MATTIE MIRACLE VIRTUAL WALK WAS AN $110,000 SUCCESS!

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.


As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter



The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: www.mattiemiracle.com and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

January 7, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2008. Literally a month before Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. Mattie was attending the birthday party of his good friend, Campbell. Mattie was standing right next to Campbell as he was about to blow out the candles on his cake. This is a party I will never forget. In Campbell's backyard was a moon bounce. Moon bounces were something that were quite intimidating to Mattie, however, after great strides in occupational therapy, Mattie learned to appreciate bouncing, falling, and bumping into others. Mattie loved the moon bounce at the party, and in fact, we had a hard time getting him out of it. He was having that good of a time. As the party was coming to an end, Mattie stayed after to continue playing with Campbell. It was at that point, Christine (Campbell's mom) suggested that she and I go in the moon bounce. That was a sight to see, and I am not posting that picture, but I assure you we had a good time, and the kids got a kick out of seeing us act like them!


Quote of the day: None of us would part with a single one of our memories yet they are all so laced with pain. The need and desire to touch and hold our child again brings an ache that has no release. ~ Willis Day

I am sure you know the old adage that it is better to love, than never to have loved at all?! Great saying, I even get the sentiment behind it, but I wonder how it holds up when wearing the lens of a parent who lost a child? In many ways, tonight's quote exposes the limits of this saying. Because as tonight's quote accurately reflects, the memories of Mattie are laced with "pain." We wouldn't trade even one of them, but when you see your child being treated for cancer and then die, you are left with a permanent ache, a  permanent impairment in a way, and most definitely with a feeling that you are different from the world of people who haven't lost a child. It takes great strength not to succumb to a fatalistic view of the world and not to drown in feelings of self pity. I very much relate to the last part of the quote and the desire to touch or hold Mattie. As time lapses by, it becomes harder and harder to remember what Mattie's touch felt like. I am NOT sure what is more disturbing, knowing that I sometimes struggle to remember or the simple fact that I am forced to remember because cancer took my son away from me.

I am back to not sleeping well, and this is greatly affecting how I am feeling physically and emotionally. I am still fighting off a sore throat, and I just hope it comes and goes as quickly as it came. But with tons of people coughing all over me on the airplane trip back, I am not surprised by how I am feeling.

I met up with Ann today at the mall. We spent a good portion of the day together and eventually I headed back to her house and saw her children for the first time since I went away. Her son was excited to show me one of his Christmas gifts and to fill me in on how to use it and how it works. I remember the art of connecting and communicating to young boys, since Mattie taught me well. Through doing and playing, you can learn a lot about children and their feelings toward you. Later in the afternoon, Abigail (Mattie's buddy), showed me a kit she got for Christmas which Mattie would have absolutely loved. It was basically a kit of science experiments. Today, I learned to make a car out of a granola bar box and a clock out of two potatoes. Like Mattie, Abigail wants to do the experiments independently, and yet have your presence on hand for commentary. So though Mattie wasn't with me today, interacting with Michael and Abbie reminded me of the times we played together. Playing, sitting still, and building were NOT things that came easily to me. But with Mattie, he expected me to rise to the occasion, so I tried not to disappoint.

Peter and I met up with each other for dinner. Unlike Wednesday night, tonight I was very chatty. Despite working another 12 hour day, Peter always seems to muster the energy to listen to me and to share his perspective on my thoughts and how he is feeling. Tonight I needed lots of reality checks and understanding and by the time we finished dinner I felt better.

January 6, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in February of 2008. Mattie was in kindergarten and on a field trip to Martha's Table with all four kindergarten classrooms from his school. Martha's Table is dedicated to fulfilling the needs of low-income and homeless children, families, and individuals in the District of Columbia. That particular day, I witnessed close to 80 children put together and wrap sandwiches, muffins, and cupcakes. All the children wore aprons, hairnets and gloves. Watching them first wash their hands and then dawn on this attire was a site! Mattie's teacher asked me to take pictures of the event, since I always carried a camera with me where ever I went. There were several parent helpers on site and I recall my friend, Christine, was also there. Christine joked with me, that if I took a picture of her while she was working with all this wonderful attire on, that this would be the end of our friendship! She was joking of course, but she got me laughing. I was fortunately spared all the kitchen attire but in lieu of that, I tried hard to snap pictures of every stage of the process, and all the children involved. As you can see, Mattie was the child right in the middle of this line up. Charlotte, was right next to Mattie observing what he was doing. However, in kindergarten Mattie, Charlotte, and Campbell were a trio. They traveled and did everything together. I distinctly recall Charlotte telling me one day that when she goes to college, Mattie and Campbell would be attending the same college as her and all three of them would be roommates. I will always remember this comment, because it spoke to the connection Charlotte felt to Mattie, and in her mind there was longevity to this feeling.   


