On April 1, 2017 we buried my mother. On April 2, 2017 we received a call telling us the house of our grandson Brian Emerson and his wife Ashea Graves Emerson had caught fire and burned taking the lives of their 2 year old daughter, Ellaina Constantine Marie Emerson, and their 3 month old son Keith Francis Emerson. Our world crashed all around us in the few seconds it took to tell us.

    We were in Pensacola, Florida where my mother lived. We had a long drive back to Illinois. We’ve made the trip many times, but this was the longest and hardest trip of all.

    Elaina was a little spitfire; hell-on-wheels I guess you could say. She had two speeds – on and off. Mostly on.

    She was just staring to ‘grow up’. She was talking more plainly, potty-training herself (ok she had help), the usual stuff 2 year olds are doing. She was pretty good at feeding herself, although if we’d had an inside dog it would’ve been well fed.

    She had a heart melting smile with eyes that twinkled bright as day. She had a way of crinkling her nose that made you wonder what devious plan she was devising. But her laugh and giggles would make you smile even if you were in another room and could hear her.

    For no bigger than she was, she thudded through the house when she ran from room to room to make sure she wasn’t missing out on anything; or just to bother you a bit. She kept tabs on us all.

    When she would eat, if I was passing by her she would pat the seat next to her and say “Paw-paw!” “Paw-paw!” If I didn’t sit she would stretch it out “Pawwww-pawww?” all the while patting the seat next to her. How could you NOT sit down?

    Everyone said “She has you wrapped around her little finger.” No way was my reply. After all, I did make her mind. Most of the time.

    Keith was brand new at only three months. We were still getting to know “Little Man”. At first Elaina said to put him back but she soon warmed up to him. She loved her little brother. She wanted to help with him whenever she could.

    Keith was getting to the point where he wanted to be up more and in bed less. He seemed to love to just sit in the crook of your arm and watch. EVERYTHING. He looked like a little human video recorder. He would watch anything he could get in his field of view. He seemed to never blink, at least to me, thus the recorder analogy. If something caught his eye he would switch to whatever it was and watch it for a while. If it wasn’t interesting he’d go back to what he was watching before.

    He had a sort of crooked little smile that made his eyes light up too. He loved to be able to ‘talk’ to us and look around. Like I said, he was new and growing on us.

    I love my wife, kids, and grand kids to the moon and back. But Elaina, this little pixie, MOST DEFINITELY had Paw-paw wrapped up. She took my heart and soul and kept it with her. I can’t explain the connection we seemed to have, but I was all in. She had Paw-paw and she knew it.

    I didn’t until I realized she wouldn’t be coming to visit anymore. No more eating Vanilla Wafers or eating raisins out of the round container. But most of all, there would be no more drinking from Paw-paw’s 64oz. Mt. Dew mug with the extended straw of three singles taped together. For some reason she HAD to have a drink almost every time she passed it by. It was almost as big as she was but she was bound and determined she was going to hold it by herself one day; and one day she did. She stopped by and took it off my desk before I knew it and took a long swig from the straw then put it back and smiled for a second. Then off she went again.

    Elaina and Keith, Paw-paw knows you are with Jesus now and He is taking very good care of you. I know you have no pain or suffering and are watching over us and will meet us at Heaven’s gate if we are blessed enough to make it. I look forward to that day to see your smiles again and give you a hug and a kiss.

    I can’t begin to explain how deep the pain and hurt is that you are no longer with us in body and can only hope God will help ease it someday. I never knew how many tears could fall from two eyes, but I am learning.

    I see you in everything I see which makes it difficult to get through the day without shedding what seems to be a million tears. There is a void in my being that was filled by your presence when you were with us. I will have to make do with knowing you are in my heart and watching over us. And to know that you are in the arms of the Lord.

    My sweet babies it is going to be rough without you, but know that none of us here will ever forget you and we will always love you to infinity and back again.


Your loving Paw-paw