Thursday -- March 26th

Been having a really hard time lately. With the warm weather coming, the kids are all outside in our yard more often, running, laughing, riding the scooters and bikes, zipping across on the zip line Ernie made, climbing the fort, swinging on the swings…I love to see them all.  Our yard seems to be the gathering yard and I’ve always liked that.  I can keep an eye on everyone and know they’re all safe. 

There’s moments of joy watching and listening to them all and moments of utter heartache, feeling  the void Maddie left behind.  Maddie never got to see or try the zip line.  Ernie built it when she was in the hospital.  We would tell her stories about it and couldn’t wait for her to get home to have her turn.  She would’ve laughed the whole ride and let out a big , “ Yeh!  That was awesome!” 

Maddie’s bedroom windows face the back and side yard.  It’s really hard to be out in the yard and look up into her windows.  I imagine her little face looking back at everyone, with a big smile.

Maddie loved to draw with chalk in the driveway.  There was always a roadway drawn or funny characters and words.  Always something.  Now I watch the others draw on the driveway.  When Maddie first passed away, one of the kids drew a cat in chalk, something Maddie would always draw.  When William saw it the next day, he truly believed Maddie, with her Angel powers, drew it.  His face lit up with such excitement as if he was waiting for her to come around the corner and yell, “Surprise!” 

You’re always waiting.  Waiting for her to come back.  Even though you know she won’t, a part of your heart and brain won’t let you believe it.  It’s too painful if and when you believe it. 

I fed all the kids tacos last night when they were done playing.  Maddie loved tacos and waiting on people.  I could just feel her pushing her way into the kitchen, serving everyone, taking charge.  She hated any vegetables in her salsa sauce.  I would have to skim the top and make sure it was just sauce.

Later in the afternoon, a few of us watched a video clip of her getting a hip hop dance lesson from our neighbor.  We so desperately wanted to watch her in action, full of life.  We needed to hear that giggle.  It was so hard to watch and listen but also so good to see and hear her.  She had the cutest giggle.  She’s wearing her pink hat in the video, and of course, it’s cocked completely to the side.

Maddie’s voice is still on our answering machine.  I don’t have the heart to change it and I’m so afraid it will accidentally get erased when one of the kids plays with it.  I really have to make a recording of it…

Met with two very sweet women this morning who are putting this year’s yearbook together.  They are working on a beautiful dedication to Maddie, so I had to get some pictures to them.  It was so hard trying to pick which two because she never took a bad picture.  I hope I picked the right ones.  That was so hard.  When I left the house, I went down to Maddie’s site to sit with her and just broke down.  It just all seems so surreal sometimes, and I just can’t wrap my brain around it.  I want her here.  I want her in the yearbook with her classmates, her pals, because she’s moving onto the 6th grade, not in the yearbook because she’s gone…

I know it will be a beautiful tribute and I am so thankful it’s being done.  I’m very eager to see it.  When the school asked how we felt about doing it this year or next, when she would be graduating, they wanted to consider Michael’s feelings first and foremost because it’s his graduation year.  That was so thoughtful.  When I told him that I was afraid that every time he looked at his yearbook and saw the dedication, it might make him sad, he said, “Mom, I would be sad if I didn’t see her picture every time I looked in my yearbook.” I thought that was so sweet, so it will be this year.

Most people don’t know this, but the hair you see on Maddie in pictures was not her own.  She was never going to grow hair back on the top of her head, just around the back and sides, because of the radiation.  Maddie always made the best of her situation and I was just thinking about the funny things she would do…

She would often tip her hair piece, as if it was a top hat, and say in an Irish brogue, “Top of the mornin’ to ya.”

It was so funny.  Who thinks of that?!

I was just told a story the other day about the time Maddie was doing a lemonade stand at her friend’s house.  They were trying to raise money for cancer and had their big signs out front.  They weren’t getting many people, so Maddie ran into the house and said, “I’ll be right back!”  When she came back, she had taken off her hair piece to reveal her bald head.  When asked why she did that, she said, “Well we’re not making any money for cancer, so I guess I’m gonna have to look like a cancer patient!”  Well, sure enough, cars couldn’t stop fast enough to buy a cup of lemonade from the cute, poor little bald girl with cancer!  She sure knew how to milk it for a good cause!  If it meant raising money to help other kids, she would do just about anything!  No vanity whatsoever.  I LOVE that story!

