Ten Years

An anniversary marks the date on which an event happened. An anniversary is celebrated. The tenth year wedding anniversary is celebrated with diamonds. A child who turns ten celebrates with a party that they are finally in the double digits. Anniversaries are thought of as celebrations, but how do you celebrate the tenth anniversary of your child’s death? January 17, 2022 marks ten years since our Gracie left this earth. Ten years of missing our blue eyed baby girl. Ten years since I’ve seen and held Gracie.   I think about Gracie all the time. A few months ago I knew her tenth year angelversary was coming. I put it in the back of my mind because in order to get through each day I need to remember Gracie’s good times, Gracie’s love, her laughter, her smiles and her silly antics. If I focus too much on how long she’s been gone or the deterioration of my little girls body or the days, hours and minutes that led up to her death….I am overwhelmed with emotions, from sadness and anxiety to helplessness and fear. So because I put this in the back of my mind we had nothing planned for the tenth year anniversary of Gracie’s passing. My family learned a long time ago ( on Gracie’s 1st angelversary) that we need to keep busy, we need to do something as a family to honor and remember our Gracie. We need to be positive as we remember our sweet Gracie. We are so thankful to our friends at the Brave Will Foundation who taught us this as they lost their little boy from cancer and went through the same emotions and questions of how or what to do on the angelversary of a child’s death.


But here we were four days before the weekend of her angelversary with nothing to do. Geoff had some ideas, but they all fell through as they needed to be planned well in advance. Somehow, just three days before the weekend everything fell into place. It never dawned on us to go back to the same place we celebrated Gracie’s first angelversary. I think maybe our little angel had something to do with how everything worked out. A conversation with Debbie at RMH led to an amazing weekend at the beautiful Krantz Cottage where we were surrounded by love, comfort and lots of laughs. Ten years later we returned to the indoor water park for a few hours of fun, had a wonderful dinner at the Adirondack Pub and Brewery, got a sneak peak of the ice castles, fireworks, a late night bowling, lazer tag, arcade trip, followed by a whole day of skiing at West Mountain. We kept busy as the sadness of why we celebrated was there, but it was definitely overcome by the chance to make some amazing memories.

Our little memory making adventure ended with a trip back home late last night to beat the snowstorm headed our way. On our way home I realized that Gracie left this world 10 years ago in the wee hours of the morning as the snow fell from the sky. Funny how ten years later another snowstorm has us back in the same place, in the comfort of our home as a family remembering our sweet girl.


Dear Gracie,

Ten years later and I’m still not sure if were navigating this journey of grief correctly or not. Losing you hurts just as much today as it did ten years ago, but to hear your sister and brother talk about you warms our hearts and puts a smile on our faces. Your brother talks about you often and loves to be part of the foundation events. He remembers the short time he had with you and wishes he had more. Your sister insists that you and Papa and Marilyn are cardinal birds that visit us everyday (Thanks, Nana- lol) and so wishes she could have met you! I think maybe you left that slinky in the cottage this weekend for her to play with. As for your father and I we miss you like crazy and we work like crazy to keep your memory alive by helping other families like ours. We love you to the moon and back baby girl and can’t wait for the day to see and hold you again.


Until We Meet Again

We think about you always

We talk about you still

You have never been forgotten

And you never will

We hold you close within our hearts

And there you will remain

To walk and guide us through our lives

Until we meet again.


The Firsts and Lasts

January, we meet again. Every January, for the past nine years, memories of my Gracie’s last days with us flood my mind. These days can bring on anxiety, worries, sadness, and immense grief.  Anyone who has lost a child knows that these feelings are always there and can creep up on you at any time.  It is how I choose to respond to these feelings that get me through each year, day, hour, and minute.  


January 2012 held 17 days of Gracie’s last moments.  We were painfully conscious of the lasts she was experiencing.  Her last Christmas, her last visits with family, her last time walking, her last time playing with her brother, her last snack of chobani and chocolate, her last words, her last smile, her last breath. When the lasts were finished, we didn’t realize that there would be a world of agonizing firsts that carried with them the power to crush my soul.


The first time I went to bed without her by my side.


The first time I got in the car and looked at her empty car seat.


The first time I looked at her in her casket.


The first holiday, birthday, anniversary all come and go without my Gracie here to see or celebrate any of it.



