Meet Maggie & Another Leyna

About the time Leyna was a year old, I remember reading a comment on my Facebook page from a woman named Leyna. It was the first time I “met” someone else with that name. It was so strange how we connected. She followed a blog/photographer friend of mine from Austin, who at some point linked to me. Leyna clicked through and saw that I have my own little Leyna, who I affectionately called Leyna-bug- the same nickname her mom still has for her.

We struck up an internet friendship of sorts, mostly consisting of comments back and forth on my FB page, on this blog, and on Instagram. She had a baby shortly before I had Lowell. Her middle child is the same age as Kendall, and she has an older daughter.

It’s stupid of me to think I know everything, or even very much about this woman. But when she emailed me last week, I literally caught my breath and held back the tears as I read. I was not prepared for what she shared. Here’s her email…


Maybe this is crazy since we don’t actually “know” each other, but I feel like I want you to know this about me–I want to share something with you because you are always so honest and amazingly bare with what you share with your readers.  

The beautiful young woman in the picture was killed in a car crash driving to work early one rainy Austin morning.  She left behind an insanely-in-love husband and a beautiful, precious baby girl. . . a baby girl whose first birthday she never got to celebrate.  

She missed the sleepless nights of her baby girl teething molars.  She missed her toddler girl’s first real words and sentences.  She missed getting to finally put that pretty blonde hair in two pigtails.  She missed potty training.  She missed the first real haircut.  She missed the terrible two’s and the oh-my-god terrible three’s. She missed the first successful cartwheel (and all the unsuccessful attempts before).  She missed the first lost tooth. She missed the first day of kindergarten.  She missed the parent-teacher conferences and the getting in trouble at school.  She missed the learning to ride a bike. She missed the first All-A report card in first grade. She’s missed every single All-A report card since then.  And last week she missed watching her blushing baby girl receive her first Valentine’s present from a boy.

But I didn’t miss those moments.  I was there for all of them.  The beautiful young woman’s name was Maggie Williams, and today would have been her 28th birthday. Maggie was my husband’s first wife.  And she was my daughter Karys’ first mom.  And I spent all day today trying to put aside the incredible sadness (and awkward, sporadic interloper feeling and, yes, even sometimes twinges of jealousy) to make this day about celebrating Maggie’s life, rather than focusing on the tragedy of her death.


My husband had to work late and so, for the very first time, this February 19th was all me.  This morning, with an excited smile, I reminded Karys and her little brothers (Jack and Owen) that today was a special day and that after school we would go get flowers as we always do.  Karys and I, with little brothers in tow, made our way to the store (where the kids proceeded to bicker and drive me nuts, of course).  Karys picked out beautiful flowers, and they picked out a dessert together.  In years past we’ve struggled with whether to actually light a birthday candle in our celebration of Maggie’s life. . . but it always seemed too sad at the end when there was no one to blow it out. So tonight we didn’t do that.  I just had excited kiddos who got to eat sweets and stay up past bedtime, and instead of reading our chapter book we read funny anecdotes about Mama Maggie sent by her siblings.  And then we tried to look at photo albums, but Jack was having a past-bedtime meltdown and Owen wasn’t far behind.  It was not the sweet, touching experience I had hoped for all day.

I’d finally had enough and decided to put the boys to bed and asked Karys to look at pictures in her room until I could return.  I kissed my insanely frustrating and sassy and lovable 5-year-old goodnight.  I nursed and rocked my sweet and chubby and needy 12-month-old baby to sleep.  And I went back to my darling and growing-up-so fast (nearly) 8-year-old’s room.  And when I did, all the gratitude and the entire depth of my grief for a young woman I never knew came flooding in.  Is it possible to love and grieve for someone you never knew in life?  I think it is.

But, you know–you have to hold the sad stuff in around kids until it’s the right moment, and it just wasn’t the right moment tonight.  She wanted to tell me about a funny kid at school and make Rainbow Loom bracelets and sprawl out her skinny, tan, muscular legs to look at photo albums.

