Sunday, July 26, 2015

Angels In New Jersey

Triggers.  For those of us that are combating grief, the term takes on a whole new meaning.  These are the things that set off yet another crying jag, an ache in the heart, or just completely deflate us.  We never know when they are going to come mainly because we have no idea what they will be.  Anything from a song on the radio, a smell, a sound, or even seeing some one that resembles our departed love one.

For me, the most recent trigger came this past Thursday morning.  I was in the living room scrolling through Facebook to kill time before I took Emmy to her swim lesson.  I came across a picture that Peyton's mom had posted for #TBT.  It was from one year ago while they were on vacation.  There was nothing special about the picture, just Peyton with his hat pulled down low grinning his goofy grin at the camera.  All of  sudden i felt my chest tighten and my eyes water.  Before I knew it, I was crying, and made no effort to stop.  I pulled Emmy up on the couch with me and held on tight, but just couldn't seem to stop the tears.  Finally after a few minutes, I was able to compose myself.  I still had that hollow feeling in my chest as I went into my bedroom to get my wallet and keys.  As I stood at my dresser, I looked on to the cedar chest sitting next to it.  On top of the chest was what I needed to turn my mood around.  It was an ordinary cardboard box, but it was what was inside of it that truly mattered.  Dozens of knitted hearts that had been sent to me by my Angel from Jersey, Jill Kubin.

I have never met Jill Kubin.  I have never talked on the phone with Jill or held any kind of conversation with her.  I don't know what her favorite flavor of ice cream is.  I don't know where or when she was born.  I don't know where she grew up or where she went to school.  In fact for some one that I call an angel, I know very little if anything about the woman, but it is what I do know about  Jill Kubin that allows me to call her an angel.

The first time I ever heard the name Jill Kubin was in February of 2015.  I had begun following a page on Facebook called The Sidewalk Smiles Campaign.  I was trying to expand the reach of Products for Peyton was attempting to get in touch with any group or organization that I thought would help.  The person behind Sidewalk Smiles is Julia Kubin, Jill's daughter.  This amazing child had a brilliant idea.  Her and her friends in the Town of Morristown, New Jersey would go and stand on street corners while holding signs with the simple sentence, "Your Are Beautiful" written on them.  They would take their signs with them wherever they went spreading this simple message to as many as they could with the goal of stopping bullying and harassment.    I introduced myself over Facebook and thanked her for what she was doing and told her about Peyton.  Shortly there after, I heard from Jill for the first time.  Jill messaged me and told me about her other daughter, Emily, and that Emily was involved with the Hats for Hope Initiative.  Jill told me that they wanted to do a hat drive in Peyton's honor in order to bring attention to the consequences of bullying.  I whole heartedly agreed, and over the course of the next few months, they began to collect knit hats for the homeless made by people from throughout the country.  It seemed that every time I would log on to Facebook, there was another picture Emily had posted showing more and more hats that she  had received.  For the first time, I knew Peyton's message was getting out there, and more importantly, people cared enough to do something about it.

Jill's next idea is the reason I am working on this entry.  It is called the #Peyton Heart Project.  Jill originally came up with the idea of giving a knit heart to each of the incoming freshmen at the local high school so that every student would know some one cared about them.  She asked me if she could name this after Peyton as well, and of course I agreed.  What was originally a good idea became a great idea when her daughter Julia began leaving the hearts, each containing a small message, in various public places for find.  The next thing I knew, people as far away as South Dakota and England were getting involved.  They were either passing out hearts or knitting them, and word began to spread.  Eventually, Jill sent me a box of these hearts to me so that I could leave them for people.  I began to leave a few here and there, from the local mall to bookstores and restaurants.  I never heard anything about any of the hearts I left, but was hoping they made it into the hands of someone that would truly love it.

As I said before, on Thursday, I was having a bad day.  As I left to take Emmy to her swim lesson, I saw the box, and loaded up the pockets of my cargo shorts.  I left a couple at the pool, and after her lesson, Emmy and I headed to the mall (July in Texas is indoor activity time) so Emmy could play on the play ground.  As we went into various stores, I left the hearts where I hoped they would be found.  That night, I had to run to the local Petsmart to get dog food.  I left a few here and there in the store, and had one more in my pocket as I headed to my truck.  Rather than take it home, I left it under the wiper of the car next to me.  The next morning, Lisa was looking at Facebook and came to show me.  The lady who had found the heart on her window had posted it on Facebook.  Joy flooded my heart, and I knew that some one had been reached.  She had actually hears about Peyton, and was now spreading the word.  Once again, when I needed a jolt of inspiration, Jill Kubin had been the mastermind.

New Jersey takes more abuse than most states.  It is a puncline, whipping boy and red headed step child all rolled into one.  Some of the abuse may be well deserved (they did elect Chris Christie after all), other times it comes at the expense of a network choosing the worst possible representatives of the state and highlighting their lives (Jersey Shore any one?). However, I will say that Jersey doesn't always deserve the punches it take, and in the case of three angels, Jill, Julia and Emily Kubin, I know there are some damn good reasons to love the state.

I know I have probably left things out, and no matter what I say, it will never do justice to Jill, Julia and Emily, but I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for all that they have done for me, my family, and most of all, the memory of Peyton.