My life and days are filled with some of the bravest girls, boys too… but lately girls. It is what gets me through some VERY long days, some crazy planning and exhausting events. These girls rock. They don’t just get up and show up- they fight and live and smile and celebrate. They celebrate their days and their successes- along with their friends. These girls have big battles to fight and they fight with grace and strength that I don’t have and most likely you don’t either. They miss the big stuff, they see the world from hospital window while we all BBQ and swim. Their families spend days and weeks separated and often times those brave ones have treatments that separate them from even the nurses. It is a lonely journey… it is a really difficult path to travel and the battle is BIG. Those same kids really understand how amazing a good normal day is. They really know what a morning home with their family and a day at school mean in life.
One of the best pieces of these brave girls that I see is that they know how to say “No”… it takes the rest of us a long time to say that. I swear you could ask me if I wanted a mushroom sandwich ( I do not eat fungus) and I would say ‘yes’ to be polite (not always but often)… and these lovely and amazing brave girls don’t do that. They have a big ‘no’ and they strive to enjoy what they enjoy and live how they want to live. I love it. I see it more in my girls too. I think learning early that we can do hard things and win big battles shows us a different world. It shows us parts of ourselves that most won’t build or see until much later. I think the part that can say ‘no’ is amazing… the part that is bold and brave enough to tell you what they want is inspiring.
This week was full of brave girls. I am finally sitting and able to reflect. I am enjoying the looking back over days, conversations and images that my brain has and seeing how those little pieces fit into their place in my brain. Those bits are now woven into the ‘me’ that is sitting here today, a different me than before. Every one of those bits is helping to build me to be more strong and direct and forward- more the ‘me’ that I need to be.
Back to those brave girls…
So… somehow my brain mixed up a ‘best day ever’ date… I had all the vendors and balloons and projects ready- only it was a week early. Thankfully all of the vendors could just repeat the next week… WHEW! The girls and I got to send a pile of rainbow balloons up to Madeline and her friends so the night went pretty well. That ‘best day ever’ went down on Friday with no hitches, at least none that I could see. This lovely Super Chick- Avery got to celebrate with her best.people.ever that she was a cancer free kid. Avery was diagnosed with cancer just before her first birthday and missed her big party. This Super Chick Avery rocked her super suit and painted face and greeted all of her guests with “You came back”… It made me smile, Amelia giggled and told me “Mom Avery hugged me and said you came back!”. I think about that now and think it was her way, her little 3 year old self, of telling us thank you for coming back, thank you for being there then and being here now. Avery just beamed with happy and positive and silly. I loved it. I was pooped and it energized me for the next event we had. I took a bit of that positive energy and carried it- knowing that Mad’s loved what she was still here doing.
Over the past few weeks I had been working on a big surprise for a lovely spunky lady I met while working at her preschool. This lovely is starting kindergarten in the fall and is so the brave girl I was talking about- she can say ‘no’ and do very hard things- she can fight a BIG battle. She told me all about her heart shaped port scar and terrible tasting morning medications. She told me about some of her experiences… in her speaking I heard her confidence and comfort. She wasn’t complaining, although she could have, she just told me about her experiences and how she still shows up and does her job. Her meds taste like hand sanitizer and she still takes them every day- she doesn’t just show up to life she lives it. She is one brave girl. I love her sense of sure, her ability to say ‘no’ and speak her mind. She sees and knows the world differently and loves normal. I was so excited to get to create a backyard space for her and her family. I was honored that they let us surprise her with a pool and a backyard redo. This yard redo was an awesome way to include many of Madeline’s friends to help us make a space really special and unique. So I didn’t just get to see my lovely friend who received a best day ever be brave- but many of Madeline’s crew. Those kids showed up and painted and worked and laughed… they listened when I talked about my friend and her tumor. They saw some pictures and they related… it was a very important and positive day. Those work days were crazy and exhausting, but the teams who did those projects rocked. They worked hard and for a long time to create a welcoming and blue, purple, teal and green ONLY space (my little friend does not like red, orange or yellow)… they did yardwork for a family who should get their yard done. They helped stain a deck, install a pool, dig a patio, garden some beds and put up a gazebo. They loved every minute of this gift, and know how important their work was to this family- and I loved working so hard for that lovely brave girl.
