Mattie Miracle 10th Anniversary Walk was an $119,000 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

July 7, 2012

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. This was two months before Mattie died, and before we knew his case was terminal. Pictured with Mattie is Anna, Mattie's physical therapist. Anna no longer works at Georgetown, since, she moved across the country with her husband. Anna is one of the people I truly miss seeing. Anna worked intensely with Mattie and with me, she saw and experienced our highs and lows, and I consider her one of the professionals who was very honest with me about Mattie's physical abilities and recovery after numerous surgeries. Anna had a hard job because she had to explain the reality of Mattie's limitations to me, and yet she also had to tackle these limitations and find ways to rehabilitate Mattie. In essence, we had to teach Mattie to walk again and use his arms. Either one alone is daunting, the combination together was overwhelming. Also factor into this that Mattie was also on chemotherapy and feeling horrific. There were days we all were dejected and could easily lose hope. Yet as a team, our goal was to help Mattie, and as this picture illustrates we were an effective team. With Mattie's stamina we were able to get him up and taking a few steps and using his arms again. Anna was not only a competent professional, but she took the time to get to know Mattie, to understand his fears, and was able to creatively motivate him. As I have written before on this blog, it is the personal connections medical personnel make with their patients and families, which is crucial to recovery. Not all are willing or able to make these connections, but in the end, this is what we as patients remember always.   


Quote of the day: We find a place for what we lose. Although we know that after such a loss the acute stage of mourning will subside, we also know that we shall remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else. ~ Sigmund Freud



Freud's quote gets at exactly what I have been talking about for the past two nights on the blog. Certainly the acute phase of mourning is over for Peter and I, as the shock and horror of what has happened to Mattie and us have been accepted. Nonetheless, our feelings will always be inconsolable, because nothing can fill that void. It seems to me that the voyage to healing involves understanding this rationalization. Which is a huge discovery on my part today. I suppose at the core my very human side has tried to solve things, be pro-active, and find explanations and meanings for this loss. As if there is one!!! In addition to my search for meaning, I also try to find ways to "fill the gap" in my life. I am beginning to see over the last two weeks that this mindset may need to be changed. Because there is NOTHING to solve, NO meaning to this loss, and MOST definitely NOTHING can fill this gap. Instead, all this rationalization can send me spinning around in circles. It is like a puzzle that has no solution, because a key piece is missing! Yet I somehow continue to study each of the pieces I have and try to find ways for it to be put together to form a picture. Which of course isn't logical. By analogy, there are many aspects to dealing with grief that make no sense either. Yet our minds continue to pursue them! So I don't have an answer to any of this right now, other than I am thinking this through.

Today was 107 degrees in Washington, DC, yet despite the weather, we did get out and this helped my mood tremendously. However, for over a week, I haven't been feeling well. I, not unlike others who are contending with this heat, have developed a case of asthma. For me being in prolonged heat and even air conditioning are making me very uncomfortable. I am on all sorts of inhalers, and my lifetime friend Karen, is ready to remotely take me to the doctor to get better relief. Next week, I have all sorts of doctors appointments to follow up on my various other issues and problems that have developed since Mattie's death. My goal is not to add another doctor to my week's agenda.

Tonight I went back to the blog I posted on July 7, 2009. I copied an excerpt from it below. I felt compelled to go back to the blog today. I do not do this often, yet reviewing history helps me understand the profound changes Mattie's cancer has had on my mind and body. Though some of you may have read this posting back on July 7, 2009, this posting is a part of me. It lives within me, and the emotions and fears expressed by Mattie will always be remembered. The powerlessness to help him are ingrained in me, and yet I remember the energy and stamina it took to portray strength and hope to him. So when I wonder why I am a frazzled person, or half the person I used to be....... I don't have very far to look for an explanation.


Posting from July 7, 2009:

