Sunday, April 18, 2010

Life Forever Changed

On March 6 we got a phone call that would forever change my life. Eric received the call after we had crawled in bed and were on the verge of sleep. As I heard a piece of the conversation I new something was wrong. I stood in our doorway and begged Eric to tell me what was going on. He grabbed me and pulled me to our bed as he began to tell me that my best friend had been killed in a car accident. There is nothing that can prepare you for this type of news. After weeping for minutes and grasping at the possibility that this was a nightmare that I would wake up from I asked Eric if he was sure. It was one of those this can't be happening, did I hear him right moments so he called our friend back only to confirm that this nightmare was our reality. The days that followed were something I pray I never have to walk through again!
Leigh Ann was not just a friend but more like a sister that I never had. Eric and I met her and her husband at a softball game in the summer of 1998. We had just moved to Arizona and they were one of the first couples we met. We built a friendship with them and 2 other couples that would be friendships that would represent lives woven together with Christ's love. We walked through major ups and downs of life with these couples over the next years that drew us together as friends and made us cling to our heavenly Father in a new way. We call ourselves the Cabin Club!

My friendship with Leigh Ann was something that just came natural. It was easy and she got me as a women, mom and wife. I couldn't wait to be a mom with her. I still remember the heartbreak when we decided to move back to the Midwest shortly after Alexa as born. I was so excited to be closer to family but I was so sad as I was looking forward to being a mommy with her and now that wasn't going to be a reality. Little did I know that the miles and distance would cause our friendship to grow in a way I would never have imagined. We moved almost 7 1/2 years ago and during that time Leigh Ann and I talked almost every day. Many days we talked for over an hour. We ended up having our 2nd and 3rd babies near the same time. We were glad when our babies were on the same schedule so we could talk while we nursed. We became really good at multi-tasking. I often would save my bathroom cleaning, mopping, dusting, laundry or any other chore I could accomplish while we chatted. We found ourselves sitting outside watching our kids play or ride bike while we talked. We found ourselves saying hold on a minute often during our conversations to tie a shoe, get a snack, help with the bathroom and of course take care of a little discipline issues. We often wondered if we still lived by each other if we just hang out every afternoon instead of spend our afternoons on the phone.
Leigh Ann was such a humble, selfless example to me as a wife, mom and friend. She loved others deeply with Christ's love and loved well. She walked through many ups and downs with me in life. She knew by my voice if I was having a tough day. She knew the things I struggled with as a wife and mom and held me accountable in a gentle, loving way. The week she died she specifically asked me two questions that week about things she knew I was struggling with and was doing her job as a friend to hold me accountable. She laughed with me about the funny things my kids and even husband would do or say. She cried with me at some of the darkest times of my life. Even though we talked so much we were able to encourage each other and tried to encourage each other to keep our priorities straight. She would often say "I have an hour and then I told Bailey I would play a game with him" or I would say "hey in 30 minutes I really should try to get my Bible Study in while the kids nap." I knew I could count on after 30 minutes her saying "Ok go get your Bible Study done now!" She helped me keep my priorities in check!
A couple months ago Eric brought up the idea that we should get rid of our land line and just use our cell phones. It sent a sense of panic through me since we had unlimited long distance for $20 a month. I did not want to reveal the amount of time I actually talked to my friend. So I kept pushing him off. Finally he pushed so I said to him, "If we get rid of our land line you will then know how much Leigh Ann and I actually talk and we both with go broke!" He said, "Do you really think I don't have a clue?" I said, "No, I don't think you probably have a clue how much we talk!" In my mind I thought if he did he probably would have a response on the days that I say I was so busy that I didn't get anything done except still found time to talk to my friend. I have to say I do not regret one ounce of time that I spent on the phone with Leigh Ann. She encouraged and taught me so much about being a wife, mom and daughter of the King! Is the void huge now that she is gone? Yes, and often the days are overwhelming but the memories and time I did have with her are truly a gift, a treasure!
The questions come daily ... why her? Why does her husband have to walk through this? Why do her kids need to grow up without a mommy? Why my friend? I often cry out to God telling him in my mind it doesn't make sense? And yet I believe in a God that is sovereign! I believe in a God that promises his children eternity. I believe in a God that tells us our days are numbered. I believe in a God that has a plan for our life. I find comfort in knowing she had a relationship with Jesus Christ and she stands in his presence as I type this.
Her life and the way she lived it is an inspiration to me. She loved her husband, kids, family, friends, co-workers and others so well!! She was able to love so well because of Christ's love in her that poured out of her! These are the words written about her in her obituary:

