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 27, 2014

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tonight's picture was actually featured on the cover of our Christmas card in December of 2002. I remember capturing this moment in time like it were yesterday. Being that it was Mattie's first Christmas, I wanted the "perfect" photo! In November we had an early snowfall. So that weekend, I pulled out Mattie's entertainment saucer onto our deck and lined it with a blanket, dressed him in his santa onesie, and dawned a hat on him! Then Peter started snapping photos! I can't tell you how many photos we took of Mattie that day, with us jumping around in the background to get Mattie to look at the camera! This was the photo we chose for the card, but the others were priceless too!

Quote of the day: We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindness there is at last one which makes the heart run over.  ~ Dr. Samuel Johnson

Today we boarded the Ruby Princess, in Port Everglades of Fort Lauderdale. Our embarkation went smoothly and as always whenever Peter and I take a cruise, we think of Mattie. We think of Mattie because Mattie LOVED ships and boats. In fact, if you asked Mattie what he wanted to save his money for, his likely answer would be….. “to buy a boat!” Now most adults thought he meant a toy boat, after all he was a child! However this is NOT what Mattie meant! Mattie wanted to buy a real life sized boat! Mattie wanted to be a boat captain and he proudly would share this fact with others. When Mattie was battling cancer, our cancer community arranged through the Navy for Mattie to be a captain for a day on a special Naval ship. However by that point in his treatment, Mattie no longer wanted to be around people and his dream to be a Captain had died. It was a very sad day for Peter and me. There was no convincing Mattie to try this new experience, and what I could see was that cancer did not only change Mattie’s body but it altered his psychological state, spirit, and will to live. It was an absolutely devastating change to witness in any human being, much less in one’s own child. 

Whenever I see a drawbridge, it also reminds me of Mattie. I took this photo in honor of him today! Mattie was fascinated by drawbridges and could spend hours watching them. When we visited Fort Lauderdale, he would request that we walk up to these bridges on the half hour just to see them go up and down and to let sail boats and other boat traffic through! Mattie would have loved to be on the Ruby Princess with us and to have been so close to a draw bridge!

Fort Lauderdale is a HUGE port town. In fact, during the winter months, there are at least six cruise ships in port on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays! I can’t tell you how many people that dumps into town a day! But let me help you put this into context. We were in port today with Royal Caribbean’s “Oasis of the Sea.” This ship holds over 8100 people! YES you are reading this correctly; this is passengers and crew together!!! This is ONLY ONE of the SHIPS that was in port. Then add up the number of people from the other ships, which can hold over 3,000 people, and we are talking about a total of 24,000 coming off the ships today and within a few hours a whole new set of passengers boarding the ships! Rather incredible no??? It is a logistics nightmare. Not even factoring in the movement of luggage and the reprovisioning of these ships!!!

Peter snapped a photo of my mom and me right before sail away!

There were two Princess ships in the Harbor this afternoon. The “Caribbean Princess” set sail before us and Peter caught a lovely photo of her sailing away. We sailed the Caribbean Princess last August out of Southampton, England!

As we were sailing away, people from the water and land were giving us quite a send off. Our ship was getting waves, hoots, howlers, and ringing of cow bells. I have never experienced the cow bells before!!! That was a new one! The cow bell, I am pretty sure was coming from where the bon voyage flag was flying from the balcony of the condo. 

We even were treated to pelican fly overs on our sail away! I love pelicans! We typically see them in North Carolina and of course they love Florida too…. since it is warm and humid. 

This is my good-bye photo from Fort Lauderdale! It is the last bit of land we see as we sailed away. We are at sea all day tomorrow. I asked Peter tonight how Mattie would have taken to the cruise. Peter said to me that Mattie would have loved it and would have explored every deck. I definitely think there would be aspects of the ship Mattie would have loved and then aspects that would have been challenging for Mattie. But then again, I am picturing Mattie as a child, Mattie as a 6 and 7 year old, not Mattie as he would be today….12 years old. That is NOT a Mattie I can even picture. To me, Mattie will always be 7. 

