Before February 2007, Bryon and I led a typical no-kids kind of life with a couple of Mexico vacations a year, dinner out on the town every night, drinks at the neighbors' houses on the weekends, and no tolerance for kids' noise whatsoever. Then this happened.
Sixteen months later, Shelby was born. Had it not been for Ashlee's passions and sacrifices, our little family would have forever remained two. I never understood why Ashlee wanted to work with animals, but I did envy the pure joy her career brought her. In fact, the night before she passed, Bryon and I were having a deep discussion with friends about working in a field where you make the money to do what you want in your free time versus working in a field where you make little money but look forward to each day.
As Shelby grew a little older, friends kept asking us to go to the zoo. The idea of facing the very thing that tore my husband and his family to pieces was not very attractive, but I knew I wanted Shelby to enjoy the same things her aunt did. So, Bryon had a great idea. He and his mom decided to take her to the Dallas World Aquarium on the day Shelby turned two.
Since I had to work at that time, I was concerned all day about the toll the outing would take on Bryon and Janice. But, then I got home and heard their stories and saw their pictures. That night, it dawned on me why Ashlee loved her job so much. She got to experience the sheer delight of every child getting to see the animals in real life for the first time. Imagine the squeals at the birds, laughs at the otters, and screams at the snakes she heard on a day-to-day basis. I can't think of any other job that lets you witness that kind of happiness in a child. How uplifting to go home each night knowing you influenced someone in a great way EVERY SINGLE DAY!