Mattie Miracle 2021 Walk was a $125,000 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: 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 22, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken on May 9, 2009, at Mattie's March (a walk for osteosarcoma awareness). Mattie is pictured here with Bob Weiman, the head of Mattie's lower school at SSSAS. Mattie and I referred to Bob as the "Magic Man." As a side note, Mattie did not want to leave his preschool to come to kindergarten. He loved his teachers at RCC, and when I told him he would be graduating from RCC and attending kindergarten at SSSAS, he was scared and hesitant about this transition. Well that was until Mattie attended a welcome event for new students at SSSAS. At the event, Bob performed magic with several of his fifth grade students. Bob captured Mattie's attention, and from that afternoon on, Mattie seemed to be excited about this new school adventure. I credit the turn around in Mattie's attitude to Bob's enthusiasm and energy. As many of my readers know, Bob connected often with Mattie when he was battling cancer. Bob taught Mattie magic, and these new found skills made Mattie feel special and important. He would never go through a hospital admission without the magic bag Bob gave him, and many of Mattie's nurses were great sports about watching Mattie perform! In tonight's picture, Bob and Mattie were performing their famous peanut butter and "booger" (booger instead of butter, naturally, because a seven year old boy, would much prefer the gross nature of the booger term) trick at the Mattie March. Bob has let me know since, that this trick has been unofficially renamed the Mattie Brown Peanut Butter and Booger trick. I just love this picture. It captures the happiness between a teacher and his student, it captures Mattie's joy, and I also love Brandon (Mattie's big buddy) in the background shading the magicians from the sun!

Poem of the day: An uninvited guest by Charlie Brown

Just two short years ago
Life was good and
It was the small things
That seemed to matter
And then came cancer
An uninvited guest
Who left taking my dreams
Along with him
Now I stand in the ashes
Of my dreams
And try to imagine a
New future without you
Sometimes I have glimpses
Of what that might be
But, it will never be
What I hoped
When I was innocent
Of what pain was to come
I will always miss you
There will always be a hole
In my heart, my dreams and
My life without you
My son
This morning I woke up disturbed. I was disturbed because of the nature of my dream. Since Mattie's death, I feel as if I don't really dream anymore, or at least I do not remember any of my dreams. But this morning, I remembered my dream quite vividly. Mostly because of the awful content. I dreamt I was staying at a hotel or at someone's house. While sleeping in this foreign place in my dream, I would wake up at night because I was being attacked by roaches, but not just any kind of roach, HUGE ones, the size of my hand. In my dream, I saw myself waking up and fighting off biting roaches. However, this only happened to me at night during the dream. During the day, in my dream, I was surrounded by children. When I woke up this morning, I was thoroughly upset. First of all, I hate roaches. However, Ann reminded me that Mattie loved roaches, and she asked me if Mattie was in the dream. It is funny she asked me that question, because when I woke up, I was trying to force myself to remember the faces of the children in my dream. In hopes that one of them was actually Mattie. But I have drawn a blank. Maybe Mattie is communicating to me somehow, since he loved to scare me with roaches made out of rubber, but this dream plagues me today. Why dream of something like this? Roaches of all things?!
I spent the day at a local hospital visiting with Ann's mom, Mary. Mary was admitted to the hospital because she hasn't been feeling well. Transitions from one place to another at Mary's age can be challenging, frightening, and stressful. Ann worked very hard at making this go as smoothly as possible, and I had the opportunity to go with Mary down for her x-ray, and sit with her through her various other procedures. One conclusion I have come to is that being in a hospital alone, without an advocate, is NOT a good thing. Mary really needed our support today, and as I watched her waiting in a hallway for an x-ray to be taken, I could see fear in her eyes. I remember that fear all too well. Mattie had many fears, all understandable. As Mary was waiting, I held her hand in the hallway, and kept her posted about what was going on. Mary asked me many times today not to leave her alone, because she too could assess that in her current condition she wasn't equipped to advocate for herself. I helped Mary with dinner tonight, and as always, Mary worries about me. She insisted on sharing her dinner with me, and what I realized that besides her worrying about me being hungry, what she was also saying is she did not want to eat alone. I certainly can't blame her, it isn't fun eating alone. Sharing food is always much nicer, and I can't believe that reality just hit me today. In any case, I was happy we could sit, eat, and chat. All medicinal in their own right! Mary wanted me to know that she thinks I am not real, but really an angel. In addition, because she thinks I am an angel, God will definitely be looking after Mattie. I certainly do not spend time with Mary because I expect this feedback, but Mary seems to know what to say about me and Mattie at just the right time.
I would like to end tonight's posting with a message from my friend, Charlie. Charlie wrote, "I love the picture of the kids at the pep rally. We pose children for pictures a lot, ask them to smile but this one is pretty natural with some funny expressions and one child facing another way with a sign. That's symbolic of how things usually are, not everyone is happy all the time and sometimes we are not even all going in the same direction. It was lovely of you to give your virtual support to Linda. After all you have been through you certainly know how to support someone else; that added to your natural loving, caring style makes you a wonderful support. As I practice today I will send my energy to you and I will keep you gently in my thoughts."