Quote of the day: The cocoon represents their lives and their being wrapped up by their pain and hopelessness. The butterfly represents their freedom from the pain. ~Lloyd Carson


Last night I received an email from my friend Charlie. Charlie was a former student of mine, for those of you who are unaware of the connection. In fact, I taught Charlie's cohort as a new mom and graduate. I started teaching Charlie's class when I had a Master's degree, and then mid-semester I defended my dissertation, and received my PhD. That semester I did not know if I was coming or going. With a child who was less than a year old, I wasn't sure which end was up most days. None the less, I was a full time mom, worked for the department at the University (which paid for my tuition), and was writing a dissertation at the same time. Honestly when I look back at that now, I am not sure how I completed that. I suppose it was good training ground for dealing with cancer, because I learned to work and be coherent on very little sleep.

I started teaching at the college level in 1991 in Boston. Teaching has always been a part of my life, and for those students closest to me, they wonder when I will be returning to the classroom. To them, they feel I belong in the classroom. That to me is a high compliment, because the only part I loved about teaching, was my interaction with the students. For those of you who think it is easy to work in an university setting, I encourage you to try it for a semester. Colleges and universities are a microcosm of the real world, all the stresses and dysfunction in the outside world are very apparent and present in the so called "Ivory Tower." It is interesting that this week I would hear from several of my former students, all at once. Many of them have followed Mattie's story and continue to read the blog. They wrote to me because they want to go back to school and become mental health therapists, occupational therapists, and other related professional helpers with children. I have been deeply touched by their messages this week, and for remaining connected with me.

Getting back to Charlie's email. Charlie let me know that in one of our professional counseling association publications there were two articles about the grief associated with losing a child. She wanted to make sure I saw the articles. So last night, I opened up the publication I received in the mail and read both articles. The first one was so simplistic, I discounted it and moved onto the second article. The second article was written by a mental health professional who specializes in grief, however, this man wrote the article from his personal perspective since he lost his son during the birthing process. I realize the article was brief and therefore he couldn't emotionally elaborate on the pain he and his wife are experiencing. He did a good job highlighting how men and women grieve differently and how friends would sit, listen, and hug his wife, and only pass him by and pat him on the back. As if men don't grieve or need to be heard! He did a good job at expressing our society's gender stereotyping. However, he then went on to explain how after the birth and death of his son, he returned to work. Rather immediately. I realize he had to do this for financial reasons, however, what caught me by surprise was how he interacted with his clients after the loss. He stated, "I spent months telling my story to one client after another and then dealing with the emotional fallout that each one of them expressed. It was difficult to watch client after client go through a tiny version of my own grief while knowing I had to maintain good professional boundaries and stay within the therapist role."  I read this, and all I could do was simply shake my head! I was fine with the fact that he told his clients! How could he not?! It was be disingenuous. The part that bothered me was his use of the term, "maintain good professional boundaries." Here is where I differ from most of my professional colleagues. I felt this way even before Mattie had cancer and died. When you are talking about death and dying issues on some level professional boundaries do exactly that. They create boundaries between people. They aren't natural, they aren't real. I am not suggesting this therapist seek comfort and therapy from the client, but not being able to express one's self honestly and perhaps cry (if one needs to) isn't natural. I think it is important for clients to understand that their therapists are real, human, and model the behaviors we expect clients to learn. If we can't do it ourselves, how on earth will our clients gain such insights in our presence? I chatted back and forth with Charlie last night about this, and she asked me whether I read some of the books mentioned in the article. I was familiar with both of them, and also told her I did not feel either book spoke to me. I am not sure what I am looking for in a book, but I will know it when I read it.

