A year ago today I began what ultimately became a long, hard year of goodbyes to people I really loved. I was at work and received a call from my dad that I needed to go home to Texas because they were moving my hilariously adorable and totally inappropriate grandmother to hospice – it was time to say goodbye. My Oma had recently turned 90 and after a birthday party fit for a queen began a rapid health decline that had brought us to this place.
Because God and the universe are amazing, I made it there on the last day that she was communicating so I got to share good memories, tell her I love her and give her a real hug – I got to say good bye. What I could not have known at that time was how important those 12 days I had at home would become. Ten days after my grandmother’s funeral I got another call from my dad and that was the call that really changed everything. When I had been home his stomach had been hurting, but I didn’t give it a serious thought. It turns out it was very serious – it was Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. That call started a five-month long journey for my family as my dad so bravely fought but ultimately succumbed to cancer.
From the moment of diagnosis we knew that while he was going to fight hard, that time was probably short. And I think that is possibly the silver lining of cancer – you can take advantage of limited time, knowing that it is limited. During that time one of my focuses was to really enjoy being alive together for as long as possible and to not begin grieving him until he was truly gone.
But man, once was he was gone the grief was (and truthfully still is) all consuming. And, these are a few things I have learned about it.
- Grief is isolating, but it is not meant to be done alone. My dad spent his entire life investing in people. The result of this investment now is countless family, friends and co-workers that share his lessons and love with others. We are facing our grief together.
- Grief is exhausting. You move forward because you have to, not because you are ready. It is hard not to let how much I miss him consume everything. It is those moments of silence and at night that are the hardest. You fill your day hoping to be so tired that you fall asleep. And on the days when that doesn’t work you are tired because wonderful memories keep you awake at night.
- Grief magnifies life. My life, even without my dad, is still amazing, but now I see it all in a more glorious way. The beauty of ordinary things bring me such joy. A joy that is felt deeply because I truly understand its opposite – sorrow – in a much more intimate way now.
- Grief is love. The greater the grief, the greater love. I know that if nothing else is true that my dad and I loved each other immensely. And, I would not for one second give up the pain now, for the love to have been less. Love is always worth it.
I still stand by what I shared at my dad’s memorial service. At the very end I said that I would spend the rest of my life wishing that more of our time here had overlapped and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world that he was my dad.
I am lucky. I had my dad for 33 years… he taught me to ride a bike and drive a stick shift, attended all my pep-rallies, proudly cheered at graduations and walked me down the aisle. Yet, his loss has still been life altering. In moments like this I can’t help but think how critical places like Kate’s Club are for kids who are so much younger and lose parents and siblings when they are still trying to figure out who they are. To me this is the most important reason that as adults we must go out of our way to remove any barriers that exist to make it okay to grieve. We must #facegrieftogether.
As we lead up to this year’s Spin for Kid’s we wanted to share the stories of our riders and why they ride for Kate’s Club. Tonight Misty shares her story in her own words. Misty Alexander is a Kate’s Club Ambassador and super buddy. This year marks her fourth year riding for the Kate’s Club team.
I learned long before volunteering with Kate’s Club about children and grief. My 3rd year teaching, a very special student of mine tragically lost her father. By year 3 I had learned how to guide a reading group, teach a math algorithm and hold a parent conference. What I didn’t know was the part of teaching that blindsides you when you least expect it. I wasn’t prepared for the part of teaching that would teach me.
Lauren Newell did just that – at 6 years old. I didn’t know what to do for Lauren other than buy her a Beanie Baby! (Much like grown ups seem to only know to bake casseroles and send flowers.) I also went to the funeral. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to. Did teachers even do that? Was it too personal? Oh…the things you don’t learn in college.
At the funeral I watched everyone standing solemnly, her mother in shock going through the motions, her grandparents stepping in to carry some of her weight. Nobody really knew what to say. Except Lauren. Lauren came running through the pews to me with her new Beanie Baby. She told me she picked out a dress to match its dress, hugged me tight and ran off like nothing was out of the ordinary. I knew in that moment that Lauren would need time and comfort, security to be herself. I knew that in that particular moment, she needed most to be a child. In her own time she would talk if she needed to, and she did. Lauren is an adult now and has a beautiful little girl of her own. I still have the thank you note she wrote me. I told her someone probably made her write it – the obligatory thank you note – but it didn’t matter to me. I’ve held it close to my heart for more years than I can count.
I am so very proud of the person she has grown up to be and I thank her for being one of MY first teachers. I’ll be riding 100 miles for Lauren, and MANY other children grieving the loss of a parent or a sibling.
To join the Kate’s Club team or make a donation to a Kate’s Club rider visit www.spinforkids.org.