January 21, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken on October 18, 2007 at Mattie's school. His school was having a pep rally, and all the kids were wearing their homecoming t-shirts and clearly they were all running around, because they look hot and wiped out! Mattie is in the front row center, sitting. In the front row are some of Mattie's kindergarten classmates, from left to right: Xander, Missy, Abigail, Mattie, Cavin Reed, and Charlotte. The adult sitting behind Mattie was his teacher, Leslie Williams.

Poem of the day: From the Ashes of Grief by Lana Golembeski

In the early morning fog of a spring day
The sunlight drifts slowly across the lake
Lifting the dark shadows of night.
The honking geese frolic in the early morning rays of sunshine
While the birds sing of promises yet to come.
Through the dark clouds of grief,
Slivers of sunlight filter down.
The pain and fear residing in my heart
Is starting to give way
To the hope of finding joy once again in my life.
The warmth of the sun flows through my body
And I now feel and see flickers of that joy.
It is but a fleeting moment in my thoughts.
But it fills me with the hope of perhaps
Finding peace once again.
The forever tears cleanse my heart and my pain.
They pave the way for love and laughter once again in my life.
My heart will forever be empty from the loss of my precious child.
But the sparkling sunlight spreads light around that hole in my heart.
Gentle healing is beginning; springing anew from the ashes of grief

Tonight's poem reminded me of the only component of the winter months that I enjoy in Washington, DC, and that is seeing flocking geese. Canadian geese are special birds to me, and always remind me of the two very important factors I value in life: loyalty and teamwork. Geese are fiercely loyal, so much so that if one of their members of their flock become injured, they will not leave the injured bird alone. One of the birds from the flock always stays behind. In addition, I admire the beautiful V-formations geese create while flying. It is beautiful, but also strategic. They ride each other's wind current, and the geese at the point of the V, are working the hardest, but then when they are tired, they switch places with the other geese, and move to the back of the V-formation. This rotation system ensures that none of the birds burn out, but instead accomplish their journey and destination together. It seems to me that humans can learn a thing or two from our geese friends. It is funny, I have used the geese analogy during many past conference presentations, however, after experiencing cancer, the symbolic nature of geese means much more to me. Because in essence Team Mattie was our V-formation, and without this loyalty and teamwork, battling Mattie's cancer and death would be much, much worse. If you can imagine that possible.

I had a very slow day today. I felt tired and I did not want to get dressed and leave our home. I have these moments each week, and I have come to accept them, rather than fight them. I had the opportunity to e-mail Linda, Mattie's childlife specialist, back and forth today. Linda was not at work today because she was helping a family member who is in the hospital and undergoing surgery. At one point I wrote to Linda and told her that I wish I was sitting by her side today, while waiting for her loved one to come out of surgery. I will never forget how Linda helped us during all three of Mattie's major surgeries. Not only did Linda sit with us, call us with surgical updates, but she actually got herself into the post-op areas to personally check on Mattie. For this and thousands of other reasons, Linda will always hold a special place in my heart. Mattie loved her, and in the midst of chaos and pain, Linda brought Mattie happiness. Which is why Linda will always be my "angel of caring." Linda told me today in an e-mail that she felt almost like I was sitting with her today. Well I virtually was for sure! That brought a smile to my face, because I know the fear, anxiety, and the stress associated with waiting endless hours while your loved one is in surgery.

I would like to end tonight's posting with a message from my friend, Charlie. Charlie wrote, "Nursing homes are often a "dumping ground" of forgotten people who were once loved and loving individuals. This is not how aging should be; the elderly have a wonderful natural connection to the young, but there are usually no children anywhere in the vicinity of one of these places. I agree that we need to wake up and fix the problem because a good number of us will be eventual residents of places like this and truly we don't want to go there as they are now. I am glad you got out yesterday and had the opportunity for dinner with friends. The reaction you had to the girls on the computer is exactly what we all know; you and Peter were wonderful parents to Mattie, he had a terrific life before he became ill and the only thing that would have made it better was more time as a healthy child. You should have no doubts on that score. I hold you gently in my thoughts and I hope today brings some good memories to you."

January 20, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tonight's picture was also sent to me by Susan, a staff member at Mattie's school. It was taken during the lower school's field day in 2008. Mattie is the boy with the green sweater, on the right hand side of the picture. I am so happy Mattie's school sent me these wonderful photographs which document the happy and fun times he had, these are memories that I will cherish.

Poem of the day: Roller Coaster by Charlie Brown

The roller coaster I rode
With cancer as my co-pilot
Has been replaced by grief
And the ups and downs continue
I alternate between
Intense response to crisis
Or else I am unable to respond
And in intense shutdown
I am searching for a place
Of calm, of serenity
Where I can find the space
To breathe, to think, to focus
Perhaps that time will come
When the path becomes level
And grief only the occasional companion
But that time is not yet
Until then my friends
Bear with me and help me
Stay the rocky course
To a place of hope and healing

My friend, Charlie, wrote tonight's poem. "Roller coaster," reflects how I feel on any given day since cancer has entered my life. Mattie's cancer has deeply affected the person I am, it clouds how I view and feel about myself. Not to mention my outlook on the future. As the poem mentions, I am desperately looking for a place of calm and serenity. This may not be an external place or space per se, but instead, I would love a day of internal serenity, rather than the inner turmoil I swim through just to function on a daily basis.

