This is a very hard post for me to write today. This will be the last post on this website. This site has been so incredibly therapeutic for me and it has been so wonderful knowing it has been followed for so long. It has been so loved and so lovingly supported, by so many people. I hope to turn this site into a book one day, as I always told Maddie I was going to do. The site will be kept up for now, so that people can still sign the guest book, but there will be no more updates. I am not technically able to maintain it. It has been maintained by Ernie all these years, and he is no longer able to do it. The website has reached its full technical capability.
This site was originally created to post news and updates on Maddie’s health. After Maddie’s passing, it became a place for me to “talk,” to “cry,” and to process my grief. To share how our family was coping. It really became like a best friend to me, as silly as that might sound, and now I have to say good bye to it. Wow, when I go back and read, all of this seems like such a life time ago in so many ways, and just like yesterday in other ways. So very much has transpired over these years.
Our family has certainly been on quite a journey. An emotional, physical, spiritual journey. Life has changed so very much and is continuing to change. The story is only beginning. Life keeps moving forward and I’m trying to catch up!
Maddie’s 14th birthday has come and gone. There is so very much I would love to share, but it would take hours to write. 14 years old. I still remember Maddie at 10, but in some ways, can picture her at 14. She was just so beautiful. Such beautiful features. She would’ve been such a striking young woman, not only because of her physical good looks, but for the love, life and spirit in her smile and personality. Her face and spirit will never grow old. She will always be remembered as young and beautiful.
We celebrated Maddie’s birthday this year as we always have, with her friends here, writing her messages on balloons, us kissing them and releasing them. Sharing laughter, memories, pizza and cake. I followed the boys lead and they insisted we keep the tradition going. It does not hold them back in their grief. In fact, it’s the opposite. It allows them to feel, to remember, to process, to heal. Her birthday is a day for us all to be together. Her friends still love to be a part of it and promise me they’ll keep coming back. It means something very special to all of them. It’s a time for us all to reflect together. It’s a beautiful tradition. In fact, one of our neighbor friends just wrote a paper for school, about his favorite tradition, and he wrote about celebrating Maddie’s birthday every year. The paper was so beautiful and brought me to tears. It was affirmation to me, that all of these kids still love to be together for Maddie’s birthday, that they will never forget her, and she has touched their lives forever. We are all like a big family.
Maddie’s pals are all getting ready for the 8th grade prom now. They will be off to high school in the Fall. Really do wish I could take Maddie dress shopping, hear about her “boyfriend,” plan the pre-prom photo gathering at our house, watch and listen to the giddy exchange with friends…Events like this are very hard. Trigger such sadness, but I am so grateful I can watch her friends grow and experience it all through them and their Moms. In fact, a group of us sat on my neighbor’s deck last weekend, and the girls excitedly talked about their plans and one friend said, “Mrs. Savoie, listen to this,” and played Maddie’s funny chipmunk song on her phone. We all laughed and talked about how Maddie knew the whole thing by heart. I was so touched to know that even though it wasn’t spoken about through the prom plan conversation, they were thinking of, and missing Maddie too.
It has been just over three years since Maddie passed, and I am slowly stepping away from “cancer things.” I am working very hard at taking steps towards healing. In order to do this, I have had to give some things up…
I have quit the PMC. That was a very hard decision for me to make, but I need to devote all of the time and energy that went into fundraising, into doing other things with the boys. They are my #1. In the three years of involvement with the PMC, with combined fundraisers, we raised about $100,000 to help other children fighting cancer and their families. It has been quite the experience of a lifetime. I will miss it, but I know Maddie is proud of me and I can hang my hat up with pride. I was afraid to quit, because I always felt that I kept Maddie “alive” through our fundraisers and riding. Her beautiful face on the flyers, the incredible turn out and money raised at our fundraisers. I know Maddie will not be forgotten because I quit the PMC. She remains, and always will, in the hearts of so many.
I will still do fundraising with the sales of the Maddie bracelets and the card sets of her paintings and those donations will continue to go to Cops For Kids With Cancer and the Paul Newman Hole In The Wall Gang Camps. I will also still do the HITW Camp bike ride every Fall. That one is very special.
I scraped the words, “We Love You Maddie” off of our mailbox. Although people always told me they loved seeing those words every morning, that it reminded them every day to be grateful, I realized that maybe the boys didn’t need a reminder, conscious or subconscious, every day as they stood for the bus and read the words. Funny thing is, when I told them I was going to scrape it off, they asked me not to. The words were comforting to them too, not a sad reminder. It was hard to do, but it’s gone. I want the boys to always feel their place and know they are loved every second of every day. I did put a beautiful permanent pewter butterfly on our front door frame.
