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)