Sunday  -- February 8th

The first holiday season without my girl has come and gone. It was so incredibly difficult and I'm glad it's over. I had started writing this entry weeks after Maddie passed but found it too hard to go back, finish it, and post it. Today I was ready to get it out to the website. I don't want the website to end. I don't want Maddie's story to end, her journey, her gifts, her life's meaning. So many people still check the website, as I do every day. It's sad, but comforting at the same time.

I will keep writing. The writing is therapy for me. There have been so many stories I have wanted to share since Maddie's passing. This is where I can come and share them. I hope through our stories, we can all heal together, all find peace, all marvel at the gifts that continue to come from Maddie after her passing. The story is only beginning.

So, here is my entry from weeks ago...

I miss my Maddie terribly. I called her "Maddie Girl","Maddie Moo", "MooMoo," "Pumpkin." She really loved when I called her "Pumpkin." I overheard her several times over the years saying with a smile, "My Mom calls me Pumpkin." That was her favorite for some reason...

Our beautiful girl fought an incredibly courageous and inspiring battle since August 2006, until the day God took her home to Heaven on Oct.16th, 2008. I wanted her to stay, but she couldn't. That was not the ending God had written to Maddie's story. I knew that and I had to let her go.

Although our website documented her journey, her struggles were so much greater than we were ever able to write about. I can assure you, Maddie was the most incredibly strong, determined, brave, inspirational person I have ever met, and she was only 10 years old.

I was so incredibly blessed to be Maddie's mother, to bring her into this world, to love her, teach her, guide her, and watch her grow. I was then so incredibly blessed to be the one to hold her in my arms as she followed the Angels to Heaven. Again, for one last time, I was given the blessings I had been given for ten years with her - to love her, guide her, and now help her go. What a blessing and a privilege.

God chose me to be her mother. Maddie chose me to be her mother. What an honor. I am so greatly humbled and I pray I made them proud. Our children don't belong to us. They are entrusted to us by God. It's a privelege, a blessing to love and raise a child.

 

Maddie was a gift to this Earth. God didn't only send her for my family, but for all of you too. Her short journey here served such a great purpose. A purpose that hasn't even fully been revealed yet. God gave Maddie a very special job to do here, and she did it like no other. She was like a butterfly, fluttering around and gently sprinkling a gift onto everything she touched. She leaves behind invaluable marks in our hearts and lives, and we are all changed forever and for the better because of Maddie.

Because of Maddie's life and passing, I truly believe thousands will be saved. She brought faith and spirituality back into the lives of those who may have lost their way, and into the lives of those who never had it. She brought the goodness out in everyone she met, taught us all how to be better people, without even knowing she did so. That was her journey. God sent her to teach us all and she did that. Her gift was worldwide. She was amazing!

Maddie showed us all how to live by her inspiring example. She showed us her kind, loving heart, her joyous spirit, her compassion and care for others, her empathy, humility and grace, her zest for life and laughter, her bravery while enduring suffering without ever complaining, her never ending hope, her faith, and that incredibly gorgeous, infectious, dimpled smile, that was present every day of her life, even when she didn't feel like smiling.

Maddie and I had a mother/daughter relationship like most others until she got sick. It had been great at times and rough at others. Girls can be tough, as any of you with a daughter knows. But when she got sick, our relationship really blossomed into something so special, so incredibly magical and fun. We needed each other. We were given the gift of so much one on one time together because of her illness, and I am so grateful to have had that with her. The gift of just being together, learning from each other, teaching each other, bonding.

