Nights are the longest for Frank Holland. Mornings, he hugs his children, gets them off to school, and faces another day that he hopes will keep him busy.
The busier the better. Frank's wife of 14 years, Heather Holland, died Feb. 4 from flu complications. She was 38 and a second-grade teacher at Ikard Elementary School in Weatherford.
"There's good days and there's bad days," Frank said. "We go on a day at a time, and try to adjust to the new normal, whatever that is."
To honor Heather, an avid reader who encouraged her students to read, her former co-workers set up a book drive that runs through Friday, May 4.
"All the teachers who worked with Heather wanted to memorialize her, and what better way?" Ikard Principal Christy Burton said. "I'm just excited this honors Heather in a way she loved. She just wanted everybody to read."
During the drive, residents can donate books via a drop box in the school library. Children bring them on a daily basis. Each book, which goes into the school library, has a sticker placed in it naming the donor and stating that it was donated in memory of Heather.
Heidi, 10, and Dayton, 7, Heather's daughter and son, recorded a video that plays each morning during first period to remind students to bring books to the drive. They wrote the skit themselves.
"She had to read the book before she would watch the movie," Heidi recalled. "We'd go hunting and she'd read a book and let me look out for the deer." Frank said, "You should have seen her at Disney World when we went to the Harry Potter exhibit." To which Heidi chimed in, "She was like a little kid. She was so excited."
Librarian Bridget Burrows said the book drive caught the attention of other schools in the area. She said books have been donated from schools in Brock, Fort Worth and White Settlement. "People who heard about it called and asked what books we need," she said. "People from all over have donated books."
And though the book drive is nearing an end, Burrows said donations in Heather's memory will still be accepted. "People never go by deadlines," she said with a laugh. "Of course we'll take donations after. Heather would never say we have enough books."
Frank said he and his family honored Heather in another special way. At her request, they took her ashes to the family ranch in Meridian, placed them inside fireworks and scattered them over the area she loved so much.
"It took forever to get those ashes in there," he said with a smile.
Burton said the school is also planning to put up a bench in her honor.
"I think it would be perfect outside the cafeteria, by a big tree. I can see her sitting there reading a book," Burton said.
Frank said he believes Heather's death has raised awareness of the dangers of having the flu. "Normally, you get the flu and you lay around three days. And Heather would never let you know just how bad she was feeling," he said. "So when she said she had to go to the hospital, I knew it was serious."
Heather put off getting Tamiflu, Frank said, because of the cost, which he said was around $116. It wasn't that the family couldn't afford it, she just thought it was too expensive, he said. And Frank himself, who said he often didn't get flu shots in the past, "will probably get one every year now."
Burton said her favorite memory of Heather was her smile, and especially her laugh. "When she would laugh, it was a belly laugh," Burton said. Burton said the students in Heather's second-grade class coped with the loss by drawing pictures and writing letters.
"She had a special relationship. That was a way for them to try and understand something they couldn't understand," Burton said. "It's no different than adults."