December 26, 2014

Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday, December 26, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2002. Mattie was 8 months old. Being that it was his first Christmas, he had no idea what was going on but it was clear that he was fascinated by the tree and the lights! 
Of course for us, just like any parent, we always thought we would have many Christmases together. 

We are all safely in Fort Lauderdale tonight. Unfortunately though warm, it was grey and raining the whole day! Despite that, we made the best of the afternoon. We had a late lunch at the Chart House, which is right on the Intercoastal. It is a beautiful setting and filled with wonderful memories for us. I did not take this photo, I downloaded it from the Internet, since today's weather was grey, overcast, and raining! To give you a feeling for what it looks like in better weather, I downloaded a prettier photo! When we used to visit Fort Lauderdale when Mattie was a toddler and preschooler, we would take him to this exact restaurant. Mattie loved it because there were always boats passing by and lots of bird traffic! So of course none of us could be there without pausing to reflect on Mattie and his presence with us. 

In fact, THOUGH WE SAW NO SYMBOLS OF MATTIE IN OUR LIFE on Christmas day, we saw plenty today!!! It started with pennies on the ground at the airport!!! Mattie loved pennies! My parents started a tradition with Mattie of collecting pennies. Pennies left by the "Penny Fairy." However, I would have to say that Mattie was stellar in general with finding MONEY! In fact he was known to dive behind store clerk's in the grocery store to retrieve unclaimed change on the floor of the store! But it wasn't only change, he was good at finding dollar bills and even a $5 bill on occasion!!! So when we saw change on the ground of the airport, we took that as signs from Mattie! Which I felt good about, because I felt like we did not not visually connect yesterday. 

After we ate tonight, my mom snapped a photo of Peter and me!

Peter snapped a photo of my mom and me!

Our evening ended with one of the drawbridges over the Intercoastal going up to let a boat through. Therefore when this happens, ALL traffic stops. To me this was also another Mattie sign! Mattie LOVED these drawbridges! In fact when we stayed in Fort Lauderdale years ago, we would walk up to these bridges on the bottom of the hour, to catch one of them going up! Mattie wanted to watch the process, he loved to see the cars stop, the bridge go up mechanically, boats go through, and then the bridge go back down again! Of course years later, though Mattie is no longer alive or with us, the thrill of seeing these bridges remains alive within me. Mattie shared that passion with me, I am sharing that memory with you, and maybe the next time you see a drawbridge... you too will think of Mattie!

December 25, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tonight's picture was captured in a series of photos to go on the front cover of our Christmas card in 2002. It was Mattie's first Christmas, and for us, this was a very exciting time for our family.... after all it was our first Christmas card as a family of three! We had a snow fall in November that year, so I dressed Mattie up in his Santa suit, placed him in his entertainment saucer with a blanket and brought him out onto our deck! Peter then started snapping photos of Mattie! Basically we were making faces and jumping up and down to try to get Mattie to focus on us and the camera! Peter must have taken at least 40 photos that day. This was one of the photos, but NOT the final one selected for the card! I will show the final photo in a day or so on the blog!

Quote of the day: Christmas — that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance — a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved. ~ Augusta E. Rundel

Today marks our sixth Christmas without Mattie. What does that exactly look like? Well certainly it doesn't look as raw or confusing as the first Christmas or even the second for that matter. With time, the only thing you learn is how to deal with the reality of your predicament. You understand that it isn't changing, it isn't going away, and that no one is going to fix it for you. That other people's lives aren't like yours and not everyone can possibly get what your life is like even if you try to describe it to them. 

For many families, a Christmas tradition may be to decorate together, and then on the actual morning open presents. For Peter and me, such traditions died with Mattie. When Mattie died, in a way the need and value for material things also changed. Certainly we appreciate and value gifts, but to us, the gifts are not what really matters anymore. To us these are only things and are dispensable. One only needs to stop and pause for a moment and realize how quickly kids go through toys and gifts and then they seem to forget about these items.... maybe a month later. If it takes that long. But more meaningful things of substance such as a connection, a feeling, an experience..... these are things and values that last a lifetime. Of course these are things that are harder to create, develop, and nurture. Yet once they are, they are like the greatest gifts on earth. The gift of feeling like you belong to something, to someone, to a cause, and that you have a purpose!