I woke up with an intense sore throat today. The concept of staying in bed was quite appealing but Ann suggested we meet for lunch. So I got it together and met up with her. It seemed like we had a lot to catch up on since we haven't seen each other in two weeks. I can get into funks where I don't want to talk, but today was a talkative moment for me. After lunch, I went to visit Ann's mom, Mary. I brought her a New Year's gift, and we opened it together. I got her a scarf, hat, and glove set. They were a very soft material and believe it or not, the pattern on them was leopard. Animal prints are very popular now, and Mary always admires my own scarf, so I knew she could handle being bold and stylish! I put the hat and scarf on her and they looked lovely. Her response to me was she couldn't wait to go outside to wear them. Very sweet. Mary was very chatty with me today and we exchanged stories about our holidays and life in general. In her own way she tried to fill me in on the things and people I missed while I was in California. It was very touching to me, because on some level I realize I was missed.

January 5, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in February of 2008. This was five months before Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. I think what this picture illustrates is that Mattie was healthy, happy, had a tremendous amount of energy, and looked and acted like a "normal" child. On the day featured in this picture, I picked up Mattie and his "girlfriend," Charlotte from school for a playdate. Mattie was very excited to show Charlotte where he lived. For those of you NOT familiar with the Washington, DC area, then you aren't aware of the issues associated with traveling between states.... DC, Maryland (MD), and Virginia (VA). Basically these states (and I use the term LOOSELY with DC!) all neighbor on one another and commuting from one to the other is VERY simple. However, over time I realized that not everyone who lives in my area would agree with me. People who live in VA, do not like commuting to DC or MD, and those living in MD do not like commuting to DC or VA. Mattie went to preschool and kindergarten in VA, yet I learned early on that not many of Mattie's friends wanted to travel to the District to visit him. Keep in mind the commute is about 15 to 20 minutes maximum from VA to DC. Nonetheless, I grew to respect this thinking, but I assure you when Mattie did have friends over, it was a big deal to him. That afternoon, it was pouring outside, and Mattie and Charlotte got creative inside. One of Mattie's favorite past times was jumping on mattresses. I recall loving this as a child too, so in all reality, I never stopped that process and enjoyment. However, pay close attention to Mattie's bed. Under his cover, was not only his mattress, but he had an aeromattress on top of his bed mattress. This air mattress was something Mattie loved to take out on the weekends, because he and Peter would have camp outs in our living room. However, that particular week he wouldn't let me deflate the mattress. Instead he wanted to put it on top of his bed, and sleep high off the ground. This was not something I was comfortable with, but he did sleep like this for several weeks. When Charlotte saw this air mattress on top of his bed, she couldn't get over it! The both of them loved jumping up and down that day and I recall the laughter quite vividly. Charlotte has a very contagious and beautiful laugh and Mattie knew just what to say and do most days to showcase that laugh!


Quote of the day: Personally, I think we all don’t even start to climb out of the murky depths until we’ve fully explored them. ~ Rosalinda Raynes


My flight was uneventful on Tuesday. Thankfully, because I was so anxious about it that I did not sleep well on Monday night. Fortunately good weather throughout the Country made traveling much easier than my flight to Los Angeles. In fact, we had quite a tail wind, and landed in Virginia 30 minutes early. That was my kind of flight! Nonetheless, there is always something to report while flying. In the cabin of the plane were two flight attendants. As they were serving drinks, they were talking quite loudly to one another. One of the flight attendants felt it was important to announce to the other attendant that someone vomited in the rear of the plane. She did not like the smell and stated, "I don't do vomit!" Frankly I get her point, but honestly did all the passengers need to hear this? I highly doubt it! Also I would imagine air sickness is not that uncommon, so from my perspective it seems to be a hazard associated with the job. Gone are the days when flight attendants were helpful, respectful, and competent. I am certainly not suggesting that this woman represents all flight attendants, but I suppose as the industry and passengers change, so does the quality and caliber of service. I can remember flying on a plane as a child, and the flight attendants would be holding my hand down the aisle, chatting with my family, and offering to help. Now when most flight attendants see children, you can see that... Oh My GOD look on their faces!

I was seated in a row last night with a mother and her two children. The children had to be two and four years of age. The girls were sweet and for the most part quite docile. They just came off another long flight, so the fact that they sat still for an additional four hour flight was impressive. In any case, throughout the entire flight, this mom was impatient, snapping at her girls, barking out commands, and expecting them to be "perfect." If they slouched in their seats, she physically straightened them up. She expected them to comply, and frankly I wouldn't like to see the consequences for non-compliance. Listening to her agitated me, so I can only imagine how a little person perceives her. At one point, the two year old had it. She wanted off the plane (I couldn't blame her, but that wasn't an option!), and was fidgeting. The mom started screaming at her. However, she gave her no alternative to fidgeting. She had NO books and NO toys for the girls. Honestly if she boarded a plane with Mattie, he would have given her a run for her money. Because five minutes into the flight he would have been bored out of his mind, and he would have really pushed all her buttons. Some times I do think certain children are matched up with certain parents. I recall several of Mattie's therapists telling me this, because Mattie was a challenging combination of being very bright and highly energetic! As Mattie's pediatrician once said, not every parent could handle "a Mattie."