I had the opportunity to visit two nursing homes today with Ann. As some of my readers may know, I have a deep care and concern for the older adult population in our society, along with their family caregivers. This affection may be the direct result of growing up with my maternal grandmother, who lived with my parents and I. My grandmother was like a second mother to me, and we spent a great deal of time together. She was a special, charming, and loving individual, who I am quite sure did not have a mean bone in her body. Walking into the nursing homes today, reminded me of the day my mom placed my grandmother in a nursing home. This was a very difficult decision for my mom, but my grandmother had suffered a massive stroke, which left her partially paralyzed, unable to swallow, read, and with a change in personality. Though my mom cared for my ill grandmother at home for over a year, my mom became very sick and was hospitalized as a result of her intense caregiving role. Therefore, my mom was unable to care for my grandmother at home. Checking my grandmother into a nursing home with my mom, was another hard thing to witness in my life. I remember so many emotions that day, and landed up yelling at the nursing home administrator.

Walking into a nursing home is another reality check that everyone should have in life. In fact, if I was an educator of young children, I would make visits to nursing homes a mandatory part of the curriculum. Children have a way of breathing life into these drab and lonely facilities. As you enter most nursing homes, you usually will find some residents at the door, who are desperately looking for love and attention from an outsider. Typically many of these wonderful individuals are forgotten by their loved ones and society as a whole. As I work with older adults, I always try to imagine what they must have been like when they were younger, I imagine the experiences they must have had, and what they have seen in their lifetime. But the humbling part about visiting a nursing home, is that I can't help but reflect that..... there by the GRACE OF GOD GO I.

This evening, I had the opportunity to visit with Mary and Mike (the friend I was telling you about who has been ill). We had dinner together and our conversations are always lively. Mary and Mike were valuable members of Team Mattie, and they are another fine example of the friendships we have cultivated thanks to our special seven year old. After dinner their girls were playing on the computer, and they went to one of Mattie's favorite websites to play a game. I remember these games, the sounds of the website, and the characters in the games, as if I played these games yesterday. As a parent, your interests become the interests of your children. You watch their TV shows, play their games, cook their favorite foods, read their books, and the list goes on. However, on September 8, 2009, the interests that I cultivated for 7 years also died. In a way, it leaves me floundering now, as I struggle to reinvent or find myself somehow. Certainly hearing and seeing the girls playing on the computer tonight could have made me sad, but instead, the opposite happened. It reminded me of all the computer time Mattie and I had with each other. It reminded me of his laughter, his inquisitiveness, and his desire to sit on my lap and have me right next to him as he played.
I end tonight's posting with a message from my friend, Charlie. Charlie wrote, "You have become accustomed to living with adrenaline and cortisol at levels none of us live with around the clock. That changes your body and makes it less sensitive to outside stimuli unless that stimulus is intense. It takes time for the body to understand that it is no longer living in crisis mode, that pumping hormones to push up blood pressure, speed up response time and all the other things that go with response to threats are no longer needed. When you are not intensely focused you feel "flat" because it feels strange without the high levels of stress hormones. This is a normal reaction for anyone who has been through a long term crisis whether it is a prolonged illness or a physical threat that lasts a long time. Perhaps it would be helpful to "retrain" your body through yoga or relaxation exercises just as you are starting to retrain your focus with reading for the book club. I will tell you as a former medical person that although the nurses become attached to all their patients to some degree, there are always a few who really capture your heart. It was very clear that Mattie was one of those for the nurses and staff at Georgetown. You and Peter won a place in their hearts as well for your devoted care to Mattie and your willingness to connect to the staff as well. Although you wrote that you learned from Mattie's illness and death the true meaning of love, we would all have spared you this lesson if we could have. I wish you as always some space in which to breathe, reflect and just be. I hold you gently in my thoughts."

January 19, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 -- Mattie died 19 weeks ago today, or 133 days ago.

Tonight's picture was also sent to me by Susan, a staff member at Mattie's school. The picture was taken on November 11, 2007, in Mattie's kindergarten classroom. Mattie and his table buddies (from left to right: Elizabeth, Claire, Mattie, and Cameron) were preparing sandwiches to distribute at Martha's Table, an organization dedicated to fulfilling the needs of low-income and homeless children, families and individuals in Washington, DC. I had the opportunity to go with Mattie's classroom to Martha's Table, and it was an incredible experience to see four kindergarten classrooms actively helping out Martha's Table staff and working collaboratively. I never travel WITHOUT a camera in my purse, and Mattie's teacher asked me to be the photographer for the group that day. I had a wonderful time capturing that happy moment and I am glad that whenever a parent was needed to do something in Mattie's classroom, I tried to help. I can now look back on all we did together with satisfaction, because unlike other parents, I wasn't allotted a lifetime to make memories with my child.

