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

December 29, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2006, Mattie was 4 and a half years old. It was a holiday tradition by that point to take a photo of Mattie by our tree and feature it on the front of our family's holiday cards. Mattie's Christmas train also made it into the picture that year. Mattie LOVED that train, and he especially loved it moving around the track, as it played Christmas music and puffs of smoke came out of its stack!

Quote of the day: There is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss. ~ Pat Conroy

Our original plans today involved going to the Getty Museum in Malibu. However, given that it was pouring, cold, and grey, we decided not to make the drive. The Getty Museum in Malibu is actually housed in a beautiful villa. The villa is surrounded by incredible vegetation and gardens and the ideal way to see this entire complex is on a sunny day so you can walk and tour around freely.

So we mobilized plan b. My parents wanted to see Les Mis, the movie. This year is the 25th anniversary of this legendary musical. Peter and I saw the 25th revival of the musical at the Kennedy Center recently and I absolutely HATED it! In fact, if this had been the first Les Mis I ever saw, I would have most likely wondered what all the hype was about. The staging of this revival was awful, the singing was just so-so, and basically the musical left me flat without evoking the emotion that is associated with Les Mis.

I have to admit I wasn't interested in seeing the movie. After all, I just saw the musical and how could a movie replace live theatre? In addition to this feeling I also did not want to sit through this three hour long movie based on the content of the movie. Les Mis, as I am sure all my readers know, is VERY emotional. It involves all sorts of LOSSES and deep grief.

Yet despite my hesitation I absolutely LOVED the movie. It is worth seeing and I can see why people are raving about this movie. It was certainly better than the live musical I recently saw. However, I recommend bringing lots of tissues. The live musical evokes all sorts of feelings, but the movie almost compounds these feelings by a factor of ten!

Tom Hooper, the director of this film, is to be given credit for the brilliance of bringing a musical to life on film. This is the first filmed musical of its kind in which the singing did not take place in a sound studio separated from the acting. In the past, all musicals involved recording the singing before hand and then when the actors got in front of the camera, they were actually lip syncing to the pre-recorded music! This is NOT what happened in Les Mis. Instead the songs were sung right before our eyes. What this is able to achieve is real passion, emotion, and creativity. To help explain what I am talking about, I included a four minute video link that describes the technology used in this movie. This video also helped me to understand why EVERY scene that involved singing within the movie had to be shot by a hand held camera at a very close angle to the performer. This enabled the sound to be picked up properly and to also hide the fact that microphones were hanging over the heads of the actors.

Peter is a huge Les Mis fan and he is headed to the theatre to see it tomorrow. I am curious to hear his reactions. There are subtle differences between the musical and the movie, and in many ways the film is able to embellish on the story line in ways that are hard to capture on a stage. Nonetheless, this musical always makes me reflect on Mattie's loss. There is just such emotion in the music, that it would be impossible for my mind NOT to drift to Mattie. For example, when Marius sings "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," the lyrics absolutely get me......

There's a grief that can't be spoken
There's a pain goes on and on
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone 

Though Marius is talking about his friends who died for a cause at the barricades, I do relate to the notion of empty chairs and tables in my own home. This emptiness does provide "a pain that goes on and on!" Schonberg (the composer) seems to comprehend the depths of such a great loss and his music enables me to feel understood.  

December 28, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2007. Mattie was five years old and this photo was featured on the front of our holiday card that year. All this week, I have tried to show you chronological pictures of Mattie at Christmas time. However, I had a VERY hard time finding this particular photo. It wasn't in ANY of my files. Fortunately Peter backs up all our photos onto disks and he was able to retrieve this for me and the blog. I remember taking this photo as if it were yesterday. We took Mattie to Clyde's at Tower Oaks (in Maryland), and he posed for me outside by the restaurant's pond and shrubs. You maybe seeing a trend in these photos..... Mattie liked the color RED. He and I shared a favorite color.

