Mattie Miracle 8th Annual Walk & Family Festival was an $88,000 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

Random Shots of Mattie, Family and Friends

July 29, 2017

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken on August 10, 2009. Five days after we learned that Mattie's cancer had spread all over, making his condition terminal. These are photos I did not highlight during Mattie's treatment, but we had many moments that looked like this. Mattie was in the hospital and simply not feeling well and was depressed. You will notice his albino boa constrictor stuffed animal, named Sunshine, on his hospital bed. Mattie was given Sunshine by his good pal, Jocelyn. Jocelyn had osteosarcoma, and died five years after Mattie. Mattie loved Sunshine, and you can still find Sunshine in Mattie's bedroom today.  


Quote of the day: Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’ ~ Mary Anne Radmacher


Last weekend when we were in Charlottesville, we visited my friend's art gallery (Anne Gould Gallery). I met Annie years ago when we were both going for advocacy training on Capitol Hill for childhood cancer. Annie lost her youngest daughter to cancer. A matter of months ago, Annie opened up a gallery. Both she and her husband are artists, yet that was NOT their career before their daughter died. 

We hung the "Deceased Oak" today. We purchased this Oak from Annie's gallery. It is a watercolor, the only one of its kind, created by her Husband Alex. Alex comes from a long line of artists in his family and all of his works are stunning. What is also unique about Alex is he hand crafts all of his own frames. So naturally this painting of an oak, has a frame made out of oak. 

To me this is the perfect wall for this original piece. It is hung over the Italian marquetry box that houses Mattie's ashes. Mattie LOVED oak trees, as he was an avid acorn collector and enjoyed giving them out as gifts. In fact, after Mattie died, his school asked what type of tree we wanted to plant in Mattie's memory.... we said an oak. Unfortunately both of Mattie's memorial oak trees died, as Alexandria has some sort of oak blithe. Nonetheless, this painting depicts an oak that no longer exists in Charlottesville, though it provided beauty for years. It seemed like the appropriate painting that captures the essence of Mattie.  

Tonight we are meeting friends for dinner. We were all going to meet at the Obelisk. A restaurant I have heard of for years, because of the quality of their food. The restaurant is tiny and intimate. They serve a five course dinner and request that their guests come to relax and NOT eat in a hurry. I was looking forward to this, however, the restaurant called me this morning to let me know about a fire on their street, which has cut electricity to the street. So clearly I wasn't meant to try Obelisk tonight! 

We had to come up with Plan B! Fortunately DC has a wonderful magazine called the Washingtonian. Whenever I want to get restaurant inspiration, I turn to its top restaurant list in our area. They recommended Riggsby, which you see here. So the verdict is out, but given that it is grey, cloudy and rainy, getting out of our home is welcomed!

July 28, 2017

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. It was over the July fourth weekend. Our friends invited us to a local resort, so Mattie could have a diversion with friends. In theory this sounded good, but Mattie was miserable. I think spending time with kids his own age who were unaffected by cancer, depressed him even further. Others may not have seen how he felt, but behind closed doors, Mattie would either lash out at us or totally retreat and shut down. It was heart breaking to experience. In this photo you can see that Mattie did not want his photo taken. So he put his leg up to try to cover his face. His friend did the same... sort of in solidarity. But this weekend remains forever in my mind. Perhaps without the behind the scenes commentary from me, you would have NO IDEA about the true context in which this photo was taken. 



Quote of the day: Mummy and Daddy love you so much Charlie, we always have and we always will and we are so sorry that we couldn't save you. We had the chance but we weren't allowed to give you that chance. Sweet dreams baby. Sleep tight our beautiful little boy. ~ Charlie Gard's parents


Can you imagine as a parent having to express the words above? For those of you not following this case, Charlie Gard was only a baby, 11 months old. He was born with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, a rare inherited condition that causes muscle weakness and loss of motor skills. Only 16 people in the entire world have been diagnosed with this disease. 

It is hard enough coping with such a diagnosis, but how would you feel knowing that there is potentially an experimental treatment in another country that may give your child a chance at life and yet the local hospital refuses to release your child? Well I imagine this is how Charlie Gard's parents have been feeling. After almost a year long battle with the hospital and courts in England, Charlie Gard died today. Now these parents are not only contending with the death of their child but also living with the what ifs!!!! 

