Sunday, August 11, 2013

Deanna Day '13.

So shine bright
You and I
We're beautiful like diamonds in the sky

Eye to eye
So alive
We're beautiful like diamonds in the sky

Shine bright like a diamond. . . 

~ Rihanna

I am chuckling to myself even as I think of it. 8/11. Deanna's birthday. Can I just say that Deanna Draper absolutely LOVED her birthday? OMG. Did she ever.


Not in that obnoxious way where you expect the whole world to stop and drop all that they're doing to come to your umpteenth party or suffer the wrath of your hairiest of eyeballs. Nope. See, she loved her birthday but in that simple way. Like where she always told anyone who was expecting a baby anywhere even close to August 11 that they should be induced on August 10. And if it was a girl? She had the perfect name suggestion:


Ha ha ha ha. If I had a dollar for every time I heard that. Oh my goodness. And would you believe that five years ago today Deanna finally had that dream come true for her in the very best way? One of her very best of the best BFFs had a daughter on August 11. I can't even lie, I laughed out loud when I heard that Nikki had actually delivered on that day. Because we ALL knew how over the moon Deanna would be at the news. No, Nikki didn't knight her with her dear friend's moniker but just the fact that finally after all of these years of making that joke that that sweet baby girl came on 8/11 was gift enough.


So many kind people were thinking of our family this weekend. That includes a lot of you reading here so before I say anything else, please know that your thoughts and prayers were felt. They were. Like your warm fuzzies floated straight from your hearts and right into all of ours. And because of that, it was mostly wonderful. Sure, we had a few fleeting sunshowers but mostly, our hearts were filled with gladness for knowing and loving Deanna.

And so. I'll tell you about the weekend, okay?

Friday was pretty awesome. That morning, I welcomed Small Group Delta into my home for our session. There's just something magical to me about that first time I welcome any of my students into my home. Particularly my small groups, though.

Anyways. This session explored our backgrounds and who we are. This has always been one of my favorite SG assignments because I think it lays a lot of the foundation for the group. And I should thank my blog-friend Ann Imig who hipped me to this little exercise that we used that day. You may or may not recall the post I put up a couple of years ago called "Where I'm from?" That post was inspired by a fun version of it that I read on Ann's awesome blog. (Not to mention the hair version of "Where I'm from" that came later. Ha.)

So yeah. We had every member of our small group do their own version of it and read it aloud. And we listened quietly and respected each word. Then when they finished, we asked each other questions. Things like, "What was it like when you lived in India?" or "You're a twin?!" And all of that was wonderful. It was.

But after I read my piece, I was asked a very simple question. "Do you have any brothers and sisters?" And that's when I realized that this group was new to me so didn't know. I mean, how could they know? Yeah. So I told them, first, what I always say now which has become my safe answer:

"I am one of four."

Which is totally true. And usually I will say something quickly when this happens but in that non-heavy way that doesn't feel awkward. But this time I recognized that I was with people that would become a part of my family. I needed them to know that, yes, I am one of four but one of those four was Deanna.

And so. I showed them her picture and told them of her departure. But mostly I introduced them to her. That made me weep. Softly and quietly I wept. And my new family members were patient and endearing with that moment. They were. I told them that her birthday was coming up and that I missed her. And they got it. They did.

I'm so thankful for that. I am.

That was the first time I cried this weekend. And the first real time that thoughts of the Deanna Day really welled up in my soul.

Later that evening, I spent time with my friend and former Grady doctor, Frieda. Saturday was the 40th anniversary of the day "Free-Free" was born. And since I had some important plans for personal reflection on Saturday, I spent time with her on Friday night instead.

This actually honored my sister because Deanna would have made sure to do something to let a special friend know how important they are during a time like that. Even in the epicenter of other things happening in her own life she always had this way of giving your a piece of her--especially on your big days.

So that was really, really good, too.

On Saturday morning, we spent time with my dad. I talked to him for a half hour on Skype. I looked at his face and studied his expressions. Then I felt at peace because he looked okay. Like okay in that way that isn't necessarily okay, just not really different. There will always be a piece of my parents that will forever be brokenhearted. And it looks like for Dad that this is more a perennial thing than something that spikes up on certain days.

I don't know.

Let me take that back. Maybe the best thing to say is that he looked good. And I know for sure he was happy when we got off because those grandsons read to their grandfather in loud, proud voices. They know how much he values that so that honored him. They did.

Another reason my Poopdeck was happy was this:

Will flew out to Los Angeles and was there with JoLai. And of course Dad.

So what did they do? They had a big celebration backyard boogie in Deanna's memory. Complete with a taco truck, a bartender, and an old school DJ that happens to be an old friend.

Lots of old friends were there. People who knew and loved my sister. People who still love us all.

They partied with a purpose. They did. And guess what? They even raised donations toward the scholarship in Deanna's name for deserving Tuskegee University students. How cool is that?

