where did it come from and why that song?". I truly believe with all of my heart McKenna was in the room with us in that moment. She saw us, she could see the fear in our eyes, the uncertainty of our future, the absolute terror of leaving our little girl behind in a room, all alone, and never coming back for her. In that moment she only knew what to do what she always did, to sing a song, to show her love, to let us know that we had done all we could do for her and now... she was starting a new life, one that required her to go ahead of us.

With her grace, that song was a tender mercy for us. We had "helped her find the way", we had "taught her all we could" and I guess we did a better job then we expected because at only the age of 2 she was ready to "live with him someday". In that moment, I found it strange to sing this song. In fact the only comfort I felt from it was singing with her one last time. She always loved to sing. It was not for months later as my mind would go back to the song that I would find the true beauty and message she was trying to send to us.

Leaving her in the hospital room was the hardest thing I have EVER done. I turned back several times. I felt like I was abandoning my child at a grocery store. I remember asking Zach "Who will stay with her? We can't leave her all alone in there!" but we had to go. There were more battles to fight... we had to pick up Dominic and somehow find the strength to tell him that his little sister was dead. How do you tell a 6 year old boy, who found the body in the pool, who watched his grandmother perform CPR on her, who heard the ambulance truck come to pick her up, that his little sister didn't make it?

I don't share this story to make you feel depressed for the rest of the day and forever fear swimming pools and your child dying. I share this because we are real people. This really happened to us. This is not a scary bedtime story to teach you a lesson to watch your kids more closely. This is our life and we live it every day. Two years is not a long time. In a blink of an eye your baby turned 2, then 4, then 8, and is now grown before you know it. Two years of her being gone is a blink of an eye to us and we deal with it the best way we know how. Some days are great, others are slow, and days like today are... well there are no words. I have cried writing this blog, this one is very near and dear to my heart and the reason I have never shared this special moment with anyone is because it is literally sacred to me. To speak of it is to lesson the beauty of that moment with her. I feel my vocabulary is not eloquent enough to capture what really happened that day, the message behind the song, her final goodbye to her parents.

We are so blessed to have had her in our lives, even if it was only for 2 years. I love her today just as much, if not more, then I did when she was alive. She is our angel and someone who will always be in the forefront of our lives. My grief for her will never stop because my love her will never quit. Today is a difficult day but tomorrow will be better and with the grief comes the ups and downs and all we can do is try our best to honor her the only way we know how.

This year for her anniversary we have decided to raise money for the "McKenna Eve Bundy Scholarship". I mentioned it in the last blog but have not promoted it on here very much. We started a fundraiser account and have been sharing stories of when people did "random acts of kindness" for us after McKenna passed away and the affects it played in our lives. We did this because we thought it was the best way to help people understand that no good deed goes unseen in some form or another.

If you donate, you are helping someone like our family. This money is not granted based on GPA, a well written paper, or any leadership roles they have held. It is solely about helping students who have endured a difficult trial while trying pursue their education. It is not about giving them money but more about giving them support. Letting them know they are not alone. Their struggle has not been ignored. They are loved, supported, and encouraged to keep trying and that they too shall overcome this trial. This has been a healthy distraction for our family, honoring our daughter by uplifting others in their time of need has been very healing to us all.

Thank you to all of those that have already donated. If you haven't and you are interested, hear is the link to the website:

If you would like to read some of the stories we have shared I have posted them on facebook publicly so everyone can enjoy them.

Here are some of my favorite videos of her singing.
This was her favorite song. 
The classic "Barney song"

This was my favorite song to hear her sing because she could hardly say any of the words. haha

Happy 2 year "Angel Anniversary" baby girl. We love and miss you so much. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

4th B-Day & The "McKenna Eve Bundy" Scholarship

Once again time has been the enemy and I feel like I have blinked since the last time I wrote in this blog. SO MUCH has happened since September that it is no wonder I haven't had 2 seconds to actually sit down and write the crazy events of the year. I have big news I want to announce (obviously from the title) but I just wanted to mention a few things before that.