The grief of that first year without her rolled into my life like a thick fog, and the only way I was going to get out of it was by seeing and believing in the good firsts. There were some good firsts-  the first cardinal I saw on a cold, snowy winter day, the first time I played with Luke and heard his laugh again, the first sign I got from Gracie ( a slinky that she last played with just sitting on my bed).  I had to choose whether to dwell in the sadness of the firsts or relish in the goodness of the firsts. I was totally blinded by the depth and intensity of my pain, hurt, sadness, and anger.  Grief had overtaken me, preventing me from living and from seeing the good in anything. 


This grief took over my life for quite a bit of time.  I was unhealthy, I was sad, and I was lonely.  My family, friends and community were nothing but supportive and kind, and I am so thankful for all the love they showed my family and me.  That got us through some of the darkest days,  but in order to start living again, I had to get out of this dark place on my own.  I was angry that my daughter died. I was jealous of those who still had all their kids alive and well.  I wanted to blame someone or something for Gracie’s cancer.  Those were all thoughts in my head that were dragging me down and preventing me from living with any kind of joy, peace, or purpose. I had to accept that Gracie wasn’t coming back and that I needed to live my life by showing and giving love, by spreading and sharing hope in her memory.  Ironically, I needed to have Grace back in my life.  I had to stop being so angry and choose to relish in the good lasts and firsts.  What does that mean?  It means that I can now look back on those times and be thankful for all and any last moments I had with Gracie and be thankful for all the people in my life who got me through the firsts without her and turned a horrible tragedy into giving back to others through a foundation in Gracie’s name.  I was able to start living again because I chose to let my anger go.


Lately, I have heard the phrases,“We are doomed,” “The world is falling apart,” “This is an awful time for our world,” and many more phrases that are so negative and scary. On January 17th, the anniversary of Gracie’s death, I challenge you to find the good.  You see, Gracie taught me that all you need in life is love, kindness and respect.  Nothing else matters.  When Gracie died 9 years ago, the amount of love and support from everyone was felt.  It didn’t matter your race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, political stance, or view on anything in the world.  Everyone came together to love and support a family and get them through the toughest time of their lives.  Everyone did this with respect and kindness.  My wish for today and all the days ahead is for all people to respect one another and treat one another with kindness.  If you are angry, sad, insulted, or just plain mad at the world, I challenge you to change your outlook; look at the bright side of things and start living.  Be kind, be generous, be hopeful, and be grateful that you are alive!  Don’t live your life in anger.  Trust me, I know that living in anger is no way to live.


January is a tough time for my family and me. The grief over losing Gracie never ends. Until the day I die, I will always wish the outcome was different.  But, choosing to focus on kindness and helping her memory matter is healing for me. Spread kindness today- in memory of Gracie, in memory of someone you love, in honor of someone, or just because.

Today I will remember my sweet girl,  all her firsts and lasts, and I will spread kindness to someone or something in need. Will you join me?

Golf Tournament 2020

Dear Friends, Supporters, Sponsors, Golfers, Volunteers and Family,

It is with heavy hearts that we, at Amazing Gracie’s Gift Foundation, have decided to cancel our golf tournament this year due to the pandemic.  It is important to our foundation to make sure you are all safe. Even if social distancing is lifted, a large group outing at this time does not feel safe to us.

The golf tournament is our main fundraising event each year, as we typically raise $25,000 or more.  We know times are tough for so many people and small businesses right now. If you are able to and would still like to donate to Amazing Gracie’s Gift to help us meet our goal, it would be appreciated by us and so many of our families.

We have been extremely busy this month as children continue to need treatment during this crisis.  Amazing Gracie’s Gift has been able to help these families find safe places to stay during treatments.  We have also been trying to lift the spirits of many children and their families as they are confined to their hospital rooms or homes. Each situation is unique and we continue to do all we can to help these families.

We are very humbled by the sponsorships that have already come in.  These sponsorships and any future sponsors will be recognized at our next event in November, Night of Grace.  Amazing Gracie’s Gift foundation has thus far received $10,000 in sponsorships.  Can you help us reach our goal of $25,000? 

We will miss the great joy that the golf tournament brings to us. The smiles we see and the laughs we hear each year from our golfers, volunteers, donors and supporters motivates us to continue our mission.   Each year I am blown away by the amount of support we receive on this day.  The golf tournament and auction will be physically absent this year, but it will be on our minds and in our hearts.  If you sponsor, golf or donate to the golf tournament each year, please consider donating to our online fundraiser on social media or on our website www.amazinggraciesgift.org  as a way to keep giving in place of your normal contribution.

Thank you for your continued support.  We couldn’t do this without you.  We wish you all good health as you stay safe at home.  We’ll be back next year and it will be Amazing!

