We had been at Target for over an hour and Emilie was still pacing up and down the toy section. I sighed and asked her if she had decided yet. She looked at me with desperation in her eyes and said, “I just don’t know which one to pick! It is so hard!” Emilie was invited to a birthday party for a little girl in her class. When Emilie got the invitation in the mail, I knew this girl was special to her. Emilie had this funny habit of getting so excited about something that she would begin crying “happy tears”. It was quite a sight to see Emilie cheering and dancing around the room and to be simultaneously crying. I understood that Emilie took the task of picking the perfect gift for her friend Joey very seriously. Finally, with a triumphant smile, she held out the winning toy. It was a Belle Barbie doll, dressed as a ballerina. Emilie said, “Joey loves Barbies and she loves tutus. Joey can’t talk mom, but she always touches my fluffy skirts and my Barbie backpack, so I just know she will love this!” We got home and Emilie quickly put her gift for Joey in her closet. She came up stairs and squealed, “I can’t wait ’till Saturday!!!” The party was to be held on December 15, 2012.
On Saturday December 15th, the day after the shooting, I grabbed the invitation to the birthday party for Joey off my fridge. I couldn’t help feeling heart broken. I promised myself, I need Joey to have the present Emilie picked out for her. She needs to know that Emilie cared so much for her. The next morning, Robbie told me there was a list of all the names of the children from the shooting posted on the internet. I read over the list as fast as I could. I felt sick as I read each name and recognized almost all of them as Emilie’s friends. One name in particular stuck out to me; it was Emilie’s friend Josephine Gay, or Joey for short. I thought of Joey’s mom and what she must have been feeling. I grabbed my phone and dialed Joey’s mom, desperate to have the chance to speak with someone who knew exactly what I was going through. Michele, Joey’s mom, answered the phone and I immediately broke down crying. I explained who I was and that I was so sorry to see that Joey was also lost on that tragic day. It is hard to express the connection I had with Michele. It was instant. In fact, all of the other parents of these beautiful children that were also lost on that terrible day are all such amazing people. I feel such a strong love and friendship with each of them. While talking to Michele, I explained my sadness in not being about to give Joey Emilie’s gift. Her response was so incredible. She said, “You know what, I know those kids are having a birthday party in Heaven.” I was so thankful for the sweet vision that came to my head of all those little angles, together playing and singing Happy Birthday to little Joey.
Two weeks ago, Michele and her other daughters came over to our house for dinner. We had such good time talking and watching our girls play with each other. Towards the end of the night, my little Madeline gave the Barbie doll Emilie had planned to give Joey to her older sisters instead. Her sisters took the gift and raved on and on about how much Joey would have loved the present. They couldn’t wait to put it with the other dolls in Joey’s collection. That was a special moment for me to be able to watch these girls smile and giggle as they talked about their beautiful sister. My heart was so filled with love and hope. I couldn’t help but wonder if Emilie and Joey were watching down on their sisters that night. I like to think that they had something to do with how my heart was feeling. Madeline talks often about that experience and tells me how much it meant for her to give that doll away. It’s moments like these that show me that my girls are growing up to be amazing individuals.