We celebrated McKenna's 4th birthday this November. I can't believe she would be 4 years old. It kills me and amazes me all at the same time. Zach and I are so young to have 4 children and yet we keep having more. We love all of our kids so much and receive so much joy from them. It's hard to believe that my little baby girl who I only lost a year and a half ago should have grown up so much already. As usual, the weeks before her birthday I shut down. I turned off in every way I could. I didn't think about, I didn't touch the topic, and I made no plans for her event. After the chaos of trying to celebrate her birthday last year... I was really dreading this one.

Two weeks before her birthday on the way to work I finally allowed myself to feel all the "feelings". I prayed out loud about my sadness and how I didn't know what I could possibly do on her birthday that would give me any peace at all. Then I started looking online, I googled "How to celebrate the deceased birthday" and only a handful of things popped up. I read through them and all of them were in regards to losing a parent. They made recommendations about baking their favorite cake, buying them a present you think they would like, inviting over their close friends and celebrating together. This again made me sad,  McKenna was only 2 when she passed. She didn't have a "favorite cake" or friends to invite over. It was just us, her little family, and buying her a present just sounded truly depressing. I pushed the articles to the back of my mind and once again shut down all my feelings.

A week before her birthday the articles I read earlier re-entered my mind. How can I do something for her that I know she would like right now? Not what 2 year old McKenna would like but what 4 year old McKenna would like. I prayed again but this time asked God to tell me what would McKenna like for her birthday. What does a birthday mean to an angel? Do they care? I begged God to help me find a way to do something that would make her smile on her birthday and I continued to pray for that the rest of the week.

Three days before her birthday I asked Dominic what he would like to do for her birthday. "We should do cake and presents of course!" My heart sunk. There is nothing more depressing then singing happy birthday to your dead child. "Yeah... we might do that. Is there anything else you would like to do for her birthday?" hoping for something else besides the traditional birthday routine. He responded "Yes, I would like to buy her a card and send it to heaven in a balloon." This time I think my heart had a tiny eruption. That's even MORE depressing! Presents and birthday cards??? I don't think I have the strength for that. I stopped the conversation there and luckily he was already distracted by something else.

Two days before her birthday I got the prompting to ask Dominic again what he wanted to do for his sisters birthday. He told me he wanted to hang pictures of her around the house. I thought that was sad but sweet and maybe I could pull that off. He then went on and said he also wanted to make her a cake. He reminded me of the other ideas he had come up with the day before. Once again I felt a giant tug on my heart and once again I let the conversation go.

The night before her birthday I found myself at Walmart of all places. Looking down the toy isle I thought about those articles I read. "A present she would like now..." I stared at the toddler section toys. Would she be a tomboy or a girly-girl. McKenna was always a good mix. She could have gone either way or just stayed right in the middle. I found myself trying to trace the pattern of her behavior of who I thought she would have become/is now and before I could make a conclusion tears of frustration and pain came instead. Realizing that this was too much for me I ended up wondering around Walmart. Why was I even here? What was I doing? I should just go home! But I stayed, I lingered down every isle until before I knew it, I had exactly what Dominic asked for: cake mix, a few presents, and a card.

The day of her birthday I picked Dominic up from school and I took him to pick out a birthday card and balloons for her. We baked a cake, he decorated it, and I hung pictures of McKenna all over our dining room. We then ate dinner, sang happy birthday, opened presents, and released balloons. To be honest, it actually went really well. It was small and simple but we all really enjoyed it. Dominic loved that we did every idea he had and it dawned on me that this is exactly what McKenna wanted. Where she is now, she in a place most 4 year olds are not. It's wasn't all about her on her big day, it was about her brother. She wanted to celebrate it with him and she whispered in his ear all the things she knew would make them both smile. It was very touching and humbled me to my knees.

That night I wanted to show her a token of my love as well. So I sang a song that often reminded me of her and used a picture book of her I was given for my birthday last year. It was also simple and sweet, quite and humble, and I truly believe this is all she wanted. I laid my head to rest that night feeling so peaceful. I knew we had done it right. On my baby girls birthday I had made her smile and that is a feeling I could never describe. It's nice to know I still play a small part in her life and that I can still find ways to make her smile.

Here is the video I made and a few pictures of the evenings events. 

The silent tribute we made at the house. 
(I fixed this video so you should be able to watch it now.) 

Pictures from her birthday party:

This is the card he almost got her but changed. He saw one he thought was more fitting (so cute though!)

 Zoe's way of helping out while Dom picked out the card.
She picked out the sunglasses for all 3 of us all by herself. 

