Wednesday, March 20, 2013


There is so much to share and catch you up on.  First and foremost, I hope all of you are well and are enjoying the blessings in your lives. 

The Young Family
The girls and I continue to be amazed at the gifts God continues to shower upon our family.  Both Caroline & Rachel Rose are maintaining their incredible attitudes and exceeding all expectations with school and extracurricular activities.  I could not be more proud and comforted by the place that they are in emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

February 1st marked a year since Melinda’s passing.  We have certainly experienced a multitude of emotions, changes, and firsts.  Adjusting to life without her has been challenging, but we have put our faith and trust in God and know he is taking care of things.  The girls and I have always been close, but we are forging a bond now that gives us incredible strength and resilience.  I often hear from others, whether it’s a teacher, friend, or parent of another child, that Caroline and Rachel Rose are great role models and examples.  As a parent, nothing makes me more proud.

More specifically, Caroline continues to maintain incredibly high marks in school and is enjoying dance and tumbling classes.  Rachel Rose is also excelling in school and loves her school running club, dance, and martial arts.  The highlight of the week for me, however, is Sunday morning and to see the girls eagerly get ready and then we head off to church.  They are genuinely interested in their own spiritual growth and the fellowship with peers.

As for me, I am good!  I also feel that I am in a great place emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  I am no longer Cullasaja’s Head Golf Professional, but feel that I will always be a part of the wonderful family there.  While the girls and I will miss being there as we have in the past, it will always have a special place in our hearts and we will surely visit from time to time.  I have been spending much of my time focusing on faith, family, and our Miles With Melinda efforts.  The time I’ve had over the past several months to focus on these things, I believe, have been incredibly valuable in bringing us to the place we all are today.  I am now searching for my next career opportunity.  I am, however, taking great consideration and care in finding something that does not compromise the welfare of faith and family.  I am confident that I will be lead on the proper path and find something soon.

Miles With Melinda (MWM) Update
As many of you already know, the girls and I have been participating in some local road races in support of MWM.  Many friends and family have now joined us in these races, and we are seeing the support grow.  Starting back on Thanksgiving Day, I competed in the half marathon, and the girls ran in the “mash potato” mile.  We were obviously honored to run with Melinda and proud to see the support that we had.  Since that race, we have continued with the following:

The Flashlight 5K was both Caroline & Rachel Rose’s first 5K run.  I was so proud of them, not only to finish the race, but also to run with such great attitudes and such excitement for the cause.
Next, we participated in the Hot Chocolate 5K & 15K.  Along with Caroline and myself, we were joined by a host of others.  This was an incredibly fun and enjoyable race and we were very excited to see the growing support.

Most recently, we completed one of our big MWM Weekends.  On Saturday, another large group of us competed in the Fallen Heroes 5K at Lake Lanier Islands.  Caroline, Rachel Rose, and I ran the 5K and were joined in the race by Aunt Jan, Tyler, Ansley and others.  We all had a fun race and enjoyed being together.  Then on Sunday, I competed and completed the Georgia Marathon.  This was my first marathon and was honored to run it in support of MWM.  I am amazed to think back of that day on the couch in early November when I read Melinda’s words (see earlier blog post “Miles With Melinda” – 11-14-2012) and then contemplated how we could raise awareness and support.  Well, less than three weeks later the girls and I were running in our first MWM effort.  We were grateful for the supporters then and are excited to see that it has continued to grow.

Finally, I am thrilled to report that the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance will recognize the support and awareness that has been gained from “Miles With Melinda”.  This Saturday, March 23rd, the GOCA will be hosting their annual “Shaken not Stirred” Gala.  I was excited when their director, Doug Barron, contacted me to let me know that he had several complimentary tickets due to our efforts and that “Miles With Melinda” would be recognized at the gala.  The most satisfying aspect of all of this, of course, is that with the generosity of so many, ovarian cancer fighters, caregivers, and those recently diagnosed are going to receive valuable care and support.

I also hope that we can continue to help, in some way, lend support and gain awareness to the Cullasaja Cares Fund, which helps those touched by cancer in the Highlands & Cashiers area of North Carolina.
Those interested in supporting, donating, or learning more about either of these causes may…..
  • Visit the GOCA website -
  • Contact Cullasaja Club and Tim Lamphier for information on the Cullasaja Cares Fund – 828-526-3531
  • Please reference “Miles With Melinda” when donating!
The following are some pictures of those that have supported and accompanied us during our MWM journey!  

