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  • Jill Heilman

While the Dust Accumulates

I wiped the dust from your picture frame today. Has it really been that long? It’s been almost 10 months since you left this Earth. Enough time for dust to build up on your photos. Why is that so difficult to absorb? Probably because it feels like just yesterday to me and yet other days it feels like forever since I touched your sweet face or had one of those amazing Halle hugs!

So much has happened in the time that dust accumulated. Neeley is almost done with her first year of middle school. She continues to play soccer. She had a solo in the 6th grade chorus concert and cut seven inches off her hair. Your brother is as crazy as ever, he just seems a bit sadder these days – he so misses you. We ALL do! But we must continue to live – we must continue to move forward. I know you want the best for us…you want us to be happy…you told me that before you died. You were so worried, worried how we would be. The kindness of your soul keeps me going.

Ben is carrying on as well. He has become an avid reader – just like you. He said he feels closer to you when he reads late at night. He still looks up to you sweet girl. Ben is also playing basketball now and will start his last year at Alafia in the Fall!

Daddy has become partner at his law firm. I know you wanted that so much for him! You prayed each night for him and thanked him often for all the hard work he does for our family. He continues to work hard, but does spend time with all of us. You taught him that kiddo. You taught him how to slow down and appreciate the life we are all given.

Mommy is doing my best to keep moving forward too. I think the thing I am most proud of, is starting the Halle Grace Foundation in your name. You wanted us to always remember you, talk to you and say your name! I do that daily! Through the Foundation we are able to share your story with others. We educate students going into the medical fields about the human side of medicine. We also work to encourage and inspire others facing adversity through your legacy of kindness, humor, strength and love.

As the dust built up on your frame, many things have changed. Our lives are moving on, but we will take you with us – you are making sure of that. A few months ago, you saw we all needed something to breathe joy back into our hearts and you figured out just what we needed. A new home. I could never have imagined leaving the first house you picked for us on Treeline Drive. You were just three-years-old back then as we loaded into our car and met the realtor at the “pink house.” You ran right in and went straight to the purple room and told me “yup this is it … this is my new room.” We made an offer on the spot. You lived your life in that house. We created thousands of memories as a family there – but those walls also held much sadness. You breathed your last breath inside that home. After you left, we knew it would be too difficult to stay. But what we do? Where would we go?

You knew all along didn’t you!? You brought me to Ms. Beth’s house. It was sitting empty waiting for a family to fill its rooms. I peeked through the windows with Ms. Arianne that early February morning and saw one single item left behind by the Isabel family. Right there mounted to the entry way hall was the wooden quilt rack hanging there. I instantly saw all those Halloweens we would go trick-o-treat at Ms. Beth’s house and had a vivid imagine of a picture we took with Allie and her mom the year you were dressed as Mitchie from Camp Rock. Neeley was a cowgirl and Ben was dressed a Peter Pan. You five were sitting, happily under that quilt rack, smiling for my camera.

Good memories began to flood my mind! After months of only remembering the illness that plagued you, the sadness of losing you, right then, standing on a back porch, peering through those French doors, I was able to see your childhood again. I smiled to myself, then began to laugh. You did it again Halle Grace, you found us a new home! Within days, our offer was accepted and just a couple months later, we packed up all our belongings and moved into the two-story, green house that you so loved.

This move has brought so much joy to the four of us. We know you had your hand in it all – you always worried about us and you are still taking care of those that you love. But the ache of your absence has felt deeper this week. I so missed you on my birthday a couple days ago. I had 15 birthdays of you hugging and kissing me and wishing me a great day first thing in the morning. Oh how I miss that! This year was different. After everyone left for the day, I snuggled under your memory quilt, had a cup of coffee and spoke to you. This new home is yours too – I feel your presence here, especially on that morning all snuggled under your old t-shirts quilted lovingly together.

While that was a tough morning, we are still finding ways to unravel the joy back into our daily existence. Dad, Neeley, Ben and I had a great day this Saturday afternoon. Dad did yard work and got the pool ready for the summer. Neeley and I put the hammock together and we all spent time in the backyard laughing and playing card games. Your dad chased Ben around with some of the branches he trimmed down from the backyard as he worked to make more room for Neeley to practice her soccer. Those boys are still crazy as ever! We sat out on the wooden bench, the one made in your memory, with our feet propped on the fire pit and we talked, and giggled and even snorted a few times – we are creating some happy times again…and you are right there with us.

I treasure today and each day I can smile…for I know there will be the days I ache. Those days I long to hold you again….to see you…to touch you…to be with you again. Tomorrow will be one of those days. It will be my first Mother’s Day without you – without the girl who first made me a Mom! I dread tomorrow for that reason. But I will do my best to be strong and do my best to be grateful for all that God has given us. You taught me that kiddo…you taught me how to find the joy in all things. You taught me to smile, even when it is difficult to. So tomorrow when I wake up on Mother’s Day, I will snuggle with your brother and sister and talk to you because you are still right here with us. In the meantime, I will be sure to dust off your pictures a little more often!

Welcome home Halle Grace.

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