Finn's First Annual Fundraiser
Updated: Jul 13, 2021
Before, During...What now?
I've taken a few days to digest all that has happened in the last 8 weeks, and I am finally in a place to share. Although, I'm afraid no post will do what I witnessed on September 7th justice, I am going to try.
Before the Big Day
First, I think it's important that you all know where the idea stemmed from. While still in the hospital with our Turkey, the idea came to me. Suddenly, without reason, without thought, just came...that's God. Finn's Uncle Bob and Auntie Jess were in the room, and I whispered the idea as a request to them. The request? A baseball tournament in Finn's honor. Austin wasn't keen on the idea. He was afraid no one would come. Boy was he wrong.
Before I knew it, things were happening in the waiting room. Amanda knew just the person to start getting the ball rolling, we now lovingly refer to him as Uncle Lank. Uncle Lank had the connections and immediately started working. I made a Facebook event and then Ada stepped in. Before all of this, I think it's safe to say that although we went to school together, Ada and I were strangers. But she stepped in organizing the event and offering a shoulder for me to cry on, and so began the explosion of Finn's Tournament into what it became...a full on Finn Fest: honoring and celebrating our baby boy. Thank you to the others who helped organize and plan the fundraiser: Joey Langford, Diane Nowlin, Pam Fuchs, Justin Langford. All of whom took time from their own precious families to support ours.
This fundraiser kept me going when I lost my purpose. It gave me a new purpose for Finn's life and allowed me to continue functioning for those first 7 weeks leading up to it. It kept me busy when my life as I knew it was falling a part around me. It kept me strong while my husband struggled with his own grief. It inspired me to continue pushing when I wanted to fall down. This fundraiser, quite frankly, saved me those first 7 weeks. Allowing me to grieve slowly, while keeping me busy with the tasks at hand. A focus all centered around Finn. A new purpose in his earthly absence. I thank God for this and for providing me with the army to help put a small idea into action.
The week leading up to the event I was physically sick at the thought of it being over. I knew with the fundraiser being over I was about to face the grief head on. I could feel the strength the event had given me slowly dissipating, I leaned on Austin and God more than ever.
The Day Of
We arrived early that morning to set up a few things that I didn't want to delegate. The things that I had once planned for his first birthday party. You see, Finn's first birthday party was set to be Rookie of the Year themed, so the backdrop, baseball decal, balloons, banner, those were all for his birthday party. Needless to say, setting all of this up for an event in honor of my baby instead of for my baby's 1st birthday, was gut wrenchingly difficult.
Everything else: the logistics, the concession stand, the tournament, that was all Finn's army. There were so many people there that morning to help setup and teams who had already arrived to warm up. The event was starting, and we could tell immediately; it was going to be a tremendous success. Success in remembering our baby and people all joining together for a common goal: to honor Finn, celebrate his life, and support our family. God is love and that is what we felt: God. His love for us was shown through all of you: your presence, your generosity, your participation, your tears, your hugs, your time. God knew we needed you to give us strength.
At one point during the morning a friend asked me if I could feel Finn, I answered honestly, I had been so busy stressing about things that I couldn't control that I hadn't been still enough to truly feel him. I appreciate her question because it allowed me a moment to reflect, to still myself, and to take the day in; allowing others to handle the event and stepping back to allow myself to feel Finn's presence. Shortly after, I was sitting watching Austin play and a green dragonfly landed on my shoe. I turned to Aunt Kim and she immediately exclaimed, "That's some good luck." My response, "That's Finn." I knew it. I knew it was a sign from him, so the next day I went searching for the reason he sent a dragonfly, and by no coincidence, I stumbled upon the video below:
Immediately, I knew why Finn had sent the dragonfly. That same friend who asked me if I felt Finn at the event, had made a comment earlier that morning as she cried with me that, "This is amazing but Finn deserved so much more." I quickly refuted her statement: "He's in heaven." More? What's more than heaven? My baby is in the best place. The place we should all be working toward each day. Finn provided confirmation that what I had told my well-meaning friend (ily) was absolutely true, and he gave it to me in the form of a dragonfly.
But as you probably already know, the dragonfly was just 1 of a few huge signs from our baby the day of the fundraiser.