God Bless Everyone!, and thank you for your continued prayers, support, and caring.

Wishing all of you the very best,

John, Caroline, & Rachel Rose


Monday, December 3, 2012


Hello All,

I hope each and everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Just wanted to update you on our recent race experience and "Miles with Melinda" (MWM). 

As many of you know, this was our first run as a family in support of the MWM cause.  Having not run the Atlanta Half Marathon before, I thought I would make the experience a memorable one for all of us.  The girls and I went to pick up our race packet on Tuesday before the race.  The pick-up was at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta.  The girls had never been to the hotel before, and I was excited to take them because it's a hotel that Melinda and I often toured.  I explained to the girls how Mommy and Daddy used to go on dates in high school and walk around the city.  We would usually make a stop and go in the Marriott Marquis to look around and ride the elevators.  Melinda loved the inside of the hotel.

When we arrived in Atlanta I was able to park in the lot Melinda and I had always parked in.  I took the girls through the same entrance and we headed up towards the main floor of the hotel.  Many of the memories of our dates suddenly returned, making it a bitter sweet moment.  As we rode the escalator up to the main floor I intently watched the girl's faces as the interior of the hotel came into view.  As expected, it was much the same reaction Melinda always had when we arrived in the main lobby.  The girls eyes were as wide as saucers with mouths agape.  What a delight to see their expression.  For those of you that have not been to the Marriott Marquis, it is a nearly 50 story hotel that tapers to the top.  Looking up as you enter the main lobby, you can see all the way to the top of the building.  Quite a sight, especially for two young girls seeing it for the first time!  Next it was on to the packet pick-up, and as we made our way there the girls noticed the glass elevators speeding up and down.  Rachel Rose, fearless as usual, quickly shouted "can we ride the elevators"!  Caroline was a bit more apprehensive, but seemed willing.  We grabbed our race gear and headed towards the elevators.  We stepped in and rode all the way to the top floor.  I must say it was a bit emotional to find myself back in those elevators without Melinda, and now with our two children.  Who could have imagined all those years ago that I would be back riding the same elevators with my two precious girls.  They enjoyed the ride and looking down from far above.  Next, we headed out for dinner just as Melinda and I would have done many years before.  We ended up just a couple of blocks away at Hard Rock Cafe.  We had an enjoyable meal as I shared memories of Mommy and Daddy's dates, and we also discussed the upcoming race.  The girls really seemed to enjoy the trip downtown.

With race day approaching quickly, we were getting excited.  The girls and I made sure we had all of our gear and clothes (especially our MWM T-shirts) ready for the race.  With the race on Thursday morning, we changed our routine a bit and decided to cook the Turkey Wednesday evening.  The girls and I were going to cook the Turkey, make gravy, and Rachel Rose was going to make a "special" desert.  We had some fun in the kitchen and Rachel Rose's desert turned out to be quite interesting.  A key lime pie with special marshmallow and chocolate accents.  Yes, it was "special" and quite interesting.  Caroline helped with the gravy and we seemed to have our contribution ready.  Mimi and Aunt Jan were preparing all the other dishes and the girls were getting excited for the next day's meal.  However, that would have to be put on the back burner as our focus now turned to the race.  Just as we were cleaning up the kitchen, the door bell rang.  A special delivery I was expecting had arrived!  I had the girls open it with me and they were excited as they realized what it was.

Months before, the girls had asked me why and how long I would wear my wedding ring.  I explained to them that I was not ready to take it off, but would let them know before I decided to do anything about it.  After some thought and looking at some possibilities, I sat the girls down and told them my idea.  I suggested that I would wear the ring up until our anniversary and then have our two wedding rings made into a cross.  Melinda loved cross necklaces and I thought it would be appropriate.  The girls loved the idea so I decided to go ahead with it.  I reached out to a good friend, Matt Schroeders, who owned and operated the Highlands Gem Shop near where I worked.  He eagerly agreed to take on the task of making the cross.  Well, as you may have guessed, the package that arrived contained the cross.  It turned out magnificently (see pic), and I would now be able to wear it during the race!  Thank you Matt! 

