The Tornado

Christa Doran Uncategorized 21 Comments

To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees- these are the risks that involve vulnerability and often pain…I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us now to live with joy, gratitude, and grace. -Brene Brown

I chose an outfit she would have loved, a navy blue polka dot dress and bright green wedges. My petrified body marched into the large room where her wake would be held and took in something no parent every should. My six year old child was in a short, white coffin, surrounded by photos from her too short life. I wailed. I shook. I sobbed. I looked up at the heavens, tears flowing like a faucet. I shook my head “No.” I asked God “Why?” I couldn’t get too close to the coffin without feeling like I might fall over and collapse. I didn’t touch her or kiss her because I refuse to remember her like that.

The funeral was standing room only. Then there was the burial. A goodbye to her earthly body that had betrayed her. Our friends and family walked up two by two, some unable to make eye contact with me, tears falling onto the petals as they laid a single flower on her coffin, then walked away. After everyone had come and gone I stood in the rain and thought… “Now what?” 

Now, the real work starts. The re-building after the wreckage.

The truth is falling hurts. The dare is to keep being brave and feel your way back up. -Brene Brown

Today I drove through the wreckage of the tornado that hit Hamden at the exact moment of Lea’s wake. The past nine months has felt like a tornado. An uprooting of our lives. An angry, violent and tumultuous event that ripped through our family, flipping us upside down, smashing our hearts and souls, and destroying one of the things we love the most in this world.

On that violent night, when I saw my six year old child in a coffin, it felt as if my world was over. If I am being honest, there were moments I wished it was.

 The sky in Hamden during Lea’s wake. Do you see the heart?

We were brave, and strong, and we fought hard with her. Now we have to figure out to heal, and mend, and rebuild a new life, without her. A life that very frankly, scares the shit out of me. And where do you even begin? When the wound feels so deep and raw, like it might never close… where every minute is filled with a new set of emotions.

The next day the sun came up, like it always does. I got out of bed, put one foot in front of the other, and made a coffee… just like every other morning.


It took Lea nine months to grow inside my body. It also took nine months for cancer to overtake her body as we watched. As quickly as I became a mom of three girls, I became a mom of two… and that feels so wrong. Most of the past nine months feel like a blur… a bad dream, a horrible nightmare, filled with the most awful things we could ever imagine enduring. But we did. And here we are, still standing. Forever changed, but still standing. Broken, beaten and so very sad, sprinkled with a touch of anger and a dash of envy…but we are still standing.

We are taking this grieving and healing process one moment at a time. I believe there is no right or wrong way to do this… there is only what feels right to us, today, and every day looks so different. Some nights are unbearable. My newfound anxiety takes control of me, my blood pressure skyrockets and it feels like I want to crawl out of my skin, unable to find peace or calm. On those nights I am thankful for prayer and Ativan. Some mornings are horrible. Like when I forget she is gone and go into her room to wake her up… only to find her empty bed, perfectly made and covered in her favorite stuffies and Beanie Boos. On those mornings, I am thankful for three amazing distractions and work that gives me purpose.

Fear not, for I am with you. -God

Tomorrow would have been Lea’s seventh birthday. To us, she will forever be six.

 One year ago.

I am sure she is eating plenty of chocolate ice cream in heaven, as Lea’s heaven has candy lined streets. I can see her up there, skipping, smiling, painting the heavens in bright and beautiful colors, and making everyone around her laugh as they marvel in her joy and sparkle.  I miss her every second of every day… some seconds hurt more than others.

One of the many things I have learned through this tragedy is the true resilience of the human spirit. It can be shattered into what feels like a million pieces and then, slowly rebuild, stronger and wiser than it was before it was broken. Today marks two weeks since her death. Today I actually laughed. And smiled. And while we are not ok, I know in time we will be.

Lea’s story might be over, but ours isn’t. I will continue to document our “what comes next” and how are are navigating and healing. And to answer to many of your questions, yes. Someday, I hope to write a book, but for now, there is so much more to tell.

Experience and success don’t give you easy passage through the middle space of struggle. They only grant you a little grace, a grace that whispers, “This is the part of the process. Stay the course.” Experience doesn’t create even a single spark of light in the darkness of middle space. It only instills in you a little bit of faith in your ability to navigate the dark. The middle is messy, but also where the magic happens. 
 -Brene Brown, Rising Strong
We would like to compile photos and stories from Lea’s life. If you have anything you can share with us about Lea, your interactions with her or your favorite moments and memories, please email us at Feel free to send multiple stories!
There are a few days left to get your Owl by Lea t-shirt to benefit the CT chapter of the Cure Starts Now. Get yours here. 
Saturday, July 28 there is a Lessons From Lea Cocktail Social to benefit The CT Chapter of Cure Starts Now. Get your tickets here. Space is limited.

Comments 21

  1. The photo of the tornado, not sure if you see it but I see a girls face looking down with flower wreath in her brown hair..God Bless your family.