The hardest change is in the works. William has asked for Maddie’s bedroom. Although I never thought I would change it, I realize I need to change it for him. For all the boys. This is their home. Funny thing again, although William says he wants it, he says he wants it kept the same, and he’ll just move in. So, part of him is ready, part of him isn’t. Told him if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right. So, this is something I am getting ready to do. Maybe when school gets out. Getting there. I have to buy some really beautiful trunks to put Maddie’s things into. Don’t know what t do about her clothes. Maybe donate them. Keep some special pieces and have a quilt made from them. Not sure. I do know I will do her room by myself. I decorated it with Maddie and now I will need to be alone to take it apart. Well, I won’t be alone, I know Maddie will sit with me and help me through it. Just thinking about it breaks me. I wish I could write about that when it’s all done, knowing I’ll have to process that one, that I’ll have so very much to say, but this has to be the last entry.
“This is our temporary home.”
Been doing a lot of cleaning out at the house. Purging. Been watching old videos of the kids. Cried watching them. They were all so damn cute and so happy. So protective and caring towards each other. So innocent to all that awaited in the years to follow. I miss those days with all my babies. Really feels like another life time ago. Life has really changed and continues to change.
“My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to. Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small, you never have to carry more than you can hold. And while you’re out there gettin’ where you’re gettin’ to, I hope you know somebody loves you.”
I have been very honest and forthcoming throughout the past several years, so I feel I need to share another piece of this story… After 18 years together, 16 years married, Ernie and I are getting divorced. Won’t say much about that, other than we will continue to co-parent our boys and move forward, each in our own right. It is very sad, after all we have been through, but it’s the next chapter in life.
“Forget what hurt you, but never forget what it taught you.”
The boys are doing ok. Michael is a freshman in high school, so as all parents of a teen know, he doesn’t talk much and makes rare appearances out of his bedroom, but he is such a good kid. William is in 4th grade now and Thomas is in 2nd. Thomas will be moving to the next school, joining William, this Fall. No more elementary school for the Savoie family. Kind of sad. They’re growing up! In fact, I covered my last HOD Elementary School lunch duty shift today. Stood in the cafeteria and then on the playground and truly took it all in. So many great memories. I signed out at the front desk for the last time, and almost started to cry!
I am so incredibly proud of my boys. They have endured so very much and yet, they are able to smile and laugh every day. Sure, they have tough moments, tough days, but they soldier on. They are incredible. I pray they will have a lifetime of happiness and good times ahead. They are so deserving. I hope and trust their lives will get better and better!
“Disappointments are just God’s way of saying, ‘I’ve got something better for you, just be patient.’”
So, where am I in my grief? Not completely sure. My grief over Maddie has been “layered with” so many other things, that at times it’s hard to sort what emotions are coming from where. The loss of my dear friend Stephanie, the divorce process, helping each of the boys process things, missing my Maddie every day.
Can’t say grief gets easier with time. I guess it just gets different. I can say I no longer am tortured by hospital visions and thoughts. That stuck with me for so long and was so painful. I am thankful my mind is clear and in control of that. I only allow myself to picture Maddie smiling and laughing. With or without hair! She was beautiful. I still talk to her every day and always will.
Read recently that there are 7 stages of grief, not 5, as we’ve read for years. Who decided to add two more steps? As if 5 weren’t enough! Let’s break it out into 7! So, now they’re:
1. Shock and denial 2. Pain and guilt 3. Anger and bargaining 4. Depression, reflection, loneliness 5. The upward turn 6. Reconstruction and working through 7. Acceptance and hope
“In acceptance, there is peace.”
Done with steps 1-3. #4 creeps in now and then. Thankfully, have felt #5 and feel that I am in between #6 and #7. I know grief is lifelong. It is not a step by step to completion and new. There is no end date to grief. Just a lifelong transition.
“You were given this life because you were strong enough to live it.”
I still get told a Maddie story several times a week, by friends and strangers alike. Some memories, some new stories. New stories of little ones saying “hi” to Maddie every time they walk by her Butterfly Garden at school. They never knew her, but she continues to touch people. The classes now do a butterfly release into her garden every year. What a gift. I will continue to hand out the Maddie Savoie Creativity Award to a graduating 6th grader every year and look forward to seeing Maddie’s art work displayed in the new Freeman Kennedy School, along with the official Maddie Savoie Art Center plaque. So proud.