While Mattie and I were waiting in the PT waiting area, Mattie turned to me all of a sudden and said, "I don't like myself!" That is an enormous statement, that could mean anything. Instead of placating him or trying to insert my own thoughts into his thinking, I stopped myself, and asked him to tell me more about this statement. At which point he became closed off. However, a few minutes later he went on to say that he has never liked himself. I did not think that was true, so I said did he feel this way always or after he got sick? He admitted to feeling this way after he developed cancer. Then specifically stated that what he doesn't like about himself is that he "had surgery." He doesn't like that he has scars, that he can't walk, and that he can't do anything for himself. This was a lot to hear in the middle of a waiting area, when PT was about to start. All during his PT session, I tried to process how he was feeling. I certainly don't blame him one bit. He looks different, he feels different, and he is different physically and psychologically than most other seven year olds. I can't deny that, but he is still my seven year old, and despite acknowledging all of these differences, I told him he is very special, that going through this will make him stronger, and that none of his other friends can say they survived cancer. Nor can they say they have bionic parts. I told him that when these parts start fully working, his friends better watch out. With that, he started to laugh. However, this subject matter came up in the car ride home as well. It is firmly in his mind, and despite trying to help him manage these feelings, it is heartbreaking to hear your seven year old say he doesn't like himself. I realized for the first time, or maybe accepted it for the first time, that osteosarcoma will be something I am fighting all my life. Not just physically, but I will be fighting its long term psychological effects. That alone was a daunting proposition. I can see as we get further out of treatment, the mental and emotional anguish that Mattie survived through is slowly being revealed. Certainly I could brush that under the rug, and try to deny it and move forward. But whenever you deny something, it only is going to fester its ugly head somewhere else. So we might as well attack the problem head on. I also realized that my desire to keep Mattie protected from others in the cancer community, meaning not attending camps designed for children with cancer, is a bad idea. He needs to see others like himself, living and thriving. Mattie certainly has wonderful friends, but he can't keep up with them right now, and a part of me always feels on these playdates that in a way it is unfair for his friends. I land up feeling like we are some sort of charity case, which I am sure is not how others feel, but I fully admit my own insecurities. I certainly embrace typically developing children interacting with children who have special needs, but I also must understand the importance of making Mattie whole and accepting himself. Until he does this, he will have a hard time integrating back into mainstream society. So I guess his comments to me were a revelation today, and one that will have to force me out of my comfort zone in order to explore other options for him that will help him develop socially. I think he needs to process his feelings (well of course on a child like level, most likely through play and activities), but the only true way to do this is with other kids who have experienced similar issues.

July 6, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2007 at Roosevelt Island. Typically Mattie and I stayed on the trails, but that day we walked out into the woods on a log. You can see Mattie peeking behind me in this photo. One of the reasons we walked out on the log was to get a closer look at the deer that were eating off in the distance. Mattie and I both loved deer and he was getting just as good as I am at spotting them. Peter always joked with me that I have what he called "deer-dar" (like radar for deer). If they are around, I will spot them. Mattie was working on his deer-dar and really had a knack for spotting and hearing things in the woods.


Quote of the day: This grief, Theodore realized, was one of the few separating things in their life together. He couldn't help Suzannah here; he couldn't reach her. This particular part of her had died. If she had wept and grieved, he could have comforted her; the ground would have bloomed again. But it was a sealed-over area no one could reach, where nothing would ever grow. He learned then about the isolation of grief, even for those in the same grief. Grief can't be shared. Every one carries it alone, his own burden, his own way. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh


Last night's blog posting, sparked a conversation between Peter and I. The conversation was about isolation. Peter has felt the isolation I described in last night's blog for quite some time now. Perhaps years. For me, I would say I began to notice a solid change in my social relationships a year after Mattie died. Now of course, the changes are too obvious for me to continue to make excuses for them. However, the feelings of isolation don't only occur between friends they also occur within the bereaved couple as well. Despite the fact that Peter and I are coping with the same loss, we can not always help each other through it. We try to describe this reality during each palliative care panel we participate on. The loss of a child maybe one of the most significant traumas faced by a couple, and yet unlike other ups and downs a couple may endure, this is NOT an issue spouses can always help each other with. Mostly because they are going through the trauma at the same time, and their reactions and needs maybe different as they process and heal from it. These differences can cause GREAT challenges for couples, and it is of no surprise to us that so many couples end their relationship over the death of a child.

Lindbergh's quote actually was found within the Bernstein book that I am reading. What captured my attention is her line..... "But it was a sealed-over area no one could reach, where nothing would ever grow." I would say the quote is accurate because when your child dies, something inside of you dies too. That dead part of you, remains ever present, but it is sealed off from one's self and others. I wouldn't describe it as something that has rotted out inside of me, because that would imply that I could potentially cut it out and rebuild myself. I would say what remains is instead something much worse than rotted material. It is a component that is hollow, numb, and simply impenetrable. Almost as if I lost a vital part of myself, that I can't get back, and yet aren't sure how to take in life and those around me without this portion of myself.