When we are going through life and hard stuff pops in, God sends in the herd and the support. He sends in troops and carriers… He did for me and does for many. When Madeline passed I knew we had work to do… to do the things that so many did for us. After Madeline passed many didn’t know what to do… many cooked, many helped with my girls and many privately paid for things. I still don’t know who paid for many things, I just know that at the end of the day many things were taken care of. So… I know that Madeline left us with the job of taking care of things for others- just like the world took care of us. Yard re-do’s bring me back to a cold day in April when many people I don’t or didn’t know back then did a grand makeover on our yard. It was flippin’ amazing. I could never have imagined the extent of what I came home to. It has made me happy and proud since, my yard has been my family’s sanctuary in many times and has hosted many important nights with my girls and family. It was a HUGE gift. Since that the people involved have become one of my favorite gifts in this… they get it. When we get to do a yard for a family, I know my job is to do what those best.people.ever did for us. So… at the end of that yard re-do I knew we delivered. Sometimes I am surprised at what my brain does well… or maybe just remembers to do many things at once. We not only had 3 best day ever’s on Friday of last week- we had an event. Somehow everyone managed to be at the right spot and the right time for it all to work. Thank you Big Guy for that!!! There is this brave girl who I just got to meet Friday for the first time. Naya has been getting treatment for more than a year and just relapsed. She is a crazy strong girl. I got to finally hug her and tell her about her upcoming trip- and to hug her momma. Naya was our honored lovely at our Maddie’s Mark Baseball Family Night. She got to meet Chelsea Cavanaugh and throw the first pitch… but her best night ever started earlier. We got a shiny and long limo to pick her family up and bring them for a fancy dinner. They got STAR treatment everywhere they went and I could tell by the end of the night it was a best night ever… and for me to know that it was easy and simple and a diversion from the current life of hospital, questions and treatment. Naya and her perfect dark curls enjoyed that night- the music the energy and the people. I could see that she was leaving content and ready for bed. Mission accomplished- a best night ever for a brave girl and her family.
One of my favorite brave girls is a teen… she is one of the bravest people I have ever known. She knows how to say ‘no’ and tell about her faith and life. She knows what a normal day of moving, living, traveling, shopping, walking and eating is worth. She is in a hard spot right now, but she is still strong and brave and loving. She still has a sense of humor and an awesome spirit. Kalina loves cheese raviolis, has great taste in movies, loves music that I don’t know and knows how important her family is. She is way wise beyond her teen years. She is so bold and honest, it is refreshing. Like I said, I would still say yes to a mushroom burger or escargot, instead of what my tummy and taste buds want to say… Kalina uses her ‘no’ and her bold. She is brave and bold and kind. She gets life. I love that. I have loved connecting and getting to love her. She is a gift to me and many others… I know that her spirit and old soul has helped me see life and me differently and better. She has helped build me and I know so many others… she is a huge gift. I know that Madeline loves the connection to her for her sisters… she brings us to the ones we need and in those connections there is a bit of her.
Madeline was my brave girl. My first brave girl. She faced the world with her old soul and bold kind self… she lived to love and support and connect. I know she knew her future- I saw no fear for her death and heaven. I saw her be sad to be different, but I also know that Jesus knew his life and death and had moments of fear. We are human. I know Madeline left safely and is all good… she was the bravest girl I have ever known. I am really honored that God entrusted her to me… and I have loved seeing the brave hearts of my daughters. They see life and love normal. They work hard to support and carry and love. They see the connections. They chug and live and move and breathe. They see the hard and they sit there and show love and strength for the ones who need it. They also fight like mad crazy and don’t eat veggies… for alas they are normal brave girls. I love those normal brave girls, just like the ones we get to carry.
So… I sit on a Sunday, on my parents back porch enjoying the breeze and feeling all the amazing in this pile of brave girls. I have learned so much from these girls and their strength. I have learned so much from their mommas. I have loved the connections and the support we can each give. I love how they all get it. They get life. It is breakable. Life is AMAZING. Life is full of hate and hurt- and love. I try to stay near the love. I try to steer clear of the unkind. I can do difficult, in fact I can do REALLY FREAKIN’ Hard. I love the hard. I love the pain. I love the missing… as long as I carry right next to the loving and connected bit. I love the mixed up ride that is grief. It is confusing and hard, but it is what we do when life isn’t what we imagined. Grief is missing anything that should have been- I miss the should have been pile of chicks I SHOULD have, I miss the image I had of sitting with my Mr Musto in Adirondack chairs with grandbabies and a lakeview… but in this process of missing I see the new. I see that my pile of Musto Chicks is little but it is large and strong… and Lucy tells me all.the.time that Madeline is right here on my shoulder. I see Adirondack Chairs and my lake house and grandbabies with my own new life… whatever that looks like. I don’t see the missing the same… I don’t feel that sad the same. Those parts are like badges and I love them right next to the easy.
It is the brave ones that keep me inspired and moving and living. They keep me improving and building me…