Wednesday -- February 16th

Today's the 16th. Added how many months it has been since Maddie passed, on my fingers. 28 months...

Looked at my hands again. I have been looking at my hands a lot lately. When I hand the money to the cashier at the Dunkin' Donuts drive thru, when I drop the money in the church collection basket, when I pay the cashiers...They have just been catching my eye. Not because I've recently had a nice manicure. In fact, I've only ever had one, for my wedding! No, it's because they are looking so old and worn! I am aging. We're all aging, but my hands are a sure give away.

Do you ever just stop and look at your hands? Now that I've realized how old they are looking, I have also begun to appreciate and admire the way they look. They have earned their look of age. This may all sound so weird and I don't know why I need to write about it, but bear with me...

When I look at my hands, I am sometimes amazed by what these hands have done. In my younger years, these hands have played tag, attempted to play school instruments, held the hands of friends on the playground, played school sports, softball, volleyball, set records. They took care of so many kids that I babysat for...

My hands grew with me and wrote exams and papers that got me into college. They have safely held the steering wheel, getting me safely to my destination. They have painted apartment walls, taken the hand of my husband at the altar, painted the walls in our new home, held four newborns, changed thousands of diapers, wiped thousands of tears, wiped many boogies away, wiped many cute little bums, cleaned up lots of not so cute things, cleaned so many scrapes, bandaged so many wounds, tied countless shoelaces, folded unbelievable amounts of laundry, scrubbed countless pots and pans.

These hands have worked on many school projects with the kids, carved many pumpkins, decorated many birthday parties, made cakes, wrapped presents, stuffed thousands of Easter eggs. They have written thousands of announcement notes, thank you notes, letters, invitations, Christmas cards. They have given countless pats on the back, high fives, peace signs, and thumbs up. These hands have held the hands of grown friends, in good times and in bad. They have raised a glass to many toasts and have cleaned up many aftermaths of fun. They have also poured many friendly cups of coffee.

These hands have had to steadily give so many life saving injections to my daughter, and carefully dispense medications time and time again. They have had to push buttons and dial numbers for help. These hands helped anoint my daughter with holy oil during her last rites. They have had to hold my daughter close and caress her as she went Home to Heaven. These hands tucked her in one last time, before the casket closed, and now they continue to hold my sons ever so tightly.

Yeh, these old hands have earned their wrinkles.

Through it all, these hands have also blessed me with the sign of the cross for as long as I can remember. They have always done that. Most times without being consciously instructed. They just know what to do. God has always been with me, through it all. He is, and has been, with all of us. I know He took Maddie's hands the moment she left. She lifted her hands up to Heaven and God took them. He took a hold of her beautiful, soft little hands, that never lost their innocent beauty, their baby soft touch. Maddie's hands. I always told her they still felt and looked like soft baby hands. They were beautiful. They never got a chance to age, to wrinkle, but we all know that they did a lot of work in such a short life time.

Monday -- February 14th

Happy Valentine's Day family and friends.

They say that spirit loved ones are even closer to you on special days. I hope so, because my heart is so heavy today. Just missing Maddie so, so much. Wearing the special necklace she made for me. It's a little sterling square, with a heart in the middle, and on the backside, there is a piece of paper insert on which she wrote "I Love You Mom." Perfect for today.

William asked me last night if he could read a book to Thomas at bedtime. I said yes, and that I would pick it out. I knew if I let William pick it, he'd pick the longest one he could find, so that the two of them could stay up longer. So, I searched for the shortest one, with the biggest, fewest words. I thumbed through several on our book case and pulled the one out titled, "What Do You Love?"

I handed the book to William. He rolled his eyes and said, "Mom, really?" I said, "Yep, really. It's a good one," and left their room. A minute later, William came in with a smile on his face and said, “Mom, look what Maddie wrote!" Inside the back cover, she had written,

What do I love?
I love my family
I love my hamster Bear
I love brothers
I love Mom and Dad
I love cousins

Then she drew a picture of her hamster, Bear, with a word bubble, and inside it, Bear says, Maddie loves me!!!!!!

Then she wrote,
I did one of the pictures.
And it is...
Bear the hamster

I’m guessing Maddie wrote this when she was about 6 ½ or 7, before her diagnosis. That’s when she had her hamster, not the dog.

I wanted to cry, but waited until I was alone. This made me so sad, made me miss Maddie even more, but at the same time, I thought, why would I have grabbed that book? That one? That one containing a written message from Maddie about what she loves, just in time for Valentine's Day? I believe Maddie wanted that to happen. She wanted us to get her message. It's her Valentine's Day card to us.

We love you Maddie. Happy Valentine's Day.

Tuesday -- February 8th

So much has happened since my last entry. In fact, I wrote one up a while back and then it got lost. Have to start all over again and go back...

Over the Christmas holiday, Thomas was one of the Three Wise Men in the Christmas Pageant at church. He was so cute and so proud of himself.