I spent the rest of the evening taking silly pictures of Karys recreating silly pictures of Maggie (they look SO.MUCH.ALIKE.), and then tucked a super tired girl in her bed way past her bedtime. I lingered as I kissed her smooth hair and reminded myself to breathe her in . . .  When they get bigger it gets easier to forget.  I vow not to forget so often.

Many nights I feel exasperated when she asks for that last sip of water (it’s totally a stalling tactic on top of all the other kid stalling tactics and my days are looooooong and at that point I’m so ready for wine and winding down), but tonight I felt simply gratitude. Gratitude that I am HERE.  I am here to get the last sip of water.  I am here to lose my mind and my patience at the grocery store.  I am here to rock a baby back to sleep in the middle of the night and trudge through homework and do stinky little boy laundry and feel like a chauffeur for dance lessons and soccer practice and change dirty diapers and clean up mess after mess and get impatient with my wonderful husband and then clean some more.  I am HERE.

Today, especially, I am reminded of how very freaking lucky I am, even on the worst days.  I am reminded of how much I love my husband and our three beautiful children . . . my family . . . Maggie’s family . . . my friends.  And I am reminded of how much I really do love my mama friends (those in real life and those on the internets) and this mama journey we’re all on together.  Because we are all here.  Here.

Happy, happy birthday, Maggie Jane.  And. . .thank you.  I am so grateful for and blessed by your life, and all the love it’s brought into mine.


Leyna was just reaching out to me at the end of a long day, looking for someone to share her story with. She didn’t intend for it to end up on this blog, but when I asked her if I could publish it, she said, “I would love for you to share her/our story any way you choose, if you so choose.  Mostly?  Thanks for listening and responding.  Today has been rough.  It’s a weird and winding road, navigating grief and jealousy and love and parenting and more love. And lack of showers and sleep.  Obviously.”

I was compelled to post this here for a couple reasons.

1. Obviously, this reminds me of how precious my time with my family is. And while I’m not a big proponent of the “cherish. every. moment.” movement, I do think it helps to put things in perspective now and then.

2. The quiet undercurrent of this story, to me, is that of 2 moms, loving each other, helping each other from 2 very different places.

I like to think if Maggie was still alive, and she ran into Leyna at the playground, they’d at least swap smiles, and maybe push each other’s kids on the swings. Or maybe they’d become mom-friends, and swap funny texts or commiserating blog comments like Leyna and I have.

We don’t have to know all that much about other moms or parents to know that, at the end of the day, we all care about loving our kids. There’s a common thread there that we don’t have to search hard for.

Thank you, Leyna. Thank you for introducing us to Maggie. Thank you for loving without limits. Thank you for sharing a story of two moms who will never meet, but are bound by a common thread, loving each other from 2 different places- in life and beyond.


 Leyna Williams is a (non-practicing) lawyer/former wedding planner/former knife saleswoman/former psychology lab coordinator/former pizza delivery girl turned stay-at-home-mom.  She maintains her sanity by texting with her BFF and other working mom friends, researching everything, and reading Baby Rabies (She would say Pinterest, too, but Pinterest makes her feel inadequate on the days she hasn’t showered and gives her kids a random assortment of questionable fridge items for dinner.)

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  1. Wow. Wow wow wow. I can only hope that my sister-in-law’s someday next husband will be half as respectful of Devin’s dad as she is to her daughter’s mom. I’m sure to her daughter and to Maggie’s family, that is a bigger gift than she will ever know.

  2. That certainly was a tissue-grabber. Thank you both for sharing this story of unbelievable love, and reminding us all what matters most in this world. All you need is love.

  3. Okay, I think I’ve totally seen her IG comments! I always notice them because her name is Leyna! What a beautiful story. This gives me so much hope for a friend who we lost when her baby was only 7 weeks old. I hope and pray that the mama who has come along to help raise him will be the kind of amazing woman Leyna is. Thank you so much for this!

  4. what a beautiful, tear-inducing story… thank you for sharing Leyna’s story, Jill. sending much love to the Williams family on the rough days. XO

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this. It hit home for me a little bit. My boyfriend’s prior girlfriend was killed by an old ex boyfriend. She has a son and while he isn’t my boyfriend’s biological son, he grew up with him being his father figure. He’s very much a great addition to my life but it has been interesting for me previously… The anniversary of her death is in October and this was my first time dealing with the grief that my boyfriend feels for her. I found myself switching between grief for her (although we never met) and twigs of jealousy. I know it’s not the same situation but to have that part of it validated was very helpful to me. Thank you to Leyna for sharing your story and for being such a loving mother to Maggie’s daughter.