What if Charlie was able to come to the United States and receive experimental treatment? Would Charlie be alive today? NONE of us know the answers. Yet apparently the hospital and court systems deemed themselves all knowing and all powerful. To them this was just a patient case, while to these parents, it was their world. Any parent with a child who is ill and in the hospital today, should be thankful they are living in the USA. If in doubt, just read about Charlie Gard's battle and death. 

Dr. Michio Hirano of New York's Columbia University Medical Center, even visited Charlie in London to assess whether he was a good candidate for the experimental treatment. If Charlie was released earlier to Hirano's care, there is a possibility that Charlie would be alive today. But instead of allowing the parents to have the authority and control over the life of this child, Charlie's life was caught up in RED TAPE. Tape being the hospital and the court system. Unlike in the US, where parents have certain rights, in England the right to die is decided by the court. Absolutely absurd, horrific, and unethical. The court did not give birth to this child and rear it, therefore, they should NOT have any say in how the child is treated medically and worse how the child dies. All unacceptable to me. 

My thoughts go out to Charlie Gard's parents. Not only were they fighting for their child's life, but they were fighting a system that values laws and rules over life. Living in the USA, it is hard to comprehend the complexities of this nightmare that the Gards faced. After all if this were in the USA, we would sign our child out of the hospital and move along to the next provider. Regardless of how we would pay for this, as most parents do go into debt over a healthcare crisis. But the point of the matter is we have choices and are empowered to make decisions. 

The Gards even had to take Charlie's case to court with regard to how Charlie died. As they wanted their son home with them, without media coverage and being surrounded by hospital personnel. Again the court refused this, and placed Charlie into a hospice facility. I am not sure how the Gards will ever heal from this nightmare, because as a parent we are supposed to do whatever is humanly possible to care for our children. In their case, they weren't allowed that ability and I have no doubt they will forever be haunted by the WHAT IFS!


Baby Charlie Gard dies after life support withdrawn:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/28/health/charlie-gard-death/index.html


July 27, 2017

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2016. Peter, Sunny, and I visited the Angel of Hope statue in Woburn, MA. I had come across this statue in the summer of 2016, and I knew immediately what this angel was all about. Mainly because I read the Christmas Box, a wonderful book by Richard Evans. In the book, his main character visits an angel statue like this one in the cemetery and we come to know that the grave she was visiting was her daughter's. It was a very powerful book and a book that resonates with parents who have lost a child. Ironically I read this book way before Mattie developed cancer and died! 

From Evans' book, parents all over the country started an Angel of Hope campaign. You can find Angels like this one pictured throughout the US, I knew this but never actually saw one until the Summer of 2016. 

That summer I was focused on finding out who to contact to get Mattie's name added to the Angel of Hope memorial. This lead me to Maureen Webster, who spearheaded the angel project in Woburn, MA. Thanks to Maureen, Mattie is now represented with his own paver, as you see here. The reason why I am mentioning this is because the article below which I will be talking about tonight, features Maureen's story and how she tragically lost her son.


Quote of the day: The miracle of your mind isn't that you can see the world as it is. It's that you can see the world as it isn't. ~ Kathryn Schulz


In 2016, as I mentioned above, I contacted Maureen Webster about adding Mattie's name to the Angel of Hope statue. Maureen was delightful and in the process of our conversations I learned about her son Nolan, who died after vacationing in Mexico. At first, if you haven't done your homework, you could think that Maureen's story is NOT possible. After all, what 22 year old goes to a Mexican resort, drowns in a pool, and yet NO ONE at the hotel makes any effort to save him? Furthermore the hotel staff PREVENTS a fellow hotel guest (an American nurse) from intervening to help Nolan. Nolan died a horrific death, and as Maureen and the media have uncovered this is NOT an isolated incident. It is too perplexing and disturbing to accept that this is happening, and worse that the State Department does nothing to help these families who are faced with such a crisis in Mexico. 

I truly invite you to read the article below and watch the minute long video! Why am I bringing this up? Well while in Charlottesville this weekend, I picked up the USA Today in the hotel lobby. The article entitled, "Mexico tourists suspect tainted alcohol" caught my attention. Mainly because I was familiar with Maureen's story. Maureen is mentioned in the article, along with her website, which is worth checking out (http://mexicovacationawareness.com/index.html). Makes you want to think TWICE about going to Mexico, much less staying at an all inclusive resort.