Poem of the day: A Mother's Pain by Liz Hayward

I am numb.
I feel so empty
Like a hollow walking form.
Then at times I feel
As though my chest will
Burst wide open and all
The hurt and pain
Come spewing forth.
Will it ever end?
He was my first born.
[cancer] took his life
And shattered mine.
His ashes lay along
The mountain side.
A bright star shines
From the heavens.
It symbolizes him.
He looks down
And whispers: Mom
Everything will be fine.

It is another Tuesday, and being a Tuesday it marks the 19th week that Mattie is gone from our lives. I count our loss in weeks, and Peter counts our loss in days. Mattie has been gone 133 days to be precise. As many of you know Peter and I have Mattie's ashes at home with us, in a beautiful Italian made music box. A box made in Sorrento, Italy, a place that holds great significance to me. I spent many summers growing up in Sorrento, carefree and happy, and it was my hope some day to share that journey with Mattie. Since I was unable to, I thought it would be fitting to lay him to rest in a box that is made in what I consider a magical and breath taking place. Since Mattie's death, I continue to place different objects on top of his box. At the moment sitting on his box is a model magic hand and foot print that Linda, Jenny, and Jessie helped to create in the PICU, the day Mattie died. I have also added one praying crane on top of the box. My sister-in-law gave me this crane for Christmas, and since the crane was a vital symbol to us throughout his treatment, I felt it was fitting now to sit on his box, in hopes of giving him peace, happiness, and freedom from pain. I debated what to do with Mattie's remains, and frankly I still don't know what to do with them. In fact, they may follow me where ever I live, because to me it is important to be able to visit him whenever I want to.

I had the opportunity to spend part of today with Ann. In the morning, while she was running chores, I just stayed in her house and read the book that was selected for our book club. This is a historical fiction novel, that has captured my attention. The main character is dealing with the loss of his wife from bone cancer, and this man is also dealing with a host of other issues that have scarred and shaped him. On some level it is impossible not to identify with this man, and I am intrigued to follow the story. I can't say this is true for many of the books I read, so this has been a pleasant surprise. I still have trouble concentrating, and at times my mind wanders while I read, but I am able to get back on track rather easily, because the story is compelling. I met up with Ann and Alison for lunch, and in a way, my relationship with them is evolving. Keep in mind that in the past, when I met with Ann and Alison, there usually was a Mattie crisis and we would meet to brainstorm the next steps. Crisis, per se, no longer brings us together, but I am quite certain Mattie's crisis solidified a foundation of friendship that I am only opening my eyes to now.

As I was talking to Ann this afternoon, I came to the realization that in order to feel somewhat connected to the world and to feel alive, I need to have a crisis. Or at least a level of intensity now that keeps me engaged and focused on a task. Logically this is a direct aftermath of living in crisis for over a year, and then losing Mattie. It is almost as if my body flipped a switch and I am left with two modes of functioning, crisis or intense shut down. Needless to say, it is like riding an emotional rollercoaster, and I wish I could just stop the ride.

Tonight Peter and I had the wonderful opportunity to have dinner with Debbi, our Sedation Nurse angel. Mattie was deathly afraid of PET scans and MRI machines. His initial doctor thought he could do these scans without sedation. Clearly this doctor did not understand the fear a six year old experiences after initially being diagnosed with cancer. Linda (Mattie's childlife specialist) called Debbi into a scan appointment one day, and Debbi saw the fear and anxiety exhibited by Mattie. Mattie was so frightened, that he jumped off the table, and was having a tandrum on the floor. Of course, there I was on the floor right next to him, pleading with him and trying to get him to calm down. This was enough for Debbi to see. After that point, when we requested sedation for scans, we were accommodated, no questions asked. In addition to scheduling all sedations for us, Debbi and I also became friends. She saw the hell we lived day in and day out, and was there as an incredible support and ally. After receiving bad news, which happened a lot throughout the year, Debbi would always give me access to her sedation room after hours to escape from the PICU. But in the end of Mattie's life, Debbi was instrumental. She coordinated sedations for every cyberknife treatment, for the placement of his NG feeding tube, and also allowed me to wash him while under sedation. That may sound trivial, but Mattie was in so much pain, that without sedation, I couldn't clean him. Debbi did not earn the title, "angel" without merit!

While talking to Debbi tonight, I cried several times. Debbi and I have this kind of rapport, where expressing how I feel at any given moment is understood and appreciated. Debbi explained to me that she and many of the HEM/ONC nurses feel very connected to Peter and I. I assumed this happened with every patient and family, because in my view, these women are just that special. This is not their job, they are the job. Their love, empathy, and skills define them, the environment, and how they connect with their families. To me these nurses weren't our nurses in the end, they were our family. They suffered with us, they cheered for us, and they faced things that most would shy away from. However, tonight, I could see that my feelings weren't one sided. That our nurses love us too, and that when they look at each other in the hallways now, they only need to smile at each other, and they instantly know that they are reflecting and thinking about Mattie. What can I say, I am DEEPLY, DEEPLY touched! Touched because Mattie was more to them than just a patient, and in the end our love and respect for one another did go two ways. I am left forever changed by this whole cancer experience, and I have learned through Mattie's death, the true meaning of love.