Be Amazing,

Lisa and Geoff Lawton


The Board at Amazing Gracie’s Gift Foundation



April 14, 2010 my beautiful blue-eyed middle child, Gracie came into this world. Today she would be turning double digits, the big 10! On her birthday I always wonder what she would look like, what she would want for her birthday and how we would be celebrating. Today as I think about all those things I really focused on what we would be doing. I know exactly what we would be doing. We would be home. We would make a homemade cake, sing happy birthday, play some games, go for a walk or a local hike, do some online schoolwork, Facetime or Houseparty with friends and family, make her favorite dinner and just hang out at home. Home with Gracie sounds perfect to me.

Currently home seems to be a tough place for so many to be. We are all used to busy schedules, traveling, practices, hanging out with friends and coming and going as we please, but because of the coronavirus we all need to stay home for the health and safety of everyone. It’s tough for my family too, but when I feel like I’m going crazy and start complaining about being home I think about our past, I think about Gracie, and I remember my family has done this before. When Gracie was sick and receiving treatments we had to socially isolate/distance quite a bit. We were in the hospital, at the RMH or at home. These were the safest places for Gracie and us to be as any cough, cold, stomach bug or virus that is common for others could have been deadly to her. When we were in the hospital all we wanted to do was go home. The hospital staff, doctors and nurses were Amazing, but we just wanted to be home. The RMH was our second home, much much better than being in the hospital, but still there is nothing like home. Home is a great place to be. So here’s what happened back then when we socially distanced ourselves…we kept Gracie safe from all of the common colds and virus’s because we stayed home. We washed our hands and cloroxed wiped, lysoled and hand sanitized EVERYTHING! We followed the rules and she did not get sick. She wasn’t taken from us any earlier due to not following the social distancing and hygiene rules for a cancer patient. And for that I am thankful. Unfortunately Gracie died, but it was from Cancer. There was nothing to protect her or cure her from that disease. Gracie didn’t have a choice, but you do. Please practice social distancing. We don’t want to lose any of our family, friends and supporters. Stay home, stay safe and stay healthy.

April 14th will always be my Gracie’s day. It’s been 8 years since I’ve been able to give my birthday girl a hug. Today there will be no cake or candles, no balloons, and no choked up happy birthday singing. Today we will be home. Today there will be remembering. Today I will wish that Gracie was home with us. Today will always be her day.


The Five Senses of Christmas

The Five Senses of Christmas


It was eight years ago this past week that we took our family to Disney World.  We traveled, laughed, walked, talked, smiled, hugged and held our kids A LOT. We enjoyed our time together as our nineteen month old daughter was battling cancer.  She was really sick. She had just finished a round of chemo that left her little body and mind exhausted, but we knew that this was our time to go. We knew that we had to get away from hospital and home life for a few days to unplug and spend time being a family without that big black cloud over our heads.  We often joked about taking Gracie to a tropical island far, far away to escape reality and her diagnosis. It’s funny how we thought everything would disappear if we did that. I know a lot of us feel like we just need to escape to a place where we can relax and forget about the stresses of life with the ones we love.   When we picture this place or this vacation in our minds, what are we truly picturing? I know that I picture simple things like some place warm with sand between my toes and a good book, but most of all what makes me smile when I think about my escape place is being with friends and/or family who make me laugh and feel loved.  In this place, I don’t need my phone or souvenirs or anything that distracts me from a real moment in time. What I need and want can be fulfilled through my five senses- sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. I can see the ones I love in a beautiful place. I can hear the laughter and talking. I can taste the salt in the air. I can smell the ocean air. I can touch a hand; I can hold my babies, and I can feel their love as I hug them.  What I’m beginning to realize is, I don’t have to escape and go far away to some beautiful or exotic place to feel fulfilled. A good trip is fun and needed sometimes, but don’t we all deserve to evoke our five senses in order to feel fulfilled on a daily basis?

When we returned from our Disney trip, we got off the plane and went right to the clinic at the hospital, as Gracie needed to be seen a few times a week and vacation disrupted that plan, so her appointment was scheduled for the minute we got off that plane.  When we arrived, we were on our post vacation high, but we knew that important decisions in Gracie’s treatment plan needed to be made. We immediately felt that sense of fear and helplessness. It was eight years ago that we got off that plane from Disney and eight years ago that our doctor sat us down and told us Gracie was going to die.  The treatments were not working and they were making her so sick that the doctors feared the chemo would take her life before the cancer did. I remember sitting there crying, wondering how and why this was happening and staying there for a long period of time hoping that maybe the doctors would come back in and tell us we could try something else.  We knew Gracie’s cancer had a very poor prognosis, but we always had hope. But on this day, our doctors told us the worst news ever: Gracie was going to die. How did we go from one of our escape places full of happiness to this place full of worry and sadness? As we sat in the clinic room waiting for the doctor or anyone to come back in and tell us something different, something more positive, I looked down at Gracie in my arms.  All that girl wanted was to be with us, to be held by us, and to be in a comfortable place with us. She deserved to be home, comfortable and surrounded by love. That’s when we left that room and headed home with our terminally ill daughter. 