It is absolutely horrific how so many families have been permanent effected by just going on vacation. Here are the commonalities with these stories:


  • People blacked out after drinking SMALL amounts of alcohol.
  • Resort staff were often reluctant to call local authorities.
  • Those making trips to the hospital were told to bring CASH.
  • A 2015 report from Mexico's Tax Administration Service found that 43% of all the alcohol consumed in the country is illegal and could contain dangerous chemicals.
  • The US State Department has done little to help and doesn't uniformly track details of US deaths abroad. 


I encourage you to read the article below and to watch several of the videos within the article. It may be hard to believe, but it happens. Case in point, just google "warnings about traveling to mexico and alcohol." You won't believe the number of articles that pop up. It is hard enough to lose a child to cancer, but I can't imagine losing a child from a planned vacation! At the very least, being armed with this information is important and should be shared with anyone planning to stay at an inclusive resort in Mexico.


U.S. State Department warns tourists about tainted alcohol at Mexico resorts after blackouts reported

http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2017/07/26/u-s-state-department-issues-travel-warning-tainted-alcohol-mexico-resorts-after-tourists-blackouts/513563001/

July 26, 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken on July 31, 2009. Mattie was in the outpatient physical therapy clinic at the Hospital and next to him was Anna. Anna was Mattie's physical therapist. All I know is if I could clone Anna I would. She is outstanding at what she does. Mattie put her through her paces and really forced her to think outside the box many times in order to work with him. She met every one of Mattie's challenges and thereby earned his trust. Anna was the only one who was honest and upfront with me about Mattie's potential to walk again and have full use of his arms. No one else was explaining why Mattie never walked again post-surgery. But Anna helped me understand that Mattie had all three limbs operated on, therefore he could NOT use his arms to help rehabilitate his leg. In addition, Mattie also had chemotherapy which wiped him out throughout treatment. I felt like Anna was on our side, included us in all her strategies and was able to get Mattie to attempt a few steps at a time, by playing games with him. If you look closely in this photo, you will see a round object in front of Mattie on the floor. That was a whoopee cushion, and of course being a 7 year old boy, Mattie loved to stomp on it and hear the funny noise it made. 



Quote of the day: When you stand and tell your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal someone else. ~ Iyanla Vanzant


Today I went for my annual mammogram. Prior to the issues I had in 2015, I really did not pay attention to the others around me or the ramifications to what was happening to these other women waiting for a mammogram. Not because I did not care, but because I was naive to the process unfolding around me. I am not sure why, since I lived through Mattie's cancer experience. So either it was naivete or simply because of all my negative testing experiences with Mattie, I began to shut off what was happening around me. It is safer that way. 

However, now whenever I go for my scan, I am very clued into the stresses all around me. Some women are waiting in the holding area to hear results, wondering whether they are going to be called back for further testing, and the list goes on. One woman was so nervous today, she couldn't figure out how to get coffee out of the coffee maker in the waiting room. She kept pressing the button but of course nothing was coming out because she did not put a keurig cup in the machine. She literally was talking to herself to manage through the process of waiting. When the tech told her she could then leave for the day and not come back until her next scan, you could see her excitement and relief. 

What this says to me is there is a missed opportunity in hospitals, as a psychosocial person is truly needed on hand to help people cope and manage the anxieties associated with testing and scans. Such anxieties happen at any age, not just with children. After all, any patient who has ever had a medical crisis understands full well the uneasiness of waiting for a scan result. In essence the result can change your life instantaneously for the worse or the better. I am happy for this woman today who was waiting with me, and I am happy this process is over for me for another year. 

Yet returning to the hospital today where Mattie was diagnosed was practically eerie. Eerie because in July of 2009, Mattie went for a harmless x-ray to see what was going on with his arm. In essence today felt like I was returning to the scene of the crime 9 years later. But that is what happens any time I enter a hospital Mattie visited or was treated at..... it brings me right back to his cancer battle. It doesn't matter how many years have passed, some thoughts and feelings have now become like reflexes. My challenge with each visit is to try to keep these reflexes in check without feeling paralyzed or unable to function. 


