Judy Chapman and Bill McLaughlin
What do you say when you are given a beam of light, so bright that it shines through all the bad and bring nothing but joy, laughter and happiness. What you say is Evan Ty Jenkins. A little boy born with so many heart complications but lived with spirit, wit, laughter, wisdom and determination to live his short life to the fullest.
May 30, 1999 changed my life. Not only did my only son have his first child, I became a grandma, or Nana as I am called. I waited to meet this small child with anticipation and love, knowing that he would change me forever. What I did not know is that he would change me in so many ways. He showed me that life is for living, not wearing black business suits and “thinking too much”. His words not mine. Life is about having parties, playing games especially play station and eating hot dogs over the fire pit in the backyard. Hot dogs over the fire pit consisted of, cleaning out the pit (about 1 hour), getting it dry enough to start some kindling (about 20 minutes), praying the wood would start, getting a roaring flame and hot dogs ready. Evan would then stand there for about 2 minutes and that was enough. And surprisingly, Bill and I also thought that it was enough as well. He just loved the process.
After Evan’s first surgery Shauna was great with letting us have Evan most weekends. He would call on a Thursday to have Papa Bill promise to come and get him at school on Friday. Every week was the same. He asked Papa if he knew where the school was and every week Papa said “you better tell me again to make sure”. Friday came and Evan was sitting at my counter waiting for me to walk through the door from work. First comment was “Nana take off that suit and stop thinking so much, it is the weekend and I am here”. That was all it took for me to slough off the business threads and get to doing what is really important. Enjoying Evan! Evan had very different relationship with all the people that he knew. With Evan and me it was all about being together, feeding his hungry tummy and getting the Nana hugs and kisses and trying to teach him life lessons. What I found out was he had all the lessons to be learnt. And Bill and Evan were the best of buddies, as well as being grandpa and grandson. They shared things that only boys and men share, camped out in the basement on the hard floor, because that is what Evan wanted to do. Ate popcorn until I thought they would blow up. Evan and Bill were absolute soul mates from day one.
In 2003 we started taking Evan on adventures. We would jump into the car with a cooler full of food and drink and start driving. Off to Drumheller to view the dinosaurs. Actually Evan was not too impressed. But he did love the swimming pool at the hotel and the stuffed dinosaurs in the gift shop and one very expensive blue jean shirt that he promised he would “wear forever”. We might hold the record for being through the museum faster than anyone else. Next day Evan was bored so we drove to Calgary Zoo and again the best was the swimming pool at the hotel. This trip was reminding me of a trip we took with Darren and the only rule was every stop needed to have a pool. Must be in the genes! Well Calgary lost its sparkle and off to Banff we went. The Columbia Ice field were a blast and even though Evan could not walk as far as he wanted, Papa carried him to near where the glacier started. It was so cold. We found our twisty winding roads here and had a blast yelling and screaming as Papa manoeuvred the curves. Banff was fun. Up the Gondola we went and called mommy from my cell. Evan was so excited that we was so far above the ground and could still hear people talking below. Again, no surprise, a swimming pool at the hotel! Breakfast was eaten and soon we were off to Jasper. Are you counting, four stops in four days. Well Jasper was the best. We saw lots of mountain goats, deer, and no moose unfortunately, but a bear or two. Evan was in his element. Home again with a camera full of pictures and a heart full of memories. We took a few more trips like this and when we could not travel, we make a trip out of staying home and taking in the Edmonton sites. To the river with the motorized boat that Auntie Barb brought, to the museum to look at rocks and other cultures, to lots of restaurants, especially one that had hot and sour soup. His favourite. Another tradition that grew quickly was Evan’s love of crab legs. So most Sunday we gathered mommy, Papa and myself and later Marcus and went to a local hotel for Sunday Brunch. His plate consisted of crab legs, dipping sauce, bacon and maybe just maybe an egg. Even the waitresses started to recognize him and his love for crab. It seemed like he had hollow legs and could out eat both Papa and me and mommy. Of course mommy could out eat us with waffles, so maybe he got it naturally.
Evan changed us forever. I want to think that he changed us to be more accepting of things and to fight for those other things that are important. July 22, 2006 is embedded in our minds and hearts as one of the worst days of our life. But it is also a day that gave my precious Evan the freedom from the pokies (needles), procedures and future surgeries. I truly want to believe that Evan was given to our two families for a reason and the reason is why we forge ahead and make a difference to other cardiac kids.
Every day I think about Evan and think about his smile, the gleam in his eyes and how he makes Bill and I feel. That is simply, blessed to have had him and sad to have lost him.
Lovingly submitted, Nana and Papa
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