The first balloon ever released...

The first balloon ever released...

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.