July 25, 2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 -- Mattie died 410 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken on July 25, 2009. The last birthday I shared with Mattie. Mattie's child life specialist, Linda, got a cake, so that Mattie could surprise me with it. As you can see, Mattie was beaming over this. 
With the help of my in-laws, Mattie created a lighthouse birthday card for me in 2009. You can see the 3-D card in front of us. 

















Quote of the day: Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you. ~ Mother Teresa



Last night Peter and I had a lovely dinner in the Old Mill Restaurant at the Boar's Head Inn. The room has an old world elegance and the service is charming. Our waiter, Douglas, couldn't do enough to make my evening special. 

We learned today at breakfast that this wonderful room is going to remodeled and modernized. I am sure that excites some, to me this is disappointing. Some progress is not always for the better. Rarely can you find this traditional country elegance anymore, so it saddens me that it will be removed. 
Our waiter snapped a photo of us. It was the perfect table, as I could watch everyone coming in the restaurant and dining that night. To me people watching is a great deal of fun. 
Douglas brought me out these wonderful chocolate truffles, in addition to other lovely items throughout the night.  
This morning, we had our last breakfast in the Old Mill Room. This was my view. What you can't see from this photo is on the left hand side is a charming pond. 
Before we checked out of our room, I snapped a photo of this piece of art hanging in our room. It captures Thomas Jefferson's philosophy in life. The reason why Thomas Jefferson was so important to the Inn, is because the Inn is run by the University of Virginia (UVA) Foundation, and Thomas Jefferson is the founder of UVA.

It says....

Thomas Jefferson's 10 Rules

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today

Never trouble another for what you can do yourself

Never spend your money before you have earned it

Never buy what you don't want because it is cheap

Pride costs more than hunger, thirst, and cold

We seldom repent having eaten too little

Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly

How much pain the evils have cost us that never happened

Take things always by the smooth handle

When angry count ten before you speak,

If very angry, count to hundred

July 24, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken on July 31, 2008. Eight days after Mattie was diagnosed. Right after Mattie's first x-ray on July 23, he then went through a battery of more testing and also a bone biopsy in order to confirm that he had osteosarcoma. By July 31, we knew Mattie not only had osteosarcoma but he had a very unique form of it..... with four primary tumors (one in each arm, one in his right leg, and one in his left wrist). Let me put this into context for you. His oncologist let us know that if a case like Mattie shows up once every ten years, around the world that is a whole lot. Which meant there was very little research done on a child with multifocal osteosarcoma.

In this photo you can see that Mattie was stomping on something. It was a play-doh created "bone bug." Earlier that day, Mattie's art therapist worked with us to find a way to tell Mattie about his cancer and to educate him about the treatment he would have to endure. Because I knew that Mattie LOVED bugs, I figured helping Mattie envision bugs in his body, would help him understand cancer (similar to a foreign body that replicates uncontrollably). With the notion that taking chemotherapy would kill the "bone bugs." After giving Mattie this analogy, we then asked him what he would like to do with this play-doh bone bug, and as you can see, his response was to STOMP out the bone bug. This whole bone bug creation, and watching Mattie stomp it out, inspired us to create the phrase.... "stomp it out for a Mattie miracle."


A close up of the bone bug.

















I stomped out play doh bug. 






















Quote of the day: Children must be impressed with the fact that the greatest heroes are those who fight to help others, not those who fight for power or glory. They must be made to understand that victory does not prove that the thing fought for is right, nor that defeat proves that a cause is wrong. ~ Ellen Key



Today we visited Montpelier, the home of James Madison, our fourth president. This home had three phases of building. In the early 1760s, Madison, Sr. (James' father) built a house that forms the heart of the main house at Montpelier today. Built around 1764, it has two stories of brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern, and a low, hipped roof with chimney stacks at both ends. His son James Madison later stated that he remembered helping move furniture to the new home. The building of Montpelier represents Phase 1 (1764–1797) of the construction. Upon completion, the Madisons owned one of the largest brick dwellings in Orange County.

Phase 2 (1797–1800) of construction began in 1797, after the son James Madison returned to Montpelier with his new wife Dolley Madison. He was then 39 and she was a young widow with a child. At this time Madison added a thirty-foot extension and a Tuscan portico to the house. Madison's widowed mother, Nelly, still resided in the house following the death of her husband, James, Sr., in 1801. 