When I arrived at the airport Peter greeted me and to my surprise he brought me a gift. I certainly did not expect a gift. Early on in our marriage, we decided NOT to exchange Christmas presents with each other. For us, acknowledging each other once a year seemed silly, because it is really 365 days that matter, NOT just one day. In addition, we typically had so many other gifts to purchase for family members, that it took the fun out of gift exchanging over the holidays. When I opened the gifts, I could see that they were Pandora charms for my bracelet. As some of my readers may recall, Margaret (Mattie's preschool teacher and my friend) gave me a Pandora bracelet for my birthday. My goal is to create a remembrance bracelet filled with charms that speak about Mattie's life. Margaret started me off with a beautiful Sun charm, Christine gave me a silver cupcake (since Mattie loved cupcakes), and my parents recently gave me a moonstone charm (for my Mattie Moon), and two beautiful murano glass charms. One with pink hearts on red glass, since Red was Mattie's favorite color. Peter gave me several charms that I feel do a wonderful job capturing the essence of Mattie: The letter M, a ladybug, a butterfly, an angel, and a rose (to signify all the times we planted together!). Needless to say, my bracelet looks beautiful. Today I went into the Pandora store to exchange a duplicate charm and was telling the lady the story about the bracelet and each of the charms purchased for me. She was very touched by the meaning of this piece, and to me that is the beauty of a Pandora bracelet. It can be artistic, stylish, and/or tell a story.

I spent the day being "busy" and alone. Sometimes being busy is important during major transitions. However, by dinner time, I was very tired and also did not want to cook. So I met Peter at Mattie's favorite restaurant. Peter was working at a client site close to the restaurant, which made this even possible. I felt hungry, but by the time I started eating, I think I was more tired than hungry, so I wasn't the best dinner companion. The ironic part is as I sat down tonight to write the blog, I said to myself, "I have nothing to say." "Nothing to write about!" I sometimes surprise myself, since I have been doing this for so long, I no longer plot out what I want to write or say. It just comes to me. Some of you may be saying, that explains a lot!

I received a wonderful e-mail today from Lauren's teacher, Siri. Many of my readers know that Lauren is an osteosarcoma survivor and in middle school in Pennsylvania. Lauren was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma a week after Mattie. Lauren is the creative teen who envisioned the concept of "Bows for Hope." She and her friends make hair bows out of stylish duct tape! Lauren created this project in response to a class assignment. But she breathed life into this assignment, increased awareness about pediatric cancer in her school and her community, and in the process generated a very sizable contribution for the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation. I am in awe of Lauren, her passion to help other children, and her energy to continue this project. She has another big bow sale at her school this coming Monday, and again all the proceeds from her sale, will go to Mattie's Foundation. Here is the message her teacher, Siri, sent me today. Siri has been very supportive of Lauren, and has reached out to me numerous times throughout the year. I will keep you posted on this exciting event! Siri wrote, " I wanted to let you know that there will be a national broadcast about Lauren and your organization on a school tv show that is all over the country in middle and high schools. They asked me for a picture of your son. Would you be able to provide one for the story? They are filming on Friday and then on Monday when we pull together a one day bow sale. : ) Lauren will be narrating a script that will be written by the person I have connected with through Channel One, it is owned by CBS."

January 4, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 -- Mattie died 69 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was classic Mattie. This was our Christmas card cover in 2003! Mattie was a year and a half, and a walking terror. Mattie was a late walker, 16 months, so by Christmas time he was practically running around. The idea of asking him to stop moving and pose for a Christmas picture was absurd. Believe me, Peter and I tried for about three weekends. Then one weekend, I gave up. We brought Mattie to Lowe's, I strapped him into a shopping cart, wheeled him by the poinsettias, and I told Peter to start snapping pictures. Meanwhile, I was in the background trying to get Mattie's attention and desperately trying to get him to smile. Needless to say, we got a lot of attention or I should say STARES at Lowe's that day! So you may see a one year old cutie in a cart smiling, all dressed in red, but I thought you would like to know the truth behind the picture!