~Race Day~
Since we had never run the race before, we had planned to leave the house quite early so as not to be late.  However, getting the girls up and out the door didn't quite go as planned and we were running a little behind our intended schedule.  The race began at Turner Field and I was scheduled to start at 7:40am.  We were making pretty good time and arrived just a few miles from the stadium around 6:50am.  However, traffic came to a complete stop and we then began inching our way there.  As the moments ticked away the anxiety level rose as we certainly did not want to miss the race.  Turns out there was an accident and there was nothing we could do.  We patiently worked our way forward and hoped for the best.  Suddenly, I looked at the clock and saw that it was 7:25!  I noticed several other people jumping out of their cars and running toward the stadium.  Fortunately, Aunt Jan was with us and she offered to drive so I could jump out and head to the start line.  Unfortunately, however, we were still a mile from the stadium.  With no other choice, I began running.  Darting through and around traffic, I arrived at the stadium some ten minutes later.  I could see a large crowd of racers lined up ready to go and felt a sense of relief.  I stretched a minute or two and then jumped in line.  I had made it! ......or did I? 

As I stood in line for a couple of minutes, I became curious as to why it wasn't moving.  I could see the huge ATLANTA HALF MARATHON banner a the start line, but why wasn't it moving?  Upon further inspection of the banner, underneath the heading was 5K RACE!  I was in the WRONG LINE!  I quick jumped out of the crowd and asked someone where the start of the Half Marathon was.  A nice man pointed me up the street and around the corner and then said, "but you better hurry there about to take it up".  I sprinted up and around the corner and the volunteers were yelling to hurry.  They had to take up the start line to make room for the 5K race.  I sped up the hill and made it across the start line just in time! 

Nothing has ever seemed to come easy for Melinda or I, but that makes the blessings we have received that much more rewarding.  I felt as if I had already run a race and here I was just crossing the start line.  I did, however, settle down fairly quickly and found a nice rhythm in my running.  I had to weave through the crowd throughout the majority of the race but was ultimately enjoying every step of the way.  I reached my mini goal of finishing under 2:00 hours, but more importantly I was honored to run it with Melinda and know that together we were potentially going to make a difference in other peoples lives.

Following my race, I headed over to see the girls run in the "Mash Potato Mile".  By the time I made it over there, Caroline had just started and Rachel Rose was heading to the start line.  I wished Rachel Rose good luck, saw her start, and then made my way over to the finish line.  A few boys came across first then a saw one girl.  Next were a few more boys and then here came Caroline!  We believe she was the first 11 year old girl across the line and about 10th overall.  She ran the mile in 6:30!  Rachel Rose completed her mile in just under 9 minutes and did very well amongst the 8 year olds.  I am so very proud of both of them!

We would like to thank many of you that have been so encouraging and supportive.  We are comforted to know that some recently diagnosed cancer patience will receive important items and prayers from the goodness and care within you!  Together we can and will make a difference!

Overall we had an amazingly rewarding and unforgettable experience!  We just hope we can continue to spread Melinda's message of hope and encouragement, while potentially adding a little support along the way.  We will continue to run and champion the cause with many races in the future.  Thank you all!

God Bless!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I hope all of you are well and enjoying each and every day!  The girls and I are beginning a new chapter in our lives.  We’ve been blessed with so much lately it’s difficult to know where to begin.
Life has a way of throwing many challenges your way and the initial outlook isn’t always the greatest, but over time it almost always seems to be for the best. 

Recently, we had to decide whether or not I could continue to work at Cullasaja.  Following long and careful consideration, the girls and I felt it best that I find steady employment close to Cumming.  We will dearly miss being a consistent part of the Cullasaja Family, but I know we will stay in touch and have future opportunities to reconnect and visit.  Knowing that “Daddy” will be home consistently and a daily routine can be more easily established has already brought some comfort and relief to each of us.  As for what is next on the job front?  We will see!  I am approaching the next phase in my career with an open mind and emphasis on finding something that allows me to have enough time for Church and Family.

