Sunday, May 13th is Mother’s Day. It’s a day set aside each year to show moms how much they’re loved and appreciated. But the day can be bittersweet for a mother who has lost a child.
Ashley Mims says she’d rather not belong to that group, but she became part of it when her daughter died in the Tuscaloosa tornado last year. Part of Ashley’s mission now as a mom is keeping her daughter’s dream alive.
Loryn Brown's dream was to attend and graduate from the University of Alabama. It was where her daddy Shannon played football and was part of the 1992 National Championship team.
Walking across campus recently, Ashley talked about her daughter saying, “She only wanted to be here. There was no other option for her.”
Ashley says from the time her little girl was four years old, she wanted to be at UA. Loryn was living and working in Tuscaloosa and was scheduled to start at Alabama during the fall semester last year.
Ashley said Loryn “Had to be here. She had to be on this campus and this school and she had to graduate from this school.”
But Loryn's dreams ended April 27, 2011 when an EF-4 tornado rolled across Tuscaloosa. Ashley was at home in Wetumpka watching the storm live on television. She was also on the phone with Loryn. Ashley recalls the conversation like it was yesterday.
“She just kept saying it over and over, 'Mama, I'm scared. I'm scared'. It was just, I said 'get your head down baby, and put the pillow over your head'. And I heard a muffled 'Mama, I'm scared'. And I was saying 'it's okay. It's okay'."
But it wasn’t okay. The house Loryn shared with two other girls was seconds from being crushed by falling trees. Ashley says the phone cut off.
"I knew then it was over. Part of me was gone."
That’s when Ashley walked out of her own home and looked toward the heavens.
"And I said, 'Oh God, please be with her'," Mims said.
Loryn Brown was killed along with one of her roommates Danielle Downs and their friend Will Stevens. Danielle and Will were from Priceville. Ashley says she has relied on her faith, family and friends to get through the year since Loryn's death.
With tears in her eyes, she told me, “We just want one more hug, one more touch, one more I love you mama. One more time with her but she's in such a better place. She would not want to come back here," Mims said.
Before Loryn left home to return to Tuscaloosa the Sunday before the storm, she wrote three words on a dry erase board in the family’s kitchen. Those three words, 'I Love you,' are still there. Ashley has also written three words on a post-it note and stuck it to the board. Those three words: 'Do not erase'.