Quote of the day: Death ends a life, but death does not end a relationship. If we allow ourselves to be still, and if we take responsibility for our grief, the grief becomes as polished and luminous and mysterious as death itself. When it does, we learn to love anew, not only the one who has died. We learn to love anew those who yet live. ~ Julius Lester

Hello everyone, it is Peter writing tonight.  Vicki was flying back to DC today (she has arrived safely!), so she asked that I write tonight's blog.  Vicki will return tomorrow, so not to worry.

Vicki did pick out this picture ahead of time, and I remember the day this shot (along with 140 other shots) was taken.  As Vicki said, we were quite the sight, running around Lowes in front of the Christmas displays, trying desperately to get a half-decent shot of Mattie under the glow of the mercury vapor lights suspended 75 feet above us (not a good lighting source for picture taking by the way).  What Vicki did not mention was that we had also gone to Target and Home Depot before arriving at Lowes in an effort to take shots.  I'm not quite sure what we were thinking, but clearly having a 16 month old had turned our brains to mush.  It's funny what brings a smile to my face these days.

I really do not have much to say right now, but I did want to share three experiences that happened to me recently, where I had a great personal connection and that which happened completely unexpectedly.

We have a very good friend and former neighbor Malcolm, call me tonight, to offer a substantial number of frequent flyer miles and free hotel stays as donations for the May walk.  Malcolm told me a story that at a certain time in his life, when he was having a very hard time, he used to look outside and see myself, Vicki and Mattie enjoying ourselves as a family, loving each other, and he said when he saw this his spirits were renewed and he found the strength to go on.  I am not doing Malcolm's words justice, but hopefully you get the point.  Malcolm said that Mattie provided him then, and still provides him today with strength, which Malcolm said is a truly awesome legacy.

I have a friend Steve M., who owns his own printing business (he can print just about anything on any kind of item), who out of the blue sent me a note saying he had printed Vicki and I another set of business cards for the foundation, and that he was ready to support us and our Board with any needs.  Again, another random act of kindness.  Steve was the same guy who printed and donated all the shirts for our walk last year.  Here is a small business owner offering to do whatever he can to help the foundation and the cause.

I also received an email from Paul P., who is the father of a girl who was in Mattie's preschool class at Resurrection Children's Center, and who is another avid blog read.  Paul has had losses in his life, and has always been supportive of us.  Soon after Mattie's death, Paul sent Vicki and I two pedometers, telling us that walking helped him when he had lost a family member, and hoped that it could in some way help us too.  Well, we still use these pedometers today. Paul asked me out to lunch via the email, so we are having lunch next week to catch up on things.

So, although these interactions may seem mundane to some, to me they were invaluable lifelines reminding me that I am still alive, still feeling and still somehow connected to this existence.  Mattie's death and my subsequent depression has left me devoid of most feeling, numb to most emotions other than pure grief.  It has also affected my ability to connect with people, with my world and with a life that I no longer recognize as it no long has my son in it.  However, these three personal connections made me feel again, and feel connected to someone who was trying to do something nice for me, and for us.  So to Malcolm, Steve and Paul, I thank you.

And to all of you who come here to read the blog, be that each day, or week or even just every once in a while, I thank you for connecting with us, as it is truly a wonderful gift to reconnect with the world and something that helps to keep us going.

January 3, 2011

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in January of 2006. Margaret, Mattie's preschool teacher, snapped this photo of us in her classroom. I made gingerbread houses for the children to decorate. It was a day of excitement in the preschool because first Mattie's class worked on the houses, and then later in the morning, all the other classrooms had a chance to add their ideas to the houses. I will never forget the look on the children's faces when they tasted the "royal icing" used to glue the candy pieces to the houses. I think the children were expecting glue but were happily surprised to taste sugar instead! It was one of those precious moments in time. Thankfully, I selected a cooperative preschool, which meant that parents were required to participate in the classroom on a regular basis. I look back on that decision as absolutely brilliant. I was always very involved in every aspect of his growth and development, and somehow I knew early on that I did not want to miss out on anything as it related to Mattie.

