Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What would you be thinking? All kids with cancer are the bravest kids in the world. Emmalee heard people tell us how they knew someone who died of cancer. I was in the grocery store and a woman came up to me and in front of Emm told me how someone in her family died of cancer.

I don't believe she had malicious intent at all. She was just trying to identify with me and my situation. I think we all have put our foot in our mouth at times, but this happened frequent enough that it became annoying. I never knew, until the end of Emm's life, how often she thought of death. She told us, while she sobbed uncontrollably, that she thought of death every day. Scans, doctors appointments, comments like these and being bald kept these thoughts too close to her innocent mind.

I think we all need to be a little more careful about what we say and in what company we say it. Be careful when you are trying to identify with someone that your not trying to one up them or being insensitive to someone who might be listening.

Emm was strong and brave and pushed past many of these challenges. She taught us how to face death with strength and courage. We need more people like Emmalee

One more story that I love about Emmalee was when she was in the hospital and in a lot of pain. It was 2am and she called out to me to come pray with her. I was lying in the makeshift chair/bed in the hospital room. She said the prayer I will never forget her sweet, sincere prayer. She thanked Heavenly Father for things, then she started to cry and asked Heavenly Father to help her get better. She ended her prayer with, Please help that no matter what happens we will all still have faith.

True faith and inspiration from an angel.

To read more about Emmalee visit Her story will strengthen and inspire.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

If you knew you had a terminal illness, what would change in your life? Now think back to being eight or nine years of age. As an eight year old, imagine doctor coming into your hospital room and telling your dad, in front of you, that you had 6-12 months to live, at most 2 years. What would change. For Emmalee she thought about death every day and did not want to die because she said, "I will miss you guys too much."

How did she live? She laughed, loved, showed courage, strengthened her faith and grew in so many ways. She never gave up hope for a miracle.

Emmalee story is finally done. It is available on

There is a section at the end of the book dedicated to providing wisdom and support to those grieving a loss. Also, for those who do not know what to say to the grieving there is some advice for you as well.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

This is the book cover! Mike Magnus, who is very talented, donated his time to this project. Heather Mickey took this amazing photo of Emm. I am so thankful for them

I am so excited that the book will be out by Christmas. I am donating $5 of every book sold to Make-A-Wish. The first printing will only be 2,500 copies.

This is for Emmalee! I know her story will inspire all who read it.

I will provide a website when it is ready. I just can't wait to get my hands on the first copy.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

When Emm took her last breath, I was forever changed. I had never seen anyone die before. I would not have wanted it any other way, but it is still difficult to think about. There are three moments that are the most painful for me.

1. Hearing the words, "She has a mass in her liver".

2. Telling her she was going to pass to the other side soon.

3. Watching her take her last breath.

This is the week she all of a sudden started sliding down the hill toward death. We could have stopped her from sliding, but at what cost? About 5:30am the nurse came in her room to take her blood pressure. There wasn't one. All of a sudden there staff in her room moving faster than I had ever seen them move. Unplugging devices. Within minutes she was in the ICU. There was a doctor barking orders to six or seven others, like a drill sergeant. I was asked several times, "Do you want us to do everything possible to save her?" Two times I answered back, "yes." After a few hours our answer would change, when we found out how bad things really were.

Intubating could have killed her. They said her heart could have been permanently damaged and it was only functioning at 10% capacity. We decided not to do anything, but let nature take it's course. She made it though the day and the night. The doctors did not expect that. Why was she still fighting? She wanted to be home to die. She hated the hospital. The hospital arranged an ambulance to take her home. We rode with her. The doctors said there was a good possibility she would die in the ambulance. Not Emm, she was tough and patient. She waited till we arrived home. I carried her to her favorite place in our house, the couch in our front room. Twenty minutes later she took her last peaceful breath. She was gone.

My little Emmalee,

I miss you so much Emmalee! I think about you every day. I look at your friends and see how big they are getting and I always wonder how big you would be. I know you know how much I miss you and I know you miss us as well. At the same time I know you are happy and are close by and that makes me feel so good. I look forward to the day that we will meet again. It feels good to write this to you because I can get my feeling out. I don't cry often, but writing allows me to express myself more openly. I am so happy that you are out of pain. You have inspired so many people and I know you will continue to do so. There is a hole in our family that will never be filled. We are still learning to live with it and walk around it. You will never be forgotten. We miss you asking, "What's for dinner". Seeing you in our front room watching TV or playing your DS. I miss you telling me that, "girls rule and boys drool". I miss holding your hand, while walking you to your school class. I especially miss picking you up on Fridays after school. I miss your love of food and wanting to try all sorts of new foods. I miss your smile and your positive attitude. You faced death with courage and grace. There were so many who admited you for this.