We headed home during what was supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, yet we had to tell our friends and family that our beautiful little girl was going to die. I’m not sure if anyone said a word on the way home.  We knew what had to be done for the remaining time left with Gracie. All Gracie wanted and needed was to see, hear, smell, touch and feel the love from her family. Fortunately, we had an army to help us do this. People cooked, decorated, shopped, and did everything for us so we could focus and be present for Gracie and Luke. We unplugged from technology and held our Gracie, taking in all the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and touches with our family of four while we could.  It was one of the most meaningful and special Christmases we’ve ever had. I didn’t stress over gifts or material things, for there were much bigger stresses. It put into perspective the true meaning of Christmas. Our family, our friends, and our community gave up themselves to bring happiness to our family. There isn’t a gift that is more special than that.


Christmas of 2011 will always weigh heavily on my mind.   It is a time I need to think about more frequently to remind myself to slow down, to take a break from technology, and to just be present in my family’s and friends’ lives.   This holiday season and each and every day after, may you all receive the simple gifts of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching with those you love.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

I am not alone


I am not alone

Summer.  The warmest season of the year….long days, warm nights; beautiful sunrises and sunsets; breathtaking thunderstorms; and days that are filled with activities that lead to great memories.   Last year I described this time as relaxed and carefree. This year I can describe it as being crazy busy, trying to fit everything in without feeling overwhelmed and anxious. It was one of those summers where I had to laugh or I’d end up crying—totally different than last year, but still memorable.  What I have realized this summer is you can’t replicate what has happened in the past. You can have all intentions of doing that, but it’s never the same as when that moment actually happened. We get older, our kids get older, and the memories we make, change. It was hard for me this summer when thinking about my Gracie.  I think about her every minute of every day, but when I’m on vacation,I think about her even more. As I was sitting at the beach this summer, I was thinking about my Gracie and panicked as I realized I’m starting to forget things about her. I’m forgetting what it felt like to hold her, I’m forgetting the sound of her voice, her cries, her snuggles, her hugs.  I’m forgetting what that physical touch with her was like. As a mom, that’s hard. As a mom, I’m supposed to know her inside and out. I’m supposed to comfort her when times are tough and celebrate with her during the good times. The hugs, kisses, snuggles, laughter, giggles, and talks have been missing for seven years, and what I remember from the past is becoming more distant from my memory.  Those moments from the past can never be replicated again; they are just memories…memories that don’t bring that physical touch, but instead are a vision of the time we once had… a time I am deeply thankful for.  

Every day, every year, every summer without Gracie has its challenges, and this summer was one that I needed to overcome. But it is not that easy.  This isn’t something that you can connect with a lot of people on. It’s a subject that makes you feel very alone. So to try to overcome this, I decided to focus on remembering our memories by looking at pictures, still thinking about her (just as much as I always do) and looking for signs.  

Last year at camp I received a sign during our last week.  It was a great one. One that I believed was incomparable to any others and one that couldn’t be matched. I won’t bore you with the details, as it’s all in last year’s blog from August, but I will tell you it had to do with sea glass from our time at camp.  So this year as I worried about missing that physical touch, I anxiously awaited a sign. I can compare this to watching and waiting for a pot of water to boil! When you want it to happen, it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, there were signs, but they were the type of signs I get everyday.  I saw lots of bunnies and dragonflies, which I feel are signs from my baby girl, but I wanted more! I needed more. Where was my big sign? My sign that was different from the rest? My sign that she’s ok? That we’re ok? I anxiously awaited this sign as the whole month passed by, and I almost accepted that I wasn’t going to get that sign I was hoping for.  