  6. Leyna Williams on

    I’m not a public blogger, and BabyRabies is #kindofabigfreakingdeal, so it’s a little surreal to be a part of and chime in on such a personal post. This morning I was so nervous about this going up I almost couldn’t finish my coffee (but I managed, don’t worry). I am so very lucky and blessed…how could I miss an opportunity to share Maggie and tell the “world” how much I love her?

    He is not one to seek the limelight (and I did ask his permission before the post), but I want to shout it from the rooftops that the person who is amazing in all of this, the one who has “done it right”, is my husband, Kyle. I am simply the lucky, LUCKY one he brought aboard his little boat. Even in his ceaseless grief, he has been the best daddy in the world and has managed to find a way to hold on to and share his love and respect for Maggie while also expanding his heart to love me and make it known.

    As you can imagine, we have had our share of difficult moments. They don’t make a how-to manual for this journey, you know! But I do know it all began with me falling completely head over heels in love with two people–an amazing man and his tiny girl–and they loved me back. Who could have imagined my fairy tale would look like this? And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    This was a big and healing moment for me, Jill. Once again, thank you so, so much for listening, and sharing. <3

    • Leyna amd Jill,
      Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing this story. You just don’t know how this touched me. My husband died 8 months ago, leaving me and our 2yr old little guy behind. When you say life has challenges, it most def does!! I’m still trying to adjust and find our new normal. Your story gives me hope, though. It gives me hope that I won’t forever be doing this alone, and that I’m actually NOT doing it alone now. We always need reminders that there are others out there dealing with similar if not worse situations and that we as mothers, are never ever alone.
      Coming from a mom who’s raising a son without a dad and who constantly thinks about whether or not there will ever be another man who can/will love my son as much as his daddy did, thank you. Thank you for loving Maggie’s daughter as your own. You’re a freakin rockstar!

  7. Lianne Marie Poisson on

    How sad and beautiful. I’m sure Maggie is looking down and smiling to know that her daughter and husband are being loved and cared for by Leyna.

  8. So so proud to say this beautiful special person Leyna is my niece and we live close enough that I am able to visit with her and her sweet husband Kyle and her adorable,funny kids Karys, Jack and Owen and share a part of their lives . Maggie`s presence is quiely felt in pictures around the home,and when I was visting recently Karys pulled out Momma Maggie`s photo album to share with me, it truly was a bittersweet moment to see such a beautiful young woman who looked so happy and full of life…knowing she is not here now.. and I watch my niece making every moment count…I know she does it for Maggie too! Love you Leyna and Maggie! <3<3

  9. Thinking I need a pregnancy test because I lost it reading this post and that level of losing it only happens with pregnancy hormones in the mix. Had to hide the ugly cry behind my glass of wine else my hubby see it and freak out and suspect I may need a pregnancy test. Note to self: cut back on wine. Go to drug store.

  10. Sigh…I’ve been processing this one all day. And I have felt a million different ways about it. As someone who has thought very often in the past almost two years of what would happen if I left my kids, my babies, how they wouldn’t know me or maybe even remember me, it comforts me a great deal to at least know there are good wonderful women out there who would possibly put aside their first instincts and try to help my kids to know who I was, to let me still be a part of their lives. Leyna, I have to say it makes me happy (?? Not the right word at all, forgive me for that word) to know that know that you have twinges of jealousy but please know that she, watching over you all (in a good way) is so much more jealous, because as you completely and blessedly acknowledge….you are the one here. You get to be here. As I would be the Maggie in this situation, I can say my heart is so broken for her and my heart knows she is SO very grateful for everything you have done and continue to do.

  11. Oh my gosh – so beautiful and sad and bittersweet! Life is a crazy ride and, as a mom, it can be so exhausting and messy too. I always try to remind myself that no matter how hard and painful it can be, I am here. And I am so grateful that I get to raise my babies.

