A true gift of healing for Orting mom who lost 5 children
ORTING, Wash. -- The pain of losing a child is more than any parent should ever have to bear.
For a Pierce County mother, that pain is multiplied by five; simply unimaginable.
"I don't remember anything. I mean, I'm not going to lie, I don't remember anything because I don't want to remember anything," said Angie Leapai.
Barely getting those words out, Leapai throws her head into her hands and sobs. It's just too painful for her.
Sixteen-year-old Maxine, 14-year-old Jaime, 12-year-old Samantha, 8-year old heather and 7-year-old James Jr. are all gone. All 5 of Angie Leapai's children gone, murdered by their father before he committed suicide.
"I'm lost. I feel lost," she said through tears.
The pain is only a part of her problem. Leapai says she feels tremendous guilt that she can't afford to mark her children's graves.
Now, 5 years after the Orting community tearfully said goodbye to her children, nothing more than a white piece of paper marks each of the graves.
"You can't even read it," Leapai said.
"It adds to the pain, on top of the excruciating pain that you're already feeling," said Tears Foundation founder Sarah Slack.
Slack couldn't afford a grave marker when her baby Jesse was stillborn. It's why she created the Tears Foundation, to pay for infant headstones and provide support for grieving parents.
"They don't have to suffer through this alone," Slack said.
Leapai found the Tears Foundation online and asked for financial help with the headstone she desperately wants, to mark her children's graves. She spent the past five years holding car washes and yard sales, any fundraiser she could think of, trying to scrape together enough money to pay for the headstone, but just couldn't get there.
"I'm totally not the same person I was before in any way shape or form," Leapai said.
Help from the Tears Foundation is fairly new in this area. After josh Powell murdered his boys in 2012, the Tears Foundation created the Charlie and Braden project, to pay for grave markers of older kids who are murdered or die in accidents.
Now Leapai finally gets a headstone to honor her children, thanks to the tears foundation.
"There's something to come see and sit with other than a piece of paper," she said.
The marker, engraved with "always missed, never forgotten" is now in place in Orting where Leapai's children are buried. It contains pictures of James Jr., heather, Samantha, Jaime and Maxine all united on just one marker, that she can touch and be near.
Now with something she can touch and sit next to, it's clear to see that Leapai's process of healing is moving forward.
"I feel like I can breathe," she said. "I didn't feel like I could breath before, but I didn't really notice that it's crazy."
The Tears Foundation helps more than 170 families a year with grave markers for infants and even more through counseling and support. Close to a dozen families have been helped through the Charlie and Braden Project, since it started.
The KOMO 4 Problem Solvers invite you to help other parents. You can make a donation to help, through the Problem Solvers. And for more information on the work of the Tears Foundation.