Child Brings Smiles to Grieving Family

by Donna McCollum

In many ways, Jaylin Brewer is a typical three-year-old enjoying the magic of Christmas. He swings a Santa hat in the air after only briefly wearing it. But it's Jaylin who holds the magic. Hospice of Deep East Texas recognized the unique bond the youngster had with his grandfather, Larry Stripling. His grandson was the sunshine of his passing life.

Jaylin frequently creates smiles by singing, "You Are My Sunshine", a song taught to him by his grandfather. "Jaylin sings the song just like his PawPaw did for him," Jaylin's mother, Sara Stripling explained. "He (Jaylin) had a heart transplant, like, June of 2004." This was shortly after Sara's Dad was diagnosed with Lou Gherig's disease.

Her father lived to see that Jaylin's new heart got him well. That allowed Mr. Stripling to prepare, with the help of Hospice, to say goodbye to his family. Hospice's counselor, Jessica Henderson, said, "I think that was very important for him because family was such an importance to him that he needed to tell them it's OK to let me go."

But his memory is held tight in the hands of Jaylin. He holds a Hospice dove donated in his grandfather's memory. Jaylin knows, "We're gonna hang it on the tree at the mall," which is decorated with more doves and white lights in remembrance of other grandfathers, fathers, and husbands. Jaylin informed, "I'm gonna light it at 7:00." And, when it happens, the family may not have Christmas carols in their mind but, instead, the special tune, "You Are My Sunshine".

Deep East Texas Hospice tree lighting ceremony is Tuesday night at 7 p. m. You'll find the tree right in the middle of the University Mall in Nacogdoches. Entertainment and dove purchases can be found. The doves are $10. Last year, Hospice of Deep East Texas, a nonprofit agency, raised $5,000.