Wednesday -- July 27th

Happy Birthday to Meghan Duffy today. She would have been 15. I hope she and Maddie are having a fun party, smooshing cake in each other's face and causing all kinds of silliness! Just sent up a blue and green balloon, Meghan's colors, with the boys. William wrote on his: "Happy Birthday Meghan. Hope it's a good one! P.S. 'Sup Maddie (make your squirrel face)" For those of you who never saw it, Maddie made the funniest squirrel face! The balloons went so high up until we lost sight of them. Thomas asked me how far I think they go. I told him, "Far enough for our Angels to see them."

We had a nice visit from Ernie's Mom, who spent a few days with us. We hadn't seen her in quite a while. She couldn't get over how big the boys have gotten. It was nice to be able to bring her to the school to see Maddie's Butterfly Garden. Had my parents join all of us for dinner one night. On that night, we all marveled at the sight of our new frog, Gus, enjoying his new home in our pond. A few nights earlier, as I was driving home with my Mom after shopping, I saw a HUGE bullfrog in the middle of the road. I HAD to turn the car around and go get it for the boys. I had never seen a bigger frog in my life and knew they would get a kick out of it! I dumped all of the sunglasses out of the big plastic container I had in the car, got out of the car in the pouring rain, and scooped him up in it! People driving by slowed down, probably wondering what on earth I was doing! This frog was so strong and almost kicked his way out. My poor Mom had to hold him the whole way home, as he kicked at the lid. When we got home, we came up the basement stairs. When I tried to transfer the frog from the container to a plastic bag, so he could breath, he jumped out of my hands! My Mom and I both screamed and almost fell backwards down the basement stairs! It was so funny! I screamed for Ernie who came down to find the frog sitting on the basement floor. Even he was shocked by its size, and not too excited about picking it up! The boys could not believe their eyes! It was so fun to see their excitement. We let him hop around the screened in porch for a bit and then we scooped him up again and put him into the pond. He's still here! He's really cool!

What a great weekend I had on the 15th! I went home to Norwalk, CT. for my 25th high school reunion. It was a full weekend event. Stayed at a hotel with my friend and classmate, Katy Lilly. A few other great friends stayed in the same hotel, Christy and Tom Snipp and Lyndon and Cindy Johnson.

Friday night we had a meet and greet at the golf course bar, then went onto a second bar to watch our classmate sing in his band. Bittersweet, as we were all told he has cancer throughout his body. Most of us have known Roger since Elementary school. We may never see him again. Sat morning we had a tour of our high school (it has been completely remodeled). The high school is so different that I couldn't quite get my bearings. The only thing that felt like home for me was the gym and the locker room. It was great to be back there. My picture hangs in the hallway as the Female Athlete of the Year for my graduating class. The picture is horrible! Trying to rock the Farrah Fawcett hairdo and blue eye shadow! Yeh, those were the days!

We played a softball game on the field immediately following the tour. I think I played better now! I wasn't a very good softball player. Volleyball was my best sport. After the game, we all hung out at the field, just chatting and laughing and then went for a late lunch, down by the beach. No worries, just felt like the old gang again. Sat night was a semi formal dinner. My friend, Carolina, won the 50/50 raffle and donated all the money to Maddie's charities! So awesome! Such a great time! It was so good to see everyone again. We get a great turn out at our reunions. Everyone is still looking pretty darn good! We were all pretty bummed when we had to say our goodbyes Sun morning.

Before leaving town Sunday, I drove around my old neighborhood. I visited my childhood street, Rebel Lane, and visited with our childhood neighbor, Mary Moriarty. She is in her 90's and looks amazing! It was so good to go "home." The street looks very different and my house looks different but you never forget a thing about it. I studied the stone wall in front of our house and could remember the placement of every rock, the shape of the lawn, every divot in its curvy shape along the sidewalk. There's only one fence post left standing of our fence, to the left of the house. The fence I used to pretend was a balance beam and spend hours walking across, ending with a cartwheel off the end post. Maple tree in our front yard is now huge. So badly wanted to knock on my old house front door and ask to go in for a look around but didn't think that would be welcomed.

Drove past the old middle school which is now pretty warn down. The old tennis courts that I would walk to on weekends with friends or my brothers and sister, to hit the ball around or hit off the back board. All of that now so worn down.

Said good bye to Norwalk and was on a mission to find my high school softball coach, Ed, on the ride home. I tracked him down and called to let him know I would be visiting. I had heard of the hard times that had fallen upon him. His wife had an affair and left. Broke his heart. Then he retired. All he wanted to do was to play golf. Tragically, only a few short months into retirement, he had a massive stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side.

