My mother was diagnosed at the age of 39 with breast cancer while she was pregnant with me. I am now 39, the age she was at diagnosis, which has brought up many different emotions for me – anger, sadness, fear. I have two beautiful daughters, currently ages 6 and 9. My mother had two daughters, my sister and I were 6 years and 4 years old respectively, when my mom died. I feel grateful that I have already gotten to spend more time with my girls than my mother did with us; however, during this 39th year, I have found myself often getting lost in thought about the emotions my mom must have gone through at the thought of dying and leaving us behind. I wonder about the fear and sadness she felt, and I have had moments of fear about my own death.
As a mom, my heart breaks sometimes for her loss. As a daughter, even almost 35 years later, my heart still hurts for my loss. I would love so much for my daughters to know their Grandma Tina and have her be involved in their lives. I tell stories about her, but my stories are mostly second hand because I was 4 when she died and that makes me sad. I love my girls more than I ever thought possible, and from what I know of the person my mother was, I know she felt the same way about my sister and I. I feel loved by her, even though she was only in my physical world for 4 years. The love from a mother is felt forever…and the grief of a child is never ending. I am a 39 year old mother who feels so lucky to be able to be actively involved in my daughters’ lives – like attending afternoon tea together (see picture); but there is a part of me inside who will always be a daughter who misses her mother.
By Lane and Lucy Pease
While picking papers up off the floor, I came across my fourteen year-old daughter’s monologue she had written for her drama class. Of course, I read it after all if it is on the floor of the hallway it is fair game. Reading it, I realized she expressed so clearly how the death of a parent affects a child even if they have no memories of the parent. After wiping away me tears, I asked her if I could share it as a part of the trainings I do as well as a part of our blog. She agreed. I am proud of her accomplishments as a student, singer, and actress, but most of all I am proud of her kindness and compassion. I am so lucky to have traveled this journey with both my daughters and I know their father would be very proud. Here is Lucy’s monologue:
My father passed away from cancer when I was nine-months old. It has impacted me more than anything ever has in my life. Sometimes, it gets really hard to think about what my life would have been like if I had him by my side, watching me grow up. I wish I would have had him here for things like teaching me how to ride a bike or helping me through my first break up with a boy. I didn’t have a dad to take me to the father-daughter dance. Also, things that will happen to me in the future like learning to drive or being walked down the aisle. Those things I wish he could be there for. I know it’s hard to understand, but I miss him and the memories we could’ve made together. My friends don’t understand. When I tell people how young I was when he died, they think it’s not a big deal because I don’t remember him. They don’t know what it’s like. They don’t know what it’s like to never know one of the people who created them. I can’t be mad or upset with them because they don’t understand. I don’t go one day without my dad and the love I have for him passing my mind. I try to live my life in his honor and think that he would be proud of me and my achievements.
Lane Pease is program director at Kate’s Club. Her daughter Lucy is a freshman in high school and her daughter, Zelda is in her first year of college.
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.