Quote of the day: When love dies, the heart's ashes do not leave on the wind—they rest on the mantelpiece of the soul, darkening the sunrise we once saw to be beautiful. ~  A.M. Hudson

While I know it is frigid on the East Coast and some regions are getting snow, I am happy to say that I am escaping this weather for two weeks. Though it isn't balmy here in Los Angeles, it is much milder and the sun has been shining since I got here. There is so much more one can do year round here and case in point, my mom and I went for a four mile walk this morning. I love to walk, but I am not as motivated to do so when it is grey and cold.

We had the opportunity to go out to lunch with one of my dad's friends from work. I have known this individual since I was in high school. My parents moved to California when I was in high school, therefore, I only lived here for three years. We have no other family living in California, however, over time my parent's friends became like our adopted family members.

On our way home this afternoon, look who was crossing right in front of our car! The blacktail deer that live in my parent's neighborhood. Or as I affectionately call them the LA Cappuccino's!
There were mature deer and young ones mixed into this bunch! These deer are very trusting of the humans that surround them, and coming from DC, I find this an absolutely remarkable sight!  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2004. This was Mattie's third Christmas and this photo was featured on the front of our holiday card that year. By that age (2 1/2 years old), Mattie understood the art of sitting still for a photo  and he particularly understood that this photo was going to be seen by all our family and friends.

Quote of the day: Yet the story of Orpheus, it occurs to me, is not just about the desire of the living to resuscitate the dead but about the ways in which the dead drag us along into their shadowy realm because we cannot let them go. So we follow them into the Underworld, descending, descending, until one day we turn and make our way back. ~ Meghan O'Rourke

Today we ventured to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see a special collection of Caravaggio's works. In fact this is the largest exhibit of his work in this Country EVER! Mind you the sum total of Caravaggio's pieces on display were EIGHT paintings. That's not many, but it's more than most American museums have had together in 25 years. Even New York's mighty Metropolitan Museum of Art couldn't get a lot of the greatest works for 1985's landmark "The Age of Caravaggio," because such loans are very difficult to secure (especially from Italy). The remaining 50+ paintings on display in this exhibit were created by contemporaries of Caravaggio. Artists influenced by Caravaggio's self taught style. It was very unusual back then for an artist to be self taught, but in many ways Caravaggio was a head of his time. Which may explain why his art is so understood and considered poignant today. Caravaggio strayed away from painting landscapes and practically all of his paintings have NO backdrops at all. The majority of his backgrounds on his canvases are black. However, two things in my mind define Caravaggio. The first one was his incredible use of lighting. I am not sure how his subjects within the painting look illuminated, but this feature is stunning. As if a light is shining on them and creating light and shadow! The second feature that defines Caravaggio was his use of facial expressions and capturing the emotions of a situation. His paintings evoke feelings, and these feelings inspire you to chat about the piece. I have no doubt his art was designed for this purpose in mind. The reason why Caravaggio's works stand the test of time is because his works capture real human emotions..... emotions we can all relate to such as fear, jealousy, betrayal, desire, guilt, and sadness.

Here is a description about today's exhibit written by the LA County Museum of Art..............Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy introduces the work of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610), one of the most popular artists of the past, rivaling in fame both Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. The stories of Caravaggio's life are legend, more myth than history, describing traits of personality, including passion and brutality, that came to describe the unique qualities of his work. The exhibition, made up of 56 works in all, including a record eight works by Caravaggio himself, covers the evolution of his style. Caravaggio's legacy is expressed in work by about twenty artists from Italy, Spain, France and the Netherlands who carried into the late 17th century the strangeness, beauty and raw emotion of his work. The fame of Caravaggio (1571–1610) is a relatively recent one. One hundred years ago, a list of the greatest painters of the Italian school would not have included his name. Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, or Titian were considered then to be the pillars of Italian painting. Yet today Caravaggio has become an artist whose works appeal to a large public. In Rome, where many of his greatest paintings are kept in churches, tourists line up to admire them, as they do the Sistine Chapel or the great Baroque sculptures of Bernini. His paintings captivate and engage us in a way few others from that period do. Suddenly, a painter of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries seems to speak our language, share our passions. Even if the subjects he represents do not stray from the classical canon of religious iconography, his models are clearly made of our flesh and of our blood. He is, in other words, a painter of our time. Born in a small town near Milan, Caravaggio brought the earthy but refined naturalism of his Lombard training to Rome, where the Catholic Church was driving its powerful Counter-Reformation engines. Art had a job to do in corralling the faithful — not to mention seducing wealthy patrons — and Caravaggio, who arrived in the extravagant city in 1592 at age 21, meant to oblige.

