Web classes…

I had finished my degree out at the Community College the May before Drew died. I was so glad he was able to see that it doesn’t matter how much you have going on or how old you are you can do anything you put your mind to it. It was also good that I was done with school when Drew died there would have been no way that I could do schoolwork and deal with the loss of him.

When it was time for school to start we got a call that Molly was accepted into the pre-k program out at the Community College. The only hitch was someone in our family needed to be taking classes. They called us on a Thursday and we had to have all the paperwork done by the next day for them to keep Molly’s spot open. We decided that to make it easier since it hadn’t been that long since I was a student there that I would just sign up for a class or two…

I can never do things just a little bit I have to do them all or nothing apparently. I thought long and hard as to what classes I wanted to take. I knew I didn’t want to take anything that was going to make me “think” too much or I would have to have tons of concentration. I decide with all the stuff I was doing with Smiles that I would take Media Arts classes. I would learn how to do Web Design. That wouldn’t be too hard…..hah how I was wrong.

I wanted to be able to update the website for Smiles and I also wanted to be able to help more parents like me that wanted to start a nonprofit in memory of their children but didn’t have the money or the resources to get the help with the Web stuff. I had no idea how complicated web design could get. I have learned a lot and can do so much more than I ever thought I could. I can update Smiles to a point but I have also realized that I actually know what I am doing.

Like any new skill it takes practice and the more you do the more you know. But, slowly but surely I am learning and hopefully on the path to help other parents like me.


Life is strange….

The few things you learn in child loss is there is no normal path. Everyone grieves different and each situation makes you feel different. I never know how something it going to affect me until it affects me.

Yesterday was just one of those days that I should have just stayed in bed. I ended up being 15 minutes late to work. You can’t be late with my boss. There are no excuses she feels is valid. I knew when I walked in she was going to be upset so I was hoping to just duck and cover. Nope that wasn’t going to happen. She was already upset that I was late and then she started looking for other reasons to be mad at me all day. Every time I would leave my desk I would find these passive aggressive notes on my desk, “where was your head when you were typing this” “do we need to teach you the alphabet again so you can get the files in the right place”, it just went on and on. Most of the mistakes she found were things that she was working on and not me but at that point there was no way I was going to point that out.

Finally the end of the day came I had decided I was going to drown my frustration in a cup of coffee and a donut. I walked into Dunkin Donuts and the just the smell was already making me feel better. I got my coffee and just 1 chocolate frosted donut (with sprinkles) and found me a seat near the window so I could just sit for a bit and people watch. That was my first mistake.

I’m sitting there and 3 teenagers walk in. Two boys and a girl, they look like they are about 16 or 17 and are enjoying that they have the freedom to go to Dunkin at 5 in the evening without a parent. You could just feel the excitement flowing off of them. There were a few people ahead of them so they were bantering back and forth, the boys being more vocal than the girl. One of the boys starting telling his friends that he wanted 2 of everything, then he said no he wants 6 of everything and started laughing. The girl told him that it wouldn’t surprise her if he ate that much cause he was a bottomless pit. They finally get to the counter to order and they sit down at the table next to me. I look over and the girl had 1 single donut and a frozen coffee drink. The boys sit down with this box and a couple of carton of milk. I turn my head to look at them when I notice the “bottomless pit boy” is super excited that he is practically drooling. I look and the boys have the biggest donut I have ever seen in my life. they are laughing and trying to figure out how to eat it. That is when all of sudden this wave of sadness overcame me and I realized I was crying. Not just a few tiny tears but big fat crocodile tears.