This morning, as I wrote to my "friend in cancer," who is dealing with her second Christmas without her son, I told her to look for signs that her son was with her today! As I wrote that to her, I absorbed this same message for myself. I looked for signs around me in nature for Mattie, but I did not see them outright. It could be that I just wasn't looking closely or in the right places! But as I pause tonight, I do think one thing is abundantly clear whether I saw a sign in nature today or not, Mattie's message lives on within me this Christmas. The message is that life is short, tomorrow is not guaranteed, and the greatest gifts come from helping and connecting with other people. 

December 24, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2002. Mattie was 8 months old and though celebrating his first Christmas he was clearly aware that something was happening. Things were different ALL around him. He was fascinated by the tree, the lights, and the decorations that were all around him. Of course he was too young to get the ramifications of the holiday, but he tried to absorb it all. I was determined to get as many photos as possible of Mattie in front of our tree. So literally I wheeled his high chair right in front of the tree while he was eating and started snapping photos! Mattie tolerated a lot from me.... especially when it came to photography!

Quote of the day: I hear that in many places something has happened to Christmas; that it is changing from a time of merriment and carefree gaiety to a holiday which is filled with tedium; that many people dread the day and the obligation to give Christmas presents is a nightmare to weary, bored souls; that the children of enlightened parents no longer believe in Santa Claus; that all in all, the effort to be happy and have pleasure makes many honest hearts grow dark with despair instead of beaming with good will and cheerfulness. ~ Julia Peterkin, A Plantation Christmas, 1934

Based on the time of year, many lists start circulating around the Internet that are geared to people who have lost a loved one. Basically a survival list..... kind of like a "how to" on surviving the holidays! As if such a list is even possible after losing a child to cancer. The premise of the list is great in theory. I have received many of these lists over the years. For the most part, lists do not resonate with me. They particularly did not work for me early on in our grief process especially when the lists talked about finding joy again or when they recommended establishing new traditions. However, I do think as time continues in one's grief journey, aspects of these lists are better tolerated and maybe even give one ideas or thoughts to incorporate into one's own life. But again, lists are not for everyone, and I think they have to be shared at an appropriate time. 

When I came across the article below, aspects of this mom's list resonated with me. Now one maybe asking yourself, why do I STILL need a list??????? Why haven't I bounced back?! Well unfortunately I am not the only one. Most parents who lost a child deal with some sort of issue around a holiday if not daily. They may not be as vocal about it as me, but chances are it is there and ever present. You just have to know what you are looking for. We learn to squelch how we feel because in our everyday society people DO NOT understand grief much less respect it. So instead of actively talking about the grief, the issues at hand, we are instead posting LISTS and how to GET OVER THE PROBLEM!!! The griever is the one labeled with the issue. 

As I hear about my friends decorating for Christmas and writing their Christmas cards, I remember those moments in my own life. After all we used to do all these things when Mattie was alive. But once he died, those traditions died too. Just like Mebane elaborates in her article. It is a matter of reshaping traditions, and yet finding a way to do this isn't easy especially when you have no other children around to compel you forward. 

We include Mattie at Christmas time in our thoughts and memories! This is our tradition by visiting and decorating his tree! This is the one tradition we have reshaped and feel comfortable with and of course the blog is my main outlet to reminiscent and to keep Mattie's name and memory alive. As Mebane accurately points out, many people feel uncomfortable and uneasy to talk to me about Mattie. They feel that this will make me sad! Which is really quite the opposite of what will actually happen. It is NOT talking about Mattie which produces this effect! 