Caravaggio had a colorful past which involved many brawls and even a murder. Clearly a volatile person, filled with great emotion. Such emotion comes through in his paintings. I was unable to photograph anything I saw today, but I did download three paintings from the Museum's website. Unfortunately, the photos do not do the works justice. This painting is entitled, St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness. It was unheard of at the time to portray St. John as a young man, and certainly as a young man barely dressed! In many ways this young man looks like a mere mortal, not a saint, but Caravaggio integrated his wearing of a red robe in the painting to indicate his connection with Christ.
This is entitled, "Portrait of Maffeo Barberini" and it is a painting recently recognized as an original work of art (and previously exhibited only twice, in 1861 and 2011) and displays some characteristics of Caravaggio’s early work, such as the delicate still life in the foreground, a decorative element that Caravaggio used on several occasions but that disappeared from later, more mature works. Unfortunately the photo doesn't do this still life justice. In person, these flowers have depth, light, and life!
This painting is entitled, "St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy." Here the face of St. Francis was thought to be a self-portrait of Caravaggio himself. The angel was granting St. Francis his wish, which was to experience the suffering of Christ on the cross. Regardless of the content, the tenderness of this angel holding and caring for St. Francis was captivating.
After the exhibit we all went out to lunch together, walked around, and shopped in different stores in an outside town center. The beauty of Southern California is that outdoor shopping areas are indeed possible. This could never happen in Washington, DC, where it is cold during the winter and broiling in the summer months. It is fascinating to see how climate impacts how we live our lives and how warmer weather motivates people to spend more time outside. The lack of winter greyness here is a definite plus to see during the month of December!

December 26, 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in 2003. This photo was used as the cover of our family Christmas card. This was Mattie's second Christmas, and at 20 months of age Mattie was VERY active, full of energy, and trying to get him to sit still for a photo was NEXT to impossible. Yet we thought creatively. We took Mattie to Lowe's and Home Depot. We put him in a shopping cart and tried to distract him with plants and lights and began snapping pictures. I am sure everyone around us thought we were odd, but that did not stop us. After MANY, MANY attempts, this was the picture we selected for 2003's card.

Quote of the day: There is an hour, a minute - you will remember it forever - when you know instinctively on the basis of the most inconsequential evidence, that something is wrong. You don't know - can't know - that it is the first of a series of "wrongful" events that will culminate in the utter devastation of your life as you have known it. ~ Joyce Carol Oates

I can't say that my mood improved much today after last night's fiasco. However, in my email inbox today I found a message from my friend and college roommate, Leslie. Leslie read my posting last night and reached out to me to let me know that while visiting family she turned on the radio and heard a story entitled, "Finding New Meaning in the Loss of A Son." I believe Leslie sent me the message to validate the fact that I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings. That other moms out there who have lost a child to cancer do express the same pains I do, continually, and especially during the holidays.

The main problem with grief is so many people do not understand it and want me to push it under the rug. As if that will make me feel better. However, asking me to do this actually makes me feel worse, unappreciated and completely misunderstood. I am tired of the ignorance and how some people can make me feel CRAZY! I have learned to tolerate it, but there are times when I am more vulnerable and therefore such insensitivity impacts me greatly. I am happy Leslie brought this article to my attention, and I believe my readers maybe familiar with Ronan, a little boy who lost his battle with neuroblastoma two years ago. The reason why so many may know of his story is because Taylor Swift created and sang a song about Ronan's battle recently in a Stand up to Cancer concert. Not all of us who lost our children to cancer have big named celebrities like Taylor Swift singing about the loss, but what this song did accomplish was it helped to raise awareness about childhood cancer and it raised incredible funds for the Foundation created in Ronan's memory. I have attached the article below in case you would like to read it.