I walked down the hallway and found him sitting alone in his wheelchair, pulled up to a table, having a cup of coffee. Stopped in my tracks. I hadn't seen him in 25 years, so the gray was new, but I still knew it was him. Gave him a big hug and kiss. We sat at the table and chatted for a bit and then went down to his suite, where we chatted some more. I couldn't stop thinking about life. The circle of life. Ed was my coach and mentor. Bring strong, loud, man. Now I took his hand in mine to help him get out of his wheelchair and into his recliner. Yep, the circle of life.

Ed was told he could possibly regain his movement, but it has been two years and I could tell he was very discouraged. Felt he'd never golf and never enjoy the "golden years." I felt sad leaving him when I had to go. Thought about him a lot on the two hour ride. Thought about how it was that we were back in each other's lives after 25 years. Why had I felt so compelled to see him? Does everyone have an Ed? The next morning, it struck me. I needed to send him Maddie's "Never, Never, Never give up..." framed copy.

I wrote Ed the following letter, and mailed the picture and Holy Water from Lourdes:

Dear Ed,

It was so nice to visit with you. I had been asking about you for a while and had been wanting to visit you. I'm so glad I was able to track you down. I am so sorry for all the very difficult times you have been through. I truly am. It broke my heart to see you seemingly sad and discouraged.

When I took your hand in mine to help you stand, I felt so many emotions in that moment. Ed, you were always the big, strong guy, pulling me up when I was down. Giving me your hand. Yelling encouraging words and yes, swears as well. Sometimes I felt intimidated, but I understand now, it was tough love. Like a parent with their child. You always pushed me. Let's face it, I know I sucked at softball, but you never let me quit, even though I felt I should. I gave it my all. Sometimes our spirit is all we have to go on and that is stronger than the physical.

My daughter, Maddie, never let the physical win over the spirit. I wish you could have met her. She was the strongest person I will ever know. She was a fighter who never stopped fighting. Her body was quitting, but her spirit never died. She smiled every day through 2 1/2 years of chemotherapy and radiation and then through a horribly grueling bone marrow transplant. Her dimpled smile lit up the room and every person who met her was forever changed. I smiled with her. We laughed together. We kept each other strong. I lost her Ed. She lost the fight, but she left us all with life lessons we will never forget.

This gift I give to you is hopefully one you will cherish. I hope it will motivate you, help you, encourage you. Maddie wrote these words two weeks before she passed away. I know there is still a fight in you and you can have your golden years, you can golf again, you can start again. If you want it bad enough, that fighting spirit in you will emerge and you will have it.

I also enclosed Holy Water from the Holy Shrine in Lourdes, France. I don't know what your religious beliefs are, but I can tell you this is truly holy water. If you know the story of Bernadette in Lourdes, this water comes from that holy spring. Maddie gathered it herself and I have shared it with people and I can tell you, it has healed. Whether it be spiritually, emotionally, or physically, it has healed.

I took Maddie to Lourdes 5 months before her passing and I had the most amazing experience of my life with her there. I hope you will bless yourself with the water each day. Bless your left side and leave the rest in God's hands.

Ed, I wish I could do more for you. I want to thank you for being my coach and mentor, for helping to instill a fighting spirit in me. I hope I can give back to you and push you now, push you to "Never, Never, Never give up..."

I'll be thinking of you and waiting to hear about the day you get your ass out of there and out onto the golf course!!

I received the most heartfelt voicemail from Ed. I do pray for healing for Ed. Emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I hope to keep in touch with him and one day receive a phone call from him from the golf course!

So, all in all, it was a wonderful weekend away for me. Oh, and one side note, if any of you remember Mo Vaughn, who played for the Red Sox for a time, I was not his girlfriend, but his friend, during high school years. Mo did not actually sign the guest log. Unfortunately, it was just my neighbor Paul and his witty self!

Maddie's stone marker is now down at the butterfly garden at school. It's beautiful! Her smiling face brightens the garden! Hoping to get the butterfly bench in there soon.

Just had my 43rd birthday on the 24th. It was a quiet day. Ernie and the boys made it nice. I went for a bike ride in the morning and spent some time with Maddie, and then we went out to dinner with my parents. Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes!

 

Thursday -- July 7th

Hope everyone had a nice 4th of July. It was a nice, quiet weekend, spent with family and friends. The boys opted not to go to any fireworks this year. I was a little sad. This was the first year since having kids that we didn't go to a show. Instead, one night we lit some fireworks that our neighbor gave us and another night some friends stopped by with more fireworks. The boys loved lighting them!

