12 Years Later

November 3, 2023

It has become easy to forget.  To forget that Elena was not born with disabilities, that it has not always been this way.  Sometimes I forget the entirety of what we walked through that day and in the months, even years, afterwards.  It has become easy for it all to feel like a lifetime ago, a distant memory, almost a bad dream. 

Then as this day inches closer on the calendar, slowly it all unfolds to me again, and I begin to relive all the tragedy, all the trauma and all of the triumphs that have happened over the course of the last 12 years.  Yes, it brings unimaginable sorrow.  Yes, I still find myself grasping to understand how and why.  Yes, I am overwhelmed by the complete devastation of what we experienced.  But hindsight also allows for clarity and brevity, seeing how far we have come, and how much God has redeemed from the ashes of our burned down lives.  This day holds more than just memories.  It’s both a time machine, taking me into the past to any given moment, and a measure of how far and how much one person, one family can overcome. 

Every day for 12 years, love has been my motivation.  Grief has been my companion. Both of these are intertwined, one not existing without the other. You can’t experience love without grief and grief doesn’t exist without love. Each one of my days is a walk straddling the line of opposing emotions, unable to experience the highs of one without the lows of another, and vice versa. Living in this constant tension has taught me to feel both sides, fully, without guilt, without pressuring myself to choose between them. I am able to face the emotional, physical, and mental challenges that come with caregiving each day, but as I lay down at night, I also feel a deep gratitude and a satisfying contentment for both the grit and the good of my days.  The circumstances of this life are hard, but my faith has made it worthwhile. 

Today is about remembering the past.  While I’m not one to loiter there, I always think it’s important to use this day, to not only recognize what Elena lost, but also to see the hope that lives in the space between then and now.  A hope that isn’t necessarily about things turning out the way we wanted, but rather about what we have come through, together, with love, with faith and shining a light, her light, His light, into the darkness.

  1. Ryan Goldstein says:

    Emm, you family, you, Elena are truly inspiring. Thank you for the reminder to always lead with love. Xoxo Ry

  2. Elena is a shining light and you and Chad keep her light burning brightly! We love your family and are humbled by your caregiving and love! May God continue to give you strength and grace and a heart full of love! Hugs!

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This is Elena. Our Light. You can see all the goodness and joy that shines from those deep blue eyes. She loves sneezes, yawns, industrial toilet flushes, automatic paper towel dispensers and The Star Spangled Banner. Music is her everything, specifically Moana, Frozen (really all Disney), Queen & Taylor Swift. Nothing makes her squeal quite like swimming, fast boat rides and her two brothers in trouble. In addition to her megawatt smile, Elena reminds us to cherish the smallest of victories, to live in the present, and to daily dwell in a posture of gratitude for every breath and every blessing.  

More About Our Story

I’m Emmalee, an ordinary gal born and raised in the Heartland. Wife to Chad, and Mom to Elena, Calvin & Turner, I spend most my days ridin’ dirty (literally so much trash) in my minivan carting kids to and fro. When I’m not being a Momager, I excel at self-care, cooking gourmet meals my kids won’t eat and deep-diving all the feelings. Most days, my attitude is gratitude, just taking life one step at a time.

Emmalee & Elena

Meet The Gals