So, I did something some might think is crazy…actually 6 of us did something “crazy” last Friday night.  We got “Maddie butterfly” tattoos!  Yep, real tattoos!  They are so cute!  It’s a little pink and yellow butterfly with a little heart in each wing.  I never in my life imagined I would have a tattoo, but it felt so right.  It symbolizes something so personal to each of us who got one.  I was so deeply touched that people would actually tattoo their body in Maddie’s honor. We all put it on our wrist, except one on her shoulder blade .  We all took turns wearing Maddie’s pink prayer shawl and holding her picture as we got our tattoo. She was there with us. It was such an amazing, emotional experience.

After we were done at the parlor, we all stopped down at Maddie’s site to show her.  The sky was so clear and the stars were shining so brightly.  Michelle (she got one!) later emailed me this quote about our visit to the site:  “Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”  We all toasted Maddie with a paper cup of wine!  I know she was looking down, rolling her eyes, shaking her head, and laughing!  She loved it! It was a very emotional night. 

When I showed the boys, they thought it was so cool!  They said it reminds them of Maddie and they love looking at it!  Three other friends and my Mom are lined up to get the tattoo too!  I’ll post pictures as soon as I get them all emailed to me!  So, do you think we’re all crazy?!  So much for the saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!”

 

Friday  -- March 20th 

 

Last weekend was an overwhelming weekend. Where do I start?

I knew it would be a tough one, with the cocktail party on Sat. and then Maddie’s birthday on Sun. I was very nervous about how it would all go, how it would all play out, how we would all get through it. Well, now that it’s over, I think it went as well as it possibly could, it all played out perfectly, and we all got through it with Maddie’s loving arms holding us up.

Saturday night we hosted the Cocktails For A Cure party with the Duffy’s and Thursby’s, in honor of Maddie and Meghan. We had an incredible turnout of over 300 people. What a loving tribute to our girls! Our team raised $33,500!! Isn’t that amazing?! Thank you all so very much for coming and for all of your generous donations to our cause! I think everyone truly enjoyed themselves and I’m hoping you’ll all come back next year! It can only get bigger and better!

When Ernie and I pulled into the driveway after the party, we saw that someone had hung a Happy Birthday banner with 11 pink balloons on our front fence. We don’t know who did it, but thank you whoever you are!

Sunday was Maddie’s 11th birthday. We all woke up very sad and quiet, and I was second guessing my plans of having family and a few close friends over. When I opened up the front curtains, I saw the balloons and banner again, and I knew that Maddie would want us to celebrate and not be sad. So, that’s what we did. We celebrated her special day the way she would have wanted us to.

My sister got to my house around 8:30 in the morning and we put butterfly balloons on the mailbox and around the yard. Then the two of us went down to the cemetery, or Maddie’s special garden, as we call it with the kids, to hang more butterfly balloons. It was a quiet, peaceful morning down there. The sky was so clear and the birds were singing. I said to Jeanne, “I wish Maddie would send a big hawk.” Within minutes, a big hawk flew over us and squawked! It circled us, hovered for a while, then slowly drifted up into the sun. Jeanne and I just stood there watching it. I had never heard a hawk squawk! It was magnificent. You could see the sunlight lighting it’s wings until it disappeared. I believe Maddie sent that gift.

After we sat, talked, and cried, I kissed my hand and touched the ground as I always do when I’m leaving, and I put my hand on a rock. I looked down, picked it up and brushed the mud off of it. I smiled and handed it to Jeanne, without saying anything. It is the shape of a perfect little heart. That was a gift from Maddie too. I know it was. It’s perfect.

I know Maddie had a lot of visitors down at her “garden.” There were birthday cards, flowers, and little trinkets left for her. Thank you for visiting her. I know she knew you were there and was happy to have you wishing her a happy birthday!