I would like to end tonight's posting with a message from my friend, Charlie. Charlie wrote, "My instructor said yesterday that most events (bar the really terrible ones, death, disaster) are how we label them. A traffic jam is therefore not bad unless we decide it is, or it can be a chance to sing along with a favorite song or have a conversation with someone you love. That's how I see your walk on Roosevelt Island; it is what you make it. It can be a walk down a positive memory lane or a negative experience. You still have the ill Mattie in the forefront of your mind and perhaps you need to travel the places where the memories were of a healthy Mattie to eventually replace them in the immediacy of your thoughts. There is no chance you will forget Mattie; none of us who have been a part of this will ever forget Mattie but hopefully, eventually the memories will be more of the happy ones and less of the latter very painful ones. Today as I practice I wish you a space of serenity and something that triggers positive memories of Mattie for you."

January 18, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tonight's picture was sent to me by Susan, a staff member at Mattie's school. This picture was taken on May 29, 2008, at the Kinder Garden ribbon cutting ceremony. I remember that day distinctly because Mattie came home very excited. He told me he helped to actually cut the ribbon at the ceremony. Naturally I don't know if that is true, but he was very proud of the garden his class planted and was happy that there was such an event to acknowledge its establishment. As you can see, Mattie is in the front row, all the way over on the right. Standing right next to him is Charlotte, and Abigail is the next girl over. Behind Abigail, you can see a lady with a light blue suit jacket and brown hair. This is Joan Holden, Mattie's head of school.

Poem of the day: 4 Blocks By Anthony Portillo

Some of the best memories in my life are of the time I spent with you
Just holding your hand 4 blocks while I walked you to school
Full of wonder you were, what’s that and why
And holding you tight when sometimes you would cry
I can’t make sense of this tragic twist of fate
To be with you again I’ll just have to wait
I want nothing more than to hold you and tell you its alright
To comfort you and keep you safe even for just one more night
The only image I have in my head, is of you safe and warm in your bed
If I had one wish it would be ….4 more blocks
For you and for me

It is interesting to me that when you lose someone in such a tragic way, that at times you become so desperate that you land up bargaining with the terrible situation. For example, asking or begging for "four more blocks," as is the title of tonight's poem. I do understand the sentiments of the poem, but I also understood the tremendous pain Mattie was in as he was dying. There is no way I would have wanted him to suffer four more minutes with this pain, yet as a parent I am very conflicted about what I am saying. Conflicted because in essence the only humane way we could put a stop to his pain, was to say good-bye and allow Mattie to die. The poem says, "The only image I have in my head, is of you safe and warm in your bed." Well naturally this is NOT my image of Mattie, or at least this is NOT the current image that gets replayed in my head. The images of Mattie are........ Mattie battling with cancer, Mattie in pain from cancer, and Mattie dying from cancer. It will take some time to come to peace with those images, and eventually be able to reflect on the healthy and happy Mattie that existed at one time.

It was a lovely weather day in Washington, DC (I qualify this for those of you who know me, it wasn't balmy, but it wasn't freezing either, so I was grateful for that). The sun was shining, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and it was around 50 degrees. Peter and I decided to take advantage of this, and we walked on Roosevelt Island today. Naturally it is impossible to walk on the Island without thinking of Mattie. It was a place we ventured as a family often, and even today, we commented on all the sticks Mattie collected on the Island over the years and brought home. We literally had quite a stick collection at one time. Peter relocated the collection to the gardens in our complex, but Mattie was indeed a collector and a sentimentalist, like his mother. As we were walking today, we saw many families with little boys who passed us. One little boy was sitting on his father's shoulders, carrying a stick. It did not take a rocket scientist to know what Peter was thinking at this point. Part of the issue with grieving, is we are grieving many things, not only the huge loss of Mattie, but the huge hole that this loss leaves us with. We are no longer parents, we have no one to nurture, help guide, and to emotionally provide for and connect to on that deep level. We are grieving our roles and what this role could provide into the future. So in essence we are grieving our present and our future on any given day. At some point today, Ann called me and expressed her concern for our walks on Roosevelt Island. I certainly understand her concern, and I am sure it must seem odd that we continue to venture back to the Island. But despite the pain that it sometimes brings, it also helps us reconnect with our thoughts and memories of Mattie. It gets back to a posting I wrote several weeks ago, in which I wrote my biggest fear is forgetting Mattie. Forgetting sometimes is even more painful than the grief itself, which is why I am always drawn to Roosevelt Island. I really did not reflect on that, until Ann asked me.

I received a wonderful and moving story from my mom today, which I wanted to share with you. Some of you may recall she mentioned receiving a White Orchid plant when Mattie died. This is a follow up story about the plant, and she included a picture for you as well! My mom's story forces you to have faith and to believe. These are things that have been squelched within me, but at the moment I still can't explain the disappearance of her White Orchid. Can you?