Finding New Meaning In The Loss Of A Son

After I read the article, I then visited Maya Thompson's blog. Maya is Ronan's mom, and like me she writes a daily blog. I had the opportunity to read her Christmas day posting. Though Maya writes with expletives, which I rarely use even in conversation, our messages are similar. The title of her Christmas posting was..... Do you think there will ever come a time when Christmas lights won’t be blurry from my tears? ( I have attached an excerpt from her current posting...................
 Ronan. A couple of things dawned on me tonight after I dropped by dinner to your Mr. Sparkly Eyes. I was walking back to my car and I just f***ing lost it. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, but before I knew it, I was sobbing so hard it was all I could do to make it to my car before my tears formed puddles at my feet and I just slowly drowned. Once I got to my car, I knew it would be a while before I was able to leave the parking lot. I buried my head into the steering wheel and just gave into everything I needed to let out. It’s been a few days since I’ve really cried and I guess I’ve been holding a lot in by distracting myself and being so busy. Soon, my head was filled with thoughts that I couldn’t control. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. “F***. F***. F***. F***.” I think in the back of my mind a small part of me thought that I am selfishly doing everything I am doing in this world, for myself. That somehow by doing everything I am doing, this pain will someday become less and maybe someday, I won’t miss you so much that it hurts this badly, all of the time. In a way, I wanted that to be true but I know after tonight, that this won’t ever be the case. There is not a part of me that is doing any of this for myself because I don’t live for myself anymore. This life I live now is not about me anymore. It’s about helping other people as much as I can and in anyway that I can in this totally f***ed up world where I cannot even see Christmas lights properly because they are always so blurry from my falling tears. Right in the middle of my breakdown, your Sparkly called.

The sentiments expressed by Ronan's mom really resonate with me. When she says that she no longer lives for herself, I completely understand. It is as if your mind and body become possessed and your sole mission becomes remembering and honoring your dead child. As harsh as that sounds it is the reality of the picture and perhaps we cling to doing for others because it is through this that it keeps our child alive. It also gives us a purpose and a mission, when the one true mission we had for years died. The loss of a child is pervasive, it affects every corner, fiber, and cell of one's being, and I can't think of anything more hurtful than when I see others around me not understand this and worse not allow me the space to feel the way that I do. Ironically, I remember learning while training to be a counselor the damage that one negative word can do to a person. So much so that it may 10 positive words and affirmations to repair such damage. It means a lot to me that several of my friends reached out to me today to combat this negativity. I realize this is the holiday season and everyone is busy, but words and acts of kindness are never forgotten.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012 -- Mattie died 172 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken on December 5, 2002. Though we snapped many more photos that afternoon (four of which you have seen the past few nights on the blog), this was the photo we selected for our first family Christmas card. I liked it because you could see Mattie's eyes and smile! 

Quote of the day: No matter how much he talked, she never answered him, but he knew she was still there. He knew it was like the soldiers he had read about. They would have an arm or a leg blown off, and for days, even weeks after it happened, they could still feel the arm itching, the leg itching, the mother calling. ~ Pat Cunningham Devoto

I woke up this morning to the following four pictures. Peter went for a walk around Roosevelt Island. A place which holds a deep connection for us to Mattie. While walking Peter saw all the wonderful signs of nature that we so appreciate and which help us feel Mattie's spirit. A pond full of ducks was always a sight Mattie loved and enjoyed!
Along Peter's walk, he also spotted a hawk. In a way I felt as if Peter were including me in on his journey!
I know exactly why Peter snapped a picture of a Crinkly Hedge Apple! Mattie loved to pick these fruits up while visiting the Island. In fact, on occasion he would pick one up and take it home with us. So no doubt this picture was in memory of Mattie!
Here is our Roosevelt Island resident Great Blue Heron. The herons love to perch in this particular tree and we love to be able to spot them!