On our last full day at camp, we headed down to the beach.  It was hot and sunny, and the beach was pretty busy. The lake wasn’t completely calm, but it wasn’t stormy, either. It had small waves, and the air was heavy, as if there might be a storm on the way.  As I began to set up, I realized there wasn’t too much room between our large, loud group and a lone woman who was quietly enjoying the beach (and probably the peace and quiet). But there was no where else to go, so I positioned myself in my beach chair next to my sidekicks, and we watched as the kids swam and went on walks to find sea glass. Not too much time passed before the clouds in the distance turned dark and gray,  and we heard the sound of thunder. Everyone came out of the water and waited for a few minutes. Another loud crack of thunder came, but it was still distant. I took out my phone and looked at the radar. It looked like some intense storms were on their way, but we were right on the edge of the storms, so it looked like we were going to miss them. The lifeguards closed the beach and every single beachgoer left, except us and the lady whom we set up right next to.  Being that it was our last beach day, I told everyone that I was not leaving and that the storm was not going to hit us. So, the majority of our group stayed and watched the storms travel across the lake for hours. We had a blast. We got rained on for a few minutes, but it was welcomed, as it was so hot out. Once it started raining, I thought for sure the woman who was basically sitting right in our circle would leave. She did not. Instead, she started talking with us.  She immediately befriended one of my friends, and as they were having a conversation, I heard her say she doesn’t mind the loudness of our group because she has a big family and she’s used to it. Then I heard her say she recently lost her two year old grandson. After that comment, I was half listening because I froze. I thought to myself, I am not alone. This woman talked for quite some time about this tragedy to my friend as I wandered about chasing Ava. When I came back, she came over to me and expressed her condolences about Gracie, and we talked for a few minutes.  She looked at Ava and knew that she was my rainbow baby. How ironic that we set up next to this woman? And that every single person on the beach left in fear of the thunderstorms except our group and this lady? And she felt comfortable enough to talk about her grandson’s tragic death? Maybe it wasn’t ironic, but meant to be. He and Gracie were about the same age when they passed away and the couple who lost him are trying to have another baby. I told her to tell her kids to have faith; we are living proof that faith goes a long way. For when the storm passes, there are always blue skies waiting behind those clouds.  And guess what we saw when those storm clouds passed? The most beautiful sunset I had seen during our entire time at camp.  

We never got those thunderstorms, but they could be heard loud and clear from a distance.  I heard you, Gracie. I received my sign. I was not alone.


Night of Grace-2019

Happy summer!  We hope everyone is enjoying their summer!  For Amazing Gracie’s Gift August means planning and getting ready for our Fall events.  So without further a do…. Night of Grace 2019 is ready for you!  Our theme this year is “Together We Will….”  We hope you can join us on Saturday November 9th, 2019 at Francesca’s to celebrate together, dance together, laugh together and Be Amazing Together!

Tickets are ready for purchase today!  Discounted tickets available through August.  In September prices will increase.  A limited amount of reserved tables are also available.  You can purchase on the website www.amazinggraciesgift.org or by mail.

Enjoy the rest of the summer and we hope to see you in November!  Keep Being Amazing <3


8th Annual Golf Tournament- Changed for Good.

Welcome to the 8th annual Amazing Gracie’s Golf Scramble!  Thank you for spending the day with us and for raising money for Amazing Gracie’s Gift Foundation. Over the past 8 years we’ve experienced just about every kind of weather you can imagine at our golf tournament. We’ve had sun, clouds, rain, fog, wind, and even snow. It’s also been pretty cold, super hot, and also very pleasant. Today we did not see rain and had a few peaks of sunshine! The sun always makes the day a little brighter, but what really makes this day truly amazing is the smiles on all your faces and the love in your hearts for our foundation.  

Today we had over 150 golfers, over 30 volunteers, over 100 donations from some amazing people and businesses, and sponsorships totaling over $14,000 before the tournament even began!

With the funds raised today and throughout the year we are able to do the following:

  • Provide individual financial assistance and memory making opportunities to families whose children are battling cancer or a life threatening illness.
  • Provide professional photo shoots for local families
  • Host an Easter event at Golisano Children’s hospital
  • Support the Beads of Courage and Flashes of Hope programs at the Melodies Center at Albany Med.  Both of these programs will allow us to touch the lives of more families and help them create memories.
  • Send $5000 to the Journeys Program at the Melodies Center to directly support children and their families
  • Support families and cook dinners at the RMH
  • Send $5000 to the RMH to provide meals and entertainment at the new Krantz Cottage at Lake George.

We could not do all of this without you.  Thank you!

