Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rest in Peace, Elizabeth Edwards

May God comfort her family and friends.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Toi noi tieng Viet khong gioi

A few months ago, my cousin told me that creating "new neural pathways" was the best thing that we could do for ourselves as we traveled through our grief.
New pathways come from new experiences.
Well, I've got myself a winner.
I've been selected for an amazing assignment at work: teaching English in Vietnam for six months. The college is establishing a unique partnership with a college in Saigon. They are temporarily releasing me from my job as academic advisor, and I am returning to my roots as an ESOL teacher. Joel will take a leave of absence to come with me.
We leave in February.
We're soooo excited!

Friday, December 3, 2010


Plan A:
With Joel working a 12-hour shift on Thanksgiving Day and the girls being out-of-state/country, I had chosen to stay home last Thursday to rest and to wallow.

Plan B:
Wednesday morning, during my drive to work, I realized I didn't feel like wallowing--I felt like cooking. I want to have Thanksgiving. I avoided it last year, but I realized that this year I wanted it back. So I got on the phone and invited some international and ESOL students. Six boys without families in town. Five countries.
When I called one young man and his roommate, I spoke in clear, simple English.
"My husband and I invite you to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night."
Without hesitation, he responded, "Okay. We come."

I skipped the traditional early afternoon start time and told them to come at 7PM. That way, I'd have all day to cook, taking some of the pressure off. After work on Wednesday, I did the traditional last-minute Thanksgiving grocery-who-still-has-any-green-onions-left-why-can't-they-stock-enough-mushroom-soup-it's-not-like-it's-going-to-spoil-if-they-don't-sell-it-shopping.
I cooked at a leisurely pace on Thursday. Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green salad, broccoli salad, lots of veggies, cranberry sauce, cranberry relish, and store-bought pecan pie. Joel arrived two hours early. Hurray!
They arrived right on time. Two boys from Guinea. One from Nigeria. One from Liberia. One from Somalia. One from Syria. Plus Joel from Brazil and me from the USA. What a fun mix of countries and cultures! A couple of the boys came to the U.S. as refugees. Some had obtained diversity visas. One was on a student visa. None of them had family here. A couple of them don't have family anywhere. I had games planned and the telling of the Thanksgiving story, etc. , in case the conversation lagged. It didn't. The one unifying theme throughout the night's talk? Soccer. When they found out that Joel was from Brazil, they were all pretty excited to talk about the Brazilian national soccer team, famous Brazilian players from a time before they were even born, several exciting games in the last few World Cups, and more. They exchanged numbers.
And, as they left, they said that Joel and I were like parents to them now.

I am thankful for so many things. This Thanksgiving, I was thankful for Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 19, 2010

1 1/2

One and a half years today.
And today is exactly one year since Card Blue passed away.
and today is exactly two months since Jill passed away.
I hate sarcoma.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mermaid, Part 2

Mermaid seems to be the Maura theme o' the month. Ater we rented the mermaid beach house, and Matt sent the video from Korea (posted last Sunday) with the mermaid on the beach, Joao put together another video from this summer. He and Lydia returned to Buzios, RJ, Brazil, to release some of Maura's ashes,in the exact spot where Lydia and Maura had played seven years earlier.
My thoughts are also with Chris, who lost her sweet daughter,Jillian, not two months ago. Chris, I share this with you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Lydia asked, "Do you think that we could have a normal Christmas? Joao has never seen us as a normal family."
She's right. Her husband entered our lives after we were already in crisis. He proposed to our daughter during his second visit to our home. I think he knew that Lydia would want her family around her to celebrate the engagement...and he had to talk to Joel before he asked Lydia. That was in February of last year.
He had been to our home the Thanksgiving before. On Thanksgiving morning, Maura and I ran to pick them up at the airport, hurried to drop them off at home where they could sleep, and rushed to MD Anderson for chemo. Maura felt pretty good around Thanksgiving. When it came time to go around the table that evening and tell what we were thankful for, it was pretty unanimous:
We were thankful for Maura.
Even Maura was thankful for Maura.
For being there.
Because we knew how close we had come to losing her.
There were lots of tears. Joao's a quiet guy. I can only imagine what must have been going through his head.
He proposed to Lydia during his next visit the following February, in the parking lot in front of the Dollar Store, next to the grocery store where Joel had sent them on an imaginary errand to get a pecan pie. (It will make a good story for their kids.) Joel had cooked up that excuse to give Joao an opportunity to ask Lydia in private because she and Maura had been glued to each other since Lydia's arrival.
We toasted with champagne that Joao had confidently packed in his suitcase, and we connected with Danielle, who was still in Chicago, by phone and by camera. More tears, but happy ones. Wedding plans were made.
Three months later, Maura died.
Joel and I escaped to Mexico last Thanksgiving. We did not celebrate Christmas, either. Grief consumed our family last year and this year. And my dear son-in-law tried to console his bride, feeling at sixes and sevens in the way that those who have never grieved feel because, of course, how can they know? How can anyone possibly know until having joined this wretched club?
This year, neither of the girls will be here for Thanksgiving and Joel will be working, so I think we'll skip this one, too.
But we have plans for Christmas. Yes. We will celebrate Christmas...the religious and the traditional. Low key, for sure, but there will be a Tree. And we will be together. And we will do the normal things that we do during the Christmas season like cook our family's traditional Christmas foods. And play games. And sit around talking for hours, and go to church, and read the Christmas story before we open presents, and have Christmas breakfast casserole. And sing Christmas carols. and enjoy each other's company. There will be one major difference, apart from Maura's obvious absence: This past Friday, I rented a beach house for when the girls and Joao are here because we moved to a tiny, one-bedroom condo in May and don't have the four-bedroom-room-enough-for-a-soccer-team house that we've always had. We needed room for everyone to sleep and move around without tripping over each other. It will be cold (for Texas) and probably rainy, but it will be big enough for all of us plus a tree and any visitors. It's so cute! It is perfectly decorated with sea creatures. A large bas relief of a mermaid graces one wall and a framed mermaid poster hangs on another. They both reminded me of Maura--not an uncommon phenomenon--because of their beauty and flowing, long, blond hair. Appropriately enough, the house is called The Mermaid. After getting off the phone with the realtor, I felt enormous satisfaction in knowing that the family would be together in a nice place for Christmas. I thought Maura would have approved of my choice of houses, too. She would have liked the location, the beach, the decor, everything. Yes, I feel good about this.
The next day, I received a video from Matt. He and Kara had released some of Maura's ashes at a beach in Busan, South Korea in September, but I didn't know about it until I saw the video. Here is the short video:

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Joel and I went to a movie a couple nights ago--a movie about a boy and a vampire girl--a kid vampire. I thought it would be twilighty and easy. Wrong! It was dark and scary. Aggghh! I don't like scary movies. But it was more than a vampire movie...it spoke of bullying and ostracism and how painful and damaging that can be for a child. I know this has nothing to do with what I generally blog about, but it's worth saying: Bullying kills children. It results in murder, suicide, and immeasurable pain. And home is no longer a safe haven from bullying because of texts, email, facebook, and other social media.
One of the things that I've heard so often is that Maura actively sought to include everyone, especially those who were new or feeling awkward or lonely. Such a simple act and yet, her kindness was important enough that many people have wanted to share it with me.
I hope her kindness is kloned and shared.

I stole this picture from Sheena's website.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Here's an easy peasy thing you can do every day for the next week or so to promote SARCOMA AWARENESS.
Click on the link below. Ooh and aahh over the cool black Nascar covered in yellow sarcoma ribbons. Then click on the VOTE button in the bottom right-hand corner. Everyday for the next week.No money to pay. No signing up for anything. No SPAM.
This could mean awareness and funding for sarcoma research.
You can vote every day from every computer available :)

Vote everyday and tell your friends to vote, too.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


During Maura's final days, while she lay in a hospital bed at M.D. Anderson, her room filled well past the fire code limit with friends and relatives, the conversation somehow turned to dying and Heaven.
Maura furrowed her brow and expressed her chief concern: "But I'm not going to know anybody there!"
The room erupted in laughter. Leave it to Maura to be more concerned about the social aspects of heaven than the imminent act of dying!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book Signing Pic

Joel, me, nancy Brinker, Joni Rodgers, Gary Rodgers

Race Pics


My last post oozed frustration--frustration because few people have heard of sarcoma, because sarcoma is under-funded and under-researched; because almost no FDA-approved drugs exist to fight it; because drug companies don't want to spend money to develop treatments for a life-threatening disease that relatively few people get, but they are willing to spend millions to develop a new cold medicine; because sarcoma kills; because sarcoma kills children and young adults; because sarcoma killed Jillian; because sarcoma killed Maura; because I miss my daughter.

Yesterday, however, I discovered a partial antidote to that frustration: the 5K race/run/walk.

Joel and I signed up for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure...just the walking event...no big deal...5k, a mere 3.1 miles. Preparation? I took some Advil for my bum hip and my bum ankle and I wore my hiking boots to stabilize my ankle. That's all.
Appropriately enough, we joined a team led by a young, energetic woman who lost a limb to sarcoma. Also part of the team of about 30 were my co-worker, Erika, and her sister, who is about 33 and is fighting breast cancer.
About 35,000 people showed up early in the morning to take part in the competitive run, the non-competitive run, or the walk, which was blessed with efficient organization and perfect weather.
On our backs, we had pinned the In memory of... cards with Maura's name. Almost everyone's back had some declaration in honor of someone. Breast cancer survivors wore special shirts and caps. We walked in relative silence, my only discomfort, apart from the normal pain in hip and ankle, being the somewhat claustrophobic feeling of walking with such a huge crowd, people pressed close to me for the first mile or so, after which the distance between one small group and another opened up.
The last kilometer, spectators lines the streets clapping and cheering us on. Emotions welled up and I cried for Maura. Just before the finish line, maybe 50 yards or so, breast cancer survivors walked or ran down a designated Survivors' Path, lined in pink, with supporters, four-deep, cheering and crying. It was all quite beautiful. And powerful. I think that the 34,998 other participants felt the same.
Joel and I agreed we would participate in as many cancer walks as we could, regardless of the cancer.
Maybe create one in Huntsville to raise awareness and funds for sarcoma research?