The Mysterious Disappearance of the White Orchid By Virginia R. Sardi

As you may remember, Mauro and I received an orchid plant from a friend when Mattie died. We paid little to no attention to it and left home for weeks at a time and to our surprise the white orchids remained pristine and beautiful whenever we returned. We were quite stunned that the orchids could thrive despite their neglect over such a long period of time.

Our friend who was very touched by the untimely death of our dear Mattie on September 8th, though he did not even know him, made sure the plant had seven white beautiful orchids in bloom when we received it in early September, one for each year of his precious life. In the early part of November, I began to watch the orchids as if I had been directed by a higher power to observe their beauty, and sensing their spiritual connection to Mattie’s new being, I felt compelled to find the key to understanding why Mattie’s life here on earth was so brief. In the evenings before I went upstairs to bed, I was in the habit of making sure everything in the kitchen was in order, usually around midnight as I am a habitual night owl, and before ascending the steps, it became a ritual for me to look at the orchids and think of Mattie.

On November 22nd, I remember quite distinctly looking at the white orchids and having a “Mattie Moment” reflecting on his last visit to us and how much fun he had just doing “Mattie Things” and being himself before turning in for the night. I did notice that one of the white orchids looked peaked and I felt that it would fall off the plant very shortly. I sadly but realistically expected to find it on the kitchen counter the next morning.

This intriguing part of the story is really about what transpired afterwards and I leave it to the readers to help me find an explanation for the curious and unexplained circumstances that happened when I returned to the kitchen to start my daily routine the next morning. I am always the first one up and about in the morning. While busying myself with morning chores, I glanced at the orchids. There were only six white orchids left on the plant! The sick orchid was no longer there. Here is the interesting part of the tale. I searched the bottom of the pot for it and then the counter, the sink and the floor. I could not find it anywhere. I asked my husband to join me in the search and, my analytical and skeptical husband could not find it anywhere either but did not give the matter a second thought. Looking for a practical explanation, he then remarked that I had probably vacuumed the kitchen last night and perhaps the flower was in the vacuum bag. I said I didn’t think so but made him open up the bag anyway and we both searched its contents. There was no trace of a flower or any part of a flower that we could find. By now, I feel certain that you already know how my mind operates so it will come as no surprise that I instinctively concluded that Mattie had taken it with him and that I could feel his presence in this action. Mattie loved nature and when he was alive, he was forever picking up flowers whose color, shape or uniqueness stirred his imagination. It was just like the Mattie I knew to do a thing like that! To this day, I have not found a trace of that flower and I did a thorough search. You can count on that.

You might be interested to know that the other six white orchids fell over the course of the next two weeks and I have collected every one of them and created a beautiful keepsake of pressed flowers as a memento of my experience but my mind always returns to the missing seventh one. Did Mattie take it away with him and, if so, what was his message to us? In my humble opinion, I think he was trying to tell us that he is finally at peace and is now free to be the Mattie he once was. Mattie loved us with all his heart and wanted us to know that. That is why Mattie chose to symbolize his bond with his earthly family by taking with him a single white orchid, fragile, like himself, but beautiful, pure and unique!


I would like to end tonight's posting with two messages. The first message is from my friend, Charlie. Charlie wrote, "Life is fragile and precious. It is difficult to live constantly with that in the forefront of our minds and so we tend to ignore that until some event brings it home to us. Mattie's life was much too short and I will always wonder what he might have become had cancer not taken him away from us. There are some days that we all need a motivator to get out of bed; unfortunately, you have far more of those days right now than the rest of us do. Judaism's most famous rabbis have always said that we are to strive to live each day as though it were our last, however, unless you are one of the holy/blessed, this is very hard to do. Perhaps, a more reasonable position is to sit down monthly and ask yourself, what is it that is really important to you and are you doing that? If you were told you had a month to live, would you keep or upend your life as it is now? If you would change it all, perhaps what you are spending the majority of your time on is not what is meaningful to you. I hope that at some point you find something that is meaningful, that makes you want to get up each day and spend your precious time. Knowing some of your gifts, I hope that teaching and/or counseling is part of that because I think you have so much to share. I dedicate the energy and serenity of my practice to you today."

The second message is from my friend and colleague, Nancy. Nancy wrote, "This week was our Ryan's 6th birthday and we were busy celebrating. I tell you this gently as I know that it was around this time that Mattie was diagnosed. It brings back such vivid memories of our time in San Diego and your wanting to get home because you were concerned about Mattie and you didn't even know what was in store for you when you returned. I, too, was saddened the day you told me of his diagnosis. The rest you relive each day. I was taken with yesterday's poem too. I found it very moving. Letting go is such a 'loaded' term. We often speak of it when discussing forgiveness. I always took exception to the term forgetting in association with forgiveness. Often they don't go together. One may forgive, as I hope you will one day with G-d, yet, forgetting is impossible especially with our children. Losing a child is something one never forgets. We have no choice but to let them go on the journey alone and that is heart breaking. It does bring us to our own mortality and the end of the poem tells us our loved one's wish, to visit and give to others when the moment is toughest as that will be a great tribute to our lost one."