One of Maddie's first lessons to me, and to anyone I have shared this story with, took place right after she was diagnosed and we met our first roommate, Chelsie. After a horrific diagnosis, a long day and night, being inundated with information, doctors, etc., having to tell Maddie she had cancer, we sat with Chelsie. She told us about all the "cool" things we would get to do. She talked to us about Make a Wish. We got to go home that night for the weekend before beginning treatment on that Monday. Maddie and I were driving home and I asked her what she would pick for her Make a Wish. She could go anywhere in the world, meet a celebrity, do anything. Maddie said to me, "I would wish for Chelsie to not have cancer anymore." That was her wish. Nothing for herself. I asked her why that was her wish and she said, "Because Chelsie's my new friend and I want her to get better." I started to cry and she thought she made me sad. I told her I wasn't crying because I was sad, but because I was so incredibly proud of what she said and so touched. She was an 8 year old girl who was offered anything she wanted in the world. She had such selflessness. That was just the beginning of Maddie's gifts to others.

I miss everything about my girl. I miss what we had, and I already miss what we won't have.

I miss Maddie's dimpled, brilliant smile, her voice, her laugh, her hugs, her dainty hands. I always told her she had such sweet little baby hands. Her wearing my sandals. She left toe imprints in them. Sharing my perfume. I miss her snuggling in bed with me, taking care of me when I was sick. We would wrap our "leg blankies" around each other. I miss her playing with William and Thomas. She would play school, or animal games, read them stories. She was always so creative and fun. I miss her hanging out with Michael. They always looked out for each other even when they fought. I miss watching them on the swings together. I miss her perfect little bald head, her hats cocked to the side. I miss the awesome foot massages she gave. I miss watching her giving prized possessions away to make someone else happy. I miss watching her care for her little cousin Abby. I miss watching her run around with Hope. Taking lead of her new neighborhood dog walking business. I miss hearing her play her electric keyboard in her room. Her favorite song was, "Can You Feel the Love" from the Lion King. I miss her comic gestures and made up songs. I miss her writing goofy plays with her friends. I miss her showing off her newly decorated bedroom with pride. How she'd so carefully place her pretty pink drapes into the pull backs. I miss her rolling her eyes at me every time I'd want to hit a yard sale or find a road side treasure. I miss her delight in brownies, Mac and cheese, cheese roll ups, noodles with butter and cheese, good n' plenty candy, Swedish fish, ready-made chickens. They had to be hot or they "tasted different" and she wouldn't eat it. I miss her playing with her cousin Jackie. I miss her catching butterflies in the yard. I miss seeing her on her pink bike. I miss seeing her getting on and off the school bus. I miss picking her up from friend's houses. I miss dropping her at school, then watching her through each window pane as she walked down the hall. The two of us would surprise each other with a silly face or gesture in between panes. Neither of us knew what the other would come up with but we usually ended up doing the same funny gesture! I could imagine the sound of her giggle in the hallway as I laughed in the car. I miss watching her sleep. She was so beautiful. I miss the excitement she had when she went fishing with Ernie. I miss her ability to entertain and engage children and adults alike. I miss the two of us making up ridiculous lyrics and rhythms in the car as we drove countless hours back and forth to the hospital, thinking we sounded so cool. I miss the two of us talking in a British accent the entire ride to the hospital, just because it was fun. She did the best impersonation of the girl from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, when she would do her British accent and say, "Daddy, I want a pony and I want it now!" I miss her making her "Rabid squirrel face," I miss watching her swim and catch frogs for the boys. I miss her soft, fine hair, I miss her adorable butt, I miss her twinkling eyes. I always told her she had intriguing eyes. They were like baby deer eyes with perfectly shaped eyebrows. I miss the sound of her headboard hitting the wall every time she jumped into bed or rolled around, knowing she was there in her room, I miss her knocking on her bedroom wall as I took a shower on the other side of the wall, I knocked the "tap tap tap tap tap," and she knocked the ending "tap tap." I miss her jumping in the shower with me, asking me to wash her hair, or her beautiful bald little head, and us chatting about life. I miss her arguing with me about what outfit matched and what didn't and how she didn't care! I miss the sound of her little pink crocs running on the deck. I miss her giving her peace sign. I miss the two of us intertwining our fingers and doing "the wave" to music in the car. I miss singing my made up lullaby to her in bed. Even at 10 years old she'd make me sing it. She also loved when I would "crack an egg" on her head and let the imaginary yoke run down her face. I miss laying in bed with her and rubbing her nose and face. She loved when I would make a humming sound and drag my finger softly around her face, down her nose arch, around her eyes, always ending with a tap tap on the tip of her nose. It made her relaxed and sleepy. I miss seeing her slap my sister's butt and run away giggling. I miss dancing in the kitchen with her. I miss doing her nails for her and having her do mine. I miss seeing her watch Animal Planet or Emergency Vet. She wanted to be a Veterinarian when she grew up. She knew so many animal facts. She would've been a great Vet. She would've been great at whatever she chose to do. I miss seeing her in the leather chair, eating an entire bag of pretzels, Goldfish crackers, or Cheez Nips. I miss playing practical jokes with her. I miss sitting in church with her. She would hold my hand and make me go to the "healing station" for extra prayers. Guess she thought I needed them! I miss sassing each other back and forth. I miss her questions about life. I miss hearing about her first crush. I miss her sharing her concerns and questions about puberty and childbirth. I miss her watching me do my make up. When I'd use my big magnifying mirror on the bed, she'd lay on the other side of it and peek through the gap. Close up like that, her eyes were even more intriguing, so pretty. They really did twinkle. She once said she wished she had blonde hair. I said, "Yeh, me too" and winked at her. I miss watching her and the boys all link up on their DS games and play together. Well, Thomas thought he was playing. We were all in on that one! I miss when Maddie called me "Spaghetti" when I was thinner, and "Noodle" when I gained a few. I loved asking Maddie's opinion of my outfits. I'll never forget one of the last shirts I wore to the hospital. I thought I looked stylish and walked into her room. She looked at me and said, "Mom, that is the ugliest shirt I ever saw." I haven't worn it since! I miss shopping with her and watching her pick the very best stuffed animal out. We would line them all up, study their faces, and pick the perfect one. She'd say, "Mom which one do you think is the cutest?" There was method to our picking the perfect one. They all seemed to be saying something different.