The night before the race, we were at the book signing and able to meet Nancy Brinker, an amazingly brilliant and focused woman, who has truly given her life to the eradication of breast cancer. The second half of her book tells us of the formation of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It could be sub-titled How to Get Something Done and serve as a textbook for entrepreneurs.

What a weekend!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cancer Envy

and in case you didn't hear, SARCOMA.
Jillian died last week from SARCOMA. Twenty-three, beautiful, loving, full of life. She loved theatre and choir.
Sarcoma attacks the young. It is a disease of the young. It is childhood cancer. It is young adult cancer... and some older people get it, too. SARCOMA steals our children. Chris's daughter. My daughter.
SARCOMA is different.
SARCOMA is under-researched. SARCOMA is under-funded.
Jillian died eight weeks before her wedding.
SARCOMA is unfair.
Maura died just shy of 23. She, too, was plucked from her full life. And from mine. And her sisters' and her dad's and everyone's life that knew her and loved her. Plucked. Excised. Resected.

Tomorrow I will celebrate the beginning of breast cancer awareness month by attending the book signing for Promise Me. I am so grateful to have Maura remembered in this book. I am so happy to have SARCOMA mentioned.
And, knowing that my other two daughters and myself have more of a chance of getting breast cancer than SARCOMA, I am thankful for the great strides that have been made to cure breast cancer.
And Joel and I will be part of the Susan G. Komen 5k Walk for the Cure on Saturday.
I wish it were that simple.
To walk and find a cure.

I wish Maura had had breast cancer instead of SARCOMA. Then, when the adriamicin didn't work, there would have been lots of other approved, vetted drugs available to continue the fight.

Most people don't even know what SARCOMA is.

And we will walk in the hope that fewer women will die or suffer from breast cancer. And that the strides in breast cancer treatment will somehow be beneficial to SARCOMA treatment too.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Make It Last

I've been slowly reading Promise Me.
Couldn't read anything but the "Maura vignette" for over a week after getting the book. Then, I dove into the rest this weekend.
Today, I biked home after church, stopping at a nifty tea room for a cup of soothing something-or-other and a chance to read some more of the book. I love the whole idea of biking somewhere I can read while sipping tea. It's all part of our new hip urban lifestyle. All I need are some organic cotton clothes and I'll be set. But, hey, I was wearing yoga pants, so that ought to count for something.
I don't know how I got through the chapter entitled "Make It Last", to tell you the truth. I had to stop every minute or so to wipe tears from my eyes and blow my nose on a napkin. I have no idea what the people next to me thought, but they kept peering at me over their laptops. Sniveling isn't part of the whole hip urban lifestyle.
The chapter details the time following Suzy's reoccurence and metastasis of her breast cancer until her death. So much of it rang so true for me, and I saw myself in Nancy and in her mom. I saw Joel in Suzy's husband and father. And I saw so much of Danielle and Lydia in Nancy.
I share similar experiences: Helping Maura to bathe when she was too weak; helping her cross the street; waiting with her time and again at MD Anderson; sometimes not talking; sometimes words pouring out so fast they tumbled onto each other. WAtching and listening as Maura allowed herself to be heartbroken for dreams unrealized.
But here is the quote that leaves me sobbing right now as well as at the Tea House:
"Because this is the place you come to when someone you love is slowly dying: You're desperate for it to be over, and even more desperate to make it last."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Promise Me: Maura de Souza, the smile that just won't stop

Promise Me: Maura de Souza, the smile that just won't stop:
Here is a link about Maura on the Promise Me blog. I'm excited that I'll finally get to meet Nancy Brinker on Friday, October 1 when she comes to the Champions Barnes & Noble in Spring for a book signing. I'm bringing the copy I have. I hope they don't mind that I bought it somewhere else.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Promise Me

Yesterday, I forgot to tell you the title of the book:
Promise Me: How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book (surprise!)

Nancy Brinker is the sister of Susan G. Komen and the founder of the organization that bears her sister's name. Thousands of women (and not a few men) owe their lives to this phenomenal woman, who created a revolution in the world of breast cancer awareness, prevention, and treatment.
Her memoir was released today, September 14, 2010. It is the story of sisterhood, of growing up in more innocent times, of love and marriage, of Susan's cancer, of Nancy's promise to her dying sister, and of the birth and growth of an organization that is synonymous with hope.
In between and separate from the primary story the reader finds vignettes about breast cancer survivors, some who are no longer surviving, breast cancer warriors, breast cancer advocates, breast cancer champions, breast cancer heroes, breast cancer history makers, breast cancer, breast cancer, breast cancer. Of course it's breast cancer...it's Susan G. Komen.
But, miraculously, there is one vignette, just one, that mentions another cancer--sarcoma.
It is a vignette about Maura.
Yes, a slender piece of Maura's story is found in a book authored by the founder of the Susan G. Komen foundation. Yes, sarcoma gets a mention in a book by a breast cancer icon. In the world of rare cancers, anything that promotes awareness is a plus.
Her message is simple, albeit difficult for me to embrace: Underfunding of research for rare cancers is a dreary fact. But a national movement to end all cancer has to begin somewhere, and awareness, funding, research, and innovation in one area ultimately benefit all.
And my dear, sweet, Maura, who lives eternally in Heaven, is made just a little bit more immortal here on earth as well--because I believe in the eternity of the written word.
So here is my shameless plug for the book and for my friend's online bookstore: Kathy is a single mother of three and is currently fighting sarcoma. Please buy the book through her Amazon affiliate: http://www.greatbooksforu.com/