I began tonight's posting by talking about deer, and I would like to end with this beautiful picture of a female deer. I visited my friend Tina today, and while we were having lunch together, in her backyard I spotted this special sighting. Tina has all sorts of fruit trees in her backyard, and this deer went to town on a buffet of apples, pears, and plums! This was an incredible sight, which Mattie would have absolutely LOVED!

July 5, 2012

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2006. Peter and I took Mattie to the National Zoo. Specifically to the children's portion of the zoo, in which Mattie could meet and pet several of the animals. Mattie loved the horses, cows, chickens, and goats he met that day. But as you can see Mattie wasn't looking at the camera. This was how Mattie looked when he had it with my picture taking. He would zone out and go through the motions with me. Not unlike any of us at times! Nonetheless, I am happy I caught that expression on camera and can share this side of him with you.   


Quote of the day: When people outside the immediate family are encountered who do not allow... expressions of emotions and thoughts about deceased children, it creates a resentment that is difficult to control. Subsequently, the time comes when parents begin to separate themselves from insensitive and uncaring people in their environments who insist on keeping channels of communication closed. Many times a wedge is driven between those suffering the loss and very dear and close friends. We can refer to this as a "wedge of ignorance" --- ignorance about the great importance of open..... communication. ~ Ronald J. Knapp


I remember when I was in graduate school, studying to become a mental health professional, I learned that true grief work typically doesn't occur until after someone has mourned for two years. Naturally I think that most time constraints/frameworks are irrelevant now, now that I have a very intimate experience with a traumatic loss. However, I must admit that recently, I have entered a new stage in my grief journey. It is the point where I feel as if others do not understand me, and I find myself distancing myself with those who I feel create what tonight's quote aptly refers to as the "wedge of ignorance."

It is not unusual that when confronted with an unknown feeling, we turn to resources for an explanation or validation. Today for the first time, I opened up a book entitled, When the bough breaks; Forever after the death of a son or daughter. I suspect someone gave me this book, which was not an unusual occurrence, shortly after Mattie died. I am perplexed by the thinking of giving a bereaved parent a book on grief! As if some sort of magic is going to jump off of these black and white pages and into my heart and brain to make the pain of Mattie's death seem much more bearable. In fact, I learned early on, that I couldn't turn to books for support. I found most of them trite and they just did not speak to my feelings of loss. However, as I try to ponder my feelings now about friendships and how cancer has changed my social connections, I decided to open up this book today, which was written by Judith Bernstein, a psychologist who lost a son to cancer. What I discovered, is my feelings are not unusual, because many other parents who have lost children are also perplexed by the changes in their closest friendships.

In the introduction of Bernstein's book is this wonderful paragraph in which she quotes Catherine Sanders, a noted bereavement researcher. Sanders said, "Our culture has not been educated to acknowledge the length of time necessary to overcome a major loss. This lag of information adds to the burden on the bereaved because they themselves feel that they should have been back to normal long before this. As time goes by, social supports diminish because family and friends expect the bereaved to be over the grief in six months to a year rather than the three or four years that is generally required. Even researchers who are working in the arena of bereavement put time limits such as three or four years for grief to be overcome."

Bernstein goes on to say, "along with 'overcome,' the word recovery is often seen in association with grief. The premise of the current study is that grief, or any major trauma for that matter, is never overcome nor does recovery take place. The course of healing involves integrating the trauma, not overcoming it. There is a significant difference. To overcome suggests that you get past or get over the trauma and go on from where you left off. But that is not what happens. No one goes on from any major event in their lives without having that event change them psychologically in some way. The process of integration involves changes in the person's view of the world, in the way they relate to others, in their values, in spiritual feelings, and so forth. It's the difference between stepping over an obstacle and being rerouted by it."

However, what especially spoke to me today, was her chapter dedicated to social relationships. Bernstein goes on to say, "an orphan is a child without a parent. A widow or widower is a person who has lost a spouse. There is no word to identify to the outside world a parent who has lost a child. Perhaps the concept is too unthinkable. There are greater impediments to getting social support for bereaved parents than for other mourners. The biggest impediment is that other parents shy away from the living embodiment of their worst nightmare. If this nightmare happened to you, then it could happen to me. Besides not wanting to be reminded that such atrocities do happen, most people, even with the best of intentions, don't know what to say or do. Potential sources of support avoid the eerie and the awkward. Consequently, bereaved parents are often avoided and become victims of social ostracism. Some feel like lepers. In addition to feeling isolated, many mothers say they feel judged, as if people are telling them how they should be grieving, comparing them with some imagined standard of the proper pace of progressing through grief. If they have a good day, friends jump to the conclusion that the grief is over; if they have a bad day, they need a shrink." 

