He died on a beautiful fall afternoon, too. I checked the weather this morning, and it looks like another seven straight days of perfection ahead. This weather has always been my absolute favorite, but of course now it leaves me ambushed with the sad, gut-wrenching memories of one year ago. Thankfully, some of those memories of Ty's last days are incredibly beautiful and they keep me putting one foot in front of the other. Whenever I recall Ty's unbreakable "smile of the day," I continue to be awestruck and inspired. This was just 10 days before he passed away.
Fall in New York is so incredibly perfect. The trees are enchanting, the crisp breeze fills my lungs with purity and the sun continues to warm my face. Days like this prove to me that God is all around. Ty, too. Every falling leaf is a poetic reminder of our love and loss.
As much as I find myself smiling at my most favorite memories of Ty, I also find myself haunted by the memory of the day Ty died. My mind often goes there, to the moment I scooped him up into my arms and cradled him until he took his last breath. Of course, I can't recall that moment without crying and I feel such guilt when I try to clear it from my mind because I don't want to spiral into sadness. It feels wrong when I try to push it away.
I recently listened to an NPR interview with Dr. Jim Olsen of Seattle Children's Hospital. Dr. Olsen recalls a couple who lost their daughter to a brain tumor, and they thanked him as they told him that "her death, to us, what as beautiful as her birth." I am so grateful to hear those words spoken by another couple who walked in our shoes, because it reminds me that it is okay to also see the beauty among the pain. It helps me to think of Ty in a beautiful place, and as Lou says, he brought the missing pieces of our hearts with him.
I have said this a thousand times... I envy anyone who is pregnant with their first baby because there is a wave of true love that will take place the second that baby is born that is simply indescribable. Of course, that love is just as profound the second time around (and so on, I'm sure) but there is only one moment when you can feel the intensity and truly understand what motherhood feels like for the first time.
Just as powerful as that love was the second Ty was born, the pain was equally powerful the second he died. Just as full as my heart became - so much so that I describe it as a love explosion - my heart feels equally deflated upon losing him. Despite this, I recall his last breath and I am grateful that his passing was so incredibly peaceful. I agree with the other couple - I believe his death was as beautiful as his birth. His face was so angelic, so soft and so pure - I couldn't believe such a perfect child was mine. Just as I couldn't believe it when I first saw his face. He will forever be my greatest gift.
This morning Gavin was watching an episode of "Olivia" on Nick Jr. while eating his breakfast. In the cartoon the teacher was telling her class that they each had to pick a vegetable to study for the school play. One of the kids asked "is pudding a vegetable?" Gavin didn't react, but in my mind I heard Ty's incredible little giggle. He would have totally laughed at that. He was always so quick to laugh, so easy to amuse, and so lighthearted. He always "got the joke" even at such an early age - unless it was a knock-knock joke, in which case he butchered the joke but still laughed in hysterics after delivering the wrong punchline. I miss that laugh so very much.
I often find comfort knowing that Ty's story - and the stories of children like him - have brought out such good in people. A couple of weeks ago a woman paid for some toys and pajamas I was buying for Gavin. I was so shocked I didn't properly make an effort to stop her - and I don't feel I thanked her appropriately afterward. She really caught me off guard when she told me how much Ty's story affected her and she wanted to do this for me. I've been thinking about what to do about that, and today I paid it forward by purchasing gift cards in excess of what she spent on Gavin. I made a few care packages and will be sending them off to families in need. It made me feel so good to do it, and I feel reinvigorated in my efforts to keep fighting for these kids. Isn't it awesome? How kindness is contagious?
The TYathlon this weekend was a tremendous success. It was nothing short of amazing! We had over 100 triathletes and another 200 additional runners in the 5K. There were children who blew me away with their speed and stamina (including my nephew's James and Ryan, and my neighbor Andrew). There was also my Mom - who completed the 5K alongside my other nieces and nephews. I'm so proud! But most of all, I'm proud of Lou. He made great time in the tri and he gave a beautiful speech. What an incredible tribute this was. Our tremendous thanks to all that participated, and most of all to all those who helped plan such a flawless event. It was a lot of work, everyone busted their butts, and in the end it showed. It was an incredible day that will grow year over year. Lou and I are still blown away by the incredible generosity toward our fundraising efforts. We made more than $53,000 on Crowdrise alone, not to mention our generous sponsors and the proceeds we are awarded from the race registrations. We are making a difference every day! Thank you.
Lou and I were proud to present a grant to Dr. Jeffrey Greenfield that will specifically fund a researcher focusing on pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors under the Weill Cornell Children's Brain Tumor Project. This is our first of several grants that will be awarded between now and the end of the year. We worked so hard over the last nine months to fundraise, and now we are eager to get that money in the hands of the researchers. I can't wait to keep you all updated on those investments, and the progress those researchers will make in years to come.