I went to a private show in a friend’s home the other night and the special guest was Maureen Hancock’s niece, Candace, who is also a very gifted Medium. Maddie was the first loved one she brought through. She gave me so many messages I needed to hear from my girl at this point in my life. I got such peace from my reading. Maddie knows everything that is going on here and she is proud of me. She is supporting me and guiding me. Candace hit things perfectly, with names, situations, dates, times. Truly amazing. Re-energizes me and keeps me going in a healthy, forward, direction.
“Never regret the choices you made. They define you.”
Planning to go back to work again, after almost 16 years at home! Not exactly sure what I will do. Completed the application process to become a substitute teacher in our school system. The boys are very concerned that I won’t be here for them when they get home from school, so I definitely need to make that happen, and school hours would be perfect. I’d also like to do some interior decorating/staging on the side, and one day see my dreams of a book come true.
“Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they’re meant to be.”
I miss my dear friend, Stephanie, who I could really use in my life right now. I think about her every day. My “go to friend.” I keep her alive in me by taking my kids up to her dock, sitting in her kitchen with her kids, being as close to them as I can. I promised her. I feel her with us when we are together. I am now praying for another dear friend, who is battling cancer. My dear friend, Bob Hayden, from the motorcycle rides for Cops For Kids With Cancer. I have written a few times about him. So ironic isn’t it? Please keep him in your prayers. You just never know. Life is such a mystery, full of so many unexpected twists that you don’t think you will ever face in your own life…
“Appreciate the people God gave you. You never know when He will need them back.”
So, as I said earlier, the story is only beginning. Life is moving forward. A whole new journey just beginning. What a roller coaster it has been. Time to get off onto solid footing! I feel excited, anxious and positive for all that awaits. I will admit that, of course, I also have some fears, but I do believe God has a plan. I really do trust and believe that…
“When you are going through something hard and wonder where God is…Remember the teacher is always quiet during a test.”
I also know Maddie has my back and she will be my teacher, my guide and my strength. I am excited to rediscover joy!
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
Spring has come and gone. Reminds us all of re-birth. Summer is here now. New exciting memories to be created. On tough days, and I do have them, I sit and reflect. I sometimes get overwhelmed, but I remind myself of all my blessings.
“Maybe things aren’t falling apart, but rather just falling into place.”
I continue to grow every day. Life is full of so many ups and down and so many incredible lessons. Some very hard, some easier. We have to embrace it all. I hope that this website, our journey, has touched you in some positive way. I hope that through my personal journey, I have somehow given back. Somehow lived the lessons I have learned. Shared through sadness, pain, laughter and hope. That would make this all worth it.
“Whatever we carry inside us, shapes everyone we touch.”
I hope I continue to move through my life in a positive, healthy, happy direction. I certainly don’t have the answers to so much, but I do have the faith, and trust that everything will make sense one day. I pray I fulfill my role as a Mom, first and foremost, to the best of my abilities. I pray I will always be a good daughter, sister, sister in law, aunt, and friend, and when it’s my time to leave this place, hopefully, not for a very long time, I can check out with pride and peace in my heart and soul! I don’t want to look back on my life with any regret. Only want to look ahead with optimism, hope, love, and lots more laughter. I thank you all for coming along for the ride!
“Trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.”
I would still love to hear from people and continue to share pictures and stories, so I’d like to share my email address: K.Savoie@verizon.net and I am on Face Book as well ( Kristen Herold Savoie), where I hope to start a new blog one day.
In Love and Friendship, and a small nod to Maddie, in her words… “Peace Out!”
Things to Keep: Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words Keep your words positive, because your words become your actions Keep your actions positive, because your actions become your habits Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your lifestyle Keep your lifestyle positive, because your lifestyle becomes your destiny.
Thursday -- March 15th
Happy 14th Birthday Beautiful Maddie! We all love and miss you so very much! Thinking of you today and every day! Hoping you are having an incredible birthday celebration up above! Watch for our balloons!
I hope to have a new, extended, entry written by the end of next week. Thank you all for checking the site today, on Maddie's birthday. For remembering her, missing her, and loving her always.
Wednesday -- November 23rd
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Holidays are hard. I know I have so very much to be thankful for, but nonetheless, my heart is heavy. I miss my girl and I miss the carefree happiness of all things good. Working very hard at making each new holiday brighter. Working very hard at living and staying in the moment. I recently read something somewhere that really stuck with me... "Don't look back, you're not going in that direction."
