"Our Little Trooper"

"Our Little Trooper"
"Let me live, that I may praise you!" Psalm 119:175

Saturday, March 7, 2015

This is what love looks like... for better or for worse, in sickness and in health... in heaven or on Earth.

This past Friday night I received a text from a friend, one that changed the course of my evening, but changed the course of her whole life.  The text read, "Doctor just came and said... hours...to days".

I cannot describe to you the emotions that came over me.  My first thoughts were sadness, devastation, realization (we all knew this was coming), and honestly, a little bit of anger or at least questioning... Why should a 4 year old have to leave this Earth so soon? Why should we have to say goodbye to those much younger than ourselves?  Why should I have to call my son down and ask him, "Do you want to go see her, or do you have peace?  Do you feel like you have said your goodbyes?"  I mean seriously, asking an 8 year old, if he has said his goodbyes to his 4 year old friend...it simply did not seem real or fair. 

All I could do was pause, breathe, pray, breathe again, and remind myself.  Whatever I was about to go through with Rowan, explaining this all to him, was nothing like my friend Jen was going through with her daughter Jalene.  So my thoughts shifted.  They became less about myself and Rowan, and ALL about the Salinas family.  "What can I do?" , "How can I make this even remotely better?", "Where will my time be best served?"

Weeks ago I had arranged for a photographer to come take family portraits this coming Saturday for Jalene and her loved ones.  However, when her Mom told me on Friday that there may just be hours left, I knew...I knew we had to make those photos happen sooner.  I knew I couldn't get the photographer there so late at night on a moments notice, but I also knew that these pictures had to happen, and had to happen immediately.  I asked Jen, "Do you want us to come tonight?"  After talking to her own mother, she decided, "Yes, we don't want to miss this opportunity"

I called my own daughter, Zoe, at work and asked her what time she would be done working.  It was a few hours away, but I told her, "She may not have much time.  I will be there waiting to pick you up. I will bring your camera. We don't have much time.  Is that ok?"  Zoe agreed wholeheartedly of course, and that is what we did.  I picked her up at work, after the longest 2 hours of my life (waiting, and praying that Jalene held on), and we headed South to San Antonio, to Jalene's house.  I'm not going to lie, I cried most of the way.  I wanted to get it out of my system... to be strong for their family...to be professional...even though I most certainly am not.

Once we arrived to their home, such a peace came over me though.  This was no longer something Zoe and I just wanted to do for them.  It was obvious that this was something we needed to do for them.  These could be some of the most important photographs of their lives, capturing moments they would cherish forever.  And I have never been more proud of my daughter.  We spent the next 3 hours taking over 500 photographs of sweet, precious Jalene with her family, as they held her hand, kissed her cheek, talked to her, loved on her, and essentially said their own personal goodbyes.  I cannot adequately describe how these moments felt.  They embodied joy and pain.  They were breathtaking and heart wrenching simultaneously.  I've never felt so sad yet so happy at the same time.  I knew that I was witnessing heaven on Earth.

I cannot share the photos that Zoe took, with you.  Those will be given to Jalene's Mom and Dad.  They deserve to see them first, and to share  them when they are ready.  What I do feel I can share with you is a select few candid photos that I took myself with my phone.  They are not professional, high-quality photos, they are just from my camera phone, a few steps back from everything...but I believe they will give you a glimpse of what family means, and what I now believe, Heaven looks like.

Zoe took pictures of multiple generations of family members, one by one, spending their own special moments alone with Jalene.  All ages, from her little brother Joshua to her grandparents and her great grandma. Close members of her family painted her little finger nails and toe nails; her baby brother started pretending to take pictures of Jalene himself, with his pretend camera, saying "Cheese, Jalene".  It was all so touching, despite knowing the gravity and tragedy of the situation.  

When the time is right, their family may decide to share the photos Zoe took, but for now, I pray these simple few that I took with my phone will bless you, give you perspective, and renew your faith in God and Family. 

And if you ever wonder what love looks like...well, this is it...

To close this post, I wanted to share one more uniquely strange yet beautiful photo that I took that blessed evening.  As a mother, I could not help but snap a picture when I saw this special moment between a mother and her fading child.  A funny thing happened though.  Zoe's flash went off right when I snapped my shot...and this was the result.  

This is a completely unedited, wildly overexposed picture, that technically is a mistake shot, one that many may have deleted at first glance.  Zoe's flash could have potentially ruined my shot.  But, I did a double take.  And if you ask me, this is an illustration of motherly love, and what I imagine is going to be the scene when Jen is reunited in Heaven with Jalene.

