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.
Well we got through Thanksgiving. My husband did all the cooking, I think he was worried all my tears would make the food too salty. He did a fantastic job. He even managed to not put football on so I wouldn’t have one more reminder.
Our Thanksgivings have never been large. It’s usually just us, the kids and my Mom and Grandma. So when you are missing one with a gathering that small it makes the loss that much larger. It wasn’t very festive but most of us tried to be at least sociable. Times like this I wish my family was larger and we had more distractions. I wouldn’t miss Drew less but with more mayhem it’s easier to get lost in it.
With Thanksgiving over the sprint to Christmas is on. The shopping and baking. The gearing up for Santa starts in full force. Especially when you have a 3 year old, this is the year they start getting the concepts of Christmas at least the commercial side of it. Molly has already started talking about what she wants to ask Santa for. She wants fancy, pink, sparkly panties. I can’t wait to see Santa’s face when she tells him that. I love this age when their wants are so simple and sweet.
Thinking of Santa’s reaction to Molly’s request reminds me of a story of when Drew was little and his visit to Santa. He must have been 7 or so and he spent a lot of time out in the country with my Uncle and Grandmother. He has always loved to fish and “hunt”. So I pack up the kids to take them to the mall so they can tell Santa what they want for Christmas. Madison, sweet, Madison asks for the newest Barbie and pretty much anything pink. She proceeds to tell Santa how much she loves Barbie and how all her pets are named Barbie. Madison hops off of Santa’s lap pretty proud of herself and then it’s Drew’s turn. Of course he was at the age where he thought he was too big to “talk” to Santa. He reluctantly goes over to him and gives him a once over and I assume decides it might be worth the effort. He gets on his lap (sort of) and Santa begins to ask him if he was a good boy that year. He of course nods yes and Santa asks him what he would like for Christmas. Drew being a “country” boy he proceeds to tell Santa he wants a Ruger 22 with a long range scope, a k-bar knife and a few yards or rope. Santa looks at me like I am raising a serial killer and tells Drew that he doesn’t know if his elves can make a Ruger but how about a remote control car? Drew shrugs his shoulders and said “I guess if that’s all they can make it will do”. Needless to say Drew left his meeting pretty disappointed. For Christmas did not get him what was on his list but he left Drew a note telling him he did not think he was old enough for the items and he would keep them in mind for when he was older.
Looking back to that memory I can’t help but smile at Drew’s eagerness and love for the holiday. He acted like he was doing me a big favor by going to talk to Santa but he was just as interested in it as Madison was. When he got the point of “not believing” in Santa he was real careful to not ruin the illusion for Madison. I asked him a few years ago why he didn’t just tell her and he told me “but Mom there is only a short time that we get to believe in magic and you made sure there is magic every year”. I just stood there with my mouth open and shook my head at what a great person he was turning into. I tear up at these memories but I feel my heart glow a little brighter when I remember them. I hope I can give the girls some magic this year or at least for it to not be totally dismal. I don’t want them to look back and think of holidays before Drew’s death and holidays after. Molly deserves them to be magical. It doesn’t mean I am grieving less it just means I am pushing it to the back for the sake of the girls. In my heart of hearts I want to be like a bear and sleep till the holidays are over but I know that Drew would not like that.
If anyone knows me they know I like to plan things early. I will start planning parties months ahead of time because I hate to feel like I am running behind. I love to plan things, I love to make sure everything for the event is as perfect as I can get it. Now it doesn’t always work out that way. For the most part I am OK if it doesn’t work out the way I planned.
The holidays are no exception to my insistent planning. I will start my menu for Thanksgiving the last week in October. I will make homemade pie crusts a few weeks before and freeze them. I will make my dough for my rolls and the whole nine yards. I love to cook and bake but more than that I love it when I make things my family likes. Drew loved food. He was a equal opportunity lover of food. Pretty much the only thing he did not like for Thanksgiving was stuffing. He would ask me a few weeks before the holiday if I was going to make stuffed jalapenos or if I was going to make my sausage rolls. He would get so excited to know I was making his favorite foods.
This will be our first Thanksgiving without Drew and I am trying to prepare myself. I’m not sure how I can do that but in my mind if prepare for the day maybe it won’t be too bad. I know I am deluding myself. Thanksgiving will never be the same for me again. I know I need to celebrate. Even in my fog of grief I know I have so many things to be thankful for. I just don’t know if I have the heart to do the whole “traditional” Thanksgiving. Molly and Madison deserve to see that life goes on and one of those ways is to make sure that we don’t ignore it hoping the day will just disappear.
It’s one of the things to my new life that I have to get used to. I will always miss Drew, there is not a moment that goes by that I don’t think of him. I don’t think any amount of time will make this easier. This is my new reality bolstering myself up to get through one more thing that Drew is not there for. I have a hard time trying to wrap that around my mind. I do not want to do all these things without him. I don’t think there is any amount of preparing that is going to make this bearable this year or every year after.
This is why this year we are thinking of doing something “untraditional” maybe a BBQ or chinese food. Maybe we will even go out to dinner. I do know I can not stand the thought of making a pumpkin pie or cooking a turkey this year. It’s not about what is on the table it is about the hearts of your family and friends and acknowledging the pain. Without the pain you would not know the joy of what you have lost. So my hope for this Thanksgiving is to tell the people close to me that I love them and that I am thankful that they are in my life. I hope that Madi and Molly see that even when I am sad I am thankful they are still with me. I am thankful I am their mother. I am thankful I have a family around me and friends that care deeply.
So remember I will be sad, I will be longing but that does not mean that I am not not wanting to have the moments to treasure of everyone else. As a dear friend wrote in a letter to me you are not promised tomorrows and you need to be present today to make the memories.