Dom baked and decorated the cake all by himself!

The card he ended up picking. He said this was the perfect card because she use to drive him crazy all the time when she would go in his room and make a mess then never pick it up but he still loved her. haha

The presents I picked for the kids from McKenna:
A lantern because she will always be a light in this family. 
A little doll that said "sister" on it. 
A pink flower that said "love you lots" on the pot.
And pink hair bands because I always had her hair in some cute head band/bow.

The balloons Dom picked out. 

The whole Bundy Family
Happy 4th Birthday baby girl!

Ok, so now for the big news! I FINALLY GRADUATED COLLEGE!!! AHHHH!!! SO EXCITING!!! This is not actually the big news... but it is part of it! Graduation was this past weekend and my brain is still trying to comprehend all of the amazing things that took place. 

I have been in college for a total of 8 years! I did my pre-req's at a community college and there got my associates degree in biology. Then I went to grad school where I received my bachelors in human biology and now finally my doctorates in chiropractic!!! This alone is such a great feeling and a definite "pat on the back" moment that I have been giving myself all week! But the BIG NEWS actually took place before we walked across the stage that day! 

During our graduation ceremony it started like the many graduations I have been too. There was a special guest speaker from the school, awards were handed out, and everyone was jittering with excitement. On the handout, it said that before we heard from the valedictorian and the salutatorian there would be another special speaker. I really did not think much into this. In fact I thought it might be a song or something to that effect and eagerly awaited the moment I would finally cross the stage and graduate. Finally the first speaker had finished talking and the 2nd guest speaker was asked to come up, it was our class president. This caught all of our attention. 

Let me give a little background on my class and our president. I go to a chiropractic college. It is small and humble. Our class started with 44 and ended with 19 (from the original group). Obviously, the classes are small and intimate which is good for a learning environment but could easily go wrong for a group of people having to be together all day every day for 40 months straight. This is not the case for our class and that is only because we have an outstanding class president. This man goes above and beyond over and over again what anyone would imagine a class president should do (which is usually nothing, or someone to point the finger at). 

He never made a promise he couldn't keep. Everything he started he followed through with, all the way times 10, and he always, ALWAYS went out of his way to support his fellow classmates. He was president the entire program (which never happens) and he got to speak at our graduation (which never happens). Mike and I have an interesting relationship. I always had a lot of respect for him and how he took such time to help our class. Now don't get me wrong, he is no saint. He is rough around the edges and is sarcastic in all things but regardless if he was helping me out or giving me a hard time I respected him. Being a mother of 4, I understood the pressure and chaos it takes to watch over so many people at one time and constantly being asked for help, favors, and handouts, but Mike always did it and he always did it with a bang.

I don't know if you would call us friends in the beginning. Just 2 people who had a silent mutual respect for each other. In the last year of the school program you are basically out of the classes and officially an "intern". You work at the school clinic with a partner and you try to reach the numbers/goals the school sets for you. Mike ended up being my partner by random selection. My first reaction to this was not one of excitement. I wanted to be with my best friend Mely and he wanted to be with his. We were total opposites in my opinion. He reminded me a smooth politician in some ways. He was loud, talkative, extremely persuasive, and I had never seen him not get something he wanted when he pushed for it. He was single with no children and had (and still has) a tiny yorke named Jack. 

I on the other hand am none of those things. I am social and friendly of course but run more on the quite side. I prefer to listen to people tell me their stories then share my own. I have been married for 6 years, have 4 children, and a giant husky as a pet. I am not a "wine em and dine em" by any means and absolutely hate confrontation! So we were an interesting duo to say the least. I was worried that Mike would overpower me as a partner with his natural leadership tendencies and his love for debate but that didn't happen. Instead we ended up being a good balance for each other, in fact we were great. We were the first to reach all the requirements and then some. We were definitely the "power couple" of the teams and all though we both functioned differently our mutual respect for each other turned into a friendship. 

Outside of school Mike supported me after McKenna's passing. He and the class took it upon themselves to help get me through the program despite my grief trying to hold me back. He sent flowers on her anniversary and birthday. He once stopped by with groceries and treats for the kids. He was always in and out, never one to linger or outstay his welcome but his small and simple gestures always touched my heart. In fact, the entire class held a high value in my heart and I realized that I saw all of them more as a second family then I did my fellow peers. They had been there for me many times and without a doubt I know they would be there for me now. 