Speaking of Church & Family, the girls and I recently experienced one of our greatest moments together.  We have been visiting a local church, First Baptist Cumming, over the last several years.  Knowing now we would be part of the community for years to come, we decided to join.  So on November 4th we not only became church members, but we were all baptized together!  What an amazing experience!  The pastor did something he had never done before; he led us down into the water together as a family and then baptized each of us while we stood together in the water.  I am including the video of the baptism so you can see the delight in the girl’s eyes. I was so proud, honored, and overcome to experience this moment with them.
Finally, I would like to share something that Melinda, I, and the girls will be promoting and supporting going forward.  “MILES WITH MELINDA”!  As most of you know, it is important to us that we have an opportunity to pay our blessings forward.  Recently, I have been stumbling across little things that Melinda has left behind for me to find.  Many are just quiet reminders that she is still with us, while others have a more powerful message.  Well, the other day as I was sifting through some files on the computer, I ran across an amazing story that also included some of her personal thoughts.  The following is what I came across …….

Faith & My Witness

I remember the moment I became a “never looking back again” Christian. I was 29, almost 30 years old.  Now I had always accepted Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for my sins.  I had always tried to do “WWJD” (What would Jesus do).  And I had always prayed for wisdom and guidance from Him in my life.  But it was in 1999, when we were trying to have our first baby and were unsuccessful for more than a year, that the real message hit home.  I was struggling with lots of issues, my desperation to become a mom, my jealousy at other moms, my anger at the unfairness of it all, and my utter devastation at the thought of never having a baby, ever.  Then one night, a friend shared an inspirational story through email with me, it was called “The Silversmith”.  It spoke to me in an enormous way.  The message I got out of it was that God will put you through suffering and pain more than you think you can handle, like a silversmith refining silver.  He has to hold it in the center of the flames where the heat is the most intense in order to get the purest burn.  But he will sit with you the entire time, never leaving you, just as God does, careful not to let you be destroyed.  He will finally remove the silver from the fire when only one thing has happened, when the silversmith is able to see his reflection in the silver.  And God removes your suffering when you have ultimately surrendered yourself and become like Him. Your suffering has a purpose.  It is so intense and so blinding that it forces you to let go of all your earthly wishes and desires to get some relief.  You come to the realization that the only solution, the only way to end the pain is to accept Jesus and His love, that He is all you ever really needed.  He is the only One who has the answer, who can heal, and who can guide you out of the fire.  For me personally, this message helped me to discover that although having a baby would be a wonderful gift, an extra special addition to my life, it would be nothing compared to my relationship with God.  He was the only thing that could truly fulfill me.  There is nothing in this world better than Him, nothing.  So it was at that moment that I let it all go.  I let go of my personal desires, my narrow ideas, my need for immediate gratifications, and I gave it all over to God.  I threw all my trust and faith in Him and let His Love be my fulfillment.  After that night, I no longer felt the maddening desire to be pregnant, the envy at other families, or the debilitating sadness at each negative pregnancy test.  I turned my focus toward Jesus and his path for me.  I trusted Him and I followed Him. 
Since that epiphany, however, I have endured much more suffering despite my faith.  It is an imperfect world we live in and trauma, illness, fear are inevitable.  But I know that through it all, God is there with me.  He is always close by, sending encouragement through a special card in the mail, brightening my day with a quick hummingbird visit, patting my hand with a curious butterfly, or just sitting with me on the couch keeping the blanket tucked in.  I know I’m okay.  He will not let me be destroyed.   So I always keep my head in the right place, looking up to Him, and letting go of my own fears and apprehensions of the future.  There is nothing in this world better than God’s love, not a new baby, not a million dollars, not even a cure for cancer.  He is the only way to happiness and peace. Amen

While sitting in the chemo suite today chatting and sharing stories with other patients, I had a realization . . . maybe one of the greater purposes of my cancer is my witness to other patients. Maybe my attitude and perspective can be of some help to others. Makes me remember the phrase, "Don't waste your cancer" Let it be an opportunity to do good.

As much as I would like to forget that I have cancer and keep it to myself, it might be more purposeful if I share my thoughts and experiences.   I might never know the one person who needs to hear what I have to say. 

Melinda Renee Conley Young  -MRCY


Obviously I was quite moved after reading this and knew there was no time like the present to begin following through on her wishes.  Her cancer will not be wasted and there are opportunities to do good.  We therefore have decided to run, with Melinda by our side, in an effort to raise awareness and support for ovarian cancer fighters, survivors, caregivers, and others touched by this silent killer.  I have contacted the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance and am excited about the possibilities for fundraising. 

