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Hope Collins // First Time Mom // CSPA Board Member // Lost Father to Colon Cancer in 1991 // Born and raised in South Carolina // Clemson Fan // Boykin Spaniel Owner // Yogi // Life Motto – “The best view comes after the hardest climb”

My dad grew up in a very small town called Islandton, SC.  You can see the house that my grandfather grew up in from their front porch.  He had a quintessential country childhood and then left small town life to attend Clemson University where he met my mom. They fell in love, got married and had my older sister, Mandy.  The night she was born my dad was as sick as a dog.  He was showing signs that he had cancer, but this didn’t cross their minds, because he was so young.

My sister was born in April and by July of that year he was diagnosed with colon cancer.   As new parents, they were faced with the biggest fight of their lives. At the time, they were living in Columbia and they leaned heavily on both my dad’s parents and my mom’s parents – just trying to keep everything as normal as possible.

Over the next two years, he went through many treatments and they were told by their doctors that even if he did survive, they wouldn’t be able to have any more children, but by the grace of God, they learned that they were expecting another little girl.

I was born in May of 1990 and my parents named me Lauren Hope in hopes my dad would live to see me grow up.  Unfortunately, that was not the case for him.  He died when I was a year and a half old. Sadly, I don’t have any memories of him, but I treasure the photos I have with him.  I also know that those ordinary moments those photos captured meant so much to my parents.

I can only imagine the grief my mom felt while also trying to raise two young girls. She continued to lean on our family for support, but thankfully, another angel entered our life – my stepdad. They met on a blind date.  He wasn’t really interested in going on this date.  He was just trying to get someone at work off his back.  He opened the door and said, “This is dinner, movie and adult conversation and that’s it.”  Fast forward two years, and they were married. My stepdad adopted us and raised us as his own.  He never expected us to call him Dad, but it was just a natural thing. He has been a great support throughout my life.

In first grade, we had to write why our family was special. It was a drawing of a family of four – me, my mom, my step-dad, my sister – and an angel in heaven, my biological father.  I wrote that my family was special because I have two dads.  One is in heaven and the other is at home with me.

My mom had a lot of health issues herself and passed away while I was in college.  The loss of any loved one is difficult, but losing two parents at a young age has impacted the importance of family for me.  My husband, Colby, is also a huge support for me and while he never had a chance to meet my mom or my dad, he is such a strong person and I know he was handpicked by them for me.

Last year at Thanksgiving my husband and I were faced with our own challenges of starting a family and now we are counting down the days until we meet our baby girl. It really is a blessing to reflect on where we are this year versus last year and remember the power of hope.

I was recently talking with my grandmother about my dad’s passing and our journey to parenthood and truly she is one of the strongest people that I know. In reflecting on all that we have been through as family, she said “God doesn’t make mistakes and you just have to hold onto your faith and have hope.”  Of course she wishes things were different, but I believe what she says — God doesn’t make mistakes and we just have to keep faith in the journey and hold onto that.

I believe that my name being Hope was not a mistake or a happy coincidence. It has given me a way to keep my dad’s memory alive. It has also given me the opportunity to support others who are struggling.

I’ve been able to take my grandmother to the park and we’ve honored my dad’s memory with a plaque. It is so special to be able to walk her through the park and see his memory live on.  I know that this means a lot to her and my grandfather.

I’m thankful that this series is a way to honor both my dad and our baby girl.  Her name is Elide (Ella-Day) James Collins, but we will call her Liddy. Her first, middle and nick name all honor our family. I know my dad would love her and I know he does! Even in those moments when we didn’t know how or when we would become parents, he knew. There’s so much hope in that. I do wish my dad was here to meet her, but he’s going to be an angel for her, her whole life.