My husband comes from a large extended family, so it is not unusual for us to be at some kind of celebration: a wedding, a birthday party...just about any occasion that involves shenanigans and laughter. This particular story takes place at a graduation party. I was playing with my daughter, Loretta, in the soft green grass and admiring her chunky 1 year old thighs in bright pink flamingo leggings. It wasn’t long before a beautiful pregnant woman came and joined Loretta and I. Melissa was married to my husband’s cousin and expecting their 3rd child. I love seeing pregnant mamas and their round bellies. I especially love seeing a mama like Mel, because I know it took a lot of courage for her to be growing their family. You see, Mel and her husband, Royce, lost their first born son, Levi, at birth. The story will break your heart. But this little family continued to grow and inspired us all to never give up. Mel was the only one who knew the gender of their 3rd baby who was growing in her tummy that summer. But the way she watched Loretta and made several comments about her Baby Gap pink flamingo attire, I just knew she was having a girl. Sure enough, the next summer, I received this note from Mel:
“Hi Kate! I had to share this pic even though it's terrible cause she doesn't hold still!!! I bought this after Etta was wearing it at Becky’s grad party last summer!! Letty is such a chunk she almost didn't get to wear it!!”
At the time, I didn’t realize what great mountain Mel was climbing when she wrote me that message. Earlier that spring, she had been diagnosed with liver cancer. The prognosis was not good. But life continued and her children were growing and she was dressing her daughter in adorable, happy, pink flamingo outfits.
8 short months after I received this photo of Letty, Mel went to be with Jesus in heaven. When I read the opening line of her obituary, “Melissa Marie DeYaeger, age 37, of Royalton, passed away with dignity and grace...” I remembered the heart + angel wing tattoo she had on her upper back in memory of her son, Levi. As scared as any mother and wife would be to leave her family behind, I couldn’t help but think of how peaceful she also must have felt to be going to see her son up in heaven.
When the INDY Foundation approached me to create a t-shirt design in Melissa's honor, I found my self in my studio painting this heart. I had a photo of Mel’s tattoo in front of me as I created it and could not get the word “grace” out of my mind. Ephesians 2: 8-9 reads “For it is by grace you have been saved.”
So friends, whatever trials you are going through in this life, take a deep breath, envision pink flamingos and remember that grace wins.
XOXO ~ Kate Fischer
Little Fisch Designs