Additionally, I will be running for the Cullasaja Cares Fund to help those touched by cancer in the Highlands & Cashiers area.  A community that has also meant so much to our family!
On Thanksgiving Day I will run the Atlanta Half Marathon.  I began training just a couple of weeks ago, but have already completed a 10-mile run in under an hour and a half.  I am confident in completing the race in a respectable time. The girls and “Aunt Jan” will participate in the “Mash Potato Mile” as Mimi cheers from the crowd.  We will all be wearing “MILES WITH MELINDA” T-shirts, and are looking forward to a fun and rewarding race!

Going forward, I plan on running the Georgia Marathon in March and seeking out any additional opportunities to support these causes moving forward ……who knows maybe a triathlon or an ironman will be in the future.  The girls, Aunt Jan, & Mimi are also on board and will continue to participate in any way to help the cause.   Most importantly, if we can make a difference in just one person’s life along the way, it will all be worthwhile!

Details of how you can help spread awareness or give are as follows:
1. You may order your own “MILES WITH MELINDA” T-Shirt (details coming soon!)
2. Share Melinda’s story by sharing this blog.
3. Learn more about Ovarian Cancer – you may visit the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance website @
4. Contact the Highlands/Cashiers hospital to learn more abut the Cullasaja Cares Fund.

1. Donations supporting the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance may be made through their website.  Please just indicate that your donation was made in support of “Miles with Melinda”.
2. Details on how you may support the Cullasaja Cares Fund will be provided soon. 

So there you have it!  We are excited to help others moving forward and look forward to the opportunities to “do good”!  I will use the blog to keep everyone updated on the ongoing efforts.  I am including the T-Shirt design below as well.  The Cullasaja Cares Fun will hopefully be added before race day.
Thank you and God Bless!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Experiencing Many Firsts!

Hello All!

First, allow me to apologize for not posting sooner.  The last several months have been quite busy, but very rewarding as well.

Caroline and Rachel Rose are doing wonderfully!  They are coming off of a full summer of camps, sleepovers, and enjoyable times with friends and family.  Many know the saying "It takes a village", and I must say we have been blessed with an amazing "village" of wonderful people that have made our challenging transition much easier to handle. 

Caroline and Rachel Rose have now begun a new school year, and I continue to be amazed and proud of them.  Caroline has taken on advanced classes as a SIXTH GRADER ......yes SIXTH GRADER....(I now understand why parents often say "they grow so fast"; it is so true!!!)  She is now a member of Girl Scouts and continues to take dancing classes every Friday.  She seems extremely content with school, extracurricular activities, friends, family, etc. 

Rachel Rose, now a second grader, has really been the biggest surprise this year.  A year ago at this time, Melinda and I were concerned with Rachel Rose's performance and behavior in school.  We would occasionally receive reports from the teacher regarding her over exuberance and difficulty in focusing on certain tasks.  We actually had her evaluated by her pediatrician and were considering medications towards the middle part of her first grade year.  Well, we decided to wait and then other life events occurred that put those decisions on the back burner.  Happily, I am thrilled to report that not only has her behavior improved to a level where her teacher now uses her as an example to others, but she recently was recommended by several of her teachers to be tested for HORIZONS (the gifted program!). ......AMAZING!!  Rachel Rose maintains her outgoing and colorful personality and is enjoying every day. I am so proud of both her and Caroline!

As for me, I am doing well!  Every day is a challenge, but I am learning to take it one day at a time.  I have found that some of the more challenging times are when we are experiencing things without Melinda for the first time.  Whether it's a walk down a familiar trail, a canoe ride on our favorite lake, a holiday tradition, or simply planting flowers in the yard(one of her favorite things).    As our wedding anniversary approaches, I realize that there will be many firsts ahead.  While the girls and I will not be able to share the smiles, laughter, hugs, and familiar moments we are accustomed to during these times, we KNOW she is with us and there is much comfort in that!

