Saturday, March 11, 2017


Mommy & Daddy in Gatlinburg the weekend we got engaged
in the fall of 2005.
This weekend was a super special one for our family.  We celebrated Daddy's birthday with a surprise party on Friday before heading off to Gatlinburg for the weekend.

Over the years Mommy and Daddy have made many fond memories in Gatlinburg.  That's where Daddy asked Mommy to marry him and where we spent time away during the holidays that first year without you. And even before Mommy and Daddy's time together we each had built memories with our families over the years. It's always been a fun place to go.

This time going was especially symbolic for Mommy.  In November this favorite place of ours was hit by fire thought to be caused by two teens playing with matches. In the end nearly 20,000 acres of beautiful, natural wooded areas burned and twelve people lost their lives because of it.  Even the cabin owned by your Donna Ma and Norm Pa's friends burned.  So many memories were made in that two story cabin during your brother Jack's first two years.  What devastation it was to so many people.

After breakfast this weekend  Mommy, Daddy, Layne, and Jack went on a hunt for something fun to do.  We ventured up the windy road toward the top of the Smoky Mountains on our way to the heart of Gatlinburg.  As we cruised along we began to see signs of the devastation from November.  On one side of the road there were what seemed to be the typical bare trees you would expect to see in the heart of winter.  On the other there were the same, except on one side of many of their trunks you could see the scarring left by the fire. The tops of the trees seemed just fine, but it was hard to tell with everything is bare.  Every now and then you might see a stump of a recently chopped tree.  Even more interesting was the bright green grass that had begun to grow all around.  It was long yet fine in many spots.  Like fresh spring grass it swayed in the cool breeze.  Ironic, I thought.
Mommy & Daddy in Pigeon Forge, near Gatlinburg, in 2008.
Mommy was four months pregnant with you.

As we drove through the mountain Mommy and Daddy talked about how things didn't seem too bad considering all that had happened in November. We realized that the new grass was probably recently planted to disguise the charred remains of the undergrowth. Mommy and Daddy wondered if some trees had somehow been saved, perhaps even protected by their thick bark.  We wondered if some of the trees would be able to make it through and how many might need to be cut down later on.  In the heart of winter with the leaves all gone, everything seemed to look the same.  From a distance there was no easy way to tell what parts had been burned and which were spared.

Seeing all of this reminded Mommy of grief.  The lush green grass made me think of how those of us struggling with grief will sometimes put on a disguise to make others feel like things are fine. The road that split the untouched trees from those with charred trunks reminded me of how life after the loss of someone you love is often defined as before the event and after the event. Seeing some trees with whole sides burned completely from top to bottom and others with just a shadow of black reminded Mommy how grief sometimes consumes our entire life -stealing all the joy and hope and other times just lingers like a rain cloud on a sunny day.

Of course, like many moments we share as a family, I thought of you.  And when I did it began to snow.  The flakes seemed huge and at times were coming down so quickly it made it hard to see the road ahead.  It was neat to watch the green grass become sprinkled with giant flakes of white.  That, too, seemed to remind Mommy of something.  It reminded me that even in the worst kinds of devastation there is beauty to be found.

Layne and her cousin Millie in the mountains in 2015.
Mommy wonders how Gatlinburg will look once it turns spring.  Will the grass take and continue to grow on through the bare spots higher up?  Will the trees, with their charred bark, find strength to make it through?  In years to come will the scars be camouflaged and the beauty be replaced?  Perhaps it will be like grief and take years.  If so, Mommy hopes that one day the people of Gatlinburg will be able to share the story and tell of how they are stronger and better now because of it.

Thinking of them and as always, Sweet Girl, Mommy thinks of you in every way.