We spent the majority of the day setting up for a Christmas dinner party that my parent's were hosting. We have been preparing foods for two days! Before their guests arrived I wanted to snap a few pictures of us together. So here you can see my parents next to one of the several little trees we set up around the house.
My mom and I!
Peter and I continue on our journey with grief and as such we sometimes need very different things socially. Peter shies away from most social engagements and parties, yet a part of me somehow feels like I want to try going and reconnect with people now that Mattie is gone. At times however, like Peter, I too choose not to go to things because I just do not have the emotional energy or feel as if I won't fit in. After my experience tonight at this dinner, I can say that I have a much better appreciation for why Peter makes the decisions that he does about social gatherings! He is indeed correct.... sometimes these events can cause more damage than benefit! Tonight was just such an occasion.
One of my parent's friends said several things to me that practically sent me over the edge. In fact I am quite certain that if this person were my friend I would have verbally lashed out at him and put him in his place. In addition, I most likely would have concluded that he and I are not on the same wavelength and that overall he is both insensitive and should keep his opinions to himself. But he isn't my friend and therefore despite saying something to him, I did bite my tongue and spared him a lecture.
At dinner this couple had many questions as to why Peter is in DC and I am here in California. The answer to that is quite simple. Peter has no more vacation days and has to work. Yet I elaborated by saying that to most people today is Christmas but for Peter and I it is like any other day. After losing our only child, our world got redefined. Clearly this answer did not sit well with him, so he continued to dialogue with me. He basically asked me when I was going to get over "this" and move on with my life. He continued by suggesting that I go to therapy. I told him that I realize therapy can't solve my particular issue and that for the most part I function and am productive, but realize that grief over the loss of a child is something that will be with me throughout my life. He disagreed with my statement and then had the audacity to ask me why other parents who have dealt with the loss of a child handle it much better than I do!?? Frankly by that point I did not think the question merited an answer.
I continue to be plagued by the insensitivity of others and Peter is SO right. People can say hurtful things and they also can send you for a tail spin. Especially on a tough day like today. We are very cognizant of our friends celebrating Christmas with their children, which is why hearing such an insensitive comment like this does impact me. No one has the right to judge how I am dealing with Mattie's death, much less tell me what I need, or worse to compare me to people. Who are these people? I am always amazed when others tell me I need counseling, because they think others are doing better than me. However, ironically the majority of people in my life do not know many people who lost a child to cancer. So therefore, who are you comparing me to?! I on the other hand know several moms who lost a child to cancer and I can assure you we are a part of a special group and we are a group whose lives have been permanently altered. If you would like us to forget about our lost child and "move on," it isn't going to happen. I am simply incensed by this notion tonight and at times get very hurt that I have to justify myself to anyone. I shouldn't have to, grief should just be accepted, and understood. But once again, tonight illustrated to me that people do not have the foggiest comprehension of grief and it gets tiring to constantly have to advocate for one's self, explain one's self, and try to get others to see that the issues are not unique to me. However after a long day of cooking and cleaning, I have to admit I neither care to educate this man, nor am I apt to venture out any time soon and attend another social engagement.

December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken on December 5, 2002. This was a fourth in a series of photos taken of Mattie, on the quest to create the "perfect" first family Christmas card. I love this photo because Mattie was looking directly at me. Most likely because I was far more entertaining than the camera in front of him. Tomorrow night I will show you the official 2002 photo that went out to friends and family that year!

Quote of the day: What had happened still seemed implausible. A person was present your entire life, and then one day she disappeared and never came back. It resisted belief. ~ Meghan O'Rourke