6 Steps to Survive The Holiday Season After Loss by Donna Mebane (Author, Mother, and Talent Consultant for a Major Financial Institution)
For years, I made my children listen to Bing Crosby as we decorated the Christmas tree. One day, I reasoned, I would be gone and I imagined them downloading 'ole Bing and carrying on the tradition with their own children. When they got to the song, "Think of Me" they'd pause, shed a little tear, think of all the good times we had, and be sorry they complained incessantly about it so many years before.

Three years ago, my youngest child, Emma, died. She was 19 years old. I no longer put up a Christmas tree. Perhaps someday I will again. But I know I will never, ever again listen to Bing Crosby.

I don't presume that what I have done to get through three sets of holidays is right for others. Everyone's grief is different, and so is their path to survival. My mother died on New Year's Day. My sister is a nurse and plans to work. My dad wants to do everything exactly as it had been done when she was alive. My brother, the introvert, plans to stay home, alone with his own thoughts. Each person knows what he/she can handle and to the extent possible needs to create the space in which to handle it.

The human being has an amazing capacity to keep standing... an amazing will to keep living. "I'd never survive the loss of one of my children," I'd say knowingly whenever I'd hear about such a horror. "I'd simply curl up in a ball and die." But I didn't. I still wonder sometimes how it's possible that I am still breathing. But breathe I do. Every day, countless times a day.

The holidays are still the worst of times, perhaps because at one time they were the best of times. These things have helped me. I hope they help you whether you are grieving the loss of a parent, a friend, a beloved pet or heaven help you, a child.

  1. Don't ask too much of yourself. You are not yourself. In some ways you will never be again. If you had lost a limb, you would not expect to go on as you had before. The first year, I didn't cook Thanksgiving dinner or shop for Christmas presents. I had other children, sure. But I didn't have Emma and that defined me. I gave IOU's for a family vacation to the other kids. It was easy and they were happy. If I had young children, I would have asked friends and family to shop for me. They would have. For that first year anyhow, they understood. Ask for help. You'll get it. People want to help. They can't bring your loved one back, but they'll do anything else they can. They'll be thankful they could do something meaningful for you.

  2. Reshape traditions. We used to share what we were most thankful for over dessert at Thanksgiving. We used to eat at the dining room table for special occasions. We used to put up a Christmas tree and open presents in the same spot in our living room. We hung stockings on our coat rack because Santa was ridiculously generous with stocking stuffers and they would fall off the mantle. We used to buy chocolate-covered strawberries for Valentines. They were Emma's favorites. We stopped doing those things. But over time, we started doing other things. We go to Christmas brunch. We have selected new seats for present opening in the family room. We don't hang stockings, we don't put up a tree, we don't use the dining room. But we have created new traditions that make sense for the reshaped family we have become. We have begun to look forward to these traditions.

  3. Find ways to include the ones you have lost. This Christmas, the first without my mother, I will make her favorite Christmas cookie which will forever now be dubbed Bobbie's pecan bars. Last Christmas, I bought presents for Emma's dad and siblings that were inspired by her -- we see her in the shape of a star and a cardinal and, once you start to look, you see them everywhere. I wrote little notes in her voice. They were the hit of the holidays and all are proudly displayed in special places. I can't wait to look for other Emma gifts this year. Spend part of the holidays looking for signs. You'll see them. This year on Thanksgiving morning, I looked out the kitchen window and there were literally dozens of cardinals all over the garden and in nearly every branch of the tree we planted the first year in Emma's honor. We laughed -- yes, laughed -- and speculated that Emma must have taught all of her friends to become cardinals too just so they could party at the Mebane house.

  4. Say her name. Tell stories about him. One of the common reactions I've heard from friends who have suffered loss is that no one talks about the person they've lost. They somehow believe that not doing so will help... that perhaps it will be too painful for you to hear their names. Of course it's painful. But it's even more so to pretend they never existed. I want everyone to remember every aspect of Emma. I want to hear the stories I know over and over. I want to discover stories I don't know. I need to know she mattered to every person who ever knew her. Even after three years, her best friends still post on her Facebook and I answer every one of them usually thanking them for "keeping Emma in your heart." People will take their cue from you. Talk about what you love most, miss most, makes you the saddest, makes you the happiest. Say her name and others will too.