Now I say all of this to lead up to my class presidents speech at graduation. When he first started talking he gave a nice little history about our class, a few inside jokes, and brief highlights on a few of the students. It was at this point I was brought up. I remember thinking "Oh, it would be so nice if he talked about McKenna but he probably won't because that's depressing and this is our graduation so I totally understand" but then instead of moving on to the next person of topic like he had been... he stayed on the topic of me. He started drawing an outline of who I was, how he met me, and what role I played in the class. I felt my face burning. I am not one for the center stage like he is and I wasn't sure where this was going. 

As he continued to speak he brought up McKenna, tears streamed down my face as he gave a beautiful and heart felt message about her. My classmates turned to look at me with loving watery eyes, soft pats, and sweet smiles. In that moment I felt so much love that it could have stopped right there and I would have been so honored but he continued. He then announced that the class had donated a $10,000 scholarship in her honor and it would be called the "McKenna Eve Bundy Scholarship". At this point my ears started ringing, I no longer heard what he was saying. I saw everyone stand up so I stood up, I saw everyone clapping so I started clapping, and then I saw him motion for me to come on the stage so I went on the stage. 

He presented me with an award that was made of plexiglass and when I looked at it a little longer I realized it had pink in it. He asked me to say a few words to everyone which now made me feel like I was in a dream. I walked up to the mic and I don't remember anything I said except how grateful I was to my class, how they had helped me carry the burden of my daughters death, and that I was speechless. Then we walked back to our seats where the valedictorian and salutatorian spoke. 

The time had come for us to finally walk across the stage. Before all of this had occurred I had asked permission to carry a little pink balloon with me on stage to honor McKenna. I wanted something small and simple. I didn't want to take away from the other grads and the moment they had all worked so hard for. I didn't tell my family so it could be a nice surprise for them as well. Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would be so honored and humbled that day. I relived it again and again. So many people walked up to me after the graduation telling me how inspired they were by my story and my daughter, they wished me luck, the gave me hugs, and once again we wiped away tears.

Later on I would find out there was not a dry eye in the entire auditorium and after my speech I was given a standing ovation. I didn't see or hear any of this due to the surprise of it all. I also found out the details of McKenna's scholarship and how it would work. I will get to be in complete charge of who gets the scholarship. I can pick them however I want too whether it be by the classic "submit a paper" or have everyone draw a pink balloon and I pick the one I like the best. My favorite part is there will be no GPA minimum on it. I have mentioned on this blog before how I have struggled with school my whole life. Good grades have never come naturally for me and every grade I get whether it be an A, B, OR C, is something that I worked very hard to achieve. He said he personally put that part in their for me so that I could help another fellow student who struggled the same way I did. Never have I been so humbled and honored all in the same moment. It was HANDS DOWN the best day of my life (outside of my marriage and children of course). 

I will never forget this feeling. It brought me so much closure about McKenna's death. I have been given many proposals on how to honor McKenna and none of them have ever felt right to me but this one fits so perfectly that I wonder why I never thought of it before. Helping someone else get through school to better the lives of themselves and others while they endure personal trials is amazing! The fact that McKenna will live on forever helping other mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews achieve their goals brings me such great peace. I truly am speechless when I think about it. 

After thinking about it, I know I don't want people to submit papers on why they deserve the scholarship. I want it to be by referral only because when others realize your need and go out of their way to help you, that in itself is so uplifting... and that's what McKenna is all about. She has been trying to lift me from the moment she left me and on graduation day I truly felt her spirit. 

And as if all of this wasn't enough, the day after graduation a fellow doctor who was at the graduation ceremony called and donated an additional $1000 to McKenna's scholarship! Since then many others have asked how to do the same so I decided to share it on here. It's really easy, you just call Texas Chiropractic College at (281) 487-1170 ask to speak to Kristina. She is the student counselor and is the one who will be helping me with awarding and keeping up with the scholarship. You can also send a check made out to Texas Chiropractic College with the name of the scholarship in the memo line. It might be easier to send the envelope addressed to Kristina Hanson so she can make sure it gets to the right person.