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Someone complimented me for my funky, blue-green, fish earrings.
I blurted out, "Yeah, that's how I know that I'm getting better--because I started to wear my earrings again."
I had not consciously thought that, but as soon as I said it, I knew it was true.
I have a great collection of cheap, gaudy earrings. The bigger and cheaper, the better. I am proud that most items in my collection cost less than $2.00. I hang them on a piece of embroidery plastic that I fixed up and placed on my wall like a piece of art.
My collection is nothing compared to Maura's. She was the Earring Queen. I was merely her Handmaiden. After she died, I'm not quite sure what I did with her earrings. Certain ones she had willed to certain people. I know I gave some away, but I can't really remember doing it. It's amazing how much I still don't remember from the months after her death.
But I know that a few pairs belonging to Maura are now on my earring board.
I don't remember when I stopped wearing them. I think it was during her illness. I lost interest. And afterwards, well, there was no joy in wearing them. Wearing flashy earrings for me is like wearing high heels for Elsa(red ones) and Michelle. They are fun, pretty, and make me feel good.
But I didn't feel good.
Earrings bring me small joys, but I didn't want to be joyful.
Because being joyful means I've forgotten Maura.
Duh, of course I know that is not true. But feelings are feelings. Sometimes it's just better to let them be rather than try to explain or understand them. They seem to work themselves out most of the time.. .
In any case, I've started wearing them again. Golden grass discs from Brazil. Red hot chili peppers from Italy. Dangling dyed fish scales. Beads and bark and seeds. Feathers and wind-catchers. Wires and colored stones and bamboo.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Run, Maura, Run!!

Maura's name twin is running a marathon,--and raising cancer awareness and remembering our Maura as she does. She talks about running for Maura and special people in her life here and she talks about googling her name and learning about Maura here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


May 19, 2010

God full of mercy who dwells on high
Grant perfect rest, on the wings of Your Divine Presence
among the holy and the pure
who shine in the brightness of the firmament,
to the soul of Maura Cassiana de Souza,
who has gone to her eternal rest,
as all her family and friends
pray for the elevation of her soul.
Her resting place shall be in the Garden of Eden.
Therefore, the Master of mercy will care for her
under the protection of His wings for all time
And bind her soul in the bond of everlasting life.
God is her inheritance and she will rest in peace
and let us say Amen.

May His illustrious name become increasingly great and holy
In the world that He created according to His will,
and may He establish His kingdom
In your lifetime and in your days
and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel
Speedily and soon. And say amen

May His illustrious name be blessed always and forever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled
Honored, raised up and acclaimed
be the name of the Holy one blessed be He
beyond every blessing hymn, praise and consolation
that is uttered in the world. And let us say amen

May abundant peace from heaven, and life
Be upon us and upon all Israel. And say Amen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

from Kei

I got a note from Thad Bell, the photographer whose blog I linked to a couple of weeks ago with pictures and video of Kei wearing the Live Teal bracelet. He tells a neat story about Kei:

I have always meant to ask Kei about the Live Teal bracelet he wears but now I know. One of Kei's best friends on the team is Teal Bunbury. Kei has even tweeted that they were meant to be friends since he wears the Live Teal bracelet.

He definitely does still wear it. Look in http://www.tpbphoto.com/Sports/KC-Wizards-practice-4212010/11938356_4KYLK#845507045_ayrPu and you can see a bunch of shots of Kei with it on. In the middle of that gallery Kei was goofing around and playing goalie. He borrowed some gloves and was blocking shots barefooted.

When he got done playing around, he took the gloves off and left them by the goal for the keeper that owned them and walked in to the locker room. About 30 seconds later he came running back, the bracelet had been pulled of by the gloves and when he noticed it he ran back and found it quickly.

He definitely still wears it.

Kei Kamara tried to post a note to Maura on the blog then, but he had some trouble posting, so he sent his note to Danielle. Here is his letter to Maura.