As we lead up to this year’s Spin for Kid’s we wanted to share the stories of our riders and why they ride for Kate’s Club. Tonight Kirsten shares in her own words how a student’s lasting impression and a friend who knew about Kate’s Club convinced her to get on the bike her first year. This will be Kirstin’s third year riding to support Kate’s Club.
When you work in a school as large as mine (750+ students) for as long as I have (18 years) you experience just about everything life offers.
The joy and excitement of children is like no other! Seeing children learn and discover and watching them marvel at the world is one of the most amazing things. Children are like an intensifying filter. The best things are so much better through their eyes- but so too, the bad things in life are much worse when they impact a child.
In my early years teaching, one of my sweet students lost her mother to cancer. In the aftermath, her family was shattered…her older siblings joined their father in California. She went to NYC with her grandmother. That year was so hard, watching her pain. Wishing there was more I could do. I looked at my own children who were close to her in age and wondered … if wasn’t here was there anyone who could ever love them as intensely as I did? The answer is most likely no, a mother’s love is so unique….What could I do to help this precious girl?
I heard about Kate’s Club from Misty. I knew this was a cause near and dear to Misty Alexander ‘s heart. I knew she spent a week at camp Good Mourning each year. I respected her passion and dedication. I thought I could offer her moral support riding along with her. I thought, if I can make a small difference in the life of a child, I should try. I decided it was time to join the Kate’s Club Spin for Kids team.
To join the Kate’s Club team or make a donation to a Kate’s Club rider visit www.spinforkids.org.
When someone is grieving many people are at a loss for words – how can they be most helpful to the person or family that is grieving? What do they say? How should they act? We have used this blog as a space to share the stories of people who are grieving, ideas for coping with grief – quite simply the blog is one way that we spread our vision of ‘a world where it is okay to grieve’. Grief is a multifaceted response to loss and therefore requires support from many places. The support of friends, family, and community makes a tremendous impact on a person’s grief journey. At Kate’s Club we do this through outings, clubhouse days, park bench, KC Connects and Camp Good Mourning. It takes the help of volunteers, staff and our sponsors.
In our community one such sponsor has been Morris, Manning & Martin. Today, in their own words, we share why they selected Kate’s Club as their charity of choice for 2014.
At Morris, Manning & Martin, we firmly believe that giving back within the communities that we work and live is a duty of every business. While we give time, effort and monetary support to numerous charitable organizations throughout the year, we annually pick one primary charity we partner with to support financially, with pro bono services, administratively, and with volunteer efforts.
In 2014, we selected Kate’s Club and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the results of our relationship. Our partnership is about more than the immediate pride in giving back. When we contribute time, money and effort, our goal is to see that our partnership provides tangible, everyday benefits to the community; Kate’s Club gives us the opportunities we like to get involved and really see the difference. We are able to speak directly with the children who are benefitting and know that what Kate’s Club is doing, with assistance from Morris, Manning & Martin, really makes a significant and positive difference in their lives.
Most recently, we hosted a fund-raiser for Kate’s Club that drew in hundreds of our clients, friends and colleagues. Again, with Kate’s Club help, the results were phenomenal. The attendees were able to enjoy themselves and create stronger bonds with MMM, but more importantly they learned about Kate’s Club and its critically important mission.
Kate’s Club has been an excellent partner for MMM. We are very proud to be able to support it.
We are grateful to MMM for their willingness to be an advocate and supporter of grieving families when they need it the most.
Three and a half years ago this blog was launched as a platform to further the Kate’s Club vision of creating a world where it is okay to grieve. Through our clubhouse programs, KC Connects, our blog and various social media platforms YOU have helped us build a network of people committed to facing grief together – thank you! Jordan is just one kid in the Kate’s Club family who is not just surviving, but thriving thanks to this network.
But there are more Jordans out there – for all of the Jordans we have yet to reach we ask that you join our #bluenovember campaign. National Childhood Griefawareness Day is November 21st and we are dedicating the entire month to draw attention to the needs of thousands of grieving children. (Yes, we know it is only September, but with so much too look forward to in November we could not wait to share some of the plans.)
How can you be an advocate, friend and supporter as part of #bluenovember?
- Have your workplace, school or personal network wear blue or host a fundraiser in November
- Conduct one of the grief activity programs we will be sharing on the blog in your community
- Share your story on the Face Grief Together blog launching in September
- Attend this year’s Memory Walk on November 15 at Coan Park
- Help Kate’s Club continue to provide free programs for our families with a donation
If you would like more information on how you can participate or volunteer, please reach out to Rachel@katesclub.com. And, be sure to follow us on social media for important campaign announcements as we prepare for #bluenovember!