There was also another party going on in Atlanta. Yes! We were bi-coastal in our Deanna Day celebrations. I was fortunate enough to gather some friends to run a twilight four-mile race in Deanna's memory.

I knew I wanted to honor her by getting my heart rate up. I was over the moon when I heard about this race on August 10 called the "Light up the Corners" 4 mile Run.  Financial proceeds went to the local YMCA. But the emotional proceeds? I think they went to all of us.

How cool was it that it was a glow-in-the-dark run? And if Deanna didn't embody what it meant to let your light shine, you tell me who does?

My BFF in the whole-wide-world Lisa D. ran with me. She was right by my side the whole time except for the few times that I got super hyped and sprinted a bit.

 My girl (and one of Deanna's tight girls) Crystal H. was there, too. Along with Sonya S. and a few others, we repped for Delta Sigma Theta -- which you KNOW Deanna would love.

Crystal even wore Deanna's favorite number -- three. (That was Crystal's line number, too.) That made me smile for the whole race.

I was super stoked when at the finish line because this was a personal record for me. I have never run under 11 minutes -- this was a first. And I felt GREAT the whole time. Thank you, sissy, for the inspiration. 

Pretty awesome.

I was able to be there because my other big sissy, Frannie (also my sister-in-law), was kind enough to keep the boys overnight. So thanks for that, sis.

This morning I awoke early to go to church. (Yes, I ran a late run and went to 7:15 service--crazy, I know.) I was feeling good and not even tearful. Until I saw this text.

This is my linesister, Glencia W. She has been training for a triathlon and it was today. And would you believe that she blew up this photo of Deanna and sent me this from her starting line?

Man. My soul just opened up when I saw that. I mean. . . just. . . yeah. That picture--it's so . . .Deanna. And then the whole thing, you know? Glen going through the trouble to do that. And her knowing that it would mean a lot to me to know that she was running and swimming and biking with my sister on her heart.

And Team S.J.G.R. Which really is all about love, too. It is.

I will never, ever forget that gesture for as long as I live. Thank you, my Back--as always, you have my back and I love you. Man, I do.


And I'm sure you're wondering about my mother.  She wanted to mostly be alone-ish. She wanted nothing overly heavy so we honored that. We saw about her and loved on her here in Atlanta and she let us.

Me and the boys in the morning and Frannie and the Draper kids in the afternoon. And my sweet Tounces was okay. She wept some on and off, but honestly? She does that on most days. We gave her space to tell us what she needed. And you know what?

She did.

 After all of that? I just spent time with my main men.  This was my favorite snapshot from today. A reminder of love.


For me, that is what the Deanna Day will always be about. Hearts connecting. Hearts rejoicing. Hearts beating fast from exertion. And just hearts period. 

Yes. It was a busy weekend. And if you ask us why we did all of this? We'll tell you. We did it for love. 

Because that's what she was and always shall be to us. . . . love.

Happy Deanna Day. Please. Let your light shine, okay? 

Now playing. This song is a reminder for JoLai and I. We feel connected whenever we hear it. Here's the post that explains why.


  1. This was a stunning tribute to your beautiful sister. What an amazing family full of love you have. The song, one of my favorites, captures all of this perfectly. Sending you and your family much love, Sweet Jo

  2. Thinking of you and your family today and sending you the kindest, warmest, and gentlest of wishes for a day filled with love and laughter and happy memories. From my vantage point, your sister Deanna is vibrantly and tangibly present in this world, and will always remain so, as she is part of who you are, she has transformed your children, and she will continue to influence and shape generations of your family.

    (Sorry about the possible duplicate post, my first one disappeared as I was attempting to "Publish".)

  3. Thank you for sharing your days with is really all we need!

  4. I was fine until the picture of your mother with her grandsons.
    Now I'm crying. Jeez.
    Please tell your mother that my heart goes out to her especially. And you know why and she will too.
    I wish you all peace. You obviously have the love.

  5. What a beautiful weekend of memory. Thank you for sharing it. xo

  6. It was a wonderful weekend!


    PS- don't forget to get your t-shirt from Will!

  7. August 11th is a special day. It was my grandmother's birthday (we were all hoping my sister would deliver yesterday, but much to everybody's dismay (especially my sister's) she didn't). The four-mile twilight run looks like a lot of fun!

  8. I shed some tears over this post. I'm glad you guys celebrated her so much from coast to coast. ((hug))

  9. Another beautiful post as always.
    Could you provide th info to Deanna's scholarship fund at Tuskegee? I'm sure I'm not the only one who would like to contribute.

  10. Beautiful!! I'm one of those who Deanna completely hyped up to name their baby girl Deanna. I almost did Me and the Hubby settled on Destiny though. Deanna was like...well I'm gonna call her D then close enough! Then she gave that ole laugh of hers that always tripped me out! LOL. I thought about her this weekend, reminisced over her 40th bday party...still have the shot glass.

    I told my hubby, in as country a voice as I could get..."I sho do miss that chile!". I truly do.

    Love all y'all!



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