In the last period of construction, Phase 3 (1809–1812), Madison had a large drawing room added, as well as one-story wings at each end of the house and he directed construction of single-story flat-roofed extensions at either end of the house; these provided space for the separate household of the newlyweds James and Dolley Madison. Literally when you look at the house it looks like it has two wings. One wing from James and Dolly Madison, and the other wing for James' mom. After his second term as president, in 1817 Madison retired there full-time with his wife Dolley.

James Madison died in 1836 and is buried in the family cemetery at Montpelier. His widow Dolley Madison moved back to Washington, D.C. in 1837 after his death. In 1844 she sold the plantation to Henry W. Moncure. After Dolley Madison died in 1849, she was buried in Washington, DC and later re-interred at Montpelier near her husband James.

After Dolley Madison sold the estate to Henry W. Moncure in 1844, the property was held by a total of six additional owners before the du Ponts bought Montpelier in 1901.

We literally got confused about where the entrance to Montpelier was today. So at one point we were driving on a gravel road. It was hysterical.
On the gravel road we passed field after field of corn!!!
We also came across two baby deer. 
Not to mention my favorites.... black and white cows. 
This is the front of Montpelier. Do you see the three front doors. The center door, guests entered to visit with the president and his wife. The door on the right, was Nelly's entrance (the president's mom). The right side of the home was Nelly's and the left side James and Dolley's. They had different staff and dining rooms too. 

From the front porch, this was the view. They owned 3,500 acres!
Like many presidents, the Madison's also had money problems. Dolley had to sell the property after her husband died. She had a son from her first marriage who apparently caused her great heartache, as he gambled and had MANY debts, which she had to repay. 

Eventually when the duPonts purchased this property, the wife created an extensive garden. 
Our walk through the garden on a very hot day. 
Garden pathway
As is true in Charlottesville in general, there is a ton of wide open spaces and greenery. 
Floral beauty
 More gardens
 Last flower shot!
When the duPont's purchased the home, they transformed it. However, once the duPont's passed the house along to the National Historic Preservation Society, the Society spent 25 million dollars to transform the house BACK to the way it used to look. 

I would say that I now have a much better understanding of both James Monroe (after visiting Ashland Highland) and James Madison (Montpelier). Our fifth and fourth presidents. James Madison is credited for being the visionary of the Constitution and in fact he researched its development in his second floor study at Montpelier. Madison was known for being a soft spoken man, but brilliant. He had the vision to know that the Articles of Confederation was not a solid document to govern our free society, and it was in the Constitution that he created a governing body regulated by the people for the people, not to mention created a balance of power with the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Madison's document has withstood the test of time, as now over 200 years later, we still follow the constitution and other developing nations who are looking for ways to develop a structure to govern their country, turn to our constitution for guidance and inspiration. 

As for Dolley Madison, she was considered America's first FIRST LADY. A position she occupied for almost 16 years in a way. Thomas Jefferson's wife died, and Dolley (as James was the Secretary of State) stepped in to help coordinate socials and events. She then continued this role into her husband's two terms. However, after her husband left office, she was still consulted, as Monroe's wife was not as politically savvy or as social as Dolley. Dolley was credited as being an asset to James!

July 23, 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017 -- Mattie was diagnosed with cancer 9 years ago today. 

Tonight's picture was taken on July 23, 2008. The day Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. This was a day I will never forget. Mattie had been complaining of arm pain for a week. We did not think much about this at first, given he was enrolled in a tennis camp. We figured he strained or pulled a muscle. However, by the second week, I took him to see the pediatrician. Fortunately the doctor took me seriously and sent us over to the hospital for an x-ray. I sat with the tech while the x-ray was being performed. I expected the x-ray to be quick, but after an hour of re-positioning Mattie and taking multiple scans I was getting annoyed. I really thought the tech was incompetent. It NEVER dawned on me that something was seen and therefore more scans were needed. I know better now. After scanning, the tech placed us in a waiting room with a group of other people. Again I thought nothing of this. In the room was a telephone. The phone began to ring and NO ONE in the room with me was answering it. So I went over to answer it and the radiologist on the other end of the phone asked to speak to Mattie Brown's mom. Once he understood that was me, he said I had to go back to Mattie's pediatrician office immediately. Given his tone, I wasn't moving until I heard his perspective and understood what he saw on the films. He did not want to tell me at first, but I insisted. He then told me Mattie had osteosarcoma. Again, I had NO IDEA what that was, until he told me.... bone cancer. I was delivered this horrific news over the phone and in front of Mattie and a bunch of strangers. How I kept it together was beyond me, but I did not want to scare Mattie. Before heading to the pediatrician's office, I text messaged Peter and told him the news. Peter got himself to the hospital and together we met with the pediatrician. When we took Mattie home that day, he seemed to know something was seriously wrong and requested that his Christmas lights come out and that we decorate the deck. Keep in mind it was July, and taking out all these lights was laborious. But we never gave the request a second thought. We just did it!!! I think outdoor Christmas lights help us all deal with the darkness of winter and in our case, Mattie felt we needed this cheerful glow to help us through. 