I could write for days about things I miss...

I remember so clearly the day William, Thomas, and I dropped Maddie off at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. I so desperately wanted her to stay home because she only had a few more days after camp before going into the hospital, but I was so incredibly happy that she got to experience camp. I remember William's drawn out, tear filled, sad good bye. How they waved until we were out of sight of each other. That good bye broke my heart. William and I cried all the way back to the car. Little did I know that we would experience a much more gutt wrenching good bye in just a few short months. A final good bye.

Picking Maddie up from camp was better than anything. William woke up super early with me and the two of us raced there, our hearts beating with excitement. The reunion was priceless! Maddie chatted and sang camp songs the entire ride home! Silly songs about underwear! William thought she was hysterical!

Going to the Holy Shrine in Lourdes was such a gift. A gift I never had time to really write about on the website. It was the most beautiful time between Maddie and I. I will always cherish my memories from that experience. I brought the gift of Lourdes home with me and it will never leave me. That trip was a gift for both of us. We were meant to go.

Maddie was very sick when we got on the bus to leave for Lourdes. She had been sleeping a lot the weeks leading up to the trip, not eating. The minute she sat down on the bus, this amazing energy came over her. She ate two sandwiches and two huge cookies. Her color and smile came back and she was so excited! I swear it was the Holy Spirit at work.

She immediately befriended the little boy sitting in front of us. He was sad to be leaving his Dad and he lost his stylus for his DS game on the bus. Maddie stood up, leaned over his chair, holding out her own stylus and said, "I know it's pink, but it works. You can borrow it if you want." The two of them were inseparable on the trip after that. She looked out for Andrew. They adored each other. They both had the most radiant smiles. Andrew, his Mom, and brother, visited us at home this past summer. It was so special.

It's funny, I just found more of the big water bottles Maddie filled with Holy water when we were there. She wrote on them, "Do Not Drink," in black pen, to make sure we didn't confuse it with drinking water in the bottles!