Thank you Emm for coming into our life.



Wednesday, September 07, 2011


The summer before Emmalee died my parents came over to our house. We sat on the front porch. Emm was inside, sitting in her usually favorite place on the couch, watching TV and playing her DS.

The tone off my conversation with my parents started with the normal superficial pleasantries. We talked about Emmalee and how she was doing, the tests, scans, chemo pill she was taken and how she was emotionally handling having cancer. The conversation quickly turned serious. My parent are not the type to beat around the bush. My mom cut to the chase. "Could you accept it if Emmalee died?"

October 17, 2008 was the day she was diagnosed with liver cancer. When we were told she had a mass in her liver, I vividly remember flashes of the cemetery, where we actually ended up burying her, burst in my mind along with many other images and thoughts. I don't believe there has been a term yet coined for the powerful force that hit me in that moment.

Thoughts of her dying were like a heavy shadow that hung with me constantly. It is not as if I had never thought of her possible death before, but this questions made it real. Could I accept it if Emmalee died? In that moment my strength even shocked me. I calmly responded. "If it is God's will, I can accept it." What in the world was I saying? She is not going to die. Even in that moment, after I said those words, I wondered if I really could accept her death. If she did die what would it really be like?

October 1, 2009 was the day this reality hit. There is no way to prepare for a loved one's departure. It hit me with such a surprisingly powerful force. What was worse the diagnosis of cancer or her death? They both had a sting that will never go away. I can say that I accept God's will but the hole that has been left is something I continue to side step every day. I miss her but know her death has reason and purpose beyond my understanding.

What difficult things in your life do you need to accept right now? I am curious what things people are having difficulty accepting and why. I wonder what the barriers are to accepting something difficult?

What does acceptance really mean?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Why "Dragonfly Wings for Emmalee" as the title of her story? A month before she died, during a photo shoot, a dragonfly flew above Emm's head. It hovered, flew away and then came back to the same spot above her head. It was an amazing moment and I don't believe it was a coincidence. A poem was written by her Aunt Jenae with this title. I asked Jenea if I could use this as the title of Emm's book. She agreed.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Maybe this is for me more than anyone else, but I hope someone else will benefit from it.

I have been a mental health counselor (LCSW) for over 20 years. I have experienced the death of a wife and a child. Emmalee's death was much more painful that Camille's death. My kids felt the opposite. Their mom's death was more painful. We all experience death differently. Why does anyone have the right to judge how much pain we should feel or for how long?

I have heard other counselors say, "That person needs to move on or let go. It is time to get on with life."

To some degree this is true. We can't allow a loss to consume us and put us in a pit of despair. However, that doesn't mean it is wrong to cry, feel sad or remember our loved one and feel the familiar twinge of pain associated with this loss. The other day I heard a counselor say, "It has been four years since her husband died, why is she still crying over it?"

I believe this is the wrong attitude to have. It tells this woman that she is defective in some way for crying four years after her husband died. Why can't we still feel the pain 20 years agter a loss? As a counselor I may have had this attitude when I was young and inexperienced. I now know that grief is messy and there are no rules that govern it. Whatever we feel it is okay.

I took my son to the MTC today in preparation for his 2 year mission to West Virginia. It was a great experience. I know I will communicate with him through letters and hear from him over the phone twice a year. With Emmalee I will not see her again or communicate directly with her until the resurrection. Today's departure of Matt was a breeze compared to losing Emm. I hope that doesn't sound rude? It is just a perspective.

I say let's grieve our losses and experience them and be okay with the emotions that come up relating to our loved ones death. Don't feel bad for crying years after a loss.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I have revamped, changed and improved things. This is just the preface. Which one do you like better?



When I saw Emm take her last breath I was forever changed. I had never seen anyone die before. I never seriously thought about what it would be like if she died or considered how I would react in that turbulent moment. My hand was stroking Emm’s baldhead when she exhaled for the last time. I literally felt energy leave her body and pass through my hand and forearm. With incredible force and speed I was overcome with indescribable, consuming sadness. Unfamiliar feelings burst out of me. I yelled to her, “Emm I love you, I love you. Please know that.” She was gone. What did she experience when her spirit left her body? The finality of death has a lasting sting. It was an intensely emotional, yet a powerfully spiritual moment and we shared it together as a family.