Bernstein's book helped me understand today that the issues I feel internally are NOT unique to me, nor is anything unusual about my feelings. The issues arise when I am confronted by those who truly do not or can not understand the magnitude of my loss. The only problem of course is "those" people represent the majority of our society, and I represent the minority. Fortunately of course, since I do not want others to experience the loss of their child. I may ask friends on occasion to visualize what their lives would be like if something happened to their children. I do this, not to upset them, or to wish this upon them, but simply as a way to empathize and put themselves in my shoes for a minute. Only the very rare can actually go there with me and try to visualize this. On bad days, I have been told that I need outside help. However, I recall a visit with Mattie's social worker, several months after Mattie's death. Mattie's social worker is a bereavement counselor by training, before she started working at Georgetown. In any case, I distinctly remember Denise saying to me one day.... "Vicki do you think you really need counseling, or are you responding to what your friends are telling you?!" Denise's comment is brilliant, and remains with me often. Because what she was subtly telling me is that considering my situation, I am coping with these terrible odds graciously, and the road of having lost my only child is and will be a roughly paved one. Others don't understand this road at times, they don't know how to help, and instead insist that more professional means are needed. Again, as Denise reminds me this is a reaction to the listener's level of discomfort and NOT necessarily with my actual thoughts and feelings that are being expressed.

I have come to many conclusions about Mattie's death on my own. But Bernstein's research verified several of my top three thoughts which are....

1) The loss of a child remains with a parent for a lifetime. There is NO recovery from this loss.

2) As time marches forward, friendships change, and a different form of isolation occurs. An isolation which in essence produces another form of loss.

3) The ultimate way to integrate the loss of this magnitude into one's life is through communication, sharing my story, feelings, and thoughts. Basically this means talking about Mattie, sharing memories, and remembering! Which is what I try to do each day through Mattie's blog.

July 4, 2012

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. This was Mattie's last fourth of July with us. Peter, Mattie, and I joined Ann and her family at a local resort for that holiday. Pictured with Mattie are Abbie (Ann's youngest daughter) and Jackson (Abbie's friend). I was able to capture a happy moment on camera that day, but for the most part, Mattie was absolutely miserable on that trip while being surrounded by healthy children. This trip accomplished exactly the opposite of its intention. What it did was it spiraled Mattie's mood further down hill. Which of course deeply impacted Peter and I. What it reminded us was we could no longer live a normal life, we were and are different from those around us with healthy children. Despite how upset Mattie was and how intense his level of depression was, I understood it all too well. I understood why he felt the way that he did, and I felt frustrated because I couldn't change the situation for him and make it better. After all, that is what a parent is supposed to do! In fact living with cancer, takes all power away from you, and instead you are left to pull from resources you did not even know existed. It took every ounce of energy I had to try to protect Mattie, normalize a horrible situation, and literally fight and advocate for his health care throughout the entire process. Nonetheless, I look at the smile you see in tonight's picture, and it reminds me of the Mattie that existed before cancer transformed his personality and our lives.


Quote of the day: It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. ~ Aristotle Onassis


Today seemed like a lost day, we never left our home, until this evening when we saw the fireworks. Living in DC, has several advantages. One of which is July 4th. We literally can walk out of our home, and right in front of us are the Capital Fireworks. However, with that comes other issues. Traffic is awful, streets are blocked off, and security is everywhere. So literally it is impossible to get anywhere by car on July 4th. Naturally we could walk to things, but with the temperatures the way they are, it is hard to truly walk for any significant amount of time. So that doesn't leave us with many options. Not a great thing especially when I am already feeling sad and in a mood.

This evening, as we headed to watch the fireworks, families with children were leaving our complex to find a place to sit outside to see the show. The children were happy, excited, and full of energy. The exact opposite of how I felt, and yet I watch them and they reminded me of Mattie. Mattie disliked the noise associated with the fireworks, but once you covered his ears, he absolutely loved the display, the colors, and the excitement.

As Onassis' quote points out, sometimes you really need to focus to see the light. I know I had to literally tonight, because with even the most intricate and costly fireworks display in front of me for 20 minutes, my mind was else where. When living through these darkest moments, it is hard to see moments of joy, happiness, and to appreciate what is before me. I brought my camera with me tonight, NATURALLY, and I snapped some pictures which I will share with you below. The display this year was incredibly colorful, and within it were all sorts of shapes like cubes, hearts, the earth, and stars!

