The Neverending Story

'The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.'
--John N Mitchell

We set up this website in late October for our wonderful, inquisitive, loving Aiyana. Yana is our eight year old daughter, sister, cousin, niece, friend and granddaughter who was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of leukemia (MPAL).

Aiyana had an amazing life and we are filled with hundreds of heartwarming memories. May all of us take to heart how much a little girl from Lockeford, CA, impacted the world and be reminded and inspired to never let the sun go down without living each day all the way through.

Her Spirit is in every Butterfly.


Aiyana Ambassadors

Today we begin the REST of Aiyana's story, all 3,175 days of it that were jam-packed with tender memories. Today we begin plans for a bench at her school, made of reclaimed wood beautifully handcrafted by Plexus Pacific out of Mt. Shasta. This is going to be placed where she and her friends waited for their folks after school. It will be big enough to sit six across even with leg braces and crutches. And Aiyana's mother's will add some artwork.

It's a great idea! But get a load of this: Aiyana's elementary school has begun a coin drive to raise books for their library. You know how Aiyana loved to read, so isn't that the most perfect idea?

The last thing we read together was a wonderful Liberian folktale entitled Two Ways to Count to Ten. In it, the leopard king wants to choose a wise successor and so challenges the jungle animals to count to ten while the spear is still in the air. Everyone tries, of course, and each animal naturally needed its own voice, so we merrily read along, first as the elephant, then the lion, the monkey, the antelope and the musk ox.

So isn't the book drive totally Spot On? But THEN the family got to thinking: so many people have asked what they can do and we haven't really known what to suggest ... so why not put it out to all of you? If you would like to donate to the book drive at her school, that would be great! We can all be Aiyana Ambassadors and fill the library with books galore that will bring joy to her friends and school. An endplate with Aiyana's name will be put inside all books bought in her name. Can't you just see her smiling from here?

Those interested should send a check payable to Washington Elementary School. Please mark your donation envelope: Principal, Washington School, c/o Aiyana's Books, 831 W. Lockeford St, Lodi, CA 95242. But I call dibbies on getting them the very first copy of Two Ways to Count to Ten!


And So It Begins

The week after the week of change came and went with us spending a lot of time together. Life marched on with a Lions Club gathering, time out together, and our grandson singing at the tree lighting downtown. The family stepped graciously, selflessly, into these activities and I marveled at how they coped with life moving forward without a pause.

Our hugs feel different now, don't they, longer and deeper, and we notice the satisfying companionability of sitting together at the table eating soup. Our conversations are more earnest and pointed, as if we discovered something valuable that we had overlooked before.

Just when it feels like we are through the worst of it, it is only wishes that have gotten ahead of themselves. Aiyana surrounds us, on the fridge, in her room, the garage, the garden. There will be a day when Aiyana's essence and joy will remain and the rest will go, but not today.

Ava brought home a writing assignment with a drawing of herself and her sister. 'I em sad', it said, and 'my sister es happy.' She sure is, sweetheart, and we will be again: you just wait and see.


One Christmas

There are so many things, so many lessons to learn from Aiyana's life. She was absolutely herself without apology. Who among us can that about ourselves after all this time?

I remember last Christmas we came into the house which had been transformed into a busy happy mess of strewn wrapping and bows and packaging. We made our way through the greetings, which in this family takes a while, especially with the hide and seek search for the kids on Wii, playing in the bedrooms, listening to music online or strewn around the yards running off the day's excitement. All day long you listen to the door: open, shut, open, shut, as everyone loops through the kitchen to grab something off a plate.

Aiyana was first in line for her present, a game my sons played when they were young. We were still holding Ava's gift ten minutes later and she eyed it and offered to give it to her. Ten or so minutes after that Ava's gift was found behind the chair sitting in a puddle of ripped ribbon and torn paper.

I didn't react or know what to do. Surely her little sister wouldn't get the pleasure of opening her gift, and I thought she might cry. But her grandfather looked down at the girls with his most loving face and gently to Aiyana said, 'I just love you' and handed the gift to Ava with a hug.

Ava looked up into my face and with that I grabbed the girls and the game and we made a place in their room for play. Over the next hour we played it over and over, and Gav joined in and Summer, too. The children didn't dwell on who opened what, as most children might. They had already learned what mattered most was on the inside.