My little girl, Emmalee, (or Emm as we called her) was a feisty, Polynesian and Caucasian eight-year-old. She had no recognizable outward signs of illness before she was diagnosis with cancer on October 17, 2008. Cancer is indiscriminate as to whom it afflicts, but it is worse when it attacks an innocent child. She didn’t choose to get cancer and it was not possible for her to make a choice to cure her life-threatening disease. For her type of cancer and how far it had progressed there was not a cure. God knew that she could handle this challenge and placed her here so His work could be manifested through her.

My first wife, Camille, and I adopted Emmalee at birth. Emm was strong-willed and had a bit of a temper. She was intelligent and tested in the top tenth percentile academically on standardized tests. Emm had a lot of spunk and personality. People told us that she was wise beyond her years, yet she could always make us laugh. She had beautiful dark brown, curly hair and olive skin. Strangers would sometimes stop, stare and comment. “She is so beautiful.” I heard these types of comments periodically while at the store or just out in any public place. Emm came into this world in a special way and had an extraordinary mission while on earth.

We can allow the events of life to bring us to our knees and wait for the next blow to knock us all the way down or we can allow these events to bring us to our knees in prayer. This choice came for me in 2003 when Camille suddenly and unexpectedly died. Single parenting three children while working full time took a coordinated effort between myself, my parents and my sister, Kristy. Matt was eleven, Krystal was nine and Emmalee was three at the time. In January of 2005, I met a wonderful woman, Kara, and we married a few short months after a first date at Denny’s. Then, out of the blue, words I never thought I would hear in reference to my child were told to us in the ER. “She has a huge mass.” It was devastating news. How much more could we handle? So many questions that only time would answer.

Childhood cancers cannot be traced back to a lifestyle these kids chose or choices they personal made. Cancer is the unexpected and unfortunate mutation of cells that the body does not recognize as the enemy. These cells grow and spread, but are imposters masquerading as “friendlies”.

According to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, around 10,500 Children under the age of fifteen are diagnosed with cancer in the United States each year. Ten years after diagnosis and treatment 75-80% will be cancer free. Each year around 1,500 kids die from cancer. Pediatric cancer kills more kids than Aids, Cystic Fibrosis, Asthma and Diabetes combined. Many cancers lay dormant and are not detected until they are untreatable. That’s the way it was with Emmalee’s cancer. She, along with too many other young children, discovered the cancer too late.

Having a terminal illness is one of the scariest and most difficult things anyone can face. It is like walking around with a bomb; knowing it may go off at any time. Waiting for this explosion is a life altering experience. When will it go off? How painful will it be? Why do I have this bomb inside me? Is there someone who can diffuse it?

We went to any and all lengths to find the person(s) who had the expertise to safely diffuse or get rid of Emm’s bomb. Family, friends and even people we didn’t know came up to us with information; juices, foods, remedies and advice. They told us about supposed experts who thought they had the knowledge or expertise to diffuse her bomb. Most often it turned out to be some untested method or person who meant well, but was unproven in the rigorous battle of this horrible disease.

We were still persuaded at times to try some of these remedies, except when it was anything to eat or drink, because Emm had difficulty holding things down. Each proven or unproven method brought hope, but our hope would be dashed again after a CT scan showed her elongated, grape fruit-sized tumor had not shrunk.

I prepared myself for the pain and disappointment that would follow after each CT scan. We still remained hopeful and full of faith that a miracle would take place. I don’t know if anyone truly understands the emotional trauma associated with all of this unless they have experienced it for themselves.

The pain of having a child with cancer ran deep and the rollercoaster ride was intense. The few difference between a rollercoaster ride at the amusement park and the one were on was that we could not see the inclines and step declines ahead, it was not for amusement and we did not voluntarily get on this ride.

I want you to ask yourself, how would I change my life if I knew I were dying or what would I do if I knew a loved one was dying? We are all dying we just don’t know exactly when death will occur or what type of death we will experience. If you did know when and how you would die, would you really do anything different? Would you wait until just a few days before your death date before making any changes? Just how close to death’s door would you have to be in order for you to change? Would continue living as you were until death came knocking or would you really change? You would then have to face the reality and would maybe have a moment of clarity as to how you would want to be remembered.

We never gave up hope for a miracle and knew that if it were God’s will Emm would live a long and healthy life. We knew that the odds were not in her favor, but we never told Emmalee that there was a good chance she would die. Early on a doctor basically told her that she didn’t have long to live and others would relate stories in front of her about someone they knew who died from cancer. Emmalee knew this, but she always had extremely strong faith. She handled her challenges with humor, dignity and God-given strength. She never gave up hope! She lived life to live. She didn’t live waiting to die.