We were inseparable in Lourdes. I went on one outing without her for a few hours and I'll never forget the look of excitement on her face when I walked down the cobblestone street back towards her. She came running into my arms, her arms spread wide open. We hugged, held hands and walked off. I felt so loved by her in that moment.

Every single day, several times a day, as we needed to go up to or come down from our room on the 4th floor, Maddie and I would race. One of us would take the elevator and the other would run the stairs. Whichever one, Maddie ALWAYS beat me! It was hysterical! I thought I had her every time. People would see or hear us coming, now familiar with our routine, and jump to the side. So, off we went, my heart pounding, I couldn't wait to scream, "Ah ha! I beat you!" As I'd reach the last step, panting, or jump out of the elevator, I'd wait to yell my victory. Then I'd hear, very calmly, "Hi Mom." Turn around and there she'd be! Waving a cute little wave and smiling that brilliant, victory smile! How did she do that?!? You have to remember she was very sick when we went to Lourdes. Very tired. She still kicked my butt!

Maddie befriended a caretaker, or as they call them in Lourdes, a Knight. There are Dames and Knights and then the sick are called the Malades. His name was Brian Moran. Big, happy, powerful man, who melted every time he was around Maddie. He loved how she wore a different little hat every day so he decided to start buying her the silliest, goofiest hats each day. Of course, she would humor him and wear them. Then she and I went out hat shopping for him and found the perfect one. He wore it every time he was with us. Sadly, Brian passed away only a few weeks after Maddie. He was diagnosed with end stage lung cancer. It all happened so fast. Strange how these two strangers bonded in France, and then passed so close in time. I know Maddie greeted Brian at Heaven's gate, wearing a smile and the goofiest hat she could find up there! Then I'm sure she handed him his own goofy hat! They'll take care of each other.

Going into the holy bath together was amazing. The water was ice cold and you go in naked. "Naked?!" Maddie and got a good chuckle out of that one! I got to watch my baby as she stepped into the miraculous bath. It was like watching her being baptized all over again. Next it was my turn. She watched me with the biggest smile on her face. What an experience. You almost didn't notice how cold the water was...

Being at the miraculous spring, where it all started with Bernadette, was breath taking. Maddie and I walked through the Grotto, our hands feeling the walls inside the cave, as water leaked from them. A true miracle that we got to touch first hand. We lingered, as the guard kept trying to move us along.

The candle light procession at night, attended by thousands from all over the world. We were in a sea of candle light. All of us there for the same reason. Sharing in our faith, our hopes, our love, without even speaking the same language.

Sitting through a four hour long mass, said completely in Latin. We both got a fit of the giggles and couldn't stop. It made others around us start to giggle. Several people came up to us after to let us know that they had delighted in our giggle fit. It was so funny.

I could go on and on about Lourdes, but it's an experience you have to experience first hand to truly appreciate it. It was a spiritual gift like no other. Maddie and I became friends with a woman in Lourdes, Kim Gillespie. She's from NY. She said something to me when we were there that I will never forget. She said, "Everyone who comes to Lourdes gets a box from God. A gift. We don't know what's in that box, but when we open it, we have to accept the gift God gave to us. Say thank you. It may not be the gift you wanted, but it's the gift God wanted for you to have. It's the gift you are meant to have." I have never stopped thinking about "The Box."

I wanted a miracle in my box. I believe in miracles. I wanted Maddie to be healed. That's not the gift I received. However, I did receive other gifts in that box that I must accept, be grateful for, and learn from. I know what some of the gifts are, but I know that many of the other gifts have not been revealed to me yet. One very huge gift was that God let Maddie stay for 2 years, after her initial diagnosis. She was Stage 4, Metastatic Ewings Sarcoma. Her prognosis was very grim. It was a miracle she defied her odds and stayed with us.

Maddie made God proud and He was ready to bring her home to light up the Heavens. It was time for her to receive her reward. A reward she so greatly deserved. Although I wanted her reward to be life here with us, I have to learn to accept God's will and continue to try and make sense of it all. I have to continue to keep Maddie's purpose here alive.

