Monday, November 12, 2012

We Still Mourn, But It's Different

It never really ends.  We think about our beautiful baby girl every day; several times a day.  Sometimes it's pretty much constant.

Our adorable little ladybug
Take Wednesday, October 31 for example.  Throughout the day, as many of our friends and family were posting photos of their kids' costumes and discussing preparations for the evening's festivities, we were constantly reminded of the four Halloweens we were fortunate enough to spend with Charlotte.  One of our strongest memories is of Charlotte's second Halloween when she dressed as a ladybug and was quite possibly the cutest thing that EVER walked this Earth!  We took her to Randolph-Macon College to trick or treat in the dorms and it was so amazing to watch her figure out that when she knocked on doors and babbled something, the smitten students would give her stuff.  It was the first time I felt that parental melancholy that comes with knowing she'll never be this small again.

This year, we set up our traditional table out by the street and had a great time handing out goodies and seeing all the kids and great costumes; all the while thinking of our little peanut.

CJ on Election Day 2008
Or take Tuesday, November 6.  Election Day.  This was always a BIG day for us.  Both of Rachel and I were determined to teach Charlotte about the democratic process and to encourage her to develop her own voice on whatever issues she would face as she grew into an adult.  We always brought her with us when we voted, even in the local elections.  I would schedule my day around when I would be able to take Charlotte to the polling place and often she would "vote" twice in a day.

She filled our thoughts as we participated in the 2012 election.

And now we head into the Holiday Season and a new round of memories are poised to take over, keeping the mourning front and center.

It never really ends.

And yet, it's a little different now.  There are more of those good moments.  Like last Thursday at the Lunch Bunch which CJSTUF  facilitates at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU in conjunction with Connor's Heroes Foundation.  The food was catered by Christopher's Runaway Gormay (SO yummy!) and we served 71 people a good, moderately healthy meal when they might have had to visit the vending machines or resort to paying for fast food downstairs.  We know from experience that is something families should NOT have to deal with while facing a child's health crisis.

We also meet new friends every time we serve meals which lets them know about resources and provides us more reason to continue to expand the program.

Then there was November 10.  I ran the American Family Fitness Half-Marathon (part of the Richmond Marathon) and Rachel did a book signing at an arts and craft show where she sold some books and connected with several supporters.

Saturday morning, I almost decided not to do the half-marathon at all since I had popped something in my knee last Monday and it had been hurting all week.  I wasn't sure if I could even finish the race.  Then, of course, when I thought of Charlotte and what all the other families have endured, I put my whining away and suited up.

Good thing I did because it was probably the most fulfilling race I've ever run!  I got a lot of extra motivation right at the start line when I saw a man wearing a t-shirt that read, "13.1 Is Still Easier Than Chemo." Amen, dude.

Throughout the event, my mind was full of thoughts of Charlotte and so many others whose paths we've crossed.  I thought of Abbie Waters as I passed her old school, I thought of CJ's Godparents as I passed their house, I thought of the Klauers, the Goodmans, the Hubbels...lots of others.  I met a woman within the the first two miles from Newport News who was running her first half and only the third time, "in front of people."  I fell in with a small group of people at around the halfway point, many of whom just happened to have leg and knee issues.  There was a lot of self deprecating humor being passed around but we all finished!  And all along the way, were the occasional shout-outs to CJ's Daddy (on my bib) or Team CJ (on the shirt) or people who recognized me and shouted encouragement. I can't tell you how much that helps!

Kristin Mudd's Funky Shoes
Kristin's Funky Shoes Flipside

I finished (the main goal!) in about 2 hours and 40 minutes, the knee held out, and crossing the finish line, I let out a "WHOOP" like I never have before.  It was a great moment.  Then I caught up to Kristin Mudd and her funky shoes!  It was her first half EVER!  Kudos to her.

And CJSTUF continues to grow.  Thanks very much to Rachel's very capable Executive Directorship, our wonderful board, and support from the Network, we are having a tremendous year of fundraising and providing resources to our families.  We just had a very productive Strategic Planning Session and we have homework to do, after which, we will be ready to take a step up to the next level of operation for 2013 and beyond.

At Positive Vibe Cafe
So the therapy continues and, quite possibly, it's working.  Maybe.  Just a little.

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