Quote of the day: My assignment is to take my situation and to use it to help others who feel hopeless and/or helpless because of loss. ~ Marvin Sapp




In the photo above, you can see that Mattie was in my lap. This was not an unusual position when Mattie was upset or scared. In fact, Mattie did this several times during his treatment and on the day we learned Mattie's case was terminal (August 5, 2009), Mattie jumped into my lap. 

I am posting all of these photos so you can see all the wonderful outdoor lights Mattie collected over the years.

On the day after Thanksgiving, Peter and Mattie had a tradition of decorating our outdoor commons space with Christmas lights. Our neighbors truly loved it for years and always told us! With each new year, Peter would take Mattie shopping for an additional light purchasing. Mattie always looked forward to the day after Thanksgiving. Mattie had light up snowflakes, candy canes, automated deer, and even a Christmas Scooby Doo. 
Mattie with his automated deer. The deer would move its head up and down. 

It is truly hard to believe that Mattie was diagnosed with cancer 9 years ago. It feels like it was just yesterday to me. In fact, today on Facebook I wrote that Mattie died 8 years ago. Then a fellow cancer mom wrote to me that she met us 9 years ago when Mattie was diagnosed. She was correct, but a part of me couldn't believe that it really was 9 years. It is a day that many in our care community have forgotten about, but for us July 23 will always be a life altering day. 

It is hard to know what to do today. But we were invited by our friends (Annie and Alex) who live in Charlottesville to their new art gallery and for lunch. Our friends lost their daughter to cancer in 2010. We met them while advocating for childhood cancer on Capitol Hill years ago. 

This is the outside of the gallery. The flowers and bench are so inviting. The art gallery is connected to this lovely boutique on the ground floor. 

 In front of the entrance to the gallery. 
The gallery featured paintings, local pottery, jewelry, and handbags. It was an eclectic gallery, but everything spoke to each other.  
Our friends are both artists. Both paint and these lovely trees were created by Alex. After spending time with Alex today, I am quite sure there is nothing he can't fix or build. He paints, sculpts and even designs furniture. His pieces are stunning and though each local artist featured in the gallery was wonderful, Alex's pieces resonated with me the most. 
I had the opportunity to meet the artist who created the orangey colored piece. She is a cancer survivor and her works are bright, vibrant, and make you feel happy. 
Annie has done a wonderful job making her gallery inviting and makes you feel like you are walking into a home. The art is not organized together by artist. Instead, she has really arranged things next to each other because they complement one another. 
Peter and I bought a piece of art today created by Alex. It is his only water color, and it is of red oak tree. The title is red oak tree (deceased). It seems like the perfect piece of art for us. Mattie LOVED oak trees and collecting acorns. He loved these trees so much that when Mattie's school planted a memorial tree for Mattie on the campus, they asked me what type of tree we wanted. I naturally selected an oak tree. Unfortunately two of Mattie's trees died because many of the oaks caught a disease in Alexandria. Nonetheless, I really believe today's purchase was symbolic of Mattie. Like Mattie, the tree that Alex captured in this painting, died. I can't think of an oak tree without thinking of Mattie. Mattie would give those he was fond of acorns as gifts. In fact, every time he visited his occupational therapist (pre-cancer), he brought her an acorn. She had quite a collection, since she worked with Mattie for two years. 

I would have to say I have been agitated all day. I may not talk about it, but I feel it. One could say tomorrow will be another day, but in all reality when you lose a child to cancer, each day is like the day before.