Hi Maura its me Kei ur fav soccer player...haha, i got a lot to tell u. 1st i hope u r in a better place and just no that u r loved. so the Live Teal band u gave me made it a long way. i always had it on, as u can see mummy stalked my photos and found it...haha. also this yr KC Wizards drafted a play in the 1st round and his name is "TEAL Bunbury" so he always tells ppl i wear it cuz of him haha. but sadly couple weeks ago when i was in Houston for a game, i took off my Live Teal band and left it in the lockroom so i tell myself that i left it in good hands, "in houston and at the Dynamo Stadium."
well you keep resting and your friends and Family love you.
God bless


This week has been full of meaningful moments and meaningful memories, all with the fast-approaching anniversary in view.
May 12:
2009.One week before she died. SHSU came to confer the Bachelor of Music degree. I think it was as meaningful for them as it was for her, maybe more so.
2010. I fell apart and couldn't make it past the parking lot to work.
May 13:
1997. My mom died. My first experience with grief.
2008. Got pathology slides and reports to MD Anderson for review.
2009. We began to talk about hospice. And choices.
2010. Me, hanging on by a thread.
May 14
2008. Spent my birthday waiting with Maura and family and friends for news from M.D. Anderson, not really expecting an answer so soon. I received a homemade card from Maura that I will cherish forever.
2009. Spent my birthday waiting with Maura and family and friends, but this time in the hospital, waiting for her to die, wishing it to be delayed. Houston Dynamo came to visit.
2010. Spent my birthday with family and friends at Maura's high school. The Spring High School Choir named a scholarship after her: the Maura Cassiana De Souza Memorial Scholarship. Katie gave a speech about Maura. Her former choir teacher, Mrs. Eaton, spoke about her, and we were asked to present the plaque to the winner this first year. The plaque is beautiful. Dark wood with a center photo of sunflowers. The winner's name will be added each year on a separate nameplate and the plaque will be housed in the choir room. I didn't look to see how much the scholarship was for.
May 15.
2009. Channel 13 came to interview her in the hospital for something completely unrelated to Maura and her condition. Rather, the hospital had imposed a quiet hour to help patients rest, and they asked to interview Maura, since 90 % of the guests on the floor were there to visit her, and 100% of the time, there were people in her room. You can see that video here
2010. Joao and Lydia treated us to a night and day in San Antonio. We ate at the restaurant at the top of the Tower of the Americas. I love spending time with them.
May 16
2009. The Saturday we brought her home. They set up her bed and equipment in the middle of the living room. She was positioned for maximum visibility. Twenty people stayed in our home full-time during those days. So many more visited.
2010. Sunday, this year. Quiet.
May 17
2009. Last year, May 17, was a day of goodbyes and the Sunday Concert. So many of her friends visited that evening and sang all her requests. Everything from arias to Broadway to a simple lullaby. She asked for iced tea from Sonic and took just a few sips. That was her last truly coherent evening. The pain crisis that night was frightening.

Friday, May 14, 2010

H.B. to Me

Last year on my birthday, I was in the hospital with Maura and the Houston Dynamo came to visit her. And they sang Happy Birthday to me.
Yesterday, May 13, marked the 13th anniversary of my mom's death.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


For years Joel has entertained me by recounting his adventure dreams to me. About five or six times a year he has the most exciting dreams, with plot lines and twists and surprises that rival, even surpass, the best action films. I have always been content to just vicariously enjoy his adventures in the morning, over coffee, safely ensconced in my kitchen, in my jammies. But this week, he has been riding on a euphoric cloud as a result of his best ever dream. And for the first time, I am jealous.
I hope I can retell it accurately.

Joel is flying (no plane...just him) above the city when he decides he wants to fly to see Maura. He begins to fly higher when he senses risk and the question coming from within asking, "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Yes," he replies, and shoots upward.
A light appears in the distance, but grows as it quickly approaches.
Again, the question and warning from within. "Are you sure you want to do this? It's dangerous."
"Yes, I do. I want to see Maura." And he continues to climb higher. As he does, the light shines more brightly. "Was it like the sun?" I asked him. "No, it was much much brighter than the sun. I can't even describe it."
As the light sparkles more brightly, completely enveloping him, the warning comes again, even more harshly spoken. "Are you really sure you want to do this? It is dangerous and you could get hurt."
Yes, I want to see Maura!" And he feels that he is lifted, aided in some way as he continues to journey even higher.
The light is now shining so brightly that he can hardly stand it. It is different than any light he has ever seen and it draws him in like a magnet. It is glorious and powerful and wonderful.
Joel is acutely aware of the risk he is taking, and he insists that he want to continue. But in that instant, he sees that he is surrounded by angels who whisk him from the awe-inspiring light back to earth in less than the blink of an eye.
"Were you disappointed that you did not get to see Maura?"
"No," he replied, "because I know she is in that place."


Today's milestone: One year ago today Sam Houston State University moved mountains to bring Maura's graduation to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The link to the graduation video is on the right. The best graduation ever and the only ten-minute graduation you'll ever see. Even today I am moved by the generosity of the SHSU staff, faculty, and administration who put it together and made a four-hour round trip to do this for Maura.