I was crying because I could totally see Drew and his friends being this excited over a donut. I could see them betting each other who would eat the most before they got sick. I’m not entirely sure Drew would have wanted to share that donut with anyone but I could see he and his friends having their own and seeing who could eat it the fastest. That thought brought me to a memory of the time Drew decided to join a pie eating contest.

full pumpkin pie

It was around Halloween time and we had gone out to the Horse Park to their annual Harvest Festival and he decided he wanted to do the pumpkin pie eating contest. The lady that was doing the introduction said that the most pies ever eaten were 6 and if anyone beat that they would win a grand prize. That was all Drew needed to hear. Game was on. He just knew he could eat 6 pies no problem! He loved pumpkin pie. He sits at the table with the other pie eaters, Madison being one also, and starts in on his first one. He gobbles that pie up so fast, they give him another one. He starts devouring that one. I’m thinking to myself he better pace himself or he’s going to make himself sick. I do believe pie eating contests are a time slow and steady is the course to take. They put the third one in front of him and I see the color to start changing in his face. He looks like he is getting a little paler..his bites aren’t quite as voracious…his movements get a little slower. He finishes and they put number 4 in front of him. At this point there is only 2 people left in this contest an older gentlemen that looks like he has done this a time or two and Drew. By this time, Drew is starting to look green, I think the announcer started to see that too because I see that she had gone to go get the trashcan and bring it closer to Drew. He is probably not quite halfway into the fourth pie when it was almost like that scene in Stand by Me……thankfully the whole crowd didn’t start throwing up with him too.

After it was all over and he didn’t win the big prize I asked him if he would ever eat pumpkin pie again. He said of course it’s my favorite, you don’t get rid of your favorite just cause it made you sick once.

empty pie plate

This is why life is so strange that memory came as clear as day because I saw two teenage boys excited over a donut. Life is strange because I will never have another memory to add to this one. Life is strange because I will never be able to tell his children all his crazy stories.


11-29-2016 is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. I found the idea of Giving Tuesday on one of my sleepless nights researching things that could possibly help Smiles From Drew. I loved the idea of having a day that is devoted to giving to others and helping those organizations that do so much work throughout the year to help those that could use a hand up.

When I decided to start Smiles From Drew it was just a little niggle of an idea in the back of my mind. I wanted to do some “pay it forwards” to help keep Drew’s memory. I wanted the chance to be able to talk about Drew and not feel guilty for doing so. I wanted everyone to know about Drew and all the wonderful things he did when he was here. I paid for people’s coffee and lunches. I would make things and send them to people who weren’t expecting it. It was then that I found out that the more that I did for others the better it made me feel. The gut wrenching pain of losing Drew was just a dimmed a little by the acts that I was doing for others. I guess you can say the reason I do the things I do is pretty selfish. I help others because it make me feel better. Here is a link to print your own Pay it Forward For Drew Lighthall cards. Click here —-> pass-along-card-8up-drew-page

It wasn’t long after starting the pay it forward projects that I realized that I wanted more for what was soon to be Smiles From Drew. I also realized I was going broke trying to do all this on my own.  I was talking to a friend and we were talking about how much Drew loved football and wouldn’t it be great if we could help kids play football. I guess it’s like any other great adventure it all starts with a dream and then you start putting your feet to the pavement and try to make it happen. I had never worked with a non-profit much less start one, I had no idea what I was doing but I knew that this was really important. Smiles was not only important for the kids that wanted to play football but it was important for me. I needed to feel like I was still mothering Drew and this is the only way I know how to do it. Growing Smiles has given me the opportunity to think of Drew at moments that aren’t just sad.

I talked to other parent’s that have lost children that had started a non-profit or is in the process like I am. I even started a Facebook page for us to all support each other. Every single person was doing this for the same reason I was. We want our children remembered we NEED them to be remembered by more people than just us. If you are a parent of a child no longer here on earth just message me and I will add you to the group.  I researched and did more research. I wanted to make sure I did this whole non-profit thing right. I wanted to make sure that Smiles was official. I got a few of my friends that I could guilt into helping and found some fundraisers for us to do. We sold t-shirts, coffee, and candy bars. If I saw that a company did fundraisers I signed us up for it. I’m glad I did this so soon after Drew died cause I had the sympathy factor in the beginning. People were very giving and we were able to pay for us to become a 501 C 3 non-profit corporation. My goal was to be official before Drew’s birthday on May 1. We got our paperwork from the IRS on April 28!!! We did it.



