Christmastime can be especially difficult after the loss of a family member. So many memories, and such emptiness at the realization they are no longer physically here. The pain can become palpable, and grief can be ever-present.
Matt, Kayla and Carter Ertl have been surrounded by love and support since the abduction and death of their 5-year-old Alayna in August. That and their firm faith in God have sustained them these past four months. They celebrate their ?Äúangel?Äù by remembering the joy she brought to everyone. They share that joy wherever they can, with a strength and grace few of us can imagine.
This Christmas they got an unplanned boost of joy, from an unexpected source. The Brighter Days Foundation from Baxter visited the Ertls at St. Anthony Church, across the street from the Ertl home. Three representatives ?Äì Jeanni Foss, John Foss, and Heather Bender ?Äì drove to Watkins Monday, Dec. 26, with a ?Äúsleigh?Äù full of surprises for the Ertl family.
It all started with a colorful cake, one that Alayna would have loved, filled with rainbows and butterflies. Then bright and shiny balloons from Crow Wing and Cass Counties, where volunteers had searched for Alayna that fateful day, Aug. 20. Then came the presents!
Carter got a new puppy, and dog food to feed him/her. He got lots of special toys that were on his wish list too, like a set of Nerf guns, and Minecraft Legos. Kayla got a spa package in a basket.
Kayla received a T-shirt with a photo of her with Alayna on it. Matt got one too.
The Pinetree Patchwork Quilt Guild in Brainerd created a beautiful hand-made quilt for the family, with a definite hunting-and-fishing theme. (The Ertl family loved to do these things together.)
The family was presented with tickets to a special Vikings game, and a gas card to get there and back.
Jeanni Foss and her mother Terri Bahn each did a ?Äúmemory art?Äù painting of Alayna and Carter, in their hunting gear. A special painting was presented to Carter of Alayna in her favorite ?ÄúFrozen?Äù hat.
The pi?®ce de r?©sistance was a gorgeous memory trunk, made and donated by Loren Patnode Cabinetry. A beautiful piece of furniture in which they can keep mementos and treasured items in memory of Alayna. An engraved plaque inside was donated by E.L. Menk Jewelers.
The surprise was plotted by high school friends (KAHS Class of 1990) Jeanni Foss, Kari Faber, and Heidi Schoenecker. Thank you, ?Äústrangers,?Äù for bringing a brighter day to the Ertls.
Here?Äôs wishing everyone many ?Äúbrighter days?Äù in 2017. And each of us can be an instrument to bring someone else a ?Äúbrighter day?Äù as well. Giving truly is better than receiving. Happy 2017!
Kayla, Carter and Matt Ertl pose for a photo with a beautiful hunting and fishing quilt presented to them Monday, Dec. 26, at St. Anthony Church in Watkins. Matt and Kayla were each presented with a ?Äúmemory art?Äù (at right) painted by Terri Bahn of Baxter and Jeanni Foss of Nisswa. Carter was presented with his own special canvas of his beautiful angel sister in her favorite hat (right, below). The Ertls also were gifted a hand-crafted memory trunk in which to keep treasures and mementos of Alayna. Photos courtesy of Jeanni Foss.