  5. Take time for you. I have found that I need much more "me" time than I did before Emma died. I get tired more often, especially after time with family and friends. I take naps frequently. I often leave work to take a walk or just sit by myself in the lounge. I'm not the conversationalist I used to be. I am comfortable with silence. Me time may be tough to find during the holidays, but it's essential that you recognize when you need it and act on that need.

  6. Allow yourself to be sad but also to experience joy. It's okay to cry. Christmas will always make me sad -- my mom's death shadows memories of my own childhood; Emma's death shadows the present and the children she will never have will shape the future. I plan for sadness and I embrace it when it comes. I sit down by myself and write a letter to Emma or listen to her favorite songs or replay the slide show we played at her funeral. I walk right into the pain rather than try to hold it off. But I try to embrace joy when it comes too and it does come. It will come for you. It may be filtered through the hole in your heart, but it will come. You will laugh again and it will likely be during a holiday when the love of family and friends can't help but make you smile. Your laughter, when it comes, will be the greatest gift you can give to others. They are taking their cue from you. Be authentic. To be anything else takes too much effort.

December 23, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2002. Mattie was 8 months old and typically squirmy at that stage, but we clearly got him in a more mellow mood that day and I propped him in front of the tree. I happen to love this photo, though it wasn't the one we featured on the front of our Christmas card that we sent to family and friends that year! 

The back of thet onesie was equally adorable. Look at the reindeer! Mattie was only 8 months at that point, yet he really wanted to skip crawling (which he NEVER did) and moved right onto walking. He was always UP on his feet!

Quote of the day: It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!... Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more! ~ Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

This morning I ventured to Pennsylvania Avenue because I had to get sworn into my position again as licensure board chair. This position is appointed by the Mayor of the District of Columbia. For those outside of Washington, Mayor Vincent Gray's term ends this month and Muriel Bowser takes over in January as our new Mayor. As such all board members needed to get reappointed before Ms. Bowser takes office and we had until 5pm today to do this! So it was like a mad scramble.  

Mid-day, I met Peter for lunch. When our bill came for lunch, the waiter handed Peter this pen. When Peter showed me the pen, I took a photo of it. It may not mean much to any one reading the blog, but it means a whole lot to Peter and I! Why? Because when Mattie underwent treatment at Sloan Kettering in New York, we stayed at the Affinia Gardens Hotel. When we saw this pen today, we both were transported back to January of 2009!

I went back into my electronic photo album for January of 2009, and I found this photo that I snapped of Mattie by our couch in our Affinia Gardens hotel room. Mattie received a welcome to NY care package from Linda (his child life specialist at Georgetown University Hospital). As you can see we opened it up in the room for Mattie to play with and he was very happy to be thought of in this special way. Also notice Mattie's left arm in the photo. It looks bent like a chicken wing! He wasn't doing this on purpose. Somehow his prosthetic arm bone turned around somehow and his arm was permanently bent throughout the entire time we were in NY.

When we checked into the Affinia Gardens Hotel, the front desk took one look at us and our situation, and literally upgraded us to a suite! This was our second time staying at the hotel. We visited Sloan Kettering once before in September of 2008, but during that time Mattie was walking because it was prior to any of his limb salvaging surgeries. Yet during our second visit, we as a family looked much more harried and Mattie's cancer and disabilities were much more profound. Needless to say the upgrade to a suite was a kindness Peter and I will never forget. The suite had a kitchen, two bedrooms, bathrooms, and balconies. 

 The Front of the Hotel
What the Kitchen looked like!

While at Sloan Kettering Mattie made this HUGE plane
out of cardboard boxes! The only reason the child life staff saved these boxes for Mattie's arrival at the hospital was because Linda (from Georgetown) gave them a heads up that Mattie LOVED boxes! They couldn't understand this AT ALL and really couldn't understand what Mattie was going to do with the boxes. I think they were a bit surprised to see the final product. But I want you to know that this plane was actually carted OUT of the hospital, into a NYC taxi and into our Affinia Gardens hotel room! A real feat. Mattie wanted us to take the plane home to DC, but fortunately we were able to convince him to leave the plane in NY. This was important because we were overflowing with all sorts of items from friends, family, and the hospital which were accumulating within our home. 