January 17, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tonight's picture is the one I promised you from last night's blog. I received this from a staff member, Susan, at Mattie's school. The photo was taken during the school's "Artstravagenza." During this event, guest artists from the community come into the school, to have kids explore different mediums of art and to enrich their interests and skills. As you can see in this picture, the guest artist is in the background and cheering Mattie on as he leaps into the air with spirit. Susan not only sent me this photo electronically, but she made me a hard copy too which I plan on framing. Susan also commented to me that in every picture, she loved Mattie's sweaters. Mattie, like me, was a sweater person, and I would have to agree with Susan, he wore his sweaters well! To me this picture is down right breath taking, because it captures Mattie's happiness in kindergarten and his determination. Notice the fist he was making in his right hand, signifying that he was really trying hard at this activity, and giving it all his might. I try to remember the Mattie pictured here, the Mattie who could run, walk, and be a child.


Poem of the day: Miss Me But Let Me Go

When I come to the end of the day,
And the sun has set for me.
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not too long,
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love we once shared---
Miss me, but let me go.
For this is a journey we all must take,
And each must go alone.
It's all part of the maker's plan,
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know.
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds---
Miss me, but let me go.

As I read tonight's poem, "Miss me, but let me go," I must admit that it is my greatest hope that Mattie's "Soul is set free," and naturally not a day goes by where Peter and I don't "remember the love we shared." However, really sit and think about this line: "Miss me, but let me go. For this is a journey we all must take, And each must go alone." Certainly there are things about these particular lines in the poem that we may agree with, but how do you let go of a seven year old? Again, this is an academic exercise in which I am asking you as a parent to imagine sitting in my current position. I have a feeling, if you imagined saying good-bye to your children for too long, this would be a highly overwhelming and disturbing thought. If you allow yourself long enough to enter my world, these are the thoughts and feelings Peter and I live with daily. As a society, maybe, with an emphasis on maybe, we do come to peace with letting go, and allowing our departed loved ones to make this independent journey to heaven, IF the departed person lived a full life. There was nothing full about Mattie's life, and though I admit he accomplished a lot and touched many lives in his short seven years, that is still not long enough for me, and I find many discussions about grief usually evoke emotions and thoughts about an older adult dying. It is much harder to grapple with the death of a child, and even harder to let go and come to peace with it.

At breakfast, I discussed with Ann's children the timeline for their day. I explained that they were joining their dad, and taking Ann out to dinner for her birthday. What caught me off guard was Abigail asked me twice throughout the morning whether I was going out to dinner with them. In the past, I would have taken this comment as simply a fact finding mission, but today, I sensed a difference. In my mind she was asking me this because she enjoyed my company over the last day. Naturally, I don't know if this was indeed her intention, but as a person who loves to study human nature, I am relying on my gut feeling about this conversation. Despite my lows on any given day, connecting with children and people are still important to me.

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to go to a spa with Ann to celebrate her day. We were lucky that there was no one else around us, because our conversations are anything but light. We have both dealt with so much illness and death, that we freely talk about these topics, but I am very cognizant that this may not be deemed appropriate conversation by others. I think the beauty about going to a spa for several hours, is that I try to turn the outside world off. It doesn't always work, but that is always my goal. I had the opportunity to sit and chat today, drink tea, and even receive chocolate, and it wasn't even my birthday! I try to capture these more "normal" activities in my mind, because as I face each day, with the same question, "Is it worth getting out of bed?" I find I need more motivators and encouragers. I guess losing Mattie has caused me not only to grieve, but also to have a full blown existential crisis. If Mattie can die, well so can I, at any point. If this is true, which it is for all us mere mortals, then what on earth is the meaning of our lives on earth? To work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which causes us to lose perspective of what really is important? Of course I am a realist, I know working is vital in order to live and to support our families, but nonetheless, in the race to achieve success or happiness, I wonder how happy we really are as a society? All I can say is losing Mattie, has been a wake up call for me, one of which I rather have not had. I see life now as more fragile and that nothing is guaranteed.

