Red Velvet Cake and Starting a Revolution

Have you ever had an intense craving for a dish that you’ve never made? I have. One day, I knew I’d never find rest if I didn’t get my lips around a chocolatey, smooth, moist (I know, I know, the word is gross) red velvet cake. I am no culinary expert, but I can read, so I was sure I could create the perfect cake to satisfy my deep yearning for the cake (or diabetes.) I wish I had photographic evidence of how my ability to read transferred to my ability to make a beautiful cake with pristine cream cheese icing. I would for sure be in the Failure Hall of Fame. Luckily, I live right next to a grocery store, Harris Teeter (henceforth known as simply, “The Teet.”) A few attempts later, and I had created a cake that satisfied my urges, although I sure wouldn’t take it to any pot-luck dinners. I did, however, change the recipe up and created some pretty amazing cupcakes. They looked different from what I had pictured originally, but they still tasted like the cake of my dreams.

A few years ago, I tried to start another project that I was craving just as deeply as the red velvet cake. I wanted to tell the world about my sister. Many people in my small hometown know some version of how she died, and it pissed me off that nobody focused on how she LIVED. She only lived for 18 years, 1 month, and 9 days. However, she did more to affect lives in those few days than many of us combined could ever dream of! I wanted to start a revolution to share her story, but my heart and head were in it for the wrong reasons. I wanted to do it to clear her name, to perhaps rid her of the shame that she was so clearly carrying in silence.

I was still in the deepest depths of grief and my intentions were based in anger and hate. I believe it was about 18 months after she died that I began to try to get her story out. All of the grief “experts” say that the first year is the worst, so I was certain that I was in a good place to start a revolution. {Sidebar: Grief “experts” are stupid and I wish nothing but explosive diarrhea on many of them. Many future posts to come on that precious subject.} I lost steam and gave up on my vision, because I was still an infant– a 31 year old infant. You see, profound, traumatic loss changes you so deeply and quickly that you become a completely new person. The way you view and interact with the world is completely new and foreign, and in many ways you start at square one with building your emotional quotient back up.

So, now that my grieving soul is old enough to almost be in Kindergarten, I am definitely ready to change the world! Oh wait, that’s not right. I still am unsure of exactly what part of my Molly’s story is going to change the world, but I know that I can’t get her story out if I don’t begin. So, my first attempt was like my first red velvet cake…. a disaster. But here I go again, because my craving, to make sure that the story of her life does not end in the ICU room at Tanner Medical Center in Carrollton, GA on December 29, 2009 has to be satisfied. I have to start somewhere. I have grand ideas of speaking to Congressional committees about abortion laws; I want to meet with Billy Graham himself to discuss the shift in the church from one of guilt and shame to the real message of Jesus: love, forgiveness, and freedom. I want to wring the necks of the leaders in America over the last 20 or so years who have let our maternal mortality rate increase. I want to hug and cry with the poor child who is certain that they are going to hell because they decided to have sex before they got married. I want to tell them that they are not alone, and that no sin makes Jesus love them less. I want to stand in narthexes of churches around the country with a loudspeaker screaming: “Don’t listen to them! Jesus was born and crucified so that you don’t have to walk and hide in shame! Don’t let them tell you that one sin is worse than another!” (Well, to be honest I was a little too scarred by the preacher on the Concourse at Auburn who screamed I was going to hell because I was wearing a sorority shirt, so maybe I don’t want to do that last one.)

So while I have thousands of plans and many avenues to address how Molly died, I also don’t want to ignore how she lived. I don’t need to start a revolution, just start ROCKing the boat a little. What our young people need is KINDNESS. Molly was the type of kid who gave up holidays to go love on orphans in Kenya and Mexico. She was the type of kid who would literally take the jacket off of her back to give to someone. She was the type of kid who loved the “least of these,” and she did so with reckless abandon. WE NEEED that in every home, school, church, and business in the world. What my family thought we had was OPEN CONVERSATION. But clearly, we missed the mark on that. We never want a family to experience the devastation (that word is way too weak to describe the misery, I’m working on creating a new word for it, let me know if you know Mr. Webster) that our family experienced.

So while I am still deciding exactly what we will do, I do know that who we are is MollyROCK. Radical Open Conversation and Kindness. It’s what Molly stood for, and what could have kept her here to tell her story. Although I have begged, bargained, and pleaded with God (and I am pretty convincing, just ask my Dad), he doesn’t seem to be returning her. So, now I have to take the next step. It’s not going to be a beautiful cake, maybe it’ll be cupcakes…. maybe a trifle…. But it will be good; and it will be about children and adults learning to communicate with each other, it will be about teaching our society that shame is more detrimental than any wrongdoing, and it will be about giving young people tools and resources to use when they’ve messed up.

I plan on using this blog to simultaneously sift out my ideas for a foundation, to discuss the realities of living with crippling grief as a sibling, to give tips on how to survive watching your parents literally break into pieces, and to share with you the funny things that have happened along the way. (True story, less than a week after Molly died, some people showed up at our house for an engagement party that we were supposed to host. Clearly they didn’t get the memo that the party had moved. Or, they were sure we’d had enough time to pull ourselves together. The guests came dressed in their finest cocktail attire, They came in to a room with about a dozen or so people lounging in pajamas and passing around a bag of peanut M&Ms dipping our snotty, dog-hair covered hands into the bag no less!  We couldn’t offer them a place to sit because Molly’s dog was passed out on Prozac on one of the couches, and they declined our offer for M&Ms. I am pretty sure that I hadn’t had a shower since the day of the funeral, and they just wanted a glass of wine and to make small talk and celebrate some nuptials. As soon as they ushered themselves out the door, I heard the most beautiful sound ever. I was certain I would never see my sweet mom smile again, much less laugh, but she belly laughed for 15 minutes and for a brief moment the tears of anguish were tears from laughter.)  I can promise I’ll make you laugh and I will probably make you mad because the little filter that I had between my brain and mouth died with my sister. I welcome your feedback and comments, I don’t know how often I will update, but I feel like this might be one way to satisfy my craving to get her story out there. Thanks for sharing in our journey!

More than meat loves salt,




  1. Cassie Baker · December 12, 2014

    Emily, I love you so much! I support this message!


  2. vickiebarber · December 12, 2014

    Beautiful Emily. ❤️


  3. Rhonda Garner Vaughn · December 12, 2014

    Emily you have a heart of Gold and you are the best person I know. I wasn’t around Molly ads much as I would like to have been and I wish the family could see each other more but what you are doind in Molly’s honor is incredible. You have more strength than you know and you are a very special person. Thanks for honoring Molly like this and keep it up. I love you girl and the rest of the family so much.


  4. Sissy · December 12, 2014

    I support you and your message. Love you to the moon and back!


  5. Kris Smith · December 20, 2014

    Love this post -you are amazing.


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