I am thankful for so very much. My family, my health, my home, my friends. My friends...
Why does God bring certain people into our lives? What lessons will they teach us, what lessons will we teach them? Will it be a friendship that will last forever, teach each other valuable lessons, continually grow? Or will it be a friendship that will serve its purpose and then come to an end when that purpose has been served?
God brought my dear friend, Stephanie MacEwen, into my life right after Maddie was diagnosed. She and I had been told about each other through a mutual friend. I needed a full time sitter for the kids, to help throughout Maddie's treatments, and she was doing babysitting on the side. She was the Super Nanny! We played phone tag for a while until my doorbell rang one day. There was this tall, very attractive, blonde woman with a warm smile. She stepped inside, we hugged, and felt as if we had already known each other. She had come to present me with a gift. A check from her Holiday Wish Charity Ball Event to help sick children and their families. What an amazing gift. I was so grateful. She stayed for several hours, we shared our first glass of wine, and chatted like best friends would chat. From that day forward, Steph never left my life, until 18 days ago. Steph passed away after a 7 year battle with cancer. She died peacefully at home, surrounded by her family. I was so blessed to be at her side with her family, as she went home to Heaven.
After our first meeting, I hired her daughter Kate, to be my full time sitter. It worked out great for everyone. Kate and Maddie became pals and all the kids loved Kate. It was a perfect fit at the perfect time. When Kate couldn't come, her sister Kirstie filled in, and sometimes even Steph. Steph wouldn't take payment, so instead we'd sit and share a bottle of wine and talk. We shared so many laughs and a lot of tears. She was one of my rocks throughout the years and we spoke several times a day. We talked about anything and everything. Nothing was off limits.
After Maddie passed, Steph would sit with me at the cemetery. She would listen to me talk. I didn't share intimate details of Maddie's passing to many, but Steph asked me to share and I did. It felt so good, so safe, to share. She had a lot of questions. I wonder if she was looking for the beauty and peaceful aspects of Maddie's passing, as she knew her own passing might come before she grew old. There was always the chance her cancer would come back. She was first diagnosed about 7 years ago and was "clean" when we met.
I could call Steph and she would just know I was having a hard time. I wouldn't even have to say anything and she would say, "I know. I know you miss her. She's right there with you. It's okay." She would always say, "Deep breaths. You're ok." She always said, "Deep breaths" when I was sad, having a hard time, or before I would have to give a speech or a public presentation. I always heard her words in my ear when I started to get nervous and needed to calm down. "Deep breaths."
Through the years, our family would spend many days hanging out at the MacEwen's dock. Fishing, boating, tubing, feeding Steph's ducks. She always said they were her ducks. She was very protective of them, especially when the boys went near them! We watched fireworks over the lake on the 4th, sat in the jacuzzi. The kids loved her. Ernie and I loved her. According to the kids, she made "the best" meatloaf, and best boxed pizza. Everything tasted better at Steph's house. Steph taught me how to make pulled pork in the crock pot. Simple, I know, but the difference was that I skimmed all the fat off, and she loved to keep the fat in. She told me that's how they did it down South! She was from Missouri. That's why her food always tasted better!
Steph was my "fashion consultant" through the years. She helped me shop for outfits for our fundraisers and loved to clean out my closet. She forced me to throw bags of my clothes away, "ugly" things I wanted to keep. During one cleaning, I snuck an "ugly" shirt out of the bag just to save and show up in one day, just to bust her chops. I wore it to the hospital the night I went to visit her. I knew I would be able to tell how her spirits were if she noticed and commented. She looked at my shirt, looked away and looked back. I said, "What? You don't like my shirt?" She said, "No, it's still ugly." We both laughed! She was right, it is still ugly, but now I can't throw it out!
Steph's cancer came back. She told me I should walk away then. She said this would be too painful for me to go through again and she didn't want me to do it. I told her I wasn't going anywhere. I was going to be there for the whole ride. That's when we made several pacts with each other. One very special pact we made was this. She would take care of my Maddie in Heaven, and I would take care of her children on Earth. We laughed about this one because I told her I was getting the tough end of the deal! I was getting a 22, 19, and 15 year old, and she was going to hang with Maddie in Paradise! Maddie is going to take care of her!