  2. I will never stop praying for her….. you will always be a mom of three….sweet Lea is joyfully in the arms of our Blessed Mother Love and peace to you all. 🙏🙏💙


  3. I knew I was ready to be the mother of a baby girl the day I held Lea while Christa stole a much needed moment to herself to use the bathroom at Rugged Maniac about 5 years ago. Lea’s spunk and joy was evident, palpable. I wished for a baby girl that would test my limits and steal my heart. Just like Lea did. I was fortunate to be tasked with raising my wild child, Olive, years later. Though that moment was short, it is forever ingrained in my memory. I treasure that moment and am honored to be touched by her soul. The world is a more beautiful place because of her. Lea lives on forever.

  4. Christa,
    You don’t know me but I think of you more than some of my closest friends. I came to know Lea through hanging around Rascal’s when she would come with Alicia and her sisters. My son was younger than her, but she always shared with him and made sure he was included in what the bigger kids were doing if he wanted to be.
    I’ve been reading your blog and been crying over your words and bearing witness to your pain.
    You’re doing an incredible job handling the impossible to handle. I admire your strength. There’s one thing you’ve said in your blogs that I need to comment on. You did not become a mother of two by losing Lea. You are a mother of three and you always will be. You just have to be a mom in a different way now. Lea needs you to keep her alive in your heart and in your memory. Which I’m sure you’d do without me telling you. I work in a place where Mother’s lose their babies all too frequently, and they don’t stop being your child when you can’t hold them in your arms anymore. There’s other places you can hold her close. It breaks my heart to hear you say you’re a mom of two, you’re a mom of three. Two you hold in your arms, and one in your heart.
    I continue to bear witness (and tears) to your pain so long as you continue to share.

  5. Your words have given others the ability to have a glimpse of what you’re going through. Your words are beautiful. Your daughter Lea was, no doubt given a tremendous gift of her family, her dad and siblings and her mom, who has a gift in communication.

    I’m so very sorry for your loss. I shudder to even try to imagine. I can only hope that our Heavenly Father will guide you all through this. Thank you for sharing the journey you have all been on. Lea is fine now. You know where she is. BIG love to you all

  6. thinking of you all every moment and sending love. you are right, there is no right or wrong way to grieve, you just do it. and yes, you are resilient. you will get through this, but changed forever. xo

  7. Every day I see Archangel Michael’s enormous wings and healing love embracing you all, with Lea’s light shining there with him.

  8. Christa your strength is amazing and my heart aches for you. It Makes me cherish my children more and not sweat the small stuff. You are amazing.

  9. You have already written the book! It is all the “Lessons from Lea”…a mothers jouney of love and loss. ❤❤

  10. Dear ones, you do not know us. We used to live with our family at 583 Circular Avenue with our family of three girls and one boy. We are friends with Jim Cromwell. Our daughter,Amy, suffered through the insults of treatment for childhood cancer at the age of 14 months through 6 years of age. To say we are touched beyond measure by your tragedy is an understatement. What we want to tell you is that we know for certain that out at the end of the pain you are experiencing is an inexplicable joy, as you see Lela dancing on those golden streets. The pain and the memory of her suffering will never soften, but Jesus is faithful to give us that joy of knowing Him…..and He helps us overcome when the waves of missing your sweet girl come rolling over you, usually at very unexpected times. Our sweet girl lived beyond cancer treatment to be 30 years old, very handicapped from the insults of chemo and radiation. She has been gone now for 21 years, and we have learned to reach through the pain to experience the joy of that heavenly scene, and at age 75, we now know it won’t be long before we join her. Please know we will continue to lift you and your sweet family up to the Lord because somehow, we know firsthand your needs! God bless and keep you….day by day….until that DAY!

  11. You have experienced the unthinkable and I’m sure there is no right or wrong. Just what gets you through each day and empty night. I continue to pray for your and your family every night. I’m praying for healing for you!

  12. That heart shows me you sweet baby is now Gods little angel …..look for those signs Christa they bring such peace….I’ve lost a children he use to go to your boot camp ….his sister is kate who got hit by the resistance bands I’m just trying to refresh your memory who you’re speaking to ….I lost my Michael…..and don’t say you have 2 children you have and always will have three wonderful children and only you can do what’s good for you a lot of people will have things to say but you do what’s good for you healing is such a slow process but somehow with many prayers we get that strength to get up everyday ….my heart breaks for you and I’m here if you ever need something that those who never had a loss could understand

  13. Christa, I have two thoughts that I try to share with friends who have suffered great loss. They helped me tremendously. First, knowing Jesus could return at any moment made the distance to my loved one seem less far. I tried to live in each moment looking for His appearing. Second, there were times when I was completely overwhelmed and could not breathe. It was at one of those times that I remembered the Holy Spirit is called, “The Comforter”. Since he is God, I prayed directly to Him to comfort me. Every time without fail, He brought in a peace and sense of well-being that assured me everything would be alright and my loved one was safe. We continue to pray for you and your family.

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