The address is 
5912 Spencer Hwy
Pasadena, TX 77505

And that's it, at least from what I know so far. If you have any further questions you know you can always message me about it too. 

I am so grateful for the out pouring of love shown to me this week. I really don't think I could express how much it meant to me and how even at this moment it makes my heart swell with joy and pride. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! 

Here is part of Mike's speech, unfortunately because it was a surprise, no one knew to record it so my part got cut (which is fine because I think it was only 20 seconds) and the first little part of his speech got cut too. I also have the PDF if anyone wants a copy of it. 

Mike just presenting me with the award. 

My very brief speech

Becoming a doctor!

My amazing class!

The class president and I

A big part of why I graduated the program = my "soul mate study buddy" 
The best friend, Mely

The real reason I graduated college = my amazing family

Our class got bricks placed in at the school.
(No other class has ever done this)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It's Time

I haven't touched my blog since McKenna's 1 year anniversary. After that day a lot has happened and I mean literally starting the next day! McKenna died April 12, 2014 and Evelyn Lily was born April 13, 2015. Our new baby girl is 5 months old now and I feel like time has finally slowed down enough for me to start writing again.

I had so many people ask me "Wouldn't it be awesome if the baby was born on the same day of McKenna's 1 year anniversary?" and all I could think was ABSOLUTELY NOT! Why would I want the birth of my new child to be on the same day I lost another child? I mean think that through... I would have to celebrate birthdays and mourn death anniversaries on the same day. No thanks! So I prayed that God would spare me that trial and I endured through the one year mark the best I could. That night I laid my head down at midnight, grateful the day was over, only to be awoken at 1am thinking I actually wet the bed. I whispered to Zach "I either peeped myself or my water just broke!". He jumped out of the bed, grabbed our bags, and we drove to the hospital. Four hours later and my first "all natural" birth Evelyn Lily was born at 5am. We picked the name Evelyn as a spin off of McKenna's middle name Eve. I love having that connection between the girls. I know they will never meet in this life but I want Evelyn to know who her sister is and always remember how special she is not only to this family but in her own personal life as well.

That same day I couldn't help but see the symbolism of Evelyn being born the day after the one year anniversary of McKenna. In the hospital as I looked at her and felt overwhelmed with joy and grief all at the same time I heard a little voice whisper to me "there is always life after death." I pondered on that for a while and realized that yes, death is a part of life but it's not truly the end. There is life after death, McKenna lives. She lives in heaven. She is waiting for us just as much as we are waiting for her. There really is another life and universe that exist beyond this realm and most of the time that is difficult to remember. Evelyn is my reminder and a promise sent to this family on this exact date for a reason. She is a promise that there is more to this life then death. There is life, joy, and love just waiting around the corner not just in heaven like I imagine but in this life too, which I also tend to forget.

A few months after Evelyn was born we moved to Colorado. We actually did it! We have been talking about it for about 2 years and we did it! We are here and it's wonderful. Of course it was extremely difficult to leave our home behind. Our first real home and our last home that we raised McKenna in. Before the move I just couldn't stand the idea of leaving it behind. I use to imagine a giant crane picking up our house and dropping it off in Colorado. I love that house. I will always love that house and her room. The night before we left I asked my husband if we could say good-bye, so we grabbed Dominic and drove to our home one last time. We walked through each empty room, sharing some of our favorite memories, all of us avoiding McKenna's room till the end. Dominic finally ran to his little sisters door and flung it open. Staring at the bare pink wall he whispered "I am going to miss this room the most." I came up behind him, hugging him tightly and said "Me too buddy, me too.". We sat on the floor and stared at the empty room. My body felt heavy, I laid down on the ground and started to weep. Dominic rambled off memories while I ran my fingers through the carpet that she use to play on, touched my fingertips along the wall we painted just for her, stared at her closet where all her clothes use to hang. We took a picture of her room and a picture of us against the bright pink wall. Every part of me wanted to never leave that room but somehow I did. Then we left the house, yelled out one more good-bye and prepared for our new adventure.