I truly thought that I would get to this time of year and be okay. Not "over it" because I'll never be over it, but I thought that I'd be able to get through this specific time of year, with the anniversary approaching, without being completely overwhelmed. Wrong! Uh, for the first time since returning to work in August, I arrived at the staff parking lot, and I could not pull it together. The ride to work has often been a time to cry and mourn--not recently, and never on purpose, but just because of the solitude, I guess. Yet I've always managed to compose myself, put on some makeup, and go to work. Not so today. I had to call my co-worker from the parking lot and let her know I wasn't going to be able to make it. I could not stop the tears.
Why is this time any different than the rest of the year? I know that the anniversary is approaching, but can I possibly mourn her more than I already have during these last eleven + months?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day

Nikki reminded me that Maura had taught her daughter the art of making and taking breakfast in bed for mom on Mother's Day. Just last year. Is that possible? Could it have been last year? The day that everything started to fall apart? I hadn't realized that it was Mother's Day just last year when I spoke to Dr. Benjamin on the phone. I remember that phone call clearly. I explained her symptoms. I had suspected that her kidneys had shut down. He said it could wait until the first thing the next morning (Monday) and that she did not need to go to the emergency room. The previous visit to the emergency room had not done her much good.
"Have her kidneys shut down?" I asked.
He answered in some incomprehensible and non-committal doctor speak.
"Dr. B., let me ask you another way. Her dad and sister are in New York right now. I want to know what to tell them."
"I think you should tell them to come home."

And just that morning Maura had taught Savannah how to make an omelet and the importance of breakfast in bed on Mother's Day.

This Mother's Day was a day for wallowing. Joel was at work; the girls, in New York and Australia. Yes, a perfect wallowing day--the kind of wallowing that I still need to offset the "normal " behavior I engage in most of the time. Sort of a like releasing a pressure valve.
Church mostly sucked. A woman walked up and down the aisles with tulips that she handed out to moms, and she just passed me over. Tulips to my right. tulips to my left. No tulip for me. I did not look like a mom, I guess, with no husband or children or grandchildren flanking me. I was already in full "mental wallow", so that must have shown on my face. Minutes later, she was at my side. asking if I was a mom.
"Yes." I croaked. I put on my best plastic smile.
She gave me my tulip, and I immediately felt anger. What if I had not been a mom? What if I had said no? Would she have said, "Oh," and turned on her heels and left me there, forlorn and tulipless?
I felt immediate compassion for every unwillingly childless woman. What a painful day Mother's Day must be for them.

But I came home, and there were flowers from a thoughtful friend addressed to both Joel and me, and encouraging notes from internet friends, and lots of good wishes on facebook, and phone calls from my daughters,and a visit from my niece, and skyped calls from Australia and Korea---all of which slowly prodded me out of my funk, gently pulled me from the mire.

Maybe wallowing is more like a mud bath: dirty and yucky, but it cleans out your pores.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Back Post: Kei Kamara interview 09/17/09

As I write this, the Kansas City Wizards are playing the Houston Dynamo in soccer. One of KC's best players is Kei Kamara, who played for Houston last year. He was one of the six Dynamo players who visited Maura in the hospital last year (on my birthday, just five days before she died). He blushed when Maura confessed that Kei was her favorite player. I believe he was truly touched. After that day, he wore her LiveTeal bracelet to several games. I just found these pictures and interview from shortly after being traded to the Wizards. (click on the link) He is wearing her bracelet in each shot and in the video. Actually, he is wearing the LiveTeal band in lots of the googled photos.
We had planned to go to tonight's game, but Joel wasn't feeling too well, so we skipped it. Too bad. I would have liked a chance to see him again. I wonder if he still wears Live Teal?

The Back Post: Kei Kamara interview 09/17/09

Thursday, April 29, 2010

But the Greatest of These is Love...

Emotions linger long after memory fades, according to a new study from the University of Iowa, whose findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "A simple visit or phone call from family members might have a lingering positive influence on a patient's happiness even though the patient may quickly forget the visit or phone call. On the other hand, routine neglect from staff at nursing homes may leave the patient feeling sad, frustrated and lonely even though the patient can't remember why."


I could've saved the University of Iowa a lot of money.
They should've asked me, and I would've told them that love outlasts memory.
Love outlasts life.

Large sections of the Bible speak of love and its longevity. How about this favorite?
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sounds pretty permanent, doesn't it? I think Sue is right when she reminds me that Maura's love still exists. It sounds almost scientific. Everything is matter and energy. Nothing disappears. It just transforms.

How about this last paragraph from The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder?
" 'Even now,' she thought, 'almost no one remembers Esteban and Pepita, but myself. Camila alone remembers her Uncle Pio and her son; this woman, her mother. Bust soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be love for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.' "
Even memory is not necessary for love.

My favorite story about my dad comes from the time he lived with us and had moderate Alzheimer's disease. As I helped him into bed one night, he started talking in his fake matter-of-fact voice--the one that he put on to try to hide the fact that he had slipped out of a world that he knew and into a world where he knew nothing.
I teased him. "You don't know who I am right now, do you?" I chided, as I tucked him in.
Busted! His eyes widened and he got that deer-in-the-headlights look. But then, surprisingly, he recovered a bit, and said gruffly, "No. But I know you're someone I love."