Also, I must extend our most sincerest thanks to all that have graciously reached out to help us in our time of need.  I am the type of person that resists those that reach out to help, as it is my nature to believe that I can take on much of the burdens of life myself.  Fortunately, I'm learning to let go of that mind-set, and I am learning that you can create many rewarding relationships when you allow others to be a part of your recovery.  THANK YOU TO ALL OUR WONDERFUL FRIENDS AND FAMILY FOR YOUR UNCONDITIONAL LOVE AND SUPPORT! ...... WE ARE BLESSED!

We look forward to future opportunities of paying your blessings forward!

Finally, as promised, I am including a picture of the bench we had placed at the site where the girls first "pet the horses" at the cemetery.  As you can see, it is beautiful and we visit on a regular basis.  The girls continue to enjoy their time there and we look forward to adding flowers to help spurce it up a bit.  Melinda would insist on that!

God Bless Everyone! 

John, Caroline, & Rachel Rose

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Proud of our Girls!

Well, it has been a while since the last post and there is quite a bit that has happened.  First let me just say that we are all doing quite well and are adjusting to our new family dynamics.  The girls and I are as close as ever and we are continuing to make wonderful memories and celebrating life.  As we enter into the month of May, I am beginning the season with our wonderful Cullasaja family, anticipating the end of the school year, and gearing up for an exciting summer.

I am proud to report that both Caroline and Rachel Rose continue to excel in school and with their extra curricular activities.  Caroline continues to amaze us with so many accomplishments at a young age.  She recently had her oratorical speech selected as a finalist amongst 7 other 5th graders, an original story of hers was selected to represent the elementary school in a "young authors" competition, and she was chosen to do the lead portion for her upcoming dance recital.  Rachel Rose has also flourished.  She recently earned her orange belt in martial arts and was also given the award for "student of the month"(one of only three special awards).  She also had one of her art creations selected to represent the 1st grade at a county art exhibit at the public library.  Most importantly, both Caroline & Rachel Rose are enjoying time with family, school, friends, and simply enjoying every day.

Now on the subject of "Things that kids say", I have to share a couple of classics from the girls.  First, We were out enjoying dinner at a local restaurant and Caroline was filling out a kids word game of some kind to pass the time.  A couple of the questions asked about her favorite color and her favorite song.  She then frantically asked me "Daddy I don't know what my favorite color or song is!", "what am I going to do?"  I simply replied, "that's something you don't have to worry about or necessarily have to know."  She then firmly stated, "Daddy, when I get a little older and have to fill out the questionnaire on one of those dating websites these are the things you HAVE TO KNOW!"  Of course at that point I had nothing more to say.

Not to be outdone, Rachel Rose also found a way to render me speechless.  She found out from one of her friends that a boy that she "broke up with" in kindergarten had evidently never gotten over it and was hoping they could "get back together".  On the surface this is all so cute, but I have to tell you it gets better.  Well, Rachel Rose decided that this is a good idea and the next morning picks out her best dress and shoes so she can be ready to "ask him back".  As she walked down the stairs I noticed the shoes she chose were ones that had worn a blister the previous time she had worn them.  As she came over to the mirror to check herself out, I stood behind her and made the comment that she may want to change her shoes since those had worn a blister before.  Her reply ...... "Daddy, beauty just has to hurt sometimes"!  Oh, out of the mouthes of babes!

While adjusting to everyday life without what you have been accustom to with a mother and wife, we continue to find comfort that Melinda is always with us.  We routinely visit the cemetery and enjoy our time there.  Just to add one more quick story with that ...... I ordered the marker for the plot (which turned out beautifully), and we also decided to order a granite bench.  We decided to see if we could have the bench placed on the fence-line near the pasture and the horses.  Our hope was that we could get a bench placed near the area where the girls first saw the horses.  Now I promise you I'm not making this up but .... they first told me that they didn't believe that they had any available spots on the fence-line.  A short time later I received a call at home letting me know they had someone that removed their bench and a spot had opened up.  I went down the next morning and met a gentleman that walked me out to the area where the bench could be placed.  He showed me the area that the previous bench had been which was about 25 feet away from where the girls first pet the horses.  I went and stood where they met the horses and explained that this was where we had hoped to have a bench.  He then stated that they had to be so many feet apart and thought it might be too close to the nearest bench.  He then proceeded to walk down to the neighboring bench and step his way up the hill towards me.  Twenty paces later (the 60 foot minimum) he stopped and was standing exactly across from me.  He and I both grinned from ear to ear and he simply said, "you'll have your bench right there".  Yes, the girls will now be able to visit the horses on our special bench right where we first met the horses. 