  12. I pray that if anything were to happen to me, my kids would be so lucky to be blessed with a woman like that in their lives. Just wow. And she’s a beautiful writer!

  13. So number one- I cried. Tears for beauty. And number two (this sounds awfully morbid but) my husband and I promised (he made me) each other that we would get remarried if something happened to the other ever. Sometimes I am mentally paralyzed by the idea that something could happen to either one of us. And I still will be at times I’m sure BUT NOW I KNOW that my children could be loved so so much, nearly as much as me 🙂 I can’t type through my tears that someone ever could as much but I know now they could. Love to you, Leyna. Thank you. For everything. For what you do. How much must Maggie thank you too? For the LOVE? I know that’s all I’d want for mine. Too many tears now. 🙂

  14. Mary Gavrilis Cocoles on

    I thank my daughter-in-law (although I really consider her as my daughter) for sharing this this real-life story with me.

  15. I have SO much I want to say to each and every one of you who commented—and there are a lot of full-on-boob-hugs I wish I could give in person–but I don’t want to be rude and totally hijack Jill’s space after the amazing thing she has already done for me. So, just a *little* note? I was dreading the inevitable negative comments (I mean, it’s the internet—I knew what I was getting myself into) but I don’t think I read a single negative thing. Not one. I read a lot of “she’s great”, and it feels a bit disingenuous to just accept those words without saying what I said to my personal facebook friends last night:

    “Ask my husband. I am human. SO very human. I love my kids like crazy, but sometimes–more often than I’d like to admit–I get frustrated when I could choose patience, and I get upset when I could just choose love. I mean, seriously, how many times can you clean the toilet you JUST CLEANED and step on yet another Lego and sweep up the broken glass from the thing you asked them 47 times please not to touch before the Zen-mama thing starts to get a little hard to keep up?

    But today? Man. Today it was SO easy to choose love.
    Thank you to Jill for sharing our very personal story in a really public and beautiful way and thanks to EVERYONE who sent so much love. I’ll just tuck it in my little pocket so maybe I can smile and feel those warm fuzzies when I’m scraping gum out of the dryer. Again.”

    It feels REALLY good to have everyone know about Maggie. All those acquaintances from high school who’ve seen my family pictures and wondered where my daughter got her nose and ability to bend her tiny little body into a back walkover (because certainly not from me)? Now they know.

    For anyone who has ever wondered if they would want their partner—the “one”—to find someone else after such tragedy…Well, I can’t answer that for anyone besides myself, and I’m not sure that in a different life narrative I would have had the maturity to say so, but my answer is now yes. Please, yes. I know now it’s not about being replaced, because that’s simply impossible. Our hearts can do amazing things given the opportunity. Any parent of more than one knows how hearts just grow another piece to love the next baby, and it turns out our hearts can love someone they never knew, or even accommodate two partners without diminishing love or respect for either one. It may take some time to wrap your head around it, to set aside insecurities, to find the equilibrium, to trust…but it’s true.

    And for anyone who has ever wondered if they could ever truly love “someone else’s” child the same way–with the same fierce intensity–as their DNA-buddies, I hope now you know. The answer is a resounding “HELL yes.” My brain can’t compute any other option. My daughter is my daughter just as much as she’s still her Mama Maggie’s daughter, science be damned (I mean, don’t get me wrong—I love science and all). And guess what? I’m an only child but my boys have loving aunts and uncles from Maggie’s side they never would have had otherwise. The universe can be so very cruel, but it can also do some really beautiful stuff.

    So, once again…thank you for listening, and for sharing, and for all being so very, very kind. <3 <3 <3

  16. Jamie Bertrand on

    I first have to admit that it took me several days to fully read this post. I know and love both of Karys’ moms and can personally attest to how incredible they both are. I am glad that Leyna had the courage and heart to share her story. Leyna, you were a beaming light in the darkness of loss that has continued to shine brighter than anything around. I love you dear friend. Thank you. Thank you from Maggie and those that love her. Thank you from a mother who must admit that I may never be as giving as you. Thank you from those who’s lives will be touched by your family.

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