Nearly seven years ago, Lindsey was just 14 and a high school freshman and Leah was 11 when their mom, , died following an extended illness and a double lung transplant.
Today, Lindsey is in her senior year at Auburn University, engaged to be married, and Leah is a freshman at the University of Georgia, having fulfilled their mom’s wish of graduating from Brookwood High School. Their mother always wanted to make sure they were in the best schools, according to Lindsey.
“She wanted Leah and me to be happy more than anything,” Lindsey said. "I think it would bring her so much joy to know that we are!”
“It was really weird right after she died,” she added. “It was very hard to come home. I always expected she would be sitting in her rocking chair as I walked through the front door. I had to remind myself that she wouldn’t be there. When something good in gymnastics happened or I heard a good story, I would think to myself ‘I can’t wait to tell my mom.’ It would hit me that I couldn’t tell her.”
Leah remembers just starting middle school when her mother was in the hospital. She missed the first month of sixth grade and parts of October and November because of her mother's illness.
"It was difficult right after she died," said Leah, "but my family was really close."
Lindsey recalled her father's reaction after their mother's death.
“[He] would have laid down his life for Leah and me. He put all of his needs on hold,” she said.
But it was their faith that ultimately got them through the trying times.
“I wanted to be angry with the Lord, but there’s no way I could be. That was the only thing that kept me together,” Leah said.
She began attending LUG at in seventh grade and progressed “from sadness to joy to more like understanding."
“Mom was strong in her faith,” Lindsey said. “I realized a couple of years ago that I borrowed faith from her when she was sick, but when she was gone I had to make my faith my own.
“I was angry with God. I didn’t understand how He could let something like that happen to her. I went through a ministry process called Sozo. It’s incredible – a listening prayer process. Through that I realized that we live in a fallen world. That it wasn’t the Lord’s desire for her to die. I learned that He wasn’t the cause of it, but He rescued me from it."
Despite their loss, Leah, an accomplished equestrian, continued riding, jumping and showing her horse, Kazz, and Lindsey spent about 25 hours a week practicing gymnastics as a top level gymnast. During her junior year of high school, Lindsey met Josh Warren, whose father had died of a heart attack the year before.
“We went through the mourning process together,” Lindsey said.
They continued to date through college, Lindsey at Auburn, her mom and dad's alma mater, and Josh at Columbus State University, and will be married in June.
Lindsey will graduate with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies.
“Hopefully, I’ll work with parents and children in a hospital setting as a child life specialist, preparing them and helping them cope,” she said.
Through play therapy, she’ll help the children understand why they’re there in terms they’ll understand, she explained, noting that she’s currently applying for an internship.
“It’s been hard getting engaged and planning my wedding without her,” Lindsey said. “I’ve had a couple of dreams where I’ve been at my wedding and she’s been sitting in the back row and she looks so healthy and so beautiful so I know she’ll be there."
Leah believes that her mother would be proud of her, from her accomplishments in horseback riding to the person she is today.
"Without her passing away, I wouldn’t have the church I’m in. I wouldn’t have met the same people, but I do miss my mom every day. Everything happens for a reason,” she said.
“Now I’m at UGA, completely loving life. I love it here,” Leah said.
Majoring in dietetics, she said, “The Lord put a tiny thought in my head that He might want me to go to Africa and help people get their health up.”
“I remember that mom made the most out of every single day," she added. "Her days were difficult and she loved life every day despite the circumstances. That’s what keeps me going."
“The whole time my mom was sick, she was the strongest person you’ve ever met. She didn’t complain or get upset. She just made the best out of everything. That’s what we’ve had to do these past several years,” Lindsey said.
By their own words, it's evident that Delaine’s daughters have followed her example and thrived. I have to believe that DeLaine is smiling down from heaven with pride at the family she left behind.