It’s hard to believe that almost a year has passed since my family lost its youngest member. I am sure that most of you remember well this beautiful picture of Elaina Renee Spradley Skinner, or simply Sweetpea. A bride of not even four months, a recent college graduate, and a motivated employee who was nominated for employee of the month and interviewing for a management position at her place of business, Sweetpea committed herself to living a full life almost as if she knew her time on earth was brief.
On February 8, 2014, Elaina went to her eternal home. On that day, I traveled to the depths of hell as I tried to comfort her husband, my family, and stay strong to help deal with what I call “the business of death.” I must tell you that there is something very surreal about finding out that your daughter passed away in the early morning and being asked to write an obituary for her at noon that same day. I did what I had to do, and because of that people thought I was strong.
I have a confession to make to you today, I am NOT strong. However, I do have incredibly strong friends that held me up and continue to help hold me to this very day. Friends like Kevin Henry, who immediately wrote a touching tribute to our beautiful angel and gave my family and friends something that they still talk about today. (I am not from the South originally, and my mom thought that it was quite funny that he referred to my Southern charm.) Friends like Deanna Alexander, who immediately jumped on a plane to be here for our family’s memorial to Elaina, and, of course, everyone who sent flowers, cards, gifts, and donations to Elaina’s Scholarship at the University of Southern Mississippi. Friends like Lois Banta, Janice Hurley, Angela Donovan, Teresa Duncan, my friends at AADOM, and many others too. We have kept all of your cards and put them in a special keepsake box.
I tried many times to write thank you cards, and each time I broke down. I apologize that I could not complete this simple act of courtesy. My grandmother would be dismayed. In an effort to tell you of my families and my deep gratitude for all of your gifts, love, and prayers, I asked Kevin if I could write an article for him. I do not know what his reaction will be when he reads if for the first time, but I hope that he feels the love and hugs that I am sending to him for the thoughtfulness that he showed my family.
2014 was a year of many firsts for me, and I want 2015 to be the year that I make more firsts. Not only for myself, but to honor a life that shined brightly and continues to shine on now through us. Sweetpea is never really gone. She lives on in everything we do. So we continue moving forward, knowing that anything less is unacceptable.
Again I say thank you for everything that all of you have done. I am extremely proud to be a part of the dental community, and I am humbled by your continued concern for our family. Together as a part of this caring family, I know that 2015 will be my best year yet.