After cooking up a storm today, my mom and I went for a walk later in the afternoon. We tried walking in the morning but it was raining. However, the sun did come out and for several hours it was beautiful. While we were walking, a beautiful Mattie Moon graced us with his presence. It seems rather symbolic on Christmas Eve..... Mattie watching over us! Sometimes I wonder if Mattie is as pained by our separation as those of us on earth who miss his presence. Though it is Christmas Eve, to us it is just a Monday. As my dad said to me today.... "Christmas is depressing." I couldn't have said it better! Peter text messaged me throughout the day, since he was working, and said that the whole world goes on around him and yet he feels like an island. Alienated and isolated because the majority of those around us can't truly comprehend losing a child the way we have and yet be forced to carry on.
While walking, I captured a beautiful sunset!
Since today is the day before Christmas, it seems fitting to share the following article with you entitled, "Do you believe in Santa Claus." The article discusses the historic origin of Santa Claus and how he got his jolly looking disposition. My Dad gave me the article, but what caught my attention in it were the last several paragraphs. Especially at the end where the author suggest that Santa lives inside all of us. Santa's spirit shines brightly in us when we are kind and benevolent to others. As this year is coming to a close soon, my wish is that we all work hard at finding the Santa within us and to not be afraid to explore that side of ourselves!

Do you believe in Santa Claus (part two) by Salvatore Di Vita

In the first half of this two-part discussion, we left off with the question, “How did St. Nicholas become Santa Claus?”
I must answer by first explaining that the custom of gift-giving, especially to children during the Christmas Season, is believed to be associated with the biblical narration of the magi: the three wise men who paid homage to the infant Jesus, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and Myrrh (Matthew 2:1-12).
When it came to children and gift-giving, the kindness and generosity of St. Nicholas, whose feast day happens to be close to Christmas, became known world-wide and somehow related to the Christmas Holiday.
So, how did St. Nicholas become Santa Claus? Many nations around the world adopted St. Nicholas as its own gift-giver. Consequently, he began to take on a different personality and a different name consistent with the customs of that nation. For the most part, what emerged was a person who delivered presents to children at Christmas time, a person who mysteriously came with gifts and left them without being seen.

In the United Kingdom, the mythical gift-giver became known as Father Christmas, the French called him Père Nöel and in Germany he was Christ Kind.

In the United States, we have the Dutch to thank for the name of Santa Claus that we have come to know. Dutch settlers during the early days of America brought with them stories of St. Nicholas calling him Kris Kringle then Sinterklaas which eventually came to be pronounced as Santa Claus. In Spain and almost all of Hispanic South America he is Papá Noel or Padre Noel. Brazilians call him Papai Noel while the Portuguese refer to him as Pai Natal. Armenians called him Kaghand Papik and in India his name became Father Christmas. Romanians call him Moş Crăciun. In Turkey he is Noel Baba and in Italy he is known as Babbo Natale.

Why was this mysterious gift giver depicted as a kindly plump old man with a white beard and a red suit? For an answer to this question, we must reach back to the year 1862, when Thomas Nast’s illustration of “Saint Nick” graced the cover of Harper’s Weekly Magazine. It was an instant hit. But besides the depiction of Santa Claus on the cover, it also contained a centerfold dedicated to the sacrifices which the Union Soldiers were making during the early days of the Civil War. Many young men were experiencing their first Christmas away from their families. So, it is not surprising that this issue of Harper’s Weekly became a collector’s item.

Nast illustrated Santa as a kindly symbol of Christmas-giving: It was an image of his childhood memories and his native traditional German understanding of a kindly plump old man with a white beard and a red suit. It was Thomas Nast’s conception of the fourth century bishop known as St. Nicholas.

As time went on, the shepherd’s crosier, or pastoral staff which he carried as a symbol of his authority as bishop was replaced with a large candy cane. By the 1890s, the first Santa Clauses were beginning to make appearances in department stores all over New York City. Eventually, Santa Claus became even more popular, making his appearance at office parties, neighborhoods, private homes and wherever Christmas was being celebrated. The job of being Santa Clause was reserved for those who didn’t miss too many meals and were able to fill the suit with some semblance of authenticity. Others, with less of a paunch, resorted to stuffing the costume with pillows but in almost all cases the white beard was phony.

We must remember that the Christmas holiday celebrates the birth of Christ, not St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas or San Nicola is the patron of the city of Bari, Italy, where it is believed he is buried in the Basilica of Saint Nicholas or La Basilica di San Nicola. The Basilica was founded in 1087 and is an important pilgrimage destination both for Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians from Eastern Europe.