I would like to welcome Debbie Ross from the Ronald McDonald House of Albany.  Debbie is the resident house director at the RMH. Resident house director is her title but she is so much more than that to the families staying at RMH.  She is their cheerleader, a friendly smiling face, a shoulder to cry on, she is who families will share good news and bad news with. Debbie is one of the most compassionate, giving and loving person who I’ve ever met.  When you’re around Debbie, you know that the kids come first and she will do anything and everything to make them feel comfortable and loved during their stay at the RMH. She is not only our contact person at RMH, but our friend and extended family.  Debbie is here today to share some exciting news about the RMH and how we are able to help. Please welcome Debbie.

This past spring we took a trip to NYC to see the broadway show, Wicked.  An amazing show it was and at the end I was in tears as they sang the song, “For Good”.  The words “ Because I knew you I have been changed for Good” touched my heart. I immediately thought of Gracie and knew that because I knew her, I had been changed for good.  Gracie’s big blue eyes and the love she had for us, her family, changed me for good. There is nothing more valuable than time spent with those you love and I thank Gracie everyday for showing us this. The love, compassion and support we received from all of you has also changed me for good.  Families, friends and strangers immediately came together to shower us with love, prayers, compassion and support. Thank you for showing us the good in what was one of the hardest times in our life. Today we are not here for Gracie, but instead we are here in memory of Gracie. She touched all our lives in one way or another and we are paying it forward by being amazing and doing good in memory of her.  What we are here for today is the kids who are battling cancer or a life threatening illness. We are here to help them make memories and to support them, both emotionally and financially. Because we know these children, we have been changed for good. The giving hearts of all the people in this room and all those who couldn’t be here today continue to amaze us by helping us help others. Because I know all of you, I have been changed for good. And more importantly because of all of you, the children we help have been changed for good.  The smiles, laughter and endless thank yous from our families show the goodness we bring to those who need it the most. I hope because you know us, Amazing Gracie’s Gift Foundation, and you knew Gracie, that you have been changed for good, too.

Each year I state our motto and I ask you to be amazing.  So without further ado…

  • Be Amazing like the RMH of Albany. A place that provides comfort, hope, love, and support for so many families. The RMH now has more room for love in their new house and can hold up to 25 families. One of those rooms was built in Gracie’s name. It is beautiful, warm, comforting and totally amazing.
  • Be Amazing like the Melodies Center at Albany Med and like Golisano Children’s Hospital whose efforts to help save and cure children are endless.
    • Be Amazing like Lilliana and Ronnie who have battled cancer and are now in remission.
    • Be Amazing like Jacinto, Giada, Will, Marcus, Azalea, Mackenzie, who are bravely fighting and dealing with complications from the side effects of chemo.
    • Be Amazing like Mya, Ava, Cooper, Sophia who fought bravely and lost their battle with cancer.
    • Be Amazing today and always for all the kids who are suffering and for all the kids who have lost the fight.
    • And lastly, my motto and what keeps me going on a daily basis – Be Amazing like Gracie.

Thank you for the past 8 years. Because we know each other we are changed for the better.  Let’s keep the good going and make it to 10 years!

The Vera Bradley Bag

The Vera Bradley Bag

January, we meet again. January is a time for New Year’s resolutions and  new beginnings, but for us, January is a reminder of seven years ago when it didn’t hold anything new.  Instead, January left us with an end, the end of Gracie’s life. On January 17th, it will be seven years since Gracie died, and it hasn’t gotten any easier.  I miss her. I long to hold her, to see her grow up, to fight with her siblings, to argue with me about stupid stuff, to see her play with her friends, to hug and kiss her just one more time.  That can never happen, and it literally takes my breath away every single time I think about it. With tears in my eyes, I replay the events and emotions of this month, seven years ago. I recall the days before she left us and the moment she left us over and over in my head, hoping it’s a bad dream while knowing it’s not.

When a person’s time has ended with a loved one, holding onto the memories made, in order to keep them alive in your mind and heart, seems like all that one can do.  I’ve talked a lot about all the memory-making vacations we’ve taken, but I had forgotten about the everyday memories and everyday life with Gracie….until I recently went on a cleaning spree.  I believe that my girl knows I struggle with his month and sent me a sign to give me some comfort. While cleaning the closet and taking the many piles of “stuff” off the top shelf of our closet, I found our “take this when Gracie goes somewhere” bag.  Our girl was too special for an ordinary bag, so she was given a “Vera Bradley” bag! When I grabbed this bag from the top shelf of the closet, my eyes started watering and then I started laughing. This bag went everywhere with us (take everywhere with a grain of salt). When your child has cancer, you can’t really go everywhere.  Your outings consist of clinic visits, hospital stays and RMH stays. But at least we were going out, and if we were going out, it was going to be in style! I laughed when I thought about this because we were known as the “Vera Bradley” girls. We’d come into the hospital or clinic with this bag, and I always had my Vera Bradley purse. My mother-in-law often went with us and she had a Vera Bradley purse, and we always traveled with an overnight bag…. you guessed it, a Vera Bradley overnight bag!  So here we were walking into clinics/hospitals looking like an advertisement for Vera Bradley or like we were a stand in NYC selling knock off Vera Bradley bags every time we went out. Staff in the clinics/hospitals almost always noticed and made some type of joke to make us smile and laugh. I miss seeing them. I miss having those people in our life, as they were our “home away from home” family. They were a part of our everyday, normal, routine memories with our Gracie.