I will be certain to share some pictures of the bench when it is finally installed.

Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers.  God bless everyone and live every day to the fullest!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

We will continue to live, laugh, love, & share!

Melinda's legacy will certainly live on in so many of her family and friends. We will continue to post under There will surely be many wonderful stories to share, one of which you will read shortly.

We would also like to extend our deepest and most sincere gratitude to each of you for your caring and generosity. Your prayers, well wishes, and selfless acts have lifted us in so many different ways. While there are no words sufficient to express how grateful we truly are, please know that we intend to pay these many blessings forward to others in need.

The following occurred during Melinda's final days and over the course of a few days after her passing. This is just a sample of some of the amazing things we witnessed and shared over these precious days.


To say Melinda was an inspiring and courageous person is like telling someone that Michelangelo was a great artist. Yes, the statement is certainly true, but there is so much more beyond just that. The amazing things that so many people were able to witness and experience as a result of her are nearly countless. To have the privilege of knowing, loving, and sharing a life with her was the most precious gift many of us ever received. During her final days a few astonishing things occurred that we must call nothing short of miraculous. We would now like to share some of these moments.

Once the doctors explained to us that Melinda’s condition was such that she would unlikely pull through, we shared the news with her and she understood. Fear, confusion, anger, sorrow, and many more emotions were felt. As the gravity of the situation sunk in, Melinda knew she had to continue to be strong for her amazing daughters and family. She spent her last days and hours making the most of every moment. She also knew that she needed to take care of a few things.

She would never want us to be burdened with the task and details of putting her to rest. One afternoon as she lay in her hospital bed unable to speak through her mask, she requested pen and paper. Her thoughts and questions began to pour on to the pages. “How will I die?” “How long?”, “What about the funeral?”, “Where?”, “Don’t leave me alone!”, “Stay together!”, and more. As husband and wife, and soul mates, we experienced an incredible level of intimacy during this time. We also mutually focused on our faith, precious daughters, and family.

After collecting her thoughts, Melinda began to share her wishes. Just her and I were alone in the room at the time. Deep expressions of our love and admiration for one another were given and then she began planning as she had done so many times before. However, this time it was her funeral. The first question was about the flowers. She quickly wrote, in big bold letters, “YELLOW!” Next was the casket, and she wrote “CHERRY!” Then it was where to be buried, the details of the service, the headstone, etc. Ultimately, she wanted to ensure that her uplifting and positive spirit would be shared and celebrated during this time.

She passed on a Wednesday. She went peacefully surrounded by an abundance of loved ones. The loss of someone so close and so incredible was difficult for many to accept. However, we had to summon our strength and pull together to help get through this time. With Melinda’s spirit, strength, and example to draw upon, we were able to do just that.

Most of the details for the funeral were realized and thoughts of how the next several days would unfold began to enter our minds. Melinda had always been the one to make sure all the arrangements of an event were taken care of. She loved to coordinate all the pieces and envision a way to make it memorable for everyone. The ability to do this successfully was one of her many great talents. So as we contemplated the details of the days ahead, we feared nothing because Melinda had once again taken care of everything. She, however, had a few special surprises to add this time. The miracles and memories we experienced leading up to and during these days will live with us forever. The following is just one of those.

“A Special Gift For Her Daughters

The girls were still out with family picking out their dresses for the viewing and funeral. I had returned to an empty house and sat down to collect my thoughts. The next couple of days were going to be extremely difficult, and I knew I had to think of our precious children and continue to find ways to lift their spirits. Mommy would have certainly wanted that.

Just a short time before, I was at the cemetery picking out the plot. I had visited the previous day and noticed a gentle hill sloping down to a pond much like behind our home. That area of the cemetery looked full, but I prayed that somehow something would be available for us there. As I stood in the office, a nice lady showed me a map of the grounds and explained that the majority of available plots lay in an area much further away than I had hoped. I asked about the area near the pond and she paused and said she had to go check something. She quickly returned and said that she had one potentially available in that area. There was a woman who had received a plot from her family but she recently moved to a different state and no longer wanted it. The lady explained she would have to contact her to confirm, but we could go ahead and take a look at it. We drove down near the pond and then walked to the plot. Our home sits almost exactly the same distance from our own pond and I knew immediately this was meant to be her resting place. The lady asked if I’d like to see anything else and I instantly and politely responded, “no!” We returned to the office and she called the owner. As she explained that she had a buyer, the owner burst into tears. Evidently, she had recently come upon hard times and desperately needed the money. God was looking out for all of us during this time! I filled out the necessary paperwork and secured the plot.