December 22, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2006. Mattie was visiting Peter's parents in Boston for Christmas and that afternoon we took him out for a walk. Behind Peter's childhood home are woods and "Long pond." Peter spent many days exploring these woods as a child and he introduced Mattie to these woods each time we visited. Mattie always enjoyed the adventure and the opportunity to learn from his dad. 

Quote of the day: A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal. Steve Maraboli

When Peter was in Boston this weekend, he sent me this photo!!! This photo is of Long Pond, the same pond you see in the above photo as a back drop for Mattie! I love the ducks swimming around despite the frigid weather. Mattie would have appreciated that sight!

I was running around doing chores today and while out I had the opportunity to interact with several store clerks. As I checked out of the grocery store and then
out of a pharmacy chain, I learned both of these store clerks had to work on Christmas day. Mind you both of these individuals celebrate Christmas. Yet they both will not be able to because they are working. When I asked one of them, if he could gather with family once work was over, his response to me was..... once work is over, he rather not talk to another person after helping people all day long at the store. Somehow this whole commentary was sad to me. I know people need to be grateful they have a job and so forth, but I also know life is short. We do not get this opportunity again to make a memory especially around a holiday. Time with people in our lives are not guaranteed and it saddens me we live in a world that gives us less and less time to take these moments or to even view these moments as important. 

Peter brought me back these wonderful gingerbread cookies from Boston! They are made by his mom. It is not unusual for people to see gingerbread all over the place during the holidays, but most of it comes from kits. However there is nothing like homemade gingerbread! It tastes and SMELLS very differently! It is heavenly. At first when Peter handed me the bag of cookies, I thought they were sugar cookies, until I opened the bag! As soon as I opened the bag, I knew instantly that these were NO sugar cookies!!! The cute story about all of this is back in 2005, when Mattie was in Margaret's preschool class, I decided that I wanted to do a holiday activity in Mattie's classroom. I consulted with Margaret and she asked me to make gingerbread houses for the classroom, for the kids to decorate. I said YES, but in all reality I had NO IDEA how to do this!! Margaret gave me a gingerbread house baking mold but then I had to do the rest. So I emailed Barbara, my mother in law. She gave me her gingerbread recipe (and she has some secret ingredients), and told me how to make the royal icing to hold the pieces together. When I ate this cookie tonight, in a way I was transported back in time to 2005! It reminded me of my days with Mattie. They are just delicious and since I am not going to holiday parties for the most part and so forth, I am not likely to get Christmas cookies! So these are very special treats in my book. 

December 21, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2004. Mattie was two and a half years old. It is funny to think about the way our living room looked like back then! It was filled with all sorts of toys, vehicles, and every Lego piece imaginable. As you can see Mattie was busy with toys that moved in front of him, yet was happy enough to stop for a brief second to smile for a photo! Also in the distance on the floor was a green sippy cup! FILLED WITH MILK. Mattie was very attached to his sippy cup, it never was too far from him. I always joked that he would have the strongest bones around given the amount of milk he drank.... so it was particularly upsetting when he developed bone cancer. Of course one thing has nothing to do with the other, but somehow I still associated the intake of milk with bone health.

Quote of the day: The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole,but true beauty in a Woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows. ~ Audrey Hepburn

On Friday, Peter had another client meeting in Boston. So he flew to Boston and then spent the weekend there with his family. I literally have so much work to do, I could have worked the entire three days, but my friends kept me busy in between with their holiday events or activities. Typically this is NOT something I would agree to participate in, but this year I tried it out. On Friday, I went to my friend's neighborhood holiday party, on Saturday, I went to my friend's daughter's birthday party, and today I went with my friend Tina out to brunch with her family. It has been a full social weekend. 