When I opened this bag, the everyday memories with my girl came flooding back in.  Among the variety of items in the bag were a small package of Skittles and a lollipop.  These were for Gracie when her appetite and taste buds were gone; a little piece of candy would often make her feel a little better and erase from her mouth that metallic taste that chemo left her with. The bag also contained Wet Ones for those sticky one-year-old hands and to sanitize our own hands after going anywhere.  There was a pen to sign the papers saying I was made aware of what the chemo drugs might do to my child and that I still give consent for her to have them. I also used this pen to write in my journal and to let Gracie scribble on paper. There were cough drops so Geoff and I wouldn’t cough at night in the hospital and wake up Gracie (or other patients).  My wristlet (Vera Bradley again!), to keep my money in to buy food at the hospital cafeteria, was also in the bag. Our Mickey sunglasses were in there, too. We got them on our trip to Disney World, and I would wear them while driving to Albany, and Gracie used to hold them when we got there. There was a brush that was used in the beginning for Gracie’s hair, and when she lost all her hair, I used it to put my hair in the most common hairstyle you’ll see at the hospital, a pony tail. The bag also held hospital lotion to put on Gracie’s thin and fragile legs, arms, and face after a sponge bath and a spray hand sanitizer to keep germs away at all times.  There were also Albany Med. parking passes to use during the twice-a-week and eventually daily visits to the hospital. In the bag, I also found a vomit bag in case Gracie got sick in the car from her treatments and a thermometer to check her temperature a million times a day for a fever. A fever was dangerous and meant a hospital stay. And last but not least, there was one K cup in the bag. Gracie held onto K cups in her little hand almost the entire time she battled cancer. She didn’t do anything with it; she would just hold one in her hand as if she were keeping it safe or maybe it was helping her feel safe. In her other hand would always be her bunny.  I did not find the bunny because it is with her.

As sad as it is to think about these items as a large part of her everyday routine, they have meaning and are special to us.  They are the little things in life that now make me happy to see and think about because they remind me of our life and our time with Gracie.  I didn’t forget them. They were just in the back of my memory probably marked as “everyday, boring, mundane stuff.” But those everyday memories are much more valuable than we think.  They were moments, moments spent with Gracie. I have not bought a new Vera Bradley purse or bag since retiring all of them in January 2012, but I will always have that special bag and the special meaning that it contains. That bag and all its items are right back up on the top shelf of my closet and while I don’t physically carry it with me anymore, I will forever carry with me the priceless memories that it holds. I miss you, Gracie.  I love you, Gracie. Happy 7th Angelversary in heaven my Gracie girl.

“Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

Feeling Rich

The holiday season is upon us, which means my “lists” have begun!   Notice the “s” at the end of list. These lists are not what I want for Christmas, but what I need to accomplish before Christmas gets here.  The grocery list for cookies and special Christmas meals, the party list, the school list, and most importantly the “who we need to buy Christmas presents for” list.  As I finished the “who we need to buy Christmas presents for” list and looked at how long this list was, I felt overwhelmed. I questioned when I was going to get all this done and how was I going to pay for it all. I wasn’t feeling rich at all; in fact, I was feeling defeated. There have been quite a few moments and days lately where defeat has overpowered the richness in my life.

Life has a way of throwing you curveballs just when everything is going well and you think you’ve figured everything out in this life.  I have contemplated sharing this latest news, as I’m honestly embarrassed to admit the reality of my life and worried about what people may think about our family.  But I cannot worry or stress about what people think. This is my life. This is our life. We cannot change it or look back but only move forward. Recently our son Luke was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  This diagnosis came out of nowhere after what we thought was a virus or a stomach bug or maybe even the flu. When they told us he had type 1 diabetes my mind immediately started asking questions. Why? Why did our family get another blow? Why Luke and not me? What did I do to deserve this? Did I do something wrong as a child?  Did I eat something wrong when I was pregnant? Did I yell too much at my kids this year? Am I being punished in this life? Lots of questions and A LOT of mom guilt. First Gracie dies of cancer and then Luke gets diagnosed with a disease that is life threatening if not taken care of daily for the rest of his life. Why? Why? Why?  Once again I am feeling defeated.