Monday, April 19, 2010



If Time and Grief begin to race on May 19, 2009, and Time travels at x miles per hour and Grief travels at y miles per hour, how long will it take for Grief to pass Time?

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Promise Fulfilled

In the early morning hours of Monday, April 5--if you can even call 2:44a.m. "morning"--little Annive Maura was born to Scott and Amanda. Just days before her death, Maura told Amanda that Amanda's ovarian cancer would go away and that she would get pregnant and have a beautiful baby and, well, it happened, just as she said it would. Here are Mom Amanda and the miracle named Annive (pronounced ANN-ih-vee). Mom and baby are doing fine. It has been a happy week.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Last month I had lunch with someone I don't see often. The time before was at Maura's funeral.
"How long has it been since Maura died. Two years? Three?" she asked.
"Nine months." I said.
"No, I mean, since she died."
"Nine months. It's been just nine months."
I felt something between panic and anger.

A few weeks prior, in early February, Tim launched his album. I couldn't go to the release concert, but Kara told me that prior to his singing Starfish and Coffee, he talked about Maura, and how he had sung this song at her bedside just two days before she died about a year ago.
"What?" I think I looked astonished.
"Yes, Erin, it's coming up on a year."
Again-- panic, irritation, confusion.
"It hasn't been a year. It's not even nine months. It's still not even nine months!"

I don't want time to pass, taking me farther away from Maura, from the last time I held her. The last time she stood up--was it the night before she died? Two nights? I don't know. But she wanted to take a walk in the middle of the night. It took all my strength to lift and support her, as her arms and whole body draped around me. There were others in the room who helped lift her to me. She got to the edge of the bed, then, feet barely brushing the floor, and all her weight pressed against mine, she stood.
"Okay." she whispered.
"Did you walk enough? "
And I laid her back in her bed.
I will never forget that sweetest of hugs.

I often wonder if I am stuck in time, unwilling to heal or move forward. Move forward...what does that mean, anyway? My life is forever changed. I'm not moving backward. It's all just different. But Maura died at an age and a time when she was on the brink of adventure. And so were her friends. I see them moving forward in such dramatic ways, it's no wonder that nine or ten months ago seems far away to them with so much life stuffed in the cracks. Matt and Kara are teaching English in Korea. Amanda and Scott are having a baby. Mary and Sean got married and moved to Arizona. Adam is teaching and will go to grad school in Colorado. Chelsea is studying in France. David is singing opera and planning grad school. Several have begun teaching careers. Several continuing their studies around the country. I enjoy hearing about their lives. I stalk them on facebook.
I admit that I weirdly welcome the sadness, the grief, the overwhelming emotion because I can say, ah, yes, it has not been too long since she died. I held her just a little while ago. I remember her. She is remembered.
Those of us who have lost children--we want them to be remembered.
When Selena, the Tejano singer, was murdered in the mid-nineties, our household supported Danielle, a huge Selena fan, in her grief. We drove around with our headlights on. We listened to Tejano stations and Selena music non-stop. We visited Selena's boutique in San Antonio. Danielle saved Selena memorabilia of all kinds, but Danielle moved on, and the box of Selena stuff is either in the attic or has been thrown away. A year or two later, Selena's father released a new album of Selena's music: several remixes, and I think some new songs that had not been previously released. At the time I thought how sad it was. I don't believe he was trying to make a bunch of money; he just wanted his baby to be remembered, just as I want mine.
I blog because I don't want people to forget Maura. I post her videos, I want her college scholarship foundation to be realized, I secretly or not-so-secretly hope all of her friends will name their babies after her. (At least one is for sure). But time moves on, and Maura will slip away from the consciousness of most, and occupy a non-intrusive spot in that of many. What about me? Or her dad and sisters? What will grief and memory be like next year? In five? In twenty? When the girls tell their girls about Maura? What will be Maura's legacy?
Just yesterday a friend of mine commented that I look good: hair cut, a touch of make-up, shirt and jeans that fit well, a smile. "Dare I say 'happy'" she asked. Yes, I was happy. I am often happy. I am basically a very happy person, although I don't believe I'll ever again be happy without sorrow in the shadows. I know that my blog entries are often sad and grief-laden, but the blog is simply a series of snapshots in time, not my entire life. I've returned to work. I've visited with friends. We are in the process of downsizing and getting a new place. We've traveled a bit. I am planning for the future.
I suppose that is "moving forward."
And as I move farther away from when I last held her, I move closer to when I will hold her again.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Little Women

After my second daughter was born, I began to develop what I call my Little Women Complex--a desire to have four girls like the ones in Louisa May Alcott's semi-autobiographical novel. After the third one, I began to wish that I had started out naming them Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Although I never got that fourth daughter, I frequently commented to the girls that they were similar in birth order and personality to the Little Women brood. Danielle was Meg--the oldest, sweet and beautiful. Lydia, the next, was Jo--the writer, feisty, gangly until she grew into her height. Maura, I would say, was the perfect combination of Alcott's third sister, Beth--the peacemaker, the musician, the pet of the family--and Amy, the beautiful, the brat, the impetuous youngest sister.
"I don't want to be Beth," Maura would say, "She's the one that dies."
"That's okay," I would reassure her, "You won't be like her in that respect. You'll be like Amy, who got to travel the world."