Sweet, strong, Jalene fought through the night and has continued to hold on still.  Your prayers for peace and comfort for this angel, and for strength and peace for her family, are so very important during this difficult time, and are appreciated more than you know.

I myself received the blessing of my life near the end of this evening.  I was kissing Jalene on her forehead, saying goodnight, telling her the kisses were from Rowan, when she opened her eyes. 

I told her I loved her, and that I needed to take a kiss back to Rowan from her.  She lifted her frail little hand to her lips and blew a kiss to me for Rowan.  Tears streamed down my cheeks. I thanked her and told her I loved her again, to which she whispered, "Love you". My heart nearly burst.  I asked her for one more selfie, and this is it...


Sweet dreams little one...

Thank you for showing us all how to live 
and for your family showing us how to love...

We love you Jalene, our little butterfly!


  1. Your post is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. I read it to the end with tears streaming down my face. I have been following Jalene's story since the beginning of her battle and although I do not know her or her family personally, she's become part of my life. I pray that her family finds peace and strength and I pray for Jalene to be pain-free. Spread your wings sweet baby girl.

  2. This is beautifully yet sad story. God bless you and your daughter for this beautiful deed. You can tell beautiful Jalene enjoyed this. There are no words to describe what one feels for Jalene..she has truly taught us what love is. Smiling thru so much for a baby girl to go thru. God bless you baby girl. You are so beautiful Everybody loves you so much. God bless her mommy and siblings.

  3. God bless you this is so beautiful and how awesome that this family has a friend such as you and rowan so heartfelt and touching that you would share some of these beautiful memories between jalene and her family. And thank you for showing me what love is again .#teamJaleneshakeitoff❤❤❤❤

  4. Thank you for sharing these beautiful moments between Jalene and her family and showing the world what love looks like God bless you and your son rowan.I love you jalene forever in my heart and prayers #TeamJelaneshakeitoff❤❤😞

  5. I cried reading your entire post. Jalene has touched my heart in so many ways, she has made me see life differently.

    I havent had the opportunity to meet her but with jen sharing her through her facebook page jalenes journey I see myself going to her page everyday to see how she's doing.

    Jalene is a special angel that has brought the whole city together and world for that matter.

  6. Beautiful! ❤Thank you for all you've done for Jalene, and for sharing it with the world. Love & Blessings to baby Jalene. ❤

  7. I don't know what to say. Tears are streaming down my face. I have loved this beautiful little girl from afar. Like most others, I thank her wonderful mother for keeping us up to date on her short life. I am going to miss her. She will make a beautiful little angel and do her family proud.

  8. We truly do not a understand all that we are trusted to endure on our journey here...but I do know the Lord is and always will walk us through these painful valleys if we let Him. This was truly a beautiful act of love to photograph this very Holy moment for this family. How I want to see this little Angel healed and pray for her family.

  9. So beautifully written.... This little girl has to be the strongest ive ever known. Watching my husband fight Non Hodgkins Lymphoma was the worst time of my life, but now Ive thought what Jen Salinas is going through, and I couldn't imagine how shes handling watching her baby girl!
    I just know God has his hands over sweet baby Jalene and will walk her into his kingdom when the time is right.
    It will never be understood why or how, but to know Jalene touched the hearts of people across our city, giving us all a different look on life.

  10. Thank you for sharing jalene beautiful story and pictures with us, she has touched my hart and the world's hart, we are continue to pray for jalene.. May God bless y'all. .

  11. My heart is breaking for this little girl I have never met. She has touched my family and I deeply. My husband and I have three beautiful, healthy children. My thoughts and prayers are always w/ Jalene. What a beautiful display of love, faith, hope, grief these pictures are portraying. Thank you to you and your daughter for the beautiful gift you provided for the Salinas family and thank you for sharing your experience w/ us. Jalene is loved and prayed for, by hundreds, probably thousands of people. We love you Jalene and you will be terribly missed, but never forgotten!

  12. May God bless you and your family for being such blessings to others. I will keep Jalene's family in prayer. Love you guys. - La Tonya

  13. I cried as I read Jalene story, I may not know her or her family, but she has become a part of my prayers. She is one brave ,happy, little girl. She has brought out so much love from the community. The pictures you took where awesome. God in his time will be taking Jalene back home, where she will be able to spread her wings and fly. God bless you

  14. God bles you all for your kindess, in sharing this incredible journey with us.My prayers are with you.You surely have done a great job, teaching us about putting others first, and what love and friendship are all about.Thank you.