“They say that from the instant he lays eyes on her, a father adores his daughter. Whoever she grows up to be, she is always to him that little girl in pigtails. She makes him feel like Christmas. In exchange, he makes a secret promise not to see the awkwardness of her teenage years, the mistakes she makes or the secrets she keeps.” –Everwood
I feel greatly honored to be able to write as a guest on Jessica’s blog. I was so excited when she told me she had started one. I truly believe the positive effects from this form of therapy and support. What an amazing tribute to Cayden and her short yet beautiful life.
My name is Heather and I was blessed to become Cayden’s non-biological Auntie. Jessica and I have been best friends since the moment we met in college at Virginia Wesleyan over ten years ago. We’ve shared so many important life moments and events together. Cayden, by far, is my favorite!
In all honesty, after Cayden was born, I was terrified to hold her. I had heard her heart beat and felt her move inside Jessica’s belly. She gripped and held my finger the day she was born, so small yet so strong. But I was beyond scared to pick her up! It was so silly and I still can’t believe myself to this day. I had never held a baby in my life and I was so afraid of breaking my best friends newborn. Two months after Cayden was born, Jessica and Brenton laughing and joking with me, thrust her into my arms…finally! I was so awkward and afraid, but they were so trusting and sure of me. And it was easy! I don’t know what I was so afraid of. She just laid so calm in my stiff arms as we looked at each other. Looking down at her, I saw so much of my future and life changing in that instant.
After that moment, I could not wait to hold her again. She was the best lil snuggler and would just so casually crawl into my lap at any time…even with both hands full of a giant watermelon slice and her face covered with sticky fruit. But I didn’t care, I loved her in my arms. Before Cayden could really talk, she would simply tug on my pant leg or skirt to be lifted up and held. As she got older, she would sprint towards me and leap into my arms for a very massive (yet tiny because she only weighed about 20 pounds! haha) hug. Anyone who knew Cayden would definitely say her hugs were the absolute best.
I always think back and remember one day in particular. In late November, once the excitement of Thanksgiving was over and Christmas was kicking into gear, Jessica and I talked about doing some fun family Christmas pictures. We dressed up the boys and Cadybug and dragged them out into the cold at dusk to set up for our mediocre photo shoot. After a very successful and rushed session, the five of us head off to our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Taco Loco. We ate and laughed with Cayden being the center of attention and entertaining us as always with her singing and hysterical personality. At one point during all of our silliness, she kept jumping and throwing herself into Jessica’s arms. She would clutch around her neck so tight and kissing all over her face. It was hilarious and so sweet! Then she went around the table and did the same thing with Brenton… jumping in his arms and kissing all over his face. Then Jim. Then myself. 🙂 We laughed in astonishment at how overly affectionate she was being and individually loving on us all.
Once dinner was over, Jessica, Brenton, Cayden and myself walked outside and waited on a bench for Jim to finish inside. As many may know, picture-taking is a constant joy in the Smith household. So as we sat on the bench waiting for Jim, we tried to take a few pictures with Cayden. Shockingly… She wouldn’t let us! NOT until Jim was out there and we were all together! As soon as Jim came outside, we asked some patrons if they wouldn’t mind taking our picture, and we all crammed together for a group “family” picture. You cant help but clearly see the love, happiness, and excitement in every one of our faces in that picture.
We hugged and kissed goodbye, not ever thinking or possibly imagining that would be the last time Jim and I would hug our sweet angel. Looking back now, it’s easy to get caught up in the pain and sorrow of the memory. But instead, we remember how this perfect 3-year-old little girl took her time that night and made sure each one of us knew how much she loved us. The most thoughtful and affectionate actions…from a three-year old. She truly had the purest heart and loved so deeply for those close to her. I miss my sweet bug every minute of the day. I am so grateful for each moment spent with her and the love shared. Cayden has opened my eyes to a greater love I never knew existed and a better way to view life.
So please, slow down. Stop and really see those you love around you. Hug them, kiss them, tell them you love them. So many times we rush out the door or off the phone without those affectionate words or actions. ❤
The week after Brent and I got back from our honeymoon, our 9 week old Bernese Mountain dog puppy was scheduled to arrive at the airport. We bought Maple from a breeder in Oklahoma, and the little puppy flew to Virginia to come live with us. We were so excited! Maple was fluffy and sweet and super cute. We were newly married and this was our first pet together, so naturally, she was our baby. She got ALL the attention.
I was feeling nostalgic early this morning and decided to look back in my folder of pictures to see what I was doing this week last year. As I searched through the images, I smiled. This time last year it was snowing. Cayden was excited to wake up in her new snowman jammies and see a blanket of white in her front yard. Looking through the pictures, the feelings that I had on that very day filled my heart. It was a wonderful day….pretty much perfect actually. Work and school were canceled. Cayden and I spent the whole day together.
She is and will always be my best friend. Spending the whole day just hanging out with her is what I lived for. I never had more fun than the times that we stayed in and did fun things together. Cadybug was the best friend a girl could have on lazy days.
There aren’t many things I do these days that don’t make me think about Cayden. Memories of places we went and things we did together fill my mind almost every minute. Some things are harder to do than others. Right now, I think going to the grocery store has to be the hardest thing I do.
This New Years Eve I am sad….this upcoming year will be hard. As I sat and thought about what I want in the new year, what sort of resolutions I might want to make, I of course immediately thought of Cayden. What kind of person she would have been in 2015 and what kind of person I would be with her. So, as I look forward, I want to stay positive. In 2015, I’m going to live the way Cayden would have and in the way she would want me to.
Christmas is fast approaching. It’s typically a time of year that I look forward to. I usually love shopping, picking out things that I think are great gifts, decorating and baking.
This year however, is quite different. Skipping Christmas entirely sounds more like my cup of tea. I miss Cayden right now so much it physically hurts. You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, like when you hit a big drop on a roller coaster? That’s the feeling I get every time the thought that she’s “actually gone” registers again in my mind.
This year I was looking forward to doing all of the really fun holiday activities with her. I searched on Pinterest for the best Elf on a Shelf ideas. This year she was finally old enough to really get into Santa and Christmas and asking for presents. I’m sure I was more excited than she was to get to wake up Christmas morning and find the presents she specifically asked for under the tree.
Sadly, she will not have Christmas with us this year. I didn’t even put up a tree, wrap presents or put any decorations up this year.
On November 22nd Brent and I took her to the Grand Illumination Parade in downtown Norfolk. I’m so very glad we got the opportunity to take her this year. While we were waiting for the parade to start, someone passed out a list to the children so they could write their name, address and their Christmas wish list down to give to Santa. After the parade we also had tickets to see Santa himself!
Cayden was excited that entire day. She told me over and over again what she was going to ask Santa for. She wanted a pink snake, a guitar, a flute, an Elsa baby doll and a powerwheels car. She screamed with excitement when I told her Daddy was on his way home and we would be headed to the parade soon.
Below are some pictures from the parade that night. Her holding her list she put together for Santa is one of my favorites.
After the parade that night, Brent and I came home and ordered everything she specifically asked Santa for. Its been hard in the last couple weeks to call and ask to return these items because we no longer need them.
I know Cayden is in Heaven now, and she wants for nothing. I’m sure she is up there waiting for Santa and she knows she will get everything she asked for. I only wish I could be there to see her open her gifts.