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Monday, February 8, 2010

Emma's Dash

Below, you will find what I shared with the crowd at Emma's funeral. It reflected on her impact on the world: Emma's Dash.

Friends, on behalf of Christy and I, let me begin by saying THANK YOU. Thank you for joining us and supporting us on this unexpected journey.

It is our belief that we are stewards of God’s children until he calls them home. We are humbled and thankful that God entrusted us with such an influential and soul-moving being as Emma. Emma Elizabeth Dunnam was a beautiful and inspiring little girl. Her toothy smile was contagious. She was very social and loved to be in the middle of the action.

In funerals we usually discuss “THE DASH”…that dash that is placed between the year of birth and year of death. We list accomplishments, organizational affiliations, education and special things a person has done for others. Through worldly eyes, Emma had a very limited skill set. Early on she could clap, say A, UH OH and DADDY, and climb and fall down stairs. Then she regressed and lost those quickly. At first glance, Emma’s DASH seems rather shallow.

As parents we all look at our newborn children and say “you can change the world”. We envision school dances and graduation, vacations and careers, weddings and grandchildren--- all within the first few seconds of seeing their face. Our thoughts were no different when we first saw Emma as we imagined how she would impact the world------WOW! we underestimated her!!!

Who could have imagined the skill set of clapping, saying A, UH OH and DADDY and climbing and falling down stairs could have touched our community the way she did? Certainly not I. I can’t think of a life she has changed more than my own, but there are many of you here today that have told us of the great impact in your own lives and families because of Emma.

Friends, if you would please oblige me for a moment, I have a special request for you: if Emma has made a significant impact in your life or prompted you to get out of your comfort zone and take action, will you please raise your hand?

• The anonymous 8 who sent us to Disney World
• Those who left envelopes of cash in my work mailbox
• Those who mowed our yard and cleaned our home
• Those who have written us letters and told stories of restored marriages
• You fathers that have described how you spend more time with your children
• Everyone who volunteered for Emma’s Bayou Bash
• Those who have committed to reading their Bible daily because of Emma
• You who have re-established a daily prayer life

Keep your hands up for a minute and look around you…NOW you are looking at EMMA’s DASH. You are the FACE of Emma's Dash and we thank you for that.

A legacy is one of the greatest pursuits of mankind. Lives built upon an individual's own actions STOP at the end of their dash. Lives lived in a fashion to INSPIRE others to action, however, leave a legacy. Emma has left a tremendous legacy and her mother and I are very proud of her. Emma introduced us to the wisdom that we do not HAVE souls. Instead, we ARE souls and have bodies. Emma IS a wise and seasoned soul.

In a group this size we are likely missing no political or religious perspective. And regardless, I believe we could all agree that we wish for a world without wars. However, the worst of wars have a silver lining that we all celebrate--- and that is that wars give us heroes. Emma’s battle against Batten Disease is no different than any other war; the casualties were great, but we learned of many heroes in our midst. These heroes are another part of Emma’s Dash.

There are two particular heroes in Emma’s Battle that I considered mentioning today. I asked Christy for her opinion of whether I should mention Bill and Susan Baker and how they energized dozens---to rally hundreds---to feed thousands---to raise tens of thousands in donations---all for one little girl…and how the Emma’s Bayou Bash TEAM redefined what it means in this area to help a family in need. Well, Christy said it might embarrass them…so, I’m not going to mention it…

I will however single out one particular hero today. Please listen carefully as I read a series of scriptures, beginning with verse 25 of Proverbs 31:

25- She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at days to come.
26- She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27- She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28- Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
29- Saying “many women do noble things, but you surpass them all”.
30- Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Christy, thank you for being a Proverbs 31 woman. Thank you for looking past your husband's faults and staying focused on God. Your love, care and attention for all of your children are above reproach. You have been through valleys deeper than the sun's rays could reach and you let Christ light your way. Yours and Emma’s DASHes are eternally intertwined. I love you.

Today, I have posed the question, “who could have seen that the skill set of clapping, saying A, UH OH and DADDY and climbing and falling down stairs could leave such a legacy?" I do not pretend for a second to know the reasoning that takes place on the other side, but I will safely say that God easily saw how such simple feats could make an impact to transcend generations.

We have received letters from around the world—literally—telling us how Emma has impacted lives. We praise a HOLY, GRACIOUS and PERFECT GOD for how he has so mightily used Emma. We are also challenged and extend an invitation to you to find the things in your life that are your equivalents of A, UH OH, DADDY and clapping and use them to inspire others. Speaking from my own experiences, I know we often times do not climb the stairs in our lives out of fear that we may fall down. Let’s remember today that it may be our falling down the stairs of life that inspires 100 other people to climb them.


Thank you for forever embedding in us the spirit of a small child; one who loves unconditionally, smiles at all she sees, when in doubt gives hugs and always climbs every set of stairs she can find. Thank you for profoundly changing my life and for allowing me to be a part of yours. I love you always. Daddy
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