Steph told me she always wanted to do pottery. I picked her up one day and drove her to the pottery place in Franklin. We each sat and painted a mug. On mine, I painted "Never, Never, Never give up" and butterflies. Steph painted a cow mug. It was so much fun. Before leaving, I told her we needed to sign them, we needed to put our names and the date on the bottom. We went back and forth with goofy names: Fred and Ethel, Lucy and Ricky, Laverne and Shirley. I don't know why, but I named her Keesha and she named me Vagina. Yep, Vagina. Nice huh? I said, "Why am I Vagina? I can't write that on the bottom of my mug! People will see it!" We both cracked up. So, I wrote "Gina" and dated my mug. She wrote "Keesha" and dated her mug. Now when people use my mug, they ask, "who's Gina?" From that day forward, Steph called me Gina (pronounced with the long "I") and I called her Keesha.
At the end of this summer, Steph and I went out on her lake in our inflatable kayaks. She loved it. She got way ahead of me and I sat back and watched her. She was so strong, so comfortable on the water, so graceful as she paddled. I was awkward and soaked! She always laughed at me on the water. Told me I was a city girl. The sun outlined her as she paddled away from me. I took it all in. I will never forget that vision. I knew I would not be out on the water again with my friend. That is how I like to think of her. In her glory, in her element, enjoying her life, paddling off into the sunset.
I could go on and on about Stephanie and my memories of a beautiful friendship. I am so grateful God brought us into each other's lives. I have learned so much and I miss my friend terribly. I do know she is with Maddie and that brings me some comfort. Steph always said Maddie would come and take her hand when it was her time, and Maddie did.
Maddie let us all know she was there. Moments before Steph passed, I huddled out on her bedroom balcony with her kids for a moment. Spoke to Maddie in my head. Prayed for a sign from her. A sign of peace and comfort, to let us know she was there. I needed a sign in that moment. I looked up and right above us, a beautiful, huge hawk hovered. Right above us. I told her kids to look up! One daughter said, "It's Maddie! I can't believe she came!" I said, "Of course she did! She loves your Mom! She has been here the whole time. She just wanted you to know it!" We all went back inside and sat with Steph, and prayed, as Maddie and her other loved ones, took her hands and brought her to Heaven.
The boys were so upset to learn of Steph's passing. William wanted to go see her, in her home, before she was taken out. He needed closure in her house, not the funeral home. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make that happen for him. The boys did not go to the wake. They wanted to remember Steph as she was, and I know Steph would want the same. The boys, except Michael, did come to the church service. They were very sad. The whole thing just really brought so many feelings, so much pain, back to the surface for all of us.
Steph's girls handed me a special gift. Steph had never taken off her Maddie bracelet. Never. It was worn with love. The girls took it off their Mom and handed it to me. I can feel her with me when I wear it.
Our friendship has come full circle. The family handed me a letter to read, that Steph had written with her wishes. Steph asked that in lieu of flowers or gifts, donations be made to Maddie's charities. She never told me she was going to do that. She probably knew I would argue and tell her to do something else or maybe she just wanted to surprise me. Her gift means the world to me. She showed up on my doorstep with a gift, and left my life, leaving behind so many gifts.
Why did God bring us into each other's lives. I know the answers of that friendship. I know the beauty, the gifts, the why, and I am forever grateful. Our friendship was one of deep respect, love, admiration, and spirituality. Just an incredible connection. Although Steph is no longer here, this is a friendship that will last forever and still grow. I will realize and learn new things from Steph, every time I think back on our time together, our talks. I miss my rock, my Keesha. I need her desperately. I need to talk to her. I texted her the other day, even though I know I won't get a response. Her death is such a devastating loss for me, but I am so grateful for the time we did have.
My dear Steph, thank you for loving me, for loving my family. Thank you for your gift to Maddie's charities. Hug and kiss my Maddie for me, every chance you get, and I will keep my end of the deal down here. You will be missed beyond words, but you are forever in my heart, soul, and mind. I will look for signs from you. Once you get settled in up there, Maddie will teach you how to do it! She's really good at it! Until then, I will continue to take "deep breaths" whenever I need to, and I must say, that is quite often...
Life is short. A journey filled with so many ups and downs. That's life. "Life is what you make of it. Always has been, and always will be." We are not in control, nothing is truly decided by us, but I do know that Maddie and Steph have both taught me so much, and I plan to live by those lessons and gifts.
I wish you all a very safe, healthy, and happy Thanksgiving. Take a moment to truly be in the moment and give thanks for all you have. With Love...