Through the many years, the names Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus have become synonymous. Either name will conjure up the same image and spirit of compassion and generosity. To answer the question of where he can be found, I recommend that anyone looking for Santa Claus, go the nearest mirror. Santa Claus is inside that person looking back at you. The spirit of Santa Claus has been known to take up residency in many of us, often right around Christmas time. In the more fortunate among us, however, it resides all year long. So a word of caution: it has been known to be contagious.

My granddaughter is all grown up now and doesn’t talk about Santa Claus anymore, but if she were to ask me today if I believe in Santa Claus, I would again answer, “Yes, of course I do.” This time I would be telling the truth, because my concept of Santa Claus is the belief in the spirit of Christmas which resides in one’s benevolence towards others and in the spirit of one who is resting peacefully in Bari, Italy.

December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012
Tonight's picture was taken on December 5, 2002. This was third in a series of photos I have been showing the past couple of nights on the blog! One of the things Mattie loved to do in his saucer was dance. So I entitled this photo, The Dancing Santa Mattie. Needless to say this photo wasn't featured on the front of our Christmas card in 2002. However, as I look at this photo, I would like you to notice Mattie's nose. I always loved the part of his nose by his nostrils, because looking at his nose at this angle, it always looked like an upside down heart to me!

Quote of the day: Hope in the beginning feels like such a violation of the loss, and yet without it we couldn't survive. ~ Gail Caldwell

Last night, a close friend of ours sent Peter and I the email below. It is funny how such a message from someone who has walked the Mattie battle with us can make such a difference in our lives. What is the best way to wish Peter and me a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year? I don't know, since I have NO personal experience helping a friend through the loss of a child. I am learning how to manage the experience for myself and therefore it is sometimes hard to let others in who want to help us. But what I do know is that receiving this message somehow made me feel as if a friend got it, understood what life looks like for us now especially during the holidays, and wasn't afraid to write it. She also knows how I am moved by music and sent me the song below to let us know we are not alone. Four VERY powerful words. The message we received said............................

"Have you heard the song, “Christmas Card,” by Steven Curtis Chapman? Maybe I’m the 1000th person to tell you this, but I heard this beautiful song and wanted to send it to you. The song is about seeing someone at Christmastime, who is clearly suffering. It says, “I’m sending you this Christmas Card to tell you somebody loves you.” It was so beautiful, it made me cry and made me think of you guys immediately. What surprised me more, was when I just went online to research the artist. Turns out, he lost his five year-old daughter almost five years ago — tragic car accident where his older son accidentally ran her over. I guess that’s why he was able to capture your feelings so well. Long way of saying, I am thinking about you during these incredibly difficult holiday times. And, wanted you to know that you’re not alone!"

Today was a busy day of trying to begin preparations for Christmas dinner. My parents are having several friends over to their home on Tuesday and such a dinner requires thought and staging. Before I had Mattie and even when I was raising Mattie I did a lot of cooking. Cooking for lots of people. If you know me well, then you know that I LOVE food and LOVE eating! To me it is an art form and as such I also love to cook. Yet while Mattie was battling cancer and after he died, my cooking has been curtailed. I no longer have people over to our home and I no longer cook dinners for people. I am not sure why, but I suppose Peter and I don't feel like we are in the entertaining mood. So what I am saying is cooking on this magnitude is not something I have done for years.

This evening we got out of the house for a while for a change of scenery. On our drive back to my parent's house, I started snapping a few pictures of holiday lights. What is fascinating about this house is the mailbox. It is automated. It opens and closes on its own and it reminded me of the North Pole based on how it is decorated with red and white stripes.

This house was literally ALL aglow. You can see it from down the block!
Santa is taller than the house and practically begs you to stop the car and check him out.
Because my parent's neighborhood is in the hills, it was nicknamed years ago... Starlight. Mainly because you can see the stars so clearly from up here. At Christmas time many of the houses display HUGE stars on their front lawn. I tried to capture three houses in a row with such stars!