I celebrated Avery’s last birthday ever on October 5, 2012. Except I didn’t know it was her last. Our last. Nineteen days later, on October 24, 2012, Avery died instantly as a result of a single car accident. And it truly was an accident. Speeding was not a factor. Cell phone use or texting was not a factor. Drugs or alcohol was not a factor.
It just happened. In a matter of seconds a precious life was lost, and the world as we knew it became forever changed.
Because it was truly an accident, I had no one to get angry at. In fact, anger never really factored in as an important emotion throughout the minutes, hours, days and months since the accident. Sure, I’ve been tempted a time or two – but really, what good does it do?
But something that has been an absolutely INCREDIBLE factor throughout this past year is the JOY, KINDNESS and COMPASSION showered on my family and I. Family and friends came to the rescue, and also complete strangers. Many had heard our story and just wanted to lighten our load in whatever small way they could. They did.
Avery was known for her acts of kindness. She was always giving, always helping. One of the stories that has really taken off in the community is when Avery made a batch of Pink Lemonade Cookies for a list of friends and neighbors. I still have no idea why she made those cookies that day. I don’t even know if they tasted good. (Believe it or not, I didn’t make the List of Recipients.) But I did chauffer her around to drop off her random gifts. Those cookies were just the tip of the iceberg. She was always doing nice things for others.
She left positive notes scribbled in sidewalk chalk, paid for an elderly man’s breakfast, made breakfast in bed on mornings that weren’t Mother’s Day. After her death, one of her teacher’s approached me to tell me about the day Avery stuck post-it notes around the girls’ bathroom: You are beautiful. God loves you. Smile.
I often wondered how her simple acts of kindness and compassion warmed the hearts of others.
As I thought about her upcoming birthday – the first birthday without – I knew I wanted to celebrate and honor Avery’s life. She was a girl with a smile on her face and a dance in her step! We needed to do something BIG! And so we have planned a concert in which singer/songwriter Jon Troast will perform. Avery was never able to see Jon perform before her passing, but I know his music is exactly the spirit of who she was, and continues to be. Opening for Jon will be local singer Riely Rae Mikrut. Her heavenly voice captures the heavens Avery currently resides. We want it to be a BIG celebration – so make sure you order your tickets ASAP! *for more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I get so excited thinking about her birthday because it’s going to be awesome! But then I remembered what comes next. Nineteen days later. And my heart grows heavy. All I keep thinking about is these kids — all these young kids who never should have had to deal with death — friends and classmates and teammates and kids from camp and kids from church and kids who played volleyball on the opposing team — and I just cannot throw a huge, fun party and leave them to walk alone into what comes next. I cannot bear to watch them walk out into sorrow.
I want them to know joy. And if there’s one thing I have learned in the last year it’s that joy CAN exist amongst sorrow! I know it, because you all showered us with it! And I felt strong hugs and ate hearty meals and read touching books and wore bracelets of strength. And I received encouraging words and was pointed to the sky where the clouds opened and the sun sang like a million angels praising Jesus. And that joy meant everything to me. That joy gave me another dose of holding on.
And if there’s one thing I learned from Avery it’s that it doesn’t take much to make a HUGE, POSITIVE difference in the world!
So it only seemed fitting what to do with The 19 Days: we would share the joy. We would BE the joy. We would BE the kindness! We would BE the compassion that someone else desperately needs and equally deserves, even if we don’t know their story.
And so, we challenge you to the greatest kindness and compassion campaign you’ve ever been a part of. One random act of kindness, every day, for 19 days. Post it, share it, take a photo and tag it using the hashtag #the19days. Let your neighbors know, your friends know, your Twitter feed and your Facebook know, that for #the19days change is coming. We are that change.
The best part about #the19days? There are no boundaries. You can be in Wisconsin, or Idaho or Australia or Africa. There are no age limits. You can be old or young or somewhere in between. You can do things for young people or for old people or for everyone in between. You can teach others how to perform random acts of kindness. There are no rules. Well, except one: be kind. But the possibilities are endless! Leave a note, bake some cookies, pay a mortgage, give a vacation!
Invite your friends. The more, the merrier.
Like us on Facebook at The 19 Days.