To all our readers, thank you for continuing to read Mattie's blog and we hope you had a wonderful July 4th!!!







July 3, 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 -- Mattie died 147 weeks ago today.


Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2006. I recall this lunch very well, because it was Easter Sunday. We took Mattie to his favorite restaurant, and to our surprise, they had a life sized Easter Bunny going from table to table to take pictures with the kids. When this bunny approached our table, Mattie was hesitant to take a picture with this character, until I told Mattie it was alright. Mattie was much braver than I was at his age. Because at age 4, I would have been hiding under the table to avoid this big rabbit coming near me!



Quote of the day: Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate. ~ Albert  Schweitzer

As it is another Tuesday, marking Mattie's death, I reflect on his loss and also am aware that today is the day before Independence Day. It is hard to believe that this will be our third Fourth of July without Mattie in our lives. Somehow time keeps marching on, but in our hearts no holiday will ever be the same.

I was doing chores today, and when I got home, I noticed Mattie's sandbox had its lid off and also had an occupant. A little girl who couldn't be more than 3 years old, was playing in Mattie's box! Mattie's sandbox no longer sits on our deck. Instead it sits right outside our deck door in our common space. It sits there because I am just not sure what to do with it otherwise. Removing Speedy Red (Mattie's ride on car) off the deck was hard enough, but the sandbox goes much further back in Mattie's history. Mattie loved his frog sandbox and if you open the lid now, you can still find several of Mattie's favorite sand toys in there.

In order to get inside my front door, I had to pass this little girl and her grandmother. I did not stop to chat, but did acknowledge them and said hello. I just did not want to get into a conversation about the sandbox, or to even have them thank me for the use of this wonderful diversion. For getting into a conversation would naturally lead to.... whose sandbox this was! This is not the only little person near us who plays in Mattie's sandbox. Actually many of the little ones who live in our complex get great use out of Mattie's box. I am not sure if this would make Mattie smile or if it would displease him. As for myself, I have been on both ends of the continuum over this issue, from being very opposed to seeing other children touching Mattie's box, to now being okay with it. That sandbox brought Mattie hours of pleasure and his creativity inside of the box was amazing. He created ramps for his sand cars out of wooden scraps Peter had, and some of these ramps are still within the sand today. Seeing the box in use now, simply reminds me of Mattie and our many hours together outside.

July 2, 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012


Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2006 in front of Lake Accotink Dam in Springfield, VA. We took Mattie to see the Cardboard Boat Regatta at Lake Accotink Park. It was a very memorable event in which people created their own life sized boats made out of cardboard. The funny part was the actual competition, in which people got into their boats and tried to row them! Mattie truly enjoyed that day at the Park, and was looking forward to being old enough one day to build his own boat with Peter and enter the race.


Quote of the day: A loving heart is the truest wisdom. ~ Charles Dickens

I went back to the assisted living facility this afternoon to visit Mary, Ann's mom. Mary's muteness is becoming more commonplace now, in fact, I can't really recall the last time we had a real conversation with each other. My visits are always armed with either a newspaper or magazine. Something to stimulate dialogue and a sharing of information. Today I read Mary several stories in The Washington Post about Friday's storm. Together Mary and I learned about a derecho. Which is the classification of Friday's storm. A derecho (pronounced similar to "deh-REY-cho" in English ... ) is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. Although a derecho can produce destruction similar to that of tornadoes, the damage typically is directed in one direction along a relatively straight swath. As a result, the term 'straight-line wind damage' sometimes is used to describe derecho damage. By definition, if the wind damage swath extends more than 240 miles ... and includes wind gusts of at least 58 mph ... or greater along most of its length, then the event may be classified as a derecho.

Dickens' quote seemed very appropriate tonight, given the stories Mary and I were reading together. We learned about the goodness of local community spirit, how people have united over the storm and have shown their generousity and thoughtfulness to others. I certainly experienced this while Mattie was battling cancer, but this beauty of the human spirit is also alive and well in our neighborhoods. We are seeing neighbors helping neighbors through the power outage. The outage hit neighbhorhoods in odd ways. For example one street can have power, while neighboring streets are completely without power. The newspaper reported that homes with electricity have allowed neighbors to run extension cords from their homes to the ones without electricity. In addition, working freezers are being stuffed with neighbors' food until power is restored. All incredibly thoughtful and loving acts of kindness. Such acts can make a person feel important, cared about, appreciated, and what all of us long for.... a part of something bigger than one's self.