The worry of a child with type 1 diabetes is very overwhelming. Is he low?  Is he high? Did I count the carbs correctly? Has it been three hours since his last insulin?  Do we need more supplies? Will his diagnosis be accepted by his friends? Will he be invited to parties or sleepovers with his friends?  Will the parents be supportive? How will he handle school? Will he miss classes to go to the nurse? Will his grades go down? How will he handle his sports schedule?  Puberty is already scary enough; how will diabetes mess with that? Will he ever be able to have a beer (when he’s 21 of course)? OMG, what will he do when he goes to college?  I might have to go with him! The questions and worry and mom guilt never stop.

With lots of time and patience, I am slowly learning a lot about this diagnosis.  Type 1 diabetes will never go away, but it is manageable. Luke will need insulin to stay alive for the rest of his life.  Type 1 diabetes has no known cause and no cure. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the beta cells in the pancreas.  I did not cause this. So please don’t think that I mis-fed my son or that he didn’t get enough exercise. That only exacerbates my mom guilt for no reason.  Over the course of a month, I have learned that kids with diabetes can do everything that other kids can do; they just need to adapt activities to keep blood sugars from going too high or too low.  Diabetes is just one aspect of a child with type 1. I know I need to take care of his medical needs but always try to make him feel like a kid first and foremost.

Luke is doing AMAZING with all of this. He’s handled it wonderfully, is managing it successfully, gives himself his own shots and does not let diabetes define him.  At this moment, he is in control of diabetes and is not letting diabetes control him. I can only hope and pray that it stays this way. He is not feeling defeated, so neither should I.

I looked back at those Christmas lists and I decided to look at it in a different way.  Instead of feeling defeated, I felt rich. Not material rich, but rich with love, thankfulness ,and happiness. When looking at the list of who to buy for, I didn’t feel defeated anymore, but rich to know so many people who love and care about my family.  Rich to be able to make someone’s day a little brighter this holiday season. Rich to think about putting a smile on a face of someone else who also might be feeling defeated this Christmas. When looking at Luke’s diagnosis instead of feeling defeated, I’m also trying to look at it in a different way.  I’m feeling rich with thankfulness that we got Luke to the hospital before it was too late, for the amazing doctors and team at Joslin who continue to educate him and our family on how to manage Type 1, and for his school and friends who support him. Have you ever heard the quote, “ When life throws you a curveball, hit it out of the park!” ? That’s exactly what Luke is doing. I am beyond rich for having a kid who gets thrown these curveballs but gets up, deals with it, deals with it amazingly and keeps living this crazy life.  (But for God’s sake, can we please go with scrapes, cuts, bruises or even stitches next time and stay away from the big stuff like broken bones and life- threatening diseases?!)

It truly is all in how you look at things.  I do realize that I am not alone. There are a lot of people out there who are also feeling defeated this holiday season… Holiday stress, anxiety, depression, financial struggles, loneliness, missing a loved one, illness, painful and life changing diagnoses … the list goes on and on.  I hope and pray that anyone feeling these defeats can look at the situation again and find some type of richness to it. This Christmas season I hope that we can all try to spread a little Christmas cheer and kindness to those who are hurting and feel defeat. It is very hard to know who those people are as many don’t show their pain or defeat.  So simply being kind to everyone and anyone you meet can change someone’s day. I hurt everyday knowing that Gracie is gone, but I feel rich for knowing her and loving her for the time she was here. I also feel very rich to have friends and family who help me find the good and fill my heart with love and thankfulness instead of defeat. But not everyone has the same support I do. A simple hello, how are you, holding the door open for someone, baking someone cookies, letting someone ahead of you in line, a Christmas card, a phone call, or a simple smile are just enough to turn one’s day around.  Simple acts of kindness can make you and the person receiving them feel rich. Someone gave me this quote a while ago and when things get tough I remind myself, “You don’t have to do anything, you GET to do everything.” My Christmas wish is that when you are feeling defeated, you remember this and can find your way to making yourself and someone else feel RICH with love again. Merry Christmas.

“Today be thankful and think of how rich you really are.Your family and friends are priceless, your time is gold, and your health is wealth”.