Family and friends arrived for the day. Maddie made sure it was a warm, cloudless day, so we could all be outside and celebrate. We had about 70 people over. The kids all laughed, shared Maddie stories, played outside and truly had a nice day. Around 4:30 in the afternoon, we gave everyone a huge pink or yellow balloon (there were 80 in all) and we all wrote special messages on them. We all gathered in the backyard, kissed our balloons together, wished Maddie a happy birthday and let them fly! It was so beautiful. We all stood silently, smiling or quietly crying, hugging, reflecting, watching…

All of us saw so many different shapes form. I swear I saw a really wide “M” at one point, and so did a few others. Some of the kids saw a butterfly, and at one point I saw a heart. We all stood for a good 15-20 minutes, until the balloons looked like twinkling little stars and disappeared. They all stayed together in one big group, just as they did on her funeral day. I believe we all truly believe Maddie received our balloons with a huge smile and read them all.

Everyone had fun playing the guessing game of how many Good–n–Plenty candies there were in the tall vase. Good-n-Plenty was one of Maddie’s favorites. I actually sat at the table and counted them one by one the night before – there were 1205! David Dimond won with a guess of 1125, only off by 80! He was kind enough to keep only the big butterfly I had clipped the vase, for Sydnie, and gave the other kids the candy!

Most stayed until around 8 and others stayed later. It was probably after 9:30pm, when I turned the IPOD on, picked Maddie’s favorite songs, along with her friends, turned the volume up to max, and we all danced like crazy, silly people in the kitchen, made a conga line that went around the house, and just partied the way Maddie would want us to! We all got so sweaty that we had to open the porch door to cool off! We didn’t wind down until after midnight!

After everyone left was when it got hard. It’s when you’re alone, undistracted, with your thoughts, when it’s really hard. The boys had a sad, hard time falling to sleep, as did I.

Maddie was born at 8:27pm, at Norwood Hospital. She weighed only 6 lbs. 6 ounces. She was so tiny, but she came into this world a fighter. She was a very difficult delivery. She was vacuumed and suctioned out, and came out with the cord so taught around her neck, that they could barely get the knife under it to cut if off. She was purple and was whisked away. The medical team all thought she would have brain damage. She didn’t - she was perfect! There wasn’t a mark on her head from the delivery, her head was perfectly round and beautiful, and she was perfectly healthy. It was miraculous. From that day on, she was a fighter.

Life couldn’t be more perfect. I had a beautiful boy and now a beautiful girl. They were 17 months apart, Michael and Maddie, and quickly became best of friends, with very different personalities! Michael, so passive and sweet, Maddie so assertive and feisty!

It’s funny because Maddie was such a little toughie growing up and looking back on the traits that would drive me crazy when she was little – her stubbornness, her feistiness, her attitude, were all traits that helped her though her illness when she got sick. God made her the way she was because He knew she was going to have to be a fighter.

Michaels’ gentle compassion, easy going personality, made him the perfect big brother, as little children, and through their lives.

Roughly 4 years later (I needed a little break) William came along and then 21 months later, Thomas. I always said, and my mother will confirm that I called her frequently and said, “I am so blessed to have four healthy children. I can’t believe how blessed I am. Mom, can you believe how lucky our family is? All of your kids have healthy kids.” Not a day went by that I didn’t recognize that...

Now, when I watch my boys and observe each of their individual traits, I understand they are who they are because they will each have their own journey, and God has already blessed them all with the initial tools they will need in life. Ernie and I just have to love, appreciate, value and nurture.

When I listen to other parents talk about their kids, complain about this one or this one’s issue, I just smile, because I was one of those parents complaining too. Complaining about the fight in my kid, the attitude, the stubbornness… Now I know that even the most difficult traits in a kid might be their gift, their blessing, their tool. As difficult as some may be, I’ve learned to respect each trait with a whole new perspective.

I think about my Maddie every second of every day. I thank God for her miraculous birth 11 years ago. I thank Him for lending her to us for the time she was here. There is a reason for everything in life that happens. I wrote on a piece of paper and taped it to my kitchen window – “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.” I don’t know exactly why God brought us to our situation, but I pray He will get us through it.

Happy Birthday my Maddie Moo! We love and miss you more than words can say! I hope you had the best birthday celebration with us and with all the Angels, sharing cookie cake and silly stories!

I hope you enjoy the pictures

 

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