Kaleeya was twenty months old when her daddy died. She was just a little thing. She had always been really advanced for her age—except for walking—and was wise beyond her years. We always said she had an old soul. It seemed like she knew things we didn’t know, but she just hadn’t quite learned how to communicate them all yet. She and Emmett had a sweet relationship. She was a bit of a daddy’s girl.
My friend Kim called the day after Emmett died asking for some of his clothing. She is an amazing seamstress, and she explained to me that she wanted to make a blanket from his clothes. It was a perfect idea. I carefully went through each drawer and closet and picked only clothes that had good memories tied to them: the shirt he wore when he proposed, his favorite summer shorts he always wore at Bear Lake, and some of the kids favorite t-shirts. Every piece of clothing put into the pile to go to Kim had some sort of special memory or meaning for us.
Amazingly, Kim showed up a day later with a stack of blankets, one for me, and one for each of the kids. She shared with me how she had gone to the store to buy some fabric before she picked up the clothes. She got some odds and ends to sew together the pieces of his shirts. She had planned on making just one, big blanket. She said that as she laid it all out on her floor that night, it was as if everything just fell into place. She had exactly what she needed for six blankets, and the pieces of clothing all matched up with the pieces of fabric she had purchased. She said she had never worked so efficiently in her life, and that she was given power beyond her abilities to put together everyone’s blankets.
The blankets were amazing. She laid them out in front of us and identified which blanket was for each one of us. She had felt impressed that each individual blanket was made for a specific person in our family. We sat admiring them in my living room. My brothers and sisters and parents were all sitting around when the kids came in to see their new “Daddy Blankets.” Each child was so excited to see them and instantly fell in love with his or her blanket—all the kids, that is . . . until I got to Kaleeya. I held up her blanket and started to explain what it was. She got an angry look on her face and ran over and punched it a few times. “Daddy?” she said. “I don’t want it!” I knelt down beside her. “Kaleeya, this is a blanket made out of Daddy’s clothes. Kim made this one just for you.” She repeated herself, “I don’t want it . . . Daddy gone . . . Mommy cries. Mommy sad. I don’t want it.” I tried for a few minutes to get her to see how precious this blanket would be for her, but she didn’t want anything to do with it. I didn’t understand. She wasn’t even two years old. It didn’t make sense that she would be angry at him or even understand that he was gone.
I thought back to the weeks before he died, back to the times when Emmett would get angry at me and then leave. I would go to my closet to try to calm myself down—away from the kids. While all the others would carry on playing . . . Kaleeya would come and find me. She would come and wipe my tears. She would ask me what was wrong. She would hold me as I cried. I never had any clue that she could understand my pain enough to be upset at Emmett. She saw me cry because of him . . . and now all I did was cry because he was gone. In her mind, it seems, she was mad at him for making me sad. I assumed that she had figured out that my tears were all his fault.
For a few nights, I kept trying to push the blanket on her, almost begging her to sleep with it. She always said she didn’t want it and added, “Mommy cries.” Each night was the same. I would tell her how special it was, and she would push it away.
After putting the kids to bed one night I went downstairs. I was sitting on the couch and within a few minutes, I heard quiet sobbing. I wasn’t sure which room it was coming from so I tiptoed up the stairs and listened quietly at each door. At Kaleeya’s door, I discovered that she was the source of those tears. I opened her door and walked in the room towards her. I couldn’t see her face until I got closer. She was reaching her arms out and sobbing, “Daddy . . . I sorry. Hold me Daddy. Hold me Daddy. I sorry Daddy . . . I happy now . . . Please come back . . . I hold you . . . I need you hold me, Daddy.” I looked in the direction that her hands were extended, and there on her dresser was a picture of her and Emmett. It was an oversized photo that my friend Gaby had blown up for the funeral. I picked up the picture and grabbed her Daddy Blanket from the side of her crib, then I scooped her up and sat down with all three on my lap. For the first time, I noticed that the shirt he was wearing in the picture was the same piece of clothing that was sewn into her Daddy Blanket.
She was still sobbing to the picture. “Daddy died. He gone.” I said, “I know baby. I am so sorry. Mommy is here.” “My daddy in heaven and I want him to hold me, Mommy. I need him to come and hold me.” Now she was almost begging the picture to come to life. With a lump in my throat, I told her how much her daddy loved her, but that he wasn’t here and he wasn’t going to be coming back. Then I held up the Daddy Blanket. “Daddy isn’t going to hold you tonight, but your Daddy Blanket was sewn by Angels so he can be wrapped all around you.” I wrapped my baby girl in her daddy’s clothes, and rocked her. We rocked and we cried together, wishing we could understand why a blanket was all that was left of the smile that stared back at us from the photograph.
Our little ones are holding their hands out to us . . . begging for us to hold them and to see them as the precious little jewels they are. All around us, people are reaching out for something. Waiting to be forgiven. Waiting to feel love. Our wives are silently waiting for us to look them in the eyes and tell them they are enough. Our husbands need to hear how grateful we are for them. In one way or another, we are holding our hands out for someone to hear our cries . . . waiting to feel complete from the love we need someone else to show us. But sometimes, those words and that love we seek, is not ever going to come. Whether from death, or pure selfishness, we may never hear or feel that love we need so desperately.
I wasn’t what Kaleeya wanted that night, but I got to give her what she needed. She needed to feel like she was safe and important to him. She craved to feel the love she had lost. I was a poor replacement for the man she needed to hold her, but Heavenly Father sent me in his place. Emmett wasn’t ever going to come back to fill that void . . . but that night, I was lucky enough to have the chance to try.
As you look around . . . watch for the hands reaching out for you. Put down your phones and enjoy the pure excitement of sliding down the slide at the park. Put your computers away and build a block tower . . . just so you can hear them giggle when they knock it over. Next time your husband walks in that door . . . throw your arms around him and let him know how grateful you are for all that he does do for you. When your woman walks in asking if her outfit looks ugly . . . let her know how stunning she is. Look into the eyes of everyone who speaks to you . . . and less into the screens that consume your thoughts. Search for the hearts that need your time. Seek for the souls who are literally begging for someone to notice them. Like our Savior, find the one who is lost . . . and lead that person back to where he or she feels safe and loved.
Kim's story of making the blankets