We have known Leroy since May 11, 2003, Mother’s Day.
That day an article came out in our local paper telling the story of a couple that was working through the grieving process and reaching out to Mother’s and families who had lost a baby. The woman was making Mother’s Bracelets out of silver chain, wire and Swarovski crystals. She would give them free of charge to anyone that asked. The couple gained many requests from family, friends and friends of friends. They would give these bracelets to honor their daughter Elena Rebekah.
When this article came out Carrie and I were very excited. We loved our Elena. We wanted the world to know about her so when the Daily Breeze wanted to cover our story, and print the article on Mother’s Day, we were ecstatic. It had been 9 months since we lost our Shining Light. We will be forever grateful to Sandy Cohen who is now an entertainment reporter for the Associated Press. From this article we received a handful of phone calls. This would be our first experience with meeting strangers through our losses.
That Sunday morning the Daily Breeze was delivered to a home not to far from us. A grandfather named Leroy picked it up, read the front page article about Elena Rebekah and her parents and he was moved. His daughter had lost her baby less than 6 months prior, her name was Elena Marie. In the coming days we would meet Leroy. Carrie would fashion a bracelet for Leroy’s daughter. It has almost been 10 years.
When I was first thinking of subjects to cover I knew I had to sit down and talk to Leroy. He is willing to share and more importantly unafraid to see where his thoughts and emotions will lead, a heart on his sleeve kind of guy. When we sat down last week to chat, I was very excited. As we move forward with these interviews they will certainly be painful for all involved but at the same time, we get to spend quality time with our children. They are as close as possible when we speak their names and tell their stories. They are real to us when our hearts begin to beat faster and our tears fill our eyes.
Leroy told us many fabulous stories. He told us about his family, he is one of fourteen children. He told us about courting and marrying his wife. He told us about his children and of course his 10 amazing grandchildren. We talked about sports and the Lakers. Coaching and raising kids. We talked about life and that is what STILL is about. There may be a lot of reference about loss, death, grief, mourning but it always leads back to life. How we breathe it in most moments and sometimes reject it even for a split second on those bad days.
I know that as we capture these authentic, sincere discussions and discovery we will have a film and project that will reach many. We may not answer questions for everybody. I doubt that we can encompass every facet of this loss experience but we will do our best to honor these babies and the courageous parents that get out of bed everyday and hope for something more. If you watch the clip with Leroy, my favorite moments are his discovery. When he would walk down an avenue that he was certainly familiar with but then look in the periphery of his mind and notice something different. Maybe it was new, maybe he hadn’t seen it before. Maybe it was different than the last time he had seen it. Maybe the thought had changed color, grew, diminished, turned. These moments, these once in a lifetime captured moments on camera are what I am shooting for. Simple discovery based upon having a baby arrive, be celebrated, died for whatever circumstance, mourned, grieved, missed and eventually celebrated again.
Our stories are ever changing. The perception of grief amongst our families is ever changing. We want to be part of the positive change like Still Standing Magazine, NILMDTS, Return to Zero, Saying Goodbye UK, OC Walk, Carly Marie, Grieving Dads and the Farley-Kluger Initiative. We are gaining ground in a society that generally avoids grief. We are making progress because we believe in tomorrow, no matter how cliche’ it might seem. We are moving on because if we don’t the grief will overwhelm the fact that we are parents and our babies live. They live. STILL. Thank you Leroy.