As you read this book, contemplate what it would be like to have a ticking time bomb inside of you. Would you get up or give up? What would it be like to have a body ravaged by cancer? I also hope you will gain strength, hope and courage from her example and recognize a fight well fought by an amazing nine-year-old.

I hope you are able to see beyond Emmalee’s difficulties and know that she was meant to experience what she went through. I don’t know all the intricacies God has in mind, but there are many. There are many who have benefited from her experiences. Also, look at your life and the impact you have on others. Truly look for the love, compassion and kindness that God has shown you and given you. Do you share it with others and spread a little goodness around? Also, see the blessings in your life not just the misfortune.

We became closer to God as a result of Emm and her cancer and I hope you recognize a loving Father’s hand in Emm’s story and see it in your life as well. This was all part of a loving Heavenly Father’s plan. Emm was meant to come to Earth and live for a short time. In a way, I am jealous. She no longer has to labor and toil upon this earth with a physical body that is so fragile. I want you to understand more fully the emotions experienced by my little Emmalee and us as we all coped with the turmoil this horrible disease brought.

Emmalee’s influence is still being felt. Her story has touched so many people. Some knew her personally and some had never met her. People learned about her by word of mouth or by visiting her two blogs. ( or She also has a Facebook page, Dragonfly Wings for Emmalee. There are, as well, some YouTube videos. I put together one video about our trip to Disney World and another about her life and death.

Many people told me they felt like they knew Emmalee even though they hadn’t met her. It has been amazing to learn how many people have been influenced or strengthened by Emm.
While I was at a volunteer training with Make-A-Wish Foundation, I was asked to share Emmalee’s story with the 60 volunteers in attendance. The small portion of her story I shared seemed to impact quite a few in the audience as I saw several people wiping tears from their eyes. During the lunch break, a woman, who was in her 50’s walked over to my table. She stood a few feet from me and waited patiently while I finished a conversation about Emmalee with another volunteer at my table. When I finished she put her hand out, offering it to me.

“I just wanted to come over to meet you.” She said with sincere gratefulness in her voice. “I have to tell you that Emmalee is the reason I am here training to be a volunteer. I don’t know you or Emmalee, but I read her obituary in the paper a month ago and felt like I needed to help out. Her obituary is the only reason I am here today.”

This volunteer had no idea I would be at the training and I am thankful we were able to meet. It was always uplifting to know when Emmalee’s life had influenced someone enough to move them to action.

After Emmalee died, kids her age wrote to us and told us they admired her for coming to school right up until the time she died. Her classmates in fourth grade loved her more than we ever realized. There were many students who called Emmalee their best friend. After she died all the children in her fourth grade class had the opportunity to write some memories of Emm.

One little girl wrote, “She was a kind and loving friend. She encouraged me to love others and show them I cared. She was one of my best friends. I will remember her with all my heart. P.S. She’s probably having a great time watching over you.”

There were around 120 kids in her grade. She had attended the same school since kindergarten. Here are just a few other comments from these amazing fourth graders’.

“Sometimes she would tell me how she felt and other times she was silent. I could tell she was suffering. We were close in the first grade. She had a beautiful head of hair then. I just can’t believe she passed away. I had so much hope for her. God bless you.”
“I feel glad for her because she is happy now and can do things in Heaven. It won’t be hard for her there.”

“She was the bravest and most courageous girl I know. She was nice to me.”
“Emmalee was one of my friends in first grade. When I was sad she was there to cheer me up. I remember when some kids were picking on me. She was there to stop them. I miss her very much.”

“She was in my first grade class. I didn’t know anyone. She was the only one who came up to me and said, ‘Hi my name is Emmalee.’ She helped me through the year and helped me make friends.”

“She was nice to talk to if you were lonely.”

“I remember her getting pushed to lunch on the teacher’s chair because she was too weak.”

“Emmalee was a great friend to me. I loved being her friend. She was so awesome and a good example to me. She was my BFFEWWD. Best Friends Forever Even When We Die.”

These children were inspired by Emmalee’s tenacity and silent strength. They loved her and she loved them. You need to remember that these words came from fourth graders. Their comments were not just yearbook type of comments like “she was cool, and she played with me at recess”. They were heart-felt thoughts and feelings that had substance. Many high school kids might not be able to express these types of deep, sincere expressions of love that these elementary children were able to share.

One week before Emmalee died I felt the sudden, compelling urge to start writing about her life. I was so amazed at all the lives that had been impacted and influenced by her example that I sat down on my bed that night, pulled out my laptop and started writing. Little did I know that one week later she would take her last breath.