Christmas was very crazy this year. With the impending snowstorm, my siblings and their families all called on Christmas morning and said they’d be at my house that day, as opposed to the following day. It was hectic but all worked out. They didn’t get to my house until after 7pm, we ate, exchanged the kids gifts, and went to bed around 1am. We were waiting for the next day to exchange adult gifts because my brother, Stephen, and his family hadn’t arrived yet. Because it was already snowing when we woke up, Stephen didn’t make the trip, we all exchanged our gifts quickly and everyone got on the road back to CT. It was just such a quick Christmas, but I’m glad we all got to be together.

The week before Christmas, I was honored to be a part of a check presentation made to a local family whose daughter is fighting a rare tumor, on behalf of Cops For Kids With Cancer. On the ride over to the house, I asked Maddie to help me get through it, and show me a sign that she was there with me. When I walked in, the little girl was wearing butterfly sweater. I know Maddie was there, on so many levels. It always feels so good to help other families.

We had to cut some trees down because with every storm, we were very nervous that at least one of them would come down on the house. We were getting ready to take the one in the front yard down, closest to the house, on the little hill. I was so sad about losing that one. We have so many memories of the kids playing on and around that tree. Maddie would tie a rope around it and the kids would pull themselves up the hill by the rope or tie it to the back of a sled going down the hill. In fact, we have a video clip that Maddie made just a few weeks before she went into the hospital. She tied a rope to the back of the go-cart and the other end to the tree. Michael raced down the hill and let the rope halt him to a screech. You can hear them both laugh with excitement. I really didn’t want that tree to come down. I told the landscaper I was hesitant, and then he said, “God put the trees where he wants them.” That was it for me – the tree stayed! The others came down.

We had to put a new roof on the house. The poor guys doing it had to work in the middle of a snow storm. It was nuts! More work to do but we’ll have to wait until the Spring.

I recently re-decorated our master bedroom. Just a project to keep myself busy and distracted. Painted it, and changed everything about it. It really looks beautiful. Much more calming and relaxing. Went from a warm red to a really soothing, fern green. As I was putting things away, William found the original box to my engagement ring. He asked me all kinds of questions about falling in love, how Ernie proposed…it was cute. Then he re-enacted proposing. I gave him my original engagement setting (had it changed for one of our anniversaries) to put in the box to play with. It really brought back so many memories seeing that box and the ring.

Thought about our life. How we got where we are. Never did I imagine we would experience all we have experienced together. It all started with that ring William was now playing with. Then I thought about William and all my kids. Thought about how one day my boys will put a ring on someone’s finger, with hopes of an amazing future. I thought about what life will be like for each of them. How their lives have changed forever, who they would’ve been, who they are now and who they will become.

Then of course, my thoughts set on Maddie. How much I miss her, how much I would love to see her get engaged and get married. She would’ve been a stunning bride. She would’ve been an amazing wife and mother. I would’ve had such an incredible time sharing in my daughter’s journey. I hope my boys will take me along for the ride!

So, we have just been passing the time with a lot of snowstorms and missed school days. We are all more than ready for Spring! I have the two PMC fundraisers coming up again. The first, in N. Attleboro, with Colleen Duffy, on March 5th, and the 2nd annual Maddie’s Mission of Hope fundraiser in Mansfield on April 9th, so a lot of work to be done.

We had a remotely warm day the other day so I went down and shoveled Maddie’s site out. I had shoveled it once before. Had to park at a friend’s driveway and walk in with my shovel , because the cemetery driveways had not been plowed. Shoveling Maddie’ stone out was very emotional. In the whole place, there is not one site that is shoveled out. I shoveled Maddie’s stone and there was her bright, beautiful smile! I really felt as if she was there, smiling. I kept shoveling the site like a crazy person, trying to get to her child. I know it sounds crazy and I can’t really explain it, but uncovering her picture and seeing her smile, made it feel almost as if I unburied her and there she was again, alive, smiling at me. Crazy, I know, I don’t expect anyone to understand. Anyway, I felt in that instant that her picture was uncovered, the whole place lit up. There was her face, in this big vast, snow covered field of headstones. I felt so much better seeing it again. It was really taking a toll on me, not being able to get in there and shovel her out. I changed out her Christmas décor and set up her Valentine’s décor.

As I sat there crying, I thought about the Homily at church on Sunday. It really touched me. It was all about you “being the light of the world” and the “salt of the Earth.” Msgr. Asked, “Do you light up a room when you enter it, or do you suck the light and life out of it? Do you add flavor to the situation, like salt? How do you want to be remembered?” I looked at Maddie’s smile on her headstone. Talked to her, told her again how incredibly beautiful she was. Thought about her light. She lit up every room she walked into. Lit up and flavored every situation and life she touched. Now here she was, lighting up the cemetery with her smile. Just still so incredibly painful and hard to accept, understand, and cope with, but I have to remind myself that Maddie’s light didn’t go out. It’s still here, lighting up so many lives, and she’s still the salt of the Earth, changing the “taste” of so many things for the better.



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