July 1, 2012

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2006. Mattie was four years old and had a great time at the "Day out with Thomas" event. Mattie saw and experienced all sorts of trains that day. Peter snapped a picture of Mattie on a train track in which he had to use his arms to turn the train's wheel. This hand pumping provided him locomotion on the tracks. What I love about this picture was Mattie was all business, he was focused on getting around the track and experiencing the ride.


Quote of the day: The rays of happiness, like those of light, are colorless when unbroken. ~ Henry W. Longfellow

Longfellow's quote caught my attention today, because what he was trying to say is that only through adversity, can we know and feel what true happiness is. Without that perspective, happiness is taken for granted and to some extent we may not even know we are happy. Comparisons are imperative to living, they help guide our growth and development, but most importantly they help us appreciate the positive circumstances in our lives more. Could I have done without the adversity of Mattie being diagnosed with cancer and dying? Personally my answer is MOST DEFINITELY YES. In a way, Peter and I discussed this whole notion over lunch today. I asked him what would our lives be like today, if Mattie were sitting next to us at lunch, and we hadn't experienced cancer? Naturally it is a hard question to answer, but Peter's response was.... "we would still be living in Disneyworld!" Which is how Peter describes our lives prior to cancer. We did not know we were living in Disneyworld at the time, but having this great comparison, we now know how lucky we were to have the regular and mundane problems of raising a healthy child for six years. So I would agree some challenging times and adversity are needed to feel true happiness, but I now also see within my life that some adversities are down right impossible to recover from, and they do not necessarily add to a positive perspective or outlook. It is not only a question of recovering from Mattie's death for me, but there is a sense of guilt about continuing to live a life without his presence. Between Mattie's death and the guilt associated with his death, it sometimes stymies me from allowing myself to see any rays of happiness.

This afternoon, I went to visit Mary, Ann's mom. Mary's assisted living facility lost power yesterday, and like the other 1.3 million people in the Washington, DC area she was without air conditioning. However, for older adults, especially those in need of the support of medical devices, being without power is life threatening. Mary's facility regained power today, however, despite that, the heat in the facility was overwhelming. It was like walking into an oven. I was told it was much worse yesterday, if that is physically possible. Heat typically doesn't affect me, so if I am impacted, you have to know it is HOT. Mary was completely mute tonight, which makes our communications now very different from how they were in the past. Now it takes much more emotional strength and energy to visit Mary, because it is hard to see her this way, but second, I feel the need to engage her, which is challenging at best since our interactions are only one-way. I brought today's newspaper with me, so that I could read several articles to Mary, and try to orient her to the current happenings in our country and region.

As we were visiting with each other, a man dressed in priest's attire walked in. He was checking his list and saw both Mary and her roommate are Catholic and he wanted to say a prayer with them and give them communion. But before he proceeded he wanted to know if another priest had stopped by prior to him. I told him I had been there for two and a half hours so far, and there was no other visitors. Which did not answer his question per se, and he was curious why I just did not ask Mary or her roommate his question. I then had to explain to him that Mary's roommate has Alzheimer's disease and Mary is basically mute.  Nonetheless, I said to him that he should continue with a prayer and communion, because even if they received it twice today, I had a feeling God would be okay with this considering how ill they are. He agreed, and we proceeded with prayers and communion. Since I was responding to his prayers, he caught on quick that I too must be Catholic. So he wanted to give me communion too. What I learned is this fellow is in seminary and has two more years of schooling before he is ordained a priest. He was a lovely young fellow and he asked me to pray for him, to give him strength to finish his studies.

I told this seminary student that his visit to the assisted living facility today is crucial, and that I hope he will continue to visit with Mary. I told him that the residents appreciate his visits and spiritural connectiveness, whether they can verbalize it or not. I believe residents like Mary need to feel loved and a part of something, and this student's visit achieves this! He felt very empowered by my response, in our 90 degree room! He then wanted to know exactly who I was. He asked if I were Mary's daughter, and I said "NO!" I explained that Mary's daughter is my friend, and he then proceeded to let me know that God appreciates me and the kindness I show Mary won't go unnoticed. It was a very lovely statement and I appreciated his caring response. Yet I visit Mary not for accolades and to be told that God will look upon me kindly. I visit Mary because she is my friend and I am guided by my internal feelings and principles.


I would like to end tonight's posting with a picture I took of Patches (our calico cat) today. She was resting comfortably on our couch, with Peter (her buddy) beside her. What a twosome!