Back home on the couch, I grabbed the laptop and looked up the weather forecast. I noticed that for Friday, the day of the viewing, it was supposed to be warm and sunny. They were also calling for a nearly 100% chance of rain on Saturday, the day of the funeral. I wanted to make sure that our girl’s first memory of where their Mommy would be buried was positive and uplifting. So I told myself that I would find time on Friday to show them where she would be resting.

That evening as we poured through the many picture albums that Melinda had created over the years; I noticed that the girls had pulled out a particular page. The pictures were of us and the girls riding and enjoying horses. A few years earlier, we often took day trips to a near by horse barn and pasture looked after by Melinda’s cousin and family. They owned several horses there and we would spend the day riding, grooming, and tending to them. Melinda was always fascinated and loved spending time with horses. She obviously made a point to have some pictures taken to preserve the memory. The girls became focused on this particular page for several minutes as they recalled the times we all had there together.

I knew that things were going to be on a tight schedule and that my window of opportunity would be limited to visit the cemetery. I decided that I would take the girls over following the first viewing. The sun would still be up and it should be warm enough to spend a few minutes if they wished.

The first viewing session went well. Many family and friends came to pay their respects and the girls maintained an amazing attitude. I had told them earlier in the day that we would visit the cemetery and they were actually excited. We took a few moments to catch our breath and grab a small bite to eat before heading over to see the plot. The weather was as predicted, sunny and moderately warm with a slight breeze.

The cemetery was just a short five-minute drive. As we pulled into Sawnee Gardens, the girls immediately noticed the hardwood trees very similar to the ones in our neighborhood. They also commented on all the pretty flowers and quickly noticed the pond in the distance. I was already feeling relieved. We pulled up near the plot and I walked the girls over. They noticed geese and ducks wading in the pond just like we have behind our home. We finally arrived at the plot and I asked the girls if they were happy with this spot for Mommy. They both emphatically replied, “Yes!” Rachel Rose then asked if we could go down and see the geese and ducks. I, of course, said yes and they trotted down as I walked behind. The breeze began to pick up a bit and the air felt noticeably cooler. After just a few short minutes Caroline, shivering, asked if we could go back to the car. Rachel Rose agreed and we began to head in that direction. Caroline was about ten steps ahead of me and Rachel Rose just a few when I heard a sudden gasp. Caroline suddenly took off in a full sprint, then I heard another yell and Rachel Rose was now off and running behind Caroline. As I watched them, puzzled, my gaze drifted from the girls and in to the distance. I was amazed at what I witnessed.

Several hundred yards from where we were, sits a beautiful pasture. Along the fence-line walking towards the girls were two magnificent horses similar to the ones we had ridden with Melinda. I watched in awe as the horses made their way down towards the girls as they sprinted towards them. I quickly hopped in the car and drove down to meet them. I will never forget the image of those horses and the girls. When they finally made it to each other, the horses gently leaned over the fence and allowed the girls to stroke them. I had rarely seen the girls that excited and happy in recent months. The horses remained by the girls until we had to return to the funeral home. I was able to grab the camera and snap a few photos. Someday soon we will create a photo album of our own.

Melinda’s presence was confirmed to us at that moment. The fact that two horses appeared just at that instant and in such a tender way is undeniable proof to us that she will always be there.
The future is unknown and we may not always be able to “pet the horses”, but there is great comfort in know
ing that we will be there for one another when we need it most and that God is always present. GOD IS GOOD!!!!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Melinda Young - Arrangements

Friends & Family,

The arrangements for Melinda are as follows:

Viewing - Friday, February 3rd 2:00 - 4:00pm & also again from 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Funeral Services - Saturday, February 4th - 2:00pm

All at Ingram's Funeral Home, 2010 Ingram Avenue, Cumming GA

God Bless All of You!