Quote of the day: The heart hath its own memory, like the mind. And in it are enshrined the precious keepsakes, into which is wrought the giver's loving thought. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Longfellow was absolutely right! My heart has a memory, actually a very deep and intense memory at that. In fact, I can remember places and people by how they made me feel. I may not necessarily remember all the content in these interactions, but feelings and emotions are basically recorded and stored in my heart. Fortunately I have such a memory bank, because within it is locked away the fact that I had a son, all the precious, tender, and loving moments I had with him in seven short years, and of course like any memory bank, it is also filled with memories of pain, sadness, and incredible destruction (which can happen to a body and mind ravaged by cancer).

It was another cold and rainy day in Los Angeles, however, when I return to Washington, DC on Tuesday, I have a feeling, LA's cold is going to be quite appealing in comparison. Despite the weather, we got out and about today. Along our journey, we bumped into my parent's neighbors. I had never met this particular family before, so when this 11 year old boy was waving in my direction and then saying hello to me, I was confused but responded. He then explained to me that he lived two doors down from my parents and continued on talking. What got me to take notice was his ability to be so engaging and communicate so well. He made wonderful eye contact, answered questions so well, and was charming. As he continued to talk with us, a part of my mind drifted off, and wondered what Mattie would have been like when he turned this boy's age? Naturally a question I have absolutely NO answer to, however, I imagine what caught my attention about this little boy was his spark. This type of spark and initiative are things that I always saw and admired in Mattie's eyes.

It is in encounters like this today, which make me pause and wonder why on earth Peter and I will never get the opportunity to see Mattie grow and develop? Why are so many other parents spared these experiences, and yet we were chosen to live with such intense grief? Mattie's death has left me with a great deal of questions and very few answers! I assure you living with all these questions and unsettling feelings is not easy.

I return to DC after 10pm on Tuesday, so on Tuesday night, Peter will be writing the blog! I appreciate him doing this because after a full day of travel, I am never sure what my energy level will be like. For those of you who know how well I fly, keep me in your thoughts.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in front of the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC during December of 2006. Mattie went through many red coats over the course of his short lifetime. I recall the very first coat I bought him was blue. It looked nice on him, but from that point on he steered me toward bright colored jackets and coats. I remember posing for this picture, and it is hard to accept that another Christmas and New Year's day have past and Mattie is no longer with us. Time doesn't heal all wounds, in fact, time just makes the longing more profound.

Quote of the day: Glow brightly, little light, and send my message: "I will love you, never forget you, always be with you." ~ Teri Gingham

It was another rainy and cold day in Los Angeles today. Well rainy is not a good description, pouring with intense fog would be much better. I am NOT a rain person in general, but to me nothing is more depressing than being in Los Angeles in the rain. You can see trees, flowers, and greenery all around you, and yet, you feel trapped inside. We went out to breakfast with friends of my parents today. I hadn't seen this particular family since Mattie developed cancer.

We made it through breakfast and then said our good-byes and I observed that no one made mention of Mattie throughout the entire breakfast. No one said they were sorry for our loss or what we are living with. I am very well aware of the fact that talking about pediatric cancer is not easy, and it is certainly much more complex to address especially when the person affected by it is someone who you know. So I actually try not to judge people who do not express their condolences and sympathy with me, however, I would be lying if I said that I did not take notice, or if I said it did not bother me. It actually bothers me a lot. It at times makes my angry, sad, and frustrated all at the same time, because it can be perceived by me that Mattie's death did not matter. That his suffering did not matter and that our grief is inconsequential. I think sometimes that people are afraid or hesitant to mention Mattie to me because they think I will become upset and sad. But here is the newsflash, those of us who lost a child are ALREADY sad, mad, and depressed. We live with these feelings AT ALL HOURS OF THE DAY. NOT just when the topic comes up! Nothing you could possibly say to us will surprise us, because chances are we have already thought about it.