Before the move


We also went on our first family vacation since McKenna's death. We drove to California with all the kids and had a great time. We went to the beach almost every day. We relaxed, we laughed, we smiled, we escaped the sadness and chaos that has been around us for the past year and it was long over due. The best part was when we went to the San Diego Temple. This is where Zach and I were married. It is so beautiful and I have not been there since we got married 5 years ago. Humbly and quietly I walked the halls, participated in some temple work, then went in the celestial room. To say it is beautiful is really not giving it enough credit. I sat on the couch and leaned my head back just trying to take in how breath-taking the whole room is. I sat there in silence and thought about the last time I was there. I thought about the day Zach and I got married vs where we are now. We had no idea that in 5 short years we would have to endure through so much. I thought about how amazingly blessed I am to have Zach by my side through all these trials. I love him him so much, he truly is my eternal companion.

In just the last year we lost McKenna, have been cut off from my mother's side of the family, are preparing to graduate medical school, had another beautiful child, and moved states! It has been one hell of a year to say the least! How are we still functioning as a family? How are Zach and I not divorced? How do we get up in the morning facing all these challenges? I look at our lives and think "What is going on? At what point is enough actually enough? What is all of this for?" I thought about these things while I was in the temple that day and felt myself getting frustrated and bitter in the empty room. My insecurities started rising, "What if all of this is happening because of me? What if I can't feel her because I hardly pray or read my scriptures these days? What if I am being punished because of the half way effort I have been putting in this past year? What if this is all my fault? Why can't I get it together? I mean, MY DAUGHTER died! Why is that not enough motivation for me to try every day to be the most perfect person I can be? What is wrong with me? I'm wasting time, I haven't honored her, I haven't done anything in her name. I am a failure as a mother!"

I felt like someone was screaming at me even though the room was completely silent. Tears streamed down my face as I started to feel ashamed and unworthy. My sister in law was sitting next to me and I expressed to her some of my feelings. She was also leaning back on the couch, staring at the beautiful room, then said in a stern but sincere voice "You have to know that's Satan. You have to know that God would never say that to you and neither would McKenna. None of that is true." The moment she said that the voices stopped. My heart rate slowed down, the room felt bigger, and I felt a sweet peace come over me. She was 110% right. Anyone I have ever met that has endured hard trials had there ups and down. Not one of them handled it perfectly and to be frank, I don't know anyone who has gone through what I have. Am I where I want to be on a spiritual level right now? No, I'm not. Is that deliberate? Of course not. In one year all I have been able to do is anchor down and make sure my family was anchored down with me. That's it, and even then, sometimes that felt impossible. A little movement forward and a lot of sliding back but we made it. We are all here, we are all trying to move forward. For the past year we have just been "here", running on empty and I am finally starting to believe that Heavenly Father doesn't tower over our family saying "that's all you got?" but instead this whole time has been trying to tell me "that's more then enough."

I plan on doing more, I plan on being better, and everyday I try to step in that direction. The steps are small, so small that sometimes it doesn't even look like I've moved but mentally I made the decision and that's "enough" for right now. I started going back to counseling, I have set goals and asked Zach to help me. We have become so much closer as a family and are learning how to properly communicate with each other. We are all dealing with a lot but for the first time I feel like I am at the peak of the mountain and can see all of our trials clearly and I am ready to clean them up. I am ready to move forward in a healthy way. No more anchoring down, no more holding down the fort. That was good for then but now it's time for real healing. I use to view healing as moving away from McKenna. I felt like the more I moved forward the more I left her behind but I realize now that staying in one spot is actually pushing her further away. I find myself in so much pain that I am pushing her out just because it hurts to think of her, but at the same time I'm somehow stuck. It's hard to explain but I guess it is part of the journey of grief. For the first time since McKenna's death I feel the time has come: we are now in Colorado and it is starting to feel like home. New beginnings and the fresh start we have all been craving. I'm ready for change, good change, healthy change. I think we all are and I hope and pray the time has finally come. Its time to move forward but that doesn't mean we will ever move on and that's exactly what I want.

My friend took this picture from the day Evelyn was born and photo-shopped McKenna in it. 
I have it printed and placed in every bedroom of our house. 
It means the world to me and touches my heart every time I look at it. 
I like that McKenna still looks older then Zoe in it.  

A few days after moving to Colorado this amazing rainbow apperared. I have NEVER seen a full rainbow like it. The entire sky was glowing from how bright it was and it made me smile like when I was a child. Rainbows always make me think of her and I have to say I couldn't help but think she was letting us know that she has moved to Colorado with us too.