In 2010, on Walker & Eli's 1st birthday week and 1-year anniversary of Eli's passing, Project E.L.I. had its state premier. A video produced by local name, Julie Mayberry, it has now been released to over 2,000 nationwide OB/GYN clinics. We also found out we were expecting another child on Eli's 1-year death anniversary, quite a surprise to all. A seemingly flawless pregnancy that was just enough to put us at peace with the situation given the day we found out: 8/8/10.
In the past 4 years, we have spoken at bereavement conferences, traveled and spoken for Donate Life Arkansas, hospital inservices, served on a number of hospital panels, been active with the March of Dimes. We now serve on the UAMS NICU Family Advisory Committee & March of Dimes Board of Directors. We have raised over $10,000 in Eli's name for various charities, the biggest being the I Can! Arts & Resource Center, in which holds our heart forever. The void we have when we look into Walker's eyes will never be filled. He's 4 years old now. He's in the age where he's beginning to understand and ask questions. Its that dreaded age of understanding that I've put my brakes on for since the twins were born. It's definitely just part of the process. No one can fix it for us. This is what God has set forth for our family and we just pray that someone, somewhere in the past 4 years has been positively impacted by Eli's name, his life, his story, or by Walker's precious personality that yes, life does continue on.
Eli's quilt square now sits on one of the Donate Life Arkansas/ARORA quilts. We feel very connected to ARORA and some of the staff members there. We pull thru each day knowing that Eli's life, although short, is indeed a gift out there. Much of our peace today comes from his gift of life donation.
(Fall 2010, UAMS presented a genetics inservice on Eli and Spina Bifida in Las Vegas, NV.)
In 2011, our dear friend Crystal Goss founded NESS Bags . Part of her proceeds from her "Eli" bag go to the Project. E.L.I. Documentary to keep DVDs in production.
The beginning of 2012 brought walls up at the I Can! Arts & Resource Center. And in this project, our family was brought out to 'christen' the walls with our favorite bible verses or whatever we wanted to write on it. Our spot was picked out by Walker and is located in the dance studio part of the center. Definitely something we'll always treasure. Our verse:
Every good and perfect gift is from the father above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting wind. -James 1:17
We believe that Eli was perfect. Humans say he was 'imperfect' because of his spina bifida. Society says its ok to abort our children if a malformation is determined in-utero early on in our pregnancies. My God says its a life no matter how small. And Eli was perfect formed, perfectly made. He changed our life. Our arts center had its grand opening in June 2012, where we also launched Eli's Garden out front.
Eli's Garden is located in front of the I Can! Arts & Resource Center in Little Rock, AR. It is enclosed by engraved bricks of other babies/children who have passed away too soon. This is a visual area with benches, beautiful trees, green grass and is connected to the current soccer field for special needs children and buddies. In this one spot of the city, no parent has to be fearful of their child not fitting in. No child is left behind. EVERY child matters at the ICARC.
Fall 2013 brought the March of Dimes Arkansas Signature Chef's dinner where we served as the Ambassador Family to honor Eli & Walker's life. We were surrounded by great chefs, wonderful family & friends, and some of our medical team members for the twins. It was an evening full of joy as we were able to share their story and once again, say his precious name to all who would listen. That night was for Eli. You can view our video testimony produced by the March of Dimes producer, Tyler Tarver, here: http://vimeo.com/
It was at this point that Jesse and I were really struggling with some decisions. Decisions to help us move forward and what we wanted within our family unit. And Jesse accepted a job out of state, away from everything we've ever known. But I knew that if he never gave it a try, he'd never know what that was like. It broke our hearts to venture out away from our families and away from our son who's grave I kept up nearly every week. But we felt God's pull to do it. We were beginning to feel smothered and needing some refreshing. Let me tell you, it was a smart direction and I owe our God a lot of thanks for enabling us to be able to pull away from all things. I truly believe it's revived us and we have found a whole new outlook on a few things very important to us and our marriage, and especially our children. We love each other and we love our babies. We will get home soon. But in the mean time, we're thriving in an environment that we are able to close another chapter and make a bigger decision.
During our transition out of state, I became involved with a non-profit called Molly Bears. Molly Bears makes weighted teddy bears the weight of the baby (12 months or younger) whom has passed away. I'm finding it as a healthy release and wonderful way to honor our son. I'm fulfilled with this non-profit and hope to volunteer for them for a very long time.
(Winter 2013 - Arkansas State Capital - Spoke to lawmakers for the March of Dimes)
So now, we are looking at the biggest Eli honor yet: The 2014 New Years Day Donate Life Rose Bowl Parade float. Eli will be one of 75 floragraphs from all over the United States on the float. Eli's photo will be shown nation-wide and we are being flown to Pasadena first hand to witness something so incredible. We could not be prouder right now. But this is also a point to where we will close our chapter. After the Rose Bowl float, we will venture on a new McGinley chapter which will need a lot of prayer. I will need to refocus my priorities on this new chapter. It will never be that we've forgotten Eli or have given him up. But with Eli's angelic blessing and the help of our families, we will carry him with us. Of course this blog will not end. I will continue to blog on this new journey, as I know that's just as important as our original McGinley Baby Journey that started in 2008 as we fought so hard to start our family after our first miscarriage.
Jesse & I just find that this is a point of new beginnings for us and a chance to move forward. Our Team Eli tshirt fundraiser thru the 21st of October will be our last Team Eli tshirt fundraiser. If you would like to order one, please go to http://www.booster.com/teameli .
You know, there has been a lot of support from you guys, a lot of prayer, and a lot of new friendships that have blossomed from this journey of 5 years. We have lost a few great friends thru this but also have gained life-long relationships with people that we would have never met had it not been for the infertility or loss of Eli. Granted we would give anything to bring our baby boy back, we couldn't have asked for a better way to grieve our way thru this. And in the end, we have been virtuous and stronger people. Thank you all for all of the love, support, and help within the past 4 years.