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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Because I have been given much...

From the minute we found out AJ's diagnosis I had people dropping things in their lives and changing their plans to help make mine easier. Literally. Mitzi and Char were sitting at a nice sisters lunch, their food arrived as I called and told them that AJ's MRI had revealed a large unwanted brain mass and they told the waiter to package it up because they were coming to me.

During my time of need,  there were many that came to my aid doing what I needed. Babysitting, cooking, cleaning, supporting, praying, and loving me and my family in any way they could. I learned so much during this time from great examples that I want to emulate. A simple thank you card seems so inadequate yet hard to make happen for every person who has helped along the way.

How can I ever re-pay these people? How do I let them know that the smallest of their gestures have caused me to cry tears of joy as I fall asleep at night? How do I explain that the smallest of donations, the hearing of AJ's name being prayed for by 5 year old in primary, the musical number that wasn't even meant for me (well, at least they didn't know when they were preparing it that it was), or that the sacrifice of the comforts of others' comfortable lives means the world to me?

One of my many heroes of this time was Wayne. I picked him up from the airport with big puffy red eyes and them still wet with tears. He was put to work immediately comforting me! But he was so cute and quick to say, "I am NOT here to serve you! Don't think of it that way. I'm here to hang out with you and do whatever you need me to do, but it isn't because I'm serving you, it is because I'm your brother and I'm here, and that's what siblings do". Basically saying, don't feel incompetent because I'm here, I know you can do these things on your own, but I'm here so you don't have to. 

Wayne and I had a wonderful week, especially with AJ. AJ had a special bond with Wayne soon after his arrival. He kept insisting that I not "entertain" him and feel obligated to go do fun things every day. But no matter the museum, the zoo, our walks, or even when we just stayed at home by the park... I just enjoyed having him there by us. 

A family from the ward emailed to ask if the husband's team at work could adopt our family for Christmas for #GivingTuesday. I have felt so extremely overwhelmed with gratitude for the past 3 months with people helping our family constantly, while everyday in Jacksonville I walked the halls with families that did not have nearly what we were blessed with. 

I read the request in the email and I reflected on a conversation I had had many times that week with Wayne, "What more do I need? I have my family, a loving husband, he has a decent job, a beautiful home, and the Gospel.  I have more than sufficient... What more could I ask for?"

We did not want to offend this sweet family and their kind gesture, but Michael and I knew what we wanted to do and asked if they would support our wishes in donating to a family that none of them had ever met. I asked if instead of adopting us, how would they feel about adopting one of the 29 other families in the Ronald McDonald House. I told them they could choose from a one of the many but the one I felt drawn to was the Cousin Family. 

Tammy is s single mom with two amazing boys; Jeff (19) and Jakoby (13). Jakoby has cerebral palsy and is highly autistic. He loves to play with the dolls and chase the other kids around the playground at the RMH. He loves to take pictures and see them after. Jeff and Tammy take turns as Jakoby's care takers. While not watching Jakoby, Tammy worked as a manager at Walmart and Jeff worked at the McDonald's at Walmart. Around the same time as AJ, Jeff got sick and after vomiting for months, they discovered his brain tumor. Jeff is no longer able to help watch Jakoby so Tammy needs to stay home to watch them both until something else can be worked out. 

Every time I see Tammy, or even just think of her, I smile... because I KNOW she is smiling. Despite Jakoby's lovable constant energy, she never even looked tired! She never complained that most of Jeff's 30 radiation treatments were scheduled between 8 and 10 PM!!! Meaning she would have to keep both of her boys up super late along with herself, but she was always smiling. 

I went to do some recon work and interviewed the Cousin family for an article I wanted to write about families at RMH for www.savethecheeks.org. I asked things like what Jeff liked to do (cook and play video games), what he wanted to be when he grew up (veteranarian), and what they each wanted for Christmas. 

I emailed the family to give them a list of ideas to see if they could grab a couple. I was overwhelmed! They returned the list to me the next day almost 100% filled plus a few extras! They filled Michael's van almost completely! It was such a joyous sight having Houston sing "we are Santa's elves" while unloading and piling high the presents into 2 Ronald McDonald House Wagons and trying to get them to all fit in the back of her car. 

We took a short video clip of her response that does NOT do the moment justice. I think she was in shock! I wish it would have captured how cute the gifts looked in the wagons but it was too dark. I wish it would have captured the 10 times she came and hugged me that night and said "God Bless you!". I wish it would have captured the time that we held each other with tears on our cheeks saying goodbye and promised each other the Lord loved us and was watching our boys. 

This Christmas morning I got a text from Tammy. "Merry Christmas! Koby LOVES his train the most! Omg he won't even put it down. LOL. Thank you for everything!!! Love your whole family!!!"

Thank you team at SAS for giving this family the best Christmas they have had, and might ever have. You have also given my husband and I a wonderful gift to have been a small part of it. We went to bed so joyful that night knowing that Tammy was sleeping easy that night. You made Tammy's Christmas, but please also know you made ours! Although we were just pointing which way to point your kind acts, we were so grateful and moved to be a witness to it!

Thank you Wayne. Not only for your help that week with AJ and with our stress, but for reminding me time and time again "What more could I ask for?". I'm grateful that I have been able to call you brother for 20 years now. Thank you for your love and great memories. I will cherish that week forever!

-Your littler sister- Lani


  1. Lani, what a wonderful service for that family and that sweet mother. It brought tears to my eyes reading it

  2. It was a wonderful time for him...we both reflect on our time at proton with great humility and gratitude for just being able to be apart of it.