Last night, at my friend's daughter's birthday party, I was surrounded by 12 girls ALL of whom were Mattie's age. Well the age that he would be if he were alive today. In fact, just to put things into context if Mattie were alive today, he would be in school with many of these girls. If you analyze this too closely it is hard not to go insane, not to want to scream, lose it, get crazy, bitter, jealous, or you pick the adjective. Somehow in order to keep those emotions in check I think this requires great restraint, great personal insight, self evaluation, and honestly. After all, I realize no one is going to sit down with me and have a chat about how hard this has got to be for me and empathize. I know I have to learn how to manage myself and integrate into society or society will shut me out and move on without me. It is truly that plain and simple. These are my feelings, perceptions, and experiences to date. 

During the party I had the opportunity to work with a group of four seventh grade girls. These girls did not know me, they did not know my story, nor did they know Mattie. So to them, I was just an adult. Not an adult who was broken in any way, or had lost a child. Or better yet in their mind, to them I was just like any other female adult they knew..... a mom. I say this because they freely dialogued with me while I was driving them to the party's activity and they wanted to know my opinion about various topics. This is not something that typically happens when I am with children who once knew me, they are more reticent to talk with me and just like so many people in my life discount my insights when it comes to being a parent or role model. Which in a way further compounds my pain and loss. 

I realize parenting teenagers is complex, but unfortunately I will never know what this will be like with Mattie. I do think that making the investment up front, developing a relationship and a bond in the early years of development, helps manage crises in the later years. Since by that point communication patterns and coping styles are formed between parent and child. We invested a lot of time in Mattie's development and I would have hoped it would have paid off later in his life. Talking to the girls in my car last night, made me pause because in so many ways when I interact with young people who are preteens and teens, I can start to sense the person they are becoming. What the values are that they are exposed to in their homes, whether communication is important, whether there is respect for other's thoughts and feelings and whether active listening is being thought. If children are not experiencing it with their parents, then they are not going to know how to give it to others. 

Today, my friend Tina and her family picked me up and we went to have a holiday brunch together. It was a very special venue, that was decorated beautifully. The attention to details were exquisite and as we were walking up the staircase to the main dining room, this charming tree caught my attention. It had gingerbread pieces around it and as ornaments. 

Here is a close up of the base of the tree. There were even some candy trees in the mix. 

Within one of the rooms was this stunning tree! Each tree that I saw was so elegantly decorated. This particular tree had pink hydrangeas, gold balls, and ribbons on it. 

Even the mantle was stunningly elegant. Green boughs, interspersed with white branches and a sleigh and Santa.

Brunch itself was a beautiful food experience! Especially if you are a person who appreciates food. There were three very thoughtful and creative food stations. One station was equivalent to the ultimate raw bar filled with shrimp, crab, oysters, mussels, and sushi. The display was very enticing. I think what truly seemed unique to me was a station filled with all types of salads. One would think how creative and special can salads be??? Well the answer is..... Very!!! I experienced salads of all kinds today, and in all reality one could have made a meal on that alone and been extremely happy. They were delicious. Then of course the last station was of hot foods that covered traditional brunch favorites to luncheon treats like salmon encrusted with crab. But it did not end there.... there was literally an entire room dedicated to DESSERTS! Surrounding the desserts was a toy train display, something that immediately reminded me of Mattie! It was a food experience to remember that was accompanied by friendship and conversation. A winner combination. 

After brunch was over Tina and I captured the moment together with a photo by one of the Christmas trees. 

A close up! To put Tina into context for my readers, Tina is the person who helped me coordinate the candy drive for the Foundation this year. She helped me secure many local businesses and schools to participate in the drive and then pulled together a troop of women to sort thousands of pounds of candy for weeks! Tina has been involved with helping me since Mattie died. This is when I can recall getting to know Tina. Tina probably knew me to some extent before that point, but in my mind, Tina and I became friends after Mattie's death. Though we are aligned on this issue, we did not become friends through Mattie. Trying to find my way in the world post-Mattie is challenging, as is trying to form and keep friendships. Needless to say, it was very special to be included in someone's family today and to be valued.