At breakfast today, my parent's friends wanted to know if I had plans to return to live in Los Angeles permanently. It is a simple question and a natural one at that. However, what they did not know is that this question can not possibly be answered without understanding my history with Los Angeles. I moved to Los Angeles from New York when I was in tenth grade. My father's job relocated us here, and naturally as an adult, I can now understand the complexities of supporting a family and doing the financially responsible thing. However, remember at the time I was only 15 years old, and financial matters did not mean much to me, but what did mean a lot to me was my friends and way of life in New York. So as a teenager this move was earth shattering. Living in Los Angeles was challenging for me on many levels, and I constantly heard that I sounded like a New Yorker, looked like a New Yorker (whatever that actually looks like!), and as if the name calling wasn't bad enough, I was not allowed in the drama club at school or any play production on campus. I am not making this up, the head of the drama department told me that I couldn't possible be allowed to participate because of how my voice sounded. A rather humbling pronouncement to hear at age 15. In many ways, Los Angeles made me a stronger person because at a time when a teenager desperately wants to fit in, I never did. You can either crawl into a hole with this revelation, or rise above it. I feel I rose above it and out of it. Moving back to New York to go to college was important for my personal and emotional development, so when asked today whether I would move back here, my adamant response is NO! Sure I am an adult now, I have matured and experienced all sorts of life events, but the thought of moving back to LA sends me right back to when I was age 15, and all the insecurities and feelings associated with high school. Nonetheless, the reality of the matter is that I am on one coast and my parents are on the other. For a person, such as myself who hates to fly, this is cumbersome and complex reality. It is funny how a simple question can land up sending me down a road I would never have expected today.

Despite being clear across the Country, Peter and I keep track of each other throughout the day. I am well aware of how hard it is to be alone in our home, on a given day, much less during a holiday. So in many ways, my absence has been hard on Peter, because when we are alone, the depths of Mattie's loss become more pronounced and much more real. In many ways, I can't believe that Christmas and New Year's have past, and yet I feel the same way. I am not sure if I was expecting something miraculous to happen, which is odd to even say, because I have learned first hand that not all miracles are granted. Not just my miracle request, but the miracle request of all parents who have lost children to cancer and other life threatening diseases. Monday is my last day in LA, and I return to Washington, DC on Tuesday afternoon. Re-entry home is also fraught with challenges, and like my return back home in October from my LA visit, I imagine I will have several rough days ahead.

January 2, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2006. Mattie was four years old. He was going through his Lightning McQueen phase, which meant we saw the movie MANY times, collected all the toy cars from the movie, and played and acted out scenes from the movie on a regular basis. I most likely snapped this particular picture because Mattie got a hold of Peter's jeans and decided he was going to put them on and wear them around the house. Mattie had a very whimsical side to him and we were good at making each other laugh. Mattie's laughter is something Peter and I both greatly miss.


Quote of the day: God is closer to those with broken hearts. ~ Jewish Saying

I know that today is the first day of the New Year, and I am very aware of the fact that Christmas has come and gone. Yet to me, these were ordinary days. Ordinary because just like every other day in my life, I still felt sad, I still felt Mattie's loss, and I still remain wondering about the future. However, I would have to say that I did acknowledge it was the holidays on some level because it became even more apparent and heightened who was missing from our family and just how empty our lives are without Mattie. It is a rather daunting undertaking to think that every holiday from here on end will look and feel this way. I would like to be optimistic and hopeful, but I am also a realist. Mattie's death has greatly impacted Peter and I, and our family.

When I look at tonight's picture, I see so many things. I naturally see Mattie, but I see so much more. I see happiness, life, and energy. Mattie was all of those things. He gave Peter and I direction, focus, and also purpose. I also notice in the picture our home decorated for Christmas. Our home hasn't been decorated for Christmas in over two years. I almost have forgotten what that looked like, if I hadn't seen the pictures. But in all reality, why decorate for Christmas anymore? Why write another Christmas card? These things are NO longer important to me and I think these actions are symbolic of how I feel in my heart and mind. I am disconnected from life, and perhaps I will remain this way for some time.

This evening, I went out to dinner with my parents and their friend. I had heard of their friend, Ingrid, for years, but never met her. She is an animal lover and I got to hear about her five dogs and the work she has done with the animal rescue league. We happened to admire the sweater she was wearing tonight, and through my comment I learned that she lost her sister to brain cancer. It was her sister who gave her this sweater for New Year's a couple of years ago. She wears it each New Year's and it helps to remind her of her sister. I related to that story all too well.

I would like to end tonight's posting with a comment Karen (Keaton's mom) posted on the blog today. Just when I think Peter and I are in left field, I get a message from Karen that reminds me.... NO I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings. Karen wrote, "So exactly how I feel, also, Vicki. Can't hardly stand to think I now have to label my days with Keaton as "last year". Want to scream....want to beg...please, please, please, don't let it be real...please, please, I just want him back with me....   Can you tell I'm not really into the whole Happy New Year thing? Guess I need to just go to bed...to sleep..perhaps to dream...  Hold on to purple balloons...they surely must mean something more. Karen, Mother of Keaton for Always"