I would like to end tonight's posting with a message from my friend, Charlie. Charlie wrote, "What lovely gifts to receive, more photos of Mattie and the lovely pin you described so well. I think Katharina's sharing of her dream was a lovely gift as well; thoughts of Mattie in a better, healthier, happier time. I do think it reflects where his spirit is now, freed from his disease crippled body, he runs and plays and does the things boys love to do. It is lovely of you and Peter to take this opportunity to do for others; Peter watching Mary and Mike's children and you taking care of Abagail and Katharina so Ann and Bob could have a night away. It speaks volumes for both of you, your skills as parents are such that the children all trust you both. It is just a pale reflection of the love and care you gave Mattie but let it remind you of what a great mom you are. I wish Ann a very happy birthday and thank her again for all of her wonderful support to you both through Mattie's illness and after it. I dedicate the peace and strength of my practice to you today."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I received tonight's picture in the mail today. Susan, a staff member at Mattie's school, St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School, sent me a CD in the mail with many wonderful photos of Mattie. I have never met Susan, but I was deeply touched by her letter and photos. The photo on display tonight was taken in May 2008, on Grandparent's day at Mattie's school. Mattie's class performed in the grandparent's day concert, and Susan captured Mattie at his best. Mattie is front and center. He had quite a smirk on his face. Most likely he spotted my parents in the audience and was making sure they were listening and focused on stage. That was Mattie! Mattie's class is featured in the front row of the picture. From left to right are: Claire, Charlotte (Ellen's daughter), Xander, Mason, Mattie, Cavin Reed, Missy, Paul (Alison's son), and Abigail (Ann's daughter).

Poem of the day: There You'll Be By Debbie Tsotaddle
You’re on every corner, turn and twist.
Every old familiar spot whispers how your missed
In our dreams we can see you soar above the sky
A free bird at last with so many left behind
When reminiscing of you, on our face a smile shall appear
Ever reminding us that in our hearts and memories you are still near
We were blessed to have you in our lives
And will always feel sorrow for the dreams you left behind
A part of you will always remain in the hearts of we
Always reminding us that where ever we are….There you’ll be.

I received two lovely things in the mail today. A staff member from Mattie's school, Susan, who I have never met before, sent me a very lovely letter and a CD of photos of Mattie. In fact, some of these photos are down right unbelievable. One in particular I will feature in tomorrow's blog. It captured my heart. She also sent me some photos of Mattie during his kindergarten class' ribbon cutting ceremony for the garden they planted. I always felt remorse that I never saw this garden in person, since Mattie was very proud of it. The photos illustrated to me Mattie's excitement over the occasion. I have to admit that seeing the "healthy" Mattie caught me by surprise, because naturally my most vivid memories are of Mattie with cancer. The photos were so meaningful, because they reminded me of the many happy times Mattie had in his life, and his contagious energy and spirit! This was a special gift to receive, from someone I never even met.

The second item I received in the mail was a lovely pin from my friend, Nancy. The pin had two hands holding a heart. Almost symbolic of my hands and Peter's hands holding onto Mattie's heart. A symbol that holds true to how we are feeling.

Peter had the opportunity to help Mary and Mike this morning. Mike was readmitted to the hospital, and Mary needed help with her girls so that she could visit him in the hospital. Peter had a fun time with Emily, who is four years old. When Emily would visit Mattie in the hospital, she always would give Peter a big greeting. She naturally seemed to trust him, and they have a nice rapport. Mary and Mike were so helpful to Peter and I during Mattie's battle, that now when they need help, we are more than happy to step in. It comes down to the fact that we were very lucky to have a Team Mattie, and it is hard to adequately express our thanks and appreciation to others for over a year's worth of support and care.

Ann's birthday is this weekend, and in celebration of the occasion, Peter and I are watching her children so that she and Bob can have a night away. Needless to say, Peter and I had a very busy day. Peter spent the afternoon with Katie and Michael, and I went with Abigail and Katharina to a gymnastics competition. At the competition, the girls got to run around, meet new friends, buy Ann a birthday gift (at one of the vendor stands), and of course eat and watch some wonderful gymnasts. We spent about three hours at this recreation center, and I think all of us got our workout. Katharina and Abigail spoke to me about Mattie during our car ride. In fact, Katharina told me she had a dream last night in which she could picture Mattie running around and doing somersaults. Abigail was surprised to hear this because she responded by saying that Mattie couldn't do somersaults. Certainly she was right when he was ill, but when he was healthy, he could. It is interesting to me that Abigail and I primarily remember Mattie ill, and yet Katharina's dream forced us to think back to the real Mattie, the happy Mattie. I wish I could have such a dream, but so far, my dreams do not include Mattie. Frankly I most likely don't sleep soundly enough to even dream.

I want to thank Tamra (our friend and SSSAS parent) for baking beautiful sugar cookies today for the children to decorate. Tamra baked cookies in the shape of a winter mitten, and she sent along frosting and all sorts of wonderful sprinkles. This got us in the mood to prepare for Ann's birthday. This evening, the girls decided to bake a cake and cupcakes for their mom. They are very excited for tomorrow, and they hope she will be happy and pleased with their thoughts and efforts.  

I would like to end tonight's posting with a message from my friend, Charlie. Charlie wrote, "I read what you said about "forgetting the jewelry" and then not finding the wind chimes when you got home. I have a different interpretation of what happened. I don't believe Mattie is moving further away from you; I believe Mattie is telling you that at some point, his spirit will be within you, not dependent on external items like jewelry and chimes and toys. I think this is his way of telling you that you are moving along in the grieving process and that eventually a permanent link to him will be within you. I am glad you and Peter are able to acknowledge each other's different grief "styles" and help and support each other; that is so important for a couple to do. I wish you a space of time today to breathe in some serenity and peace. You remain in my thoughts and daily prayers."