Leatrice W. Burphy

After Your Mess, Comes Your Message...

Some things are beyond man’s comprehension and are not intended for us to always understand why God does the things He does.

I was twelve years old when my father’s battle with illness began. As I watched him physically deteriorate, I could not help but to take note of the fight I saw in my dad. He had this stubborn will not just to live but to participate in the art of living. I have never met anyone who was more persevering than he was, and from him I learned the true meaning of resilience.

The morning the doctors told us my dad had less than seventy-two hours to live, I refused to accept it because I was not ready to let him go. Although I knew deep within that this was it, I cried and prayed he would fight his way back to us, but God had other plans. Exactly three days later as I walked into his room, my father made his way to heaven and earned a new title in my life; my guardian angel. He eventually died from congestive heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, and respiratory failure.

But nothing could have possibly prepared me for what was to come a year and five months later. An unexpected knock from the county police and the words he uttered to my mom, changed my life forever and pierced my heart beyond anything I could put into words. I can still hear him say, “there is no easier way to tell you this, but your son was shot and killed tonight.” In an instant what I’ve always felt was anyone’s worst nightmare became my reality, and just like that my world was shattered once again.

There are days I wish the Lord could just give me a glimpse of the piece of my heart in heaven. Although a few years have passed, I still think about them often and miss them everyday. At first I felt the whole ordeal was so unfair, but I have accepted that death is never untimely and it was just their designated time to go. Grief has been an incredibly painful journey, but somehow I find comfort in knowing that my father and brother are in a better place watching over me.

After Your Test, Comes Your Testimony...

I cannot think of any test in life that is harder than losing your loved one; and, I had no idea it would change my life in ways I never imagined.

Grief is an emotional struggle and a day-by-day process that you do not easily get over and probably never will. Now I understand why some people just give up, become hopeless, and have no drive to go on. When it got down to a low point, I did not pursue counseling but I found an alternative to cope with my loss. I turned to journaling, community service, and later grad school which became therapy for me. Above anything else, I always remembered the importance of remaining grounded during tough times, so church filled a void that nothing else could.

But I went through a phase where I questioned God. I have always been told you were not supposed to, but this time I did ask why. While driving home one night, I heard a song on the radio that has literally changed my perspective towards the things in my life I have no control over. The more I listened to, “Let Go and Let God,” the more I began to accept that everything happens for a reason, although I may not like it or understand why. Since then, I have made a personal connection with this song. It has consoled me, given me a sense of peace, and reassured me that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I was raised and have always been surrounded by strong women who taught me by example how to endure, hang on, and survive. From childhood, it was ingrained in me that you never allow an unfortunate circumstance to beat you, you learn to beat it. So I credit the drive I have to persevere through trying times not just to my dad, but to my mom, grandmother, and some very special ladies in my life. Having a strong support system has been a constant reminder that I have an amazing cast of people in my corner. When you can count more than one person who genuinely cares for you and have your best interest at heart, that is a blessing in itself.

My story could have had a different ending, but I thank the Lord for never letting me go. I’m grateful for my blessings, lessons learned, and the strength He has given me to accept that my pain was a part of His plan. I truly believe that the storm in your life is designed to prepare you for a cause that is bigger than yourself. So when my journey here on earth is done, I hope I can say, that I did the best I could, with what I had, wherever I was, to fulfill my purpose.

After Your Trial, Comes Your Triumph...

A LEGACY Left Behind, Inc. was birthed from a dream, an epiphany, and a burden often felt after losing a friend who had just became a mom five months before her sudden passing. Inspired to reach out to young ladies who share a similar loss story as mine, I wanted to create an environment that ingrained one message in these girls. “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also very full of overcoming it.”

A life lesson, I hope I can also pass on to disadvantage girls who were victims of the 14-year civil war that took place in Liberia. It breaks my heart to know that the images I have of my childhood are completely different from theirs. While I remember my first television appearance, birthday parties, Christmas mornings, talent shows, dance recitals, musical theatre, field trips, summer camps, amusement parks, and the priceless memories made with my siblings, cousins, and friends; they remember the many days spent without food and water, being forced to leave their homes with only the clothes on their backs, the sounds of gun shots and grenades, watching innocent people including family members tortured and slaughtered right before their eyes, stumbling over dead bodies, the scars from rape and sexual abuse, and the songs that sustained them while praying to survive another day.

The night I began writing my vision on paper, I thought about those girls and how hard life has been for them. So I grabbed another piece of paper and started what is now referred to as The Liberian Girl Project. I know that I can never erase their past filled with trauma; but, I can play a role in giving them a future filled with hope.

Pursuing this new chapter in my life was not an easy decision for me. Not only was I financially unprepared to start a non-profit; but, I am a very private person who has never liked being in the spotlight. For months, I was hesitant to go forward with the idea because I knew what it entailed. However, the consistency of one dream was evident that God was revealing another plan He had for my life. When I thought about the impact this organization could have on the lives of grieving adolescent girls and how sharing my pain could inspire them to get through theirs; stepping out of my comfort zone was worth the risk.

Exactly seven years after losing my father, A LEGACY Left Behind, Inc. was founded in loving memory of him and my brother. A day that will always be one of the worst of my life is now one of the most cherished. I consider it a blessing to honor their lives through an organization that empowers, nurtures, rehabilitates, and uplifts young ladies who have either experienced emotional trauma or extreme hardships at an early stage in life. It is my hope that the decision I made to triumph through tragedy will encourage not just our participants, but people from all walks of life to persevere through unfortunate circumstances. I have no idea how the story will unfold, but I am looking forward to an amazing experience on this journey.

"You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have."