I can’t believe how quickly time flies. It has already been a month since my first Picking Poppies post. I’ll never understand time, and how it so quickly evades.
If you missed the first post in the Picking Poppies Series, you can check it out here. Essentially, this is a way for me to continue on the legacy of my little girl, Ayden Nicole, whose life was cut unjustly short. This is a monthly series, posted on the anniversary of her birth (and passing), as a reminder to continue to live the way she taught me to live. Living with love and kindness. Living with intention.
Each of the monthly posts will in some way feature stories of love and kindness, and will encourage you to live one day with intentional love and kindness.
For this post, I want to share with you the story of the most beautiful family.
I want you to meet Felicia (mom), Chris (dad), and their two boys, Logan and Grayson.
I first learned of this amazing family through Instagram. I don’t remember how, exactly, but somehow I saw Family Trail Time on Instagram, and I started following them. Looking at their pictures turned into reading their blog, which turned into a direct message here and there, which turned into emails back and forth, which turned into me having the absolute honor of helping spread their story.
Grayson, the youngest, has terminal infantile Tay-Sachs disease.
Like me, you probably have never heard of that before. Essentially, it is a disorder where a missing enzyme causes cells to become damaged, resulting in a progressive neurological disorder. As time passes, the child loses abilities, and eventually lose muscle function, mental function, and sight.
Grayson was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease shortly after his first birthday.
Unless you’ve been given a terminal diagnosis for your own child, you really cannot know the anguish that ensues. But despite the hopeless situation that the Kemp family suddenly found themselves in, after Grayson’s diagnosis, his family chose to keep living. They chose joy. Under absolutely impossible circumstances, they chose to love their little boy and give him the absolute best while they can still spend time together.
They choose to live each day with intention.
I think what drew me to their story initially, was that in every picture I saw of the Kemp family, they were hiking. Even though Grayson is almost three and a half years old, which is quite the weight to carry while hiking, Chris and Felicia strap him in a carrier, grab their other son (six years old), and hit the trail.
“We do it because hiking with his family is the one things we’ve always known he enjoys.”
Grayson has never been able to walk, but his mom and dad continue to explore the world with him. They recently finished a road trip all up California and through Oregon, as part of Grayson’s Make a Wish. Their Instagram, Facebook, and blog were flooded with beautiful pictures of their family showing Grayson as much of the world as they could possibly show him.
The Kemp family did not have a choice, whether or not their son would receive his diagnosis. They did not choose the path they are on. Just like many of us, we would have done anything in order to have a choice that meant our child would outlive us. I admire the Kemp family, for their endless determination to help their little boy see as much of the world as he can, to show him with every step of their hiking, that he is worth it, that he matters, that he is loved beyond comprehension.
I want to share their story with you, because I believe it is powerful. I believe it is a reflection of how we should live every day. I believe it is an example of the power of love. And I believe that it is important to share stories like this in order to let the families of little ones like Grayson know that their child matters, that their child has changed the world, and that their child will not be forgotten.
This is the epitome of what I want the Picking Poppies series to be about. To spread the love and kindness, to show that there is hope in the middle of what may seem like hopeless situations, and to allow legacies such as this to continue.
I would like to share with you some words from Grayson’s mom, Felicia, who was so gracious to answer some questions for me (my questions are in bold, her answers are in italics).
I so admire the way you have chosen to live, honor your son, and live life to the fullest with him during his precious time with you. Can you speak a little bit as to the process from diagnosis to deciding to live the way you have chosen to live?
There wasn’t a decided process for us. The way we’ve always chosen to live was put on hold for about a month or two after diagnosis. We couldn’t sleep at night, and we got into GO mode to look into clinical trials, get Grayson on MediCal, etc. Once systems were in place to better support him, we went on with our life as the Kemp family, just now with some additional modifications.
How old is Grayson now?
Grayson turned three on March 18, 2017. I’m honestly surprised that we may actually see his half birthday.
The heart of the Kemp family is beautiful. In the middle of circumstances where no would would blame them to just give up hope, give up living, they continue to strive to live each day to its fullest. They do all they can to give Grayson the best life they could possibly give him, regardless of its length. That, my friends, is a beautiful way to live.
Every month, as part of the Picking Poppies Challenge, I encourage everyone to go out of their way to live a day with intention and kindness. This can be done in an infinite amount of ways, but just for ideas, here are a few ways you can participate in the Picking Poppies Challenge:
- Change your Facebook picture to a poppy (your own, or one from our original post) in order to spread awareness of Picking Poppies, so others can participate as well.
- Leave a message in the comments to Felicia and Chris, if their story has impacted you in any way, or just to let them know their sons’s story has been heard. You can leave them a message in the comment section of this post, or head over to Felicia’s blog and leave a comment there. You have no idea the impact it can have for parents in situations like this, to know their child is known. You can also leave messages by going to Contact Me, and I will make sure Felicia and Chris get them (these will not be displayed publicly).
- Participate in our NTSAD Day of Hope Raffle in Honor of Grayson Kemp on September 16th by purchasing raffle tickets (as mentioned by Felicia, regarding how you can support their family)
- Participate in a #hikeforgrayson
- Donate back to school supplies to a school near you
- Be kind when it isn’t convenient
Thank you all, my friends, for taking time to read a small bit of Grayson’s story. Thank you for taking the time to participate in Picking Poppies.
Please comment with stories of how you chose to participate in the Picking Poppies challenge, so we can see how Ayden’s story continues to impact lives.