"There is no tragedy in being ushered quickly from this life to the next when that next life is spent in the presence of God. There is nothing to fear. The only real tragedy is a life that ends without the hope of eternal life in the presence of God." - Nancy Guthrie, Holding on to Hope
If you're reading my blog, you've likely already seen the picture that caused Austin and I to stir with emotion. My friend Meghin had snapped a picture of her husband and Austin warming up playing catch earlier that day. A few hours later I sat with Meghin as we watched our husbands' team, The Aggies, play together. While we sat, she began scrolling through her pictures. That's when we saw the photo. She slowly zoomed into the light beam, and I couldn't believe it. There right centered in the light beam is Austin. I began shaking. Repeating her name and OH MY GOSH over and over. For me, the picture is undeniable proof that our Finny was there with his Dada. Meghin sent me the picture and I ran to get Austin. Austin had been asking for a sign from Bubby since I had my morning full of Finn that you might remember from my blog titled: "The Day Finn was Every Where." He desperately wanted his sign from Bubby, and to say he got it, would be an understatement. After Austin and I cried together, we sat leaning into one another. Meghin practiced her newly discovered talent of photography and secretly captured the below pictures of us during this raw moment.
The Other Picture
This one I haven't shared yet. This one was brought to my attention by an old coworker who reached out. When I received her message, I sat there with my jaw dropped and crying for a solid 2 minutes. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I quickly showed Austin who was equally as shocked. There is no doubt Finn was with us that day and will be with us everyday. I thank God for the gift of eternal life and the signs that we have been sent to provide us comfort in knowing our sweet, Turkey butted baby is ok in the arms of God and his Momo and Pawpaw.
Let me lead this section by saying first, that the event gave us hope. Hope in an everlasting legacy for Finn. Hope that his impact, his heroism, has not only changed us for the better, but that it's impacted hundreds of people who didn't even know him. Thank you to all of you who supported us along the way. The fundraiser raised just shy of $25,000. We are completely overwhelmed by the generosity of all of you who have supported us on this horrific journey. We are waiting for medical bills to trickle in to see what we can put toward the foundation to get it started. But more important than any monetary amount (although we appreciate it all), it raised our spirits and allowed us to lean on all of you to share in our love for our baby and insure that his life was full of unforgettable meaning.
With that being said (I promised I'd keep it real), the days following the event have been the most difficult for me yet. Without the fundraiser, I have been consumed in grief. Grief that I have to feel. Grief that is a reminder of how much I love my baby. Although I know he is whole and happy, I selfishly miss his sweet little giggles, his chunky baby feet and hands, his thick red (tinted) hair, his chunky thighs (that I threatened to eat on the daily), his hands stroking me as I nursed him, his beautiful blue eyes shaped just like his Dada's staring up at me, his crawling away from me when he knew I was after him, his curiosity when he saw something new, his love and excitement for wearing his Dada's sunglasses, his eagerness to grab any phone (or shoes) in nearby proximity, his love for his Dada that was annoyingly obvious, his conversations that were convincing yet undecipherable, his long naps on mama, his love for food as he crammed as much into his mouth as possible, his dancing to the movie Sing, his waving to me as he stared at me from his car seat, his love for bubbles and the outdoors, his splashing me in the bathtub, his rocking while he enjoyed an animal cracker... As I type these, the tears stream down my face. It's a pain unimaginable to most (and I pray it remains that, just an unimaginable pain because NO one should have to live through this). A pain that weighs on me even while I sleep. A pain so fierce you can feel it threaten to take you at any moment. But when I cry so hard I can't breathe, Austin is there. Sharing the pain with me. And I know, as long as I have him, I have Finn. Of course Finn is always with us, but Austin shares as the keeper of our most precious memories. I thank God every night for my husband, for allowing us to be parents to Finn for the most incredible 11 months, and for all of you who continue to surround us with love and support as we navigate these difficult waters. We are blessed.
Finn will always be our light and our purpose. Each day, a day closer to seeing him again. I have realized that the only way I will survive this is if my work has something to do with Finn. So that's the now what. That's what I will be searching and praying for in the weeks and months to come.
WHEN we are able to live, truly live again, my hope is that Finn and God shine through us and all that we do. We will squeeze every bit of good from this unimaginable circumstance.