Madison Catherine came into my life on August 21995.  I can remember the joy I felt at 1:39 a.m. when the doctor lifted her up and said, you have a beautiful baby girl!  I fell in love with her the moment I laid eyes on her. I remember Eileen yelling, “Don’t let her out your sight, don’t let anyone steal her!”  I didn’t, and we brought her home and our lives together began.

Madison was a child with a lot of energy, always doing things ahead of schedule. She began to walk at 9 months, climb stairs and ladders shortly after. I remember at the age of four when we started teaching her how to ride a bike, she kept asking me, “Dad take off these training wheels.”  I told her I would when she got better at it.  I remember coming home from work a few days later, and as I came down the block, I saw this small child riding a bike down the sidewalk. As I got closer to her, I couldn’t believe my eyes to see my Maddy riding the bike with no training wheels!  Not only that, but she waved at me when I drove by her. I asked Eileen why she took the training wheels off and she said, “Madison said that you said it was ok.” I looked at her, and she just smiled.

She became a big sister, first to Sheila, who, while we were at the hospital, said to us, “Mom and Dad, when are you coming home? And you aren’t bringing that Sheila girl home, are you?”  Eventually Catherine and Meg followed, and we became the Angus 6.  Maddy assumed the role of mother hen, always wanting to help with any task needed when it came to caring for her siblings.  It became evident that she was an old soul trapped in a young body.  There weren’t too many 8th graders that got excited when the next edition of the Williams-Sonoma magazine arrived.  As she progressed through grammar school, you could see her blossoming into a beautiful teenager.  She never let any issues such as her ADD hold her back, instead she pushed forward. It was in grammar school that she developed her love of sports and physical activity. She excelled in track where she was named MVP by her coach, all the while, being cheered on by her family.  We always made it a point to make as many events as we could so that she would know that she was loved and supported in everything she did.

Her bubbly personality and infectious smile followed her to high school, where she just kept getting more and more beautiful by the day. Mads was my college football watching buddy, especially the SEC, and most especially, the Alabama Crimson Tide. She would ask me questions about the history of it and said, “Dad, I think I want to go to college there.”  I humored her by saying, sure honey, whatever you want, thinking it was only a phase. But in typical Maddy fashion, she began doing research on the school, befriended students who went there from our area, as well as others her age who wanted to go there. “Roll Tide, Dad,” became a common phrase in the Angus house.  I told her that you can’t just go to a college without visiting it first. So her and her mother conspired to get me down there by buying me football tickets, and yes, it worked. The moment she set foot on that campus, you could see that she just belonged there. She just couldn’t stop smiling, and I knew she had found her college. For selfish reasons, I wanted her close to home.  The thought of my baby being 11 hours away was not sitting well with me.  She applied on her own as soon as possible during her senior year and was accepted.  This was now becoming a reality. She was so excited that she had a countdown calendar on her phone to the days when she was leaving.  She had her summer job and her own bank account, and she becoming more independent by the day. This was going to be the summer of Maddy, so we planned to spend as much time with her as possible before she left for college.

She graduated on Sunday May 18th and she looked absolutely stunning in a beautiful dress she picked herself and a stunning pearl necklace.  We were so proud of her. I will always say that Mads had such class and style.  Whether it was homecoming or prom, she just looked so elegant in all the outfits she wore.

Throughout high school you could see her coming into her own socially and developing a fabulous sense of humor.  On Monday May 26th, I came home after work to find my Mads had just come down after a long nap. She said, “Don’t be mad, dad that I was sleeping, because I had a great weekend!” I said I wasn’t mad at her.  We started talking, and she looked me straight in the eye and said, “I want to thank you and mom for raising me the right way, teaching me to be good and kind to others.”  I said it’s because we want you to raise your children the same way. We talked for a little longer and I told her I was going to take a nap.  I told her I loved her. That’s the last time we spoke.

When it got late and she wasn’t home, we knew something wasn’t right, this just wasn’t Mads. We got information to try and find her. Wilksey, I know you knew when I left the police station what the situation was, but as her dad, I had to find her.  As soon as I saw the police and fire trucks, I got that sick feeling only a parent gets when they know something bad has happened to their child.  I couldn’t believe my baby was gone.  Now I had to be the one to tell my family our lives are forever changed. Georgie, thanks for staying with her on the scene.  It meant so much and we are forever grateful to you. How many times have we have had to be on the other side of this, and we always hoped and prayed it would never happen to us.

As we began to process this terrible event, the amount of love and concern from those around us was overwhelming. The love of family and friends is the only thing keeping us going. I want to take this moment to thank our family and friends for everything that you have done for us, and for all the compassion and kindness during this troubling time. To my fellow officers, words can’t describe our how much you have meant to us. To see her procession today, you would have sworn she was a Kennedy, but to her family and friends, she was.  Our family is truly blessed to have all of you in our lives.

To her friends, live your lives to the fullest, don’t get caught up in the trivial garbage. When we are born, there is no guarantee that tomorrow will be here. Time is a precious commodity, give as much of it as you can to those you love in your life. Live, love and enjoy.

There are so many people with so many kind words about our Madison, I don’t think she ever realized how many lives she touched and how many people loved her.  Madison had such a hard time believing these things even though they were so true. Faculty, classmates, co-workers and friends were devastated by the news of her passing. The words, kind, caring, funny, beautiful and compassionate have been spoken several times to describe Madison.  We all have a hole in our heart now that will never be filled.

As your father, I’m sorry, Mads, that I won’t be able to take you to college, watch you graduate from college, walk you down the aisle and be the best grandpa to your kids. My heart hurts.

But Madison I want to thank you for sharing your love of music with me, making me laugh on a daily basis, calling me out when I was wrong, but always willing to hug it out with me after, and for being an awesome daughter. Thanks for not getting to upset with me when you would bring a boy home and say, “Dad could you please stop looking at them like you want to rip their heads off, you are making it hard for me to get dates”. You were the best big sister Sheila, Cat and Megz could ever ask for.  You don’t realize how you made me a better man and father.  I would look at you, and just sit in awe that you were mine. I want you and your sisters to know that everyday how much Mom and I love you all.

Most of all, even though our time here was cut short, from now until the end of time, I want to thank you, Madison, for giving me the privilege of being your Dad. I swear to God, when it’s my time to go, I will find you wherever you are, you will hear me screaming your name, trust me. I love you for infinity. Roll Tide Roll, Baby. Roll Tide Roll.