Shortly after Emilie’s funeral, I received an envelope in the mail. I opened it and pulled out this exquisite picture of Emilie drawn in charcoal. I was immediately impressed with the drawing and was convinced it must have been drawn by a seasoned artist. To my surprise, it was drawn by an amazing seventeen year old girl who wrote us one of the most touching letters. In it she said, “Your daughter touched one more life….my own. At the time of all this occurring I was pleading with God to give me a sign on which path to take with my life, to be an artist, a path that was unsure and I feared, or to peruse a more generic career, that may not mean happiness. This is the sign I was asking for. I realized my passion is for art, it is what I was meant to do. Next year I am attending…….State University and I’m going to major in Art. I will always remember that little girl whom inspired me to follow my dreams, that beautiful girl named Emilie Parker.”
I have since thought a lot about the struggles of this young woman and the brave choice she decided to make. The choice to do what is practical or to follow your dreams is never a simple decision. As a parent, it is easy sometimes to get carried away with the dreams you have for your child. I began thinking back to all the many hours I spent with Emilie teaching her all she needed to know before she entered Kindergarden. I was so determined to teach her to read before she was five. Once she was in school, we would work so hard practicing all her sight words and playing all sorts of games to ensure she would remember them all. I looked for any moment I could find to use math in everyday tasks, “If I give you five of these treats and you give two to your sisters, how many do you have left?” Every night, we pulled out the books her teacher would send home with her to read and we would sit together and read through them repeatedly till she had them down. At the time, I admit, I thought about how smart she was and I dreamed of what she might be able to accomplish in life one day. Robbie and I often wondered, would she be a doctor, an artist, a teacher….the possibilities seemed endless.
After loosing Emilie, it is strange how I value all these moments so differently now. I don’t care nor do I remember which sight words she had down, but I remember how much we laughed and cheered together while we practiced them. I don’t remember what reading level she had achieved, but I do remember snuggling up with her on the couch and watching the excitement of a whole new world being discovered through her eyes in the story she was reading. At meal times, she didn’t always eat her vegetables and she could never seem to stay in her seat….but there was never dull moment as Emilie would tell us story after story and we would all laughed together as a family. I look back and have no regrets about Emilie’s life with us. It wasn’t about being perfect or always doing the right thing; it was about experiencing and loving life together as a family.
I only hope that my girls will grow up one day to be brave enough to pick the career they love. I hope they will have families of their own and that they will learn to love someone more than themselves. Even though Emilie’s life was cut short, I take so much comfort in all that I know she did learn from life. She was happy, she worked hard, she made mistakes and she learned from them. She always always looked for chances to serve others and always said the most thoughtful prayers to God every night. I am proud of her life and I hope that the life I choose to live will somehow make her proud too.