We took the boys down to a RI beach on the 4th. Spur of the moment. Once we got there, we realized it was the exact same beach where we had our family reunion in the summer of '08, weeks before Maddie went into the hospital. We walked down to the beach and actually ended up sitting right where we had that summer. I had a very hard time with that. Ernie and the boys ran down to the water and I sat and thought back to that time on this beach. I could picture Maddie, chasing the seagulls, writing her name in huge letters in the sand, wearing her blue and pink bathing suit, flashing me the peace sign as I took her picture. The group picture we took of the cousins. I had a terrible fear that weekend that the cousins would never be together again with Maddie. That same weekend, my family had a surprise birthday party for me. I have my favorite pictures of Maddie and I from that day on my fridge.

We passed the pet store, where Maddie talked me into buying her a mouse. I remembered having to talk to her outside the store, on the sidewalk, about the possibility of her having to go back into the hospital and that maybe getting a mouse right now wasn't a good time. She cried and my heart broke. I’ll never forget that look in her eyes and her heartbreak. She asked me if she was going back into the hospital. I told her I didn’t know for sure, I hoped not, but we would have to do more tests when we got back. We already knew about the transplant but hadn’t told her yet. We wanted her to enjoy the rest of her summer. She didn't know how sick she was. I hugged her, told her not to worry about anything, and promised that if she had to go to the hospital, I would take care of her mouse. I caved and we bought the mouse.

Just writing about this has me so emotional. I think that when it happened that summer, I had to be strong for Maddie and suppress all the horrible sadness and now when I reflect back, those emotions and feelings come right to the surface and take over. This happens a lot. I have had to leave parties crying, because certain conversations will trigger some reminder and I can’t even pull myself together. A simple word, a story, even a smell. Sometimes totally unexpected. I guess that’s part of grieving. We can only process things in pieces, a little at a time, over time, or it would totally, fully, take over, be absolutely unbearable and devastating.

I tried to stay focused on the fun the boys were having with Ernie. I did have a good laugh when Michael came walking up to me and said his bathing suit ripped up the back. He turned around to show me and sure enough, the whole backside was ripped open! Thank goodness, the netting inside was still together. He asked if it was really bad and I told him ,"No, you can't even tell!" Of course you could, but I didn't want him to miss out on the water fun. Off he went, running back down to the water!

Poor William, was so chaffed from the sand, that he took his suit off in the truck and rode home buck naked, covered with a towel! So, it was a short but interesting trip to the beach.

Been going down to the school every day to water Maddie's Butterfly Garden. It's so pretty and peaceful. The permanent stone marker has come in but we're waiting for them to adhere her photo before we can pick it up. Working on getting the butterfly bench in as well.

One day, after I watered the garden, I stood under the tree right next to it, in the shade, and was talking to my friend, Jenny. Just then a Mom pulled up to take her son to summer camp at the school. She had a newborn on her shoulder and her little boy came around the side of the car in a wheelchair. He was maybe 5, and so cute. They slowly made their way from the car to Maddie's Garden. When he reached Maddie's picture, he stopped and said, "Hi Maddie!" Oh my Gosh...I stood under the tree watching it all and started to cry. I was so moved. Jenny said to the Mom, "That was beautiful." The Mom said, "Every day. He stops every day to say hi to Maddie." I wanted to walk over and talk to the little boy but was too emotional. I hope I'll see him again. Watching that really drove home the meaning of the garden. Maddie has touched the lives of so many, and continues to touch those who never knew her. This little boy was too young to have ever known my Maddie, but he loves her. I'm sure Maddie was right there, walking along side his wheelchair. She was always taking care of others, especially little kids.

I came out of church this past weekend, and a friend in town, Jean, stopped me with her family. Her little girl, Olivia, wanted to know if she could help water Maddie's garden. Jean said that Olivia has been so concerned about the garden, worried nobody would water it and it would die. I thought that was so incredibly sweet and we talked about taking turns. Jean shared that her kids, who really didn't know Maddie, have been so affected by her. Again, I felt so touched knowing Maddie's love is still all around. There have been other children who have approached me, offering to water Maddie's garden. Maddie's pal, William, who lives around the corner from the school, offered to walk there and take care of it. Truly so thoughtful of all of these kids.

Woke up feeling very heavy today. Some days I do ok and others, I just feel very down and heavy. Miss Maddie terribly. I just can't imagine this ever getting easier. If the boys weren't home with me, I would probably go back to bed and cry for the day, but I can't. In some ways, that's good, but in others, it's hard. I need to cry and scream, but I can't, not today.

Hope you are all enjoying your summer so far. Can I please ask again, that you all keep my sister in law, Sabina, in your prayers, Colleen' sister in law in your prayers, and now my dear friend, who has learned her cancer is not responding to treatment and will begin a new trial. As Maddie's t-shirt read - CANCER SUCKS!

Just got an email from a woman who works at the PMC, Katie Stinchon, letting Colleen and I know that an article was just published about Maddie and Meghan in Parent magazine. You can view it at: www.parents.com/blogs/goodyblog/2011/07/ride-on/. It’s beautiful…

 

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