It wasn’t long before I realized all that was the easy part. The hard part was getting people to keep supporting me. The hard part is keeping the momentum after almost 16 months after Drew’s death and making people realize why Smiles From Drew is important not only to me but the countless other people we could possibly help. We were lucky enough to help 12 kids play football this season. Me and a friend went to almost every game to help support the kids and to help keep our name out there. We sold t-shirts and personalized football. It was a lot of work but it was worth it. To see those boys out on the field and having a good time it was all worth it.



I can see Smiles doing so much more. I can see Smiles helping kids with karate lessons, swim lessons, piano. The ideas are endless. The only problem is money. It takes money for us to be able to do all this. Small non-profits like us are hindered by the lack of people knowing about us. If people don’t know about us they can’t help us. It’s hard to get our name out in the public when you don’t have that many people to help you do it. That is why I post on Facebook so much. It isn’t so much for the people who have helped me in the past but they may have friends that have friends that something about what we do touches them and they will give to us. Share my posts, tell people about us. Let people know what we want to do. If you got some extra time let me know and I have so much to do that I don’t have time for. Word of mouth is a life saver for small organizations like us. If you would like to help us you can visit our website and donate at  Click Here to visit the website. You can also visit our Facebook page and donate there or just to learn more about what we are doing  Click Here to visit our Facebook page.  Please like it and share it, you never know who will see it. It just takes one moment to make a difference.


The calendar has moved to another month. I hate every single time I have to change the calendar to another month. The very act of turning that page makes my stomach hurt, it makes me physically ill.  In the beginning I hated it because it was another month closer to that year mark. I dreaded and braced myself for that moment.  I thought I would feel better after the year mark. Nah, that is not the case. In some ways we are worse off than we were a year ago this time. Time is not my friend, it the enemy to my soul. It is the force that makes me realize my pain will never go away. death-changes

We have passed the one year anniversary of Drew’s death. I hate calling it an anniversary. There should be another word for dates of such horror that all you want to do is forget that particular day is even on the calendar.  Anniversary’s are something that deserves celebrating something that brings joy. The date you got married, the date you started your new job, the date that something wonderful happened to you. August 5 is not one of those dates. That is the day my life forever changed. That is the day that death came knocking on our families door. That is the day my girls lost their big brother, my mother lost her grandson, my grandmother lost another great-grandson. It is not a joyful date. I don’t want to celebrate that my son is no longer here with me. I don’t want to have a date I fear for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I do have one date that can bring me to my knees.

They told me in the beginning that time will heal all wounds. Time will make it more bearable. It’s not true. We just learn to live with the pain. We find ways to keep us busy so we don’t have to think about it. We are now going into the holidays. Last year, it was the first of everything’s. The first Thanksgiving without Drew, the first Christmas, we have passed all the firsts. I think that is sadder. Molly now has had as many birthdays without her brother as she had with him. She won’t know how much joy he got from her. He won’t know how he loved to shop for her. Or how he loved to come home early in the morning so she would wake up and smile at him. We will tell her these things but we all know that is not the same thing as having your own memories of someone.

Madi has started another school year without her brother. She has to navigate the depths of high school without his advice and guidance. I worry so much for her cause unlike Molly, Madi has so many memories of Drew and not all of them are great. They liked to fight, they liked to argue. What she had he wanted and vice versa. I would hear all the time that I always took so and so’s side. It just depending on who was hollering the loudest at the time. She won’t get to see how her and her brother’s relationship would grow as they got older. She won’t be able to have him at her graduation like she was there for him. She won’t have him for any other life moments. We are just filled with the longing of things we can not have.

The longing for more time is the worst part about time going on. Time goes on and all the memories I have of Drew is all I have. There will be no new ones. I miss him, my girls miss him, my family misses him. He was such a big part of our lives and poof he is gonegrief-and-going-on and there is no more time.