Cynthia Laney Tyson

Cynthia Laney Tyson, age 5, with her mom, Lindsay Tyson, admiring artwork created in memory of Sacred Heart School kindergarten teacher Cynthia Laney Thompson.

It was five years ago this month when my husband, Tim, and I welcomed our second grandchild into the family.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

We were worshiping at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church on a Saturday night when our daughter, Lindsay Tyson, went into labor. She paced back and forth in the vestibule until mass was over, then she and her husband, Matt, headed for the hospital.

At that time, they didn’t know if they were having a boy or a girl. Since they wanted to be surprised, their obstetrician, Dr. James Daniel, wanted to be surprised, too.

As I reported five years ago, it is Daniel’s custom to sing “Happy Birthday” to infants as they are being born, and this birth was no different. That song would be the gender reveal. I put up a cue card in the delivery room, listing the chosen baby names: Joachim if it was a boy; Laney if it was a girl. That was how Lindsay and Matt learned they had a daughter, by listening as Daniel’s voice filled the room.

Happy birthday to you.

Happy birthday to you.

Happy birthday dear . . . Lannneeey!

Happy birthday to you.

Laney’s name was chosen for her many years ago when her mother was a sixth-grade student at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School.

Like most all of the students under that roof, Lindsay had Cynthia Laney Thompson as her kindergarten teacher. Always energetic, with mountains of patience and an infectious smile, Cindy made every single one of her students feel included and loved. Every. Single. One.

She taught many a child how to tie their shoes and was the go-to person when a tooth needed pulling.

Every year, on the first day of school, she led her students on a search for the runaway gingerbread man. It was a clever way to take the children’s minds off missing their parents and to help them learn the layout of the school.

They checked the lunchroom, the office, the library and classrooms, asking, “Have you seen the gingerbread man?” until they finally found him, back in their own kindergarten room.

It is a tradition the school continues to this day, even though Cindy died of breast cancer in 1998. She was only 40 years old.

As a testament to the lives she touched, more than 1,000 people attended her funeral vigil. Anyone was allowed to step up to the lectern and share a memory about Cindy. At first it was just the adults, but then the children began lining up to speak — dozens and dozens of them.

I remember thinking how wonderfully fitting it was for a kindergarten teacher to be eulogized by children. Each child seemed to think he or she was her favorite — and that, right there, said a lot about the kind of teacher she was.

It was during that long-ago vigil that Lindsay made herself a promise: One day, she would name a daughter after her beloved teacher.

In 2014, our precious Cynthia Laney was born. This weekend we celebrated her 5th birthday.

In a sentimental turn of events, Laney is now a student at Sacred Heart. On the first day of school, she joined her fellow classmates to search for the elusive gingerbread man. I can only hope there was an open window in heaven for a very special angel to have seen it all happen.

Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at