Maddie's wake was so beautiful. What an amazing tribute to our little girl. I hope all of the pictures at the wake conveyed the joy, love, life and laughter she brought to this world. I know she was looking down loving all the pink and yellow balloons, butterflies, and pictures. I know she was proud as she watched thousands come to say good bye. I was in awe of how many came. People of all ages, all walks of life, touched by this amazing little girl. Grown men brought to tears. Strangers broken hearted.

Her funeral was just as beautiful. Each song moved us. My brother did a great job singing "My Wish" by the Rascal Flatts. It was so hard for him to keep it together but he did it. I know Maddie was proud. "Every Mother's Prayer" by Celine Dion was always one of my favorites. Maddie and I loved the Rascal Flatts and Celine Dion and I know Maddie sat with me on the floor the night before her wake and helped me picked her music for the wake and funeral. She was with me.

Each speaker made us all laugh and cry. Each eulogy touched on a different aspect of her life. Kristan, Paul, Beth and Molly, all sharing their loving memories. All of the guests wearing a sea of pink and yellow clothing. Police motorcycles from several towns escorting our baby's car. Maddie loved it!

Driving by our home to see our fence sign "WE LOVE YOU MADDIE" and then by the school to see the incredibly loving tribute each child and teacher left for Maddie. There were paper angels in every single window of that building, along with the sign "IN LOVING MEMORY OF MADDIE." It was truly breathtaking. From what I've been told, the kids all stood silently in their classrooms, saluting Maddie, watching her car drive through the school lot, around the building for one last time.

At the burial site, Maddie cleared the skies for us. There wasn't one cloud. She knew we were sending up 150 pink and yellow balloons and she wanted to make sure we all saw them fly until they reached her. She was there. She saw us all and laughed when she saw that even Hope attended.

I believe Maddie knew she was not going to live. In fact, I know she knew. I don't know exactly how long she knew, but I know she knew. Looking back, there were so many signs, so many things that are now revealing themselves. I really struggle with this. I really struggle with the last months of her life. Aside from the terrible 2 years of chemo and radiation, it is the last few months that I am trying so desperately to get past.

Our Maddie was so incredibly loved. Life will never be the same without her, but we have to find a new life together. Start to rebuild together. I don't know when the pain will go away. I can't imagine it ever will. Some say it gets harder the first year and then it gets different, but never easier. I know this to be true. It has gotten harder each day, as each new day passes without my girl.

I will never be the same without my girl and the pain is unbearable most times, but I know that I will see Maddie again one day. I know she would not want me to be sad. She always hated when I cried and she would never cry in front of me. She always wanted to protect me. I always wanted to protect her. Together we chose laughter over tears. The laughter sustained us through our fear, sadness and sickness. She was and always will be, my best friend.

God has blessed me with three beautiful, amazing, awesome, boys. I am so proud of them and love them so very much. For them, I will find my way. I have to. Maddie will show me how to do that. She will hold me up and guide me. I pray for peace, hope, strength, and renewed happiness for my boys. I long for the day when we're all belly laughing again.

I pray for Ernie. I pray for the same things for him as for our boys, peace, hope, strength, and renewed happiness. It has been an awfully long, difficult journey, and I truly hope we can all embrace the rest of our journey, whatever it may entail, with faith and love in our hearts and smiles on our faces.

Maddie would be turning eleven in a few weeks. Her birthday is March 15th. Please remember her on her day. Wish her a Happy Birthday! She can hear you!

Thank you all for all of the love and support you have shown our family. You have carried us through this awful time for almost 2 1/2 years, and still continue to be at our side. Thank you. My wish and prayer for all of you is that you hold onto Maddie's spirit, her gifts, her lessons to us all, forever. Keep that burning in your heart. Never forget why she was here and what she gave to us. We are all blessed for having known Maddie.

Thank you Maddie, for being our love and our light for ten years. Thank you for loving us. We love and miss you always.

"When you were born, you cried and the whole world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice."

 

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