Tonkinson, Leigh Ann
Leigh Ann Tonkinson, 35 of Gilbert, passed away on March 6, 2010 as an innocent victim of an automobile accident. Leigh was born in Mesa, AZ on Feb. 5, 1975 to Larry and Peggy Marten. There aren't enough words to tell how sincerely good she was to her husband, children, family, friends, and co-workers. Leigh Ann was a carbon copy of the Proverbs 31 woman. She loved Jesus Christ and through that love was able to love others in a way that will be so deeply missed. Leigh Ann was a graduate of Marcos De Niza ('93) and ASU ('98). She worked as a Nursing Supervisor at Phoenix Children's Hospital and was nominated as Nurse of the Year in 2008. But her biggest joy came from being a wife and mother. We miss you so much Leigh. Much more than our hearts can take. We may never understand why, but we hold close the truth that God is good. Leigh Ann ran the race so well and now she is enjoying Heaven. We all cannot wait to see you again. We love you. Leigh Ann is survived by her husband Greg; sons Caden, and Bailey; daughter Malia; brother Lance (Robin) Marten; and sister Reagan (Jaime) Guzman. Visitation will be held on Thursday, March 11th from 6-8 pm at Falconer Funeral Home 251 W. Juniper Ave. Gilbert, AZ 85233. Funeral Services will be held on Friday March 12th at 10:00 am at The Grove Bible Church, 20105 S Gilbert Rd. Chandler, AZ 85286. Funeral arrangements under the direction of Falconer Funeral Home: www.FalconerFuneral In lieu of flowers, we have established the "Leigh Ann Tonkinson Memorial Fund" for donations that can be made at any Wells Fargo location.

What an honor and inspiration to be described as a carbon copy of the Proverbs 31 woman! She did it so well and with such joy! I pray that her life can and will inspire me and others as wives, mothers and daughters of the King!
The days have been hard, the void is huge! It feels as though you are in a fog and that your life stands still and yet the world continues to move at a rapid pace all around you. I wish there was a handbook on walking through grief and loss. I am walking day by day and sometimes hour by hour. I am so thankful for family and friends that have walked with us, encouraged us and prayed for us.
This blog has become more of a scrapbook of our families journey in life than what I had originally intended it to be. March 6 is part of our journey. It is a part I wish I didn't have to write and yet it is part of our journey. It is a day that will change our lives forever! So after weeks of contemplating of shutting my blog down or just posting about the kids riding bikes today and skipping over March I decided I needed to post about my friend Leigh Ann today. She has played a huge role in who I am as a wife and mom. I pray that her legacy continues to live on in my life. I miss the days were life seemed to be carefree. I miss the days where I don't feel so emotionally drained when I wake up in the morning. Yet I do have so many blessings in my life! I have 3 beautiful children, a wonderful husband, a little boy waiting for us in China, wonderful family and friends. I don't want to look back and regret missing out on blessings in my life. So I am trying to figure out a new norm in the midst of wading through this grief. As I had my camera out today watching the kids master bikes without training wheels with crashes and all Eric and I laughed and I found myself smiling as I took pictures of the kids on their bikes. It was refreshing! I know my friend would want this. She would want me to find joy in life, in my kids and husband and in the very fact that she stands in the presence God! I know the days, months and years to come with be hard, the void with remain and yet on this journey I pray that I can continue to see God's blessings amidst the pain!


Flip-flop Mama said...

I am so sorry Julie. I have been praying for you.

Kaylor Kastle said...

There are no adequate words still...{{hugs}}.

Shans said...

Dear Julie, I can only imagine the pain of losing Leigh and how much you deeply miss her! You and her family have been in my prayers. I am so sorry for you all!! I am glad you recently found a reason to laugh. Watching the joy your 3 little blessing can powerful :)

Thinking of you!!

Carey said...

Oh Julie I am so sorry! Praying for you. Your family. Her family. Thank you for sharing your heart.

Kathy said...

Hi Julie,
I saw that you posted this before I left for my trip but I didn't have time to carefully read it so I saved it until I had some uninterrupted time.

I'm sure this was really difficult to write...such an incredible loss. But what a beautiful tribute to your best friend. I'm sure she would be so honored by your words.

I'm continuing to pray for you and Leigh Ann's family. I'm so sorry that you have to walk this road. I'm so grateful for your strong faith--it will see you through.


Corey said...


I am writing because we are now just one year from the date of this tragic event. I think that we briefly had some communication last year, however I really don't remember...

Anyway, my name is Corey. I was the driving down that same road as all of these confluences of fate began to run together. In my car there was myself, my father, my ex-fiance, my 4 year old son, and her 2 boys. Leigh Ann was maybe 5 seconds ahead of us...

Seconds...that is how long it took to both take life and change so very many. We saw it happen...we were there... We were the first ones on the scene. Fire, police, and ambulance hadn't even been called yet...It was my father whom was walking on and laying in the puddles of gasoline that had spilled into the roadway. He tried to save her, and in some way we all tried to save her...but it was too late...

There is a sense of "survivor's guilt" that stems from that night, and although it has diminished with time, I am failry certain that it will never go away...

I will never understand why God chose to put her those 5 seconds ahead of us, but for some reason he did... I will be eternally grateful and respectful of just being alive.

I know that time doesn't only lessens the intensity of the pain. I've learned more about myself and life in this past year than I had in my previous 30.

You, your friends, and all others that were impacted by this tragedy have always been and always will remain in my prayers. I hope you are well.


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