You know that scene in "Charlotte's Web" (I'm thinking of the original animated movie as I write this), where Wilbur the pig has waited patiently and longingly for Charlotte's babies to hatch, and then when they do, they all "fly away"? They are excited to find their new place in the world, and eagerly chant out, "Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye!" And, then, Wilbur is left there, forlorn and downcast, believing he's been abandoned -
That's kind of how I'm feeling. And, I'm Wilbur. As Julie flies off to Hawaii, Kenjon reports to North Carolina, Kaela returns to Portland, and now Heather gets ready to embark upon a new life in Boston, these very special "extended family members" have flown the nest (not to mention many other special people) - and are following the call as to where God wants them to go. We are infinitely proud of those that have left, but it doesn't make it any easier to get through.
In fact, it kind of sucks. I will admit to some not very "Ephesians 4:29" dialogue going through my mind as I went through pictures to find over 200 to print out for Heather earlier this week. There will be quite a hole in our lives with Heather gone.
This sign was decorated by Julie when she was here two weeks ago in anticipation of this event. Even though she couldn't be here to honor Heather, she contributed. The "signs" are all locations Heather will be stopping at along the way as she makes the road trip back east with her mom.
There had been mention of rain in the forecast, but at 6pm party start time, the sun was shining and it was a perfect 70 degrees.
But, based on previous experiences, we were prepared with lots of blankets that I had processed through the washer and dryer for just this occasion as the nights get chilly fast.
We asked the Whites to come over early, and were delighted that one of our next set of guests was the Gilchrist family with two and a half year old Wyatt. These two had never met, but as you'll see in the following pictures, they became fast friends. =) It was absolutely adorable and delightful to watch them interact and play with them.
Whitley tends to get shy and coy with new "boys" that she meets - very endearing.
Grant, Wyatt's dad, fed Wyatt this hot dog. He'd come up and just gnaw on it....
Oh yeah, Heather is supposed to be the star of the show... =)
She chose to hop on the trampoline with Whitley for awhile when she got overwhelmed with emotions from the evening (which started upon her entry in to the house - apparently she saw John and just started crying...)
This party was one of the most "anxiety-producing" in terms of invites. We knew we couldn't pull off a "Surprise Party" as finding a date that worked for everyone was super important. We also needed all of Heather's input as far as who to invite. So, I asked her best friend, Kelli (who couldn't be here), to work on getting the list of important people to me.
She did, but I quickly realized I didn't recognize about 1/3rd of the folks on the list, and it might be hard to track them down when I didn't even have last names to work with. I contacted Kelli, Kelli contacted Heather, and we got it solved - but even with last names, trying to track down strangers can be tricky. Fortunately Facebook Messaging lets you reach out to people that aren't your friends - so I put it out there to as many people I could with lots of imploring that "Here's the guest list, please spread the word so that everyone at least knows about it" - even if they can't make it, I felt it was really important that those special folks in Heather's lives knew that she wanted them there.
Based on the plethora of people that showed up at our house last night, it was indeed a success in spreading the word. But, it was probably the worst case of uncertainty we've faced when hosting. We've definitely gotten used to this age groups' lack of consistency when responding to events. It doesn't make it any easier to deal with though. Nor does knowing its their "M.O." help with my frustrations when trying to figure out how much food to make, "extras" to set out, chairs needed, and so on. That was all second in priority for me, though, in that the bigger issue was just having them here - or making sure Heather wanted them here - for Heather's sake. I was practically stalking people - even Instagram Direct to see if we could get some answers for attendance. Sadly, and ironically, Kaela seemed to have a much better idea who would be there then I did, as the host. It all turned out in the end - many sets of people showed up that I didn't even know had for sure gotten the message, and some other folks didn't show that had RSVP'd that they could come....
On the positive side, I've definitely learned my lesson on my own lackadaisical responses to events (especially ones involving food, emotional gatherings, or elaborate prep) - and hope to instill a little tutorial on the what to do's and what not to do's for the kids as they set off to face a lot of these occasions in the future.
Perfect size group when all was said and done - with so much to offer in terms of stories, memories, and tributes to Heather.
Things started off pretty funny - especially input from the guys - lots of stories about her fake boyfriends, ex-boyfriend (now married to another best friend, Emily), and even the "fake kiss" that stands as her "most embarrassing moment".
Heather started getting emotional in response - and then the fire took over her spotlight and attention for a few moments.
When she started talking again, she got pretty choked up and I made a point of giving her the "I don't know what to do for you - awkward touch/pat - maybe I should just spoon with you" announcement (all based on past stories). It was a funny moment, but this picture barely made the post - in fact, I've learned another lesson - if you make the bold move to sit by the guest of honor, make sure you've got a nice expression on your face 24-7, or don't sit there.... I'm pretty sure I have apple pie in my mouth, and my face looks like I've consumed the entire pie.... ;)
This girl is so radiantly beautiful - inside and out.
The time came for Heather to receive a very special present put together by Kaela. A huge book of letters and pictures from all the folks invited to the party (even those that couldn't make it). It was priceless. (And again, I look thrilled in the background.... #forlornphotobomb)
When Mikayla and I went through the pictures earlier in the week, Mikayla felt the need to get something for Heather just from her. She searched up and found a mug with owls and scripture on it - all PERFECT for Heather. It was one of those, "I wish I'd thought of that" sort of things. Mikayla was ecstatic when it arrived in time Saturday morning in the mail - and presented it to her after the book was presented.
And, then, Mikayla cried - which was nearly the undoing of both Heather and I - such a poignant statement of the impact she's made in all of our lives.
Fortunately, we chose that time to do some group prayer. The guy praying in the foreground is Jackson Darland - the oldest son of the family Heather lives with. His prayer was powerful and a huge revelation of the impact Heather's had in his life. He's typically not an openly-sharing-of-intimate-feelings sort of guy, so this was another emotional undoing for Heather.
(And, let's just address the fact that Brayden seems to feel like praying with his eyes open is the holier route to go...)
I got past my occasional hesitancy to be touchy-feely to full-on clutch Heather's hand. John honestly did feel like these shots were worth taking during the prayer for Heather to fully remember how much she's loved.
And, then, things got light-hearted again. A slew of people flocked to the court to play volleyball. Initially, I was bummed I wasn't there when it was starting so I could participate, but then upon watching, Mikayla and I both agreed that it was probably best. A lot of really tall guys towering over the net to slam the ball down and block - and a lot of "illegal passes". It was fun to watch the outrageous fun they were all having (Brayden represented the Rileys) - but, I did suck in a breath every time one of our balls flew over the fences. (Control people, control!!!) Sorry, neighbors - between the ball assaults on your back yards, the exuberant chatter on the court, and the high wattage light, you probably weren't loving us last night. Fortunately, these kind of events only happen 3-4 times a year.... =)
A final shot of the Rileys posing with our Heather. Fortunately, we know we'll see her again before she leaves, so for us, it's not good-bye yet....
Undoubtedly, many more pics to come from Kaela's camera angle....