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I am going to be in NYC next weekend to see a fabulous actress (the one I gave birth to) in The Seagull. Something special to look forward to.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dear Maura,

Nine months. Last couple of days have been a roller-coaster. I spent two days up at SHSU for a conference. Driving up there, I felt my heart beat faster, I started crying, and had, well, sort of a panic attack, I guess. Just a little one. I didn't have to pull over, although I probably should have, now that I think about it.
After I arrived at Sam, and as soon as I had time, I walked to the Music Building to find your diploma, which I'd been told was hanging on a wall. Just walking through the halls brought so much emotion to the surface, knowing you had walked there, sung there, studied there, had laughed and played hide-and-seek there and had such a fun time at your home away from home.
My friend and I wandered through the hallways, looking. I stopped a couple of people that looked like they might know. They didn't. I spoke to Mr. Michel. He didn't recognize me at first. Why should he? But he took me to find Dr. Hightower, who immediately invited us in to listen to the Chorale as they rehearsed. Oh my gosh--such beautiful music! Dr. H is still as fun to watch as ever! Did you know that they sang for you at TMEA last week? Yes, they dedicated their concert to you, and Mrs. Eaton spoke about you during her introduction of the Sam Chorale. You are still missed. You have inspired many. Anyway, at the Chorale rehearsal I saw several of your friends. Isn't it funny that most of your girl friends have graduated but a lot of your guy friends have not?
I thought I'd also say Hello and Thank you to Dr. Bankhead, but I chickened out. Besides, I had to get back to the conference.
At my next break, I headed to the Registrar's Office--the actual location of the memorial,as it turns out, not the Music Building. On the third floor, someone asked if she could help me. "Yes," I answered, trying desperately, if unsuccessfully, to look normal and nonchalant, "I'm looking for a memorial to a former student. I heard that it was located here." She pointed to the wall on my right. There it was. A shadow box with a copy of your diploma, an honor cord, a graduation tassel, some identifying papers, and a beautiful picture of you in your black and flowered sundress on a swing at the park. I could no longer hold the tears back, and I only vaguely cared that I was in full view of a slew of employees in the Registrar's Office. I heard whispering. Then, one kind woman came up to me. She spoke well of you, even though she had not met you, I think. She spoke of the day the entire office took turns watching your graduation video. She told me they were all moved to tears...and she was crying, too, as she told me the story.
Kevin had dinner with me at Fat Boys. The food was delicious but I could feel my arteries clogging after eating that hamburger! He is such a neat kid. I mean, he's not a kid, I know. If I said he was a "nice young man," it would be true, but you'd laugh at me and say I sounded old.
This morning, back at the conference, one of the presenters was the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. I remembered that Nicole had talked about him during that whirlwind day of graduation planning. As he exited toward the elevator, I caught up with him to meet him and thank him for the role he played in bringing the graduation at the hospital to fruition. I didn't have to finish my sentence. He took one look at my name tag and figured out who I was. He said wonderful things about you, and about how you were light and inspiration to so many, and he told me twice how glad he was to meet me. I feel like he meant it. And I was glad to have the chance to thank him.
So I raced home after the conference because Daddy and I went to close on the apartment. I placed a picture of you on the apartment refrigerator this evening. It's the only thing in the apartment right now. The refrigerator magnet I used is one that Marcy brought me from Jerusalem. It's a sculpture of the Western Wall (the Wailing Wall). The day that you died, Marcy placed a prayer for you in the Western Wall. She didn't find out until later that night that you had died.
Miss you so much, sweet baby girl.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Heart Sings

I did a good thing today.
I attend a grief support group at work. One of the women had lamented not feeling able to mourn the loss of her sister last year due to, well, lots of things, including the absence of any obituary. So we had D___ Day today. The sister and I had emailed earlier in the week so I could get enough information to put together what turned out to be a two-page obit, more of a eulogy, I think. I brought samples of things D____ loved: lyrics to Cat Stevens' songs, synopses of her favorite movies, internet images of her favorite artists. Someone brought D____'s favorite books from the library, and another person brought a blanket to be monogrammed with the sisters' names. Someone brought a cake, and another brought her a statue of two girls playing together, with a saying about sisters and guardian angels. She, herself, brought beautiful pictures of the two of them as children, and several of D___ by herself. When I read the eulogy, my friend cried. When I got to the part where I mentioned D___'s favorite TV shows included Damages, I pulled out my secret weapon: an email I received just this morning from one of the cast members of Damages, Marlyne Afflack, who had a small recurring role in Season 1 of Damages. She expressed her condolences to the sister and assured her that she was praying for her. My friend cried harder. It was actually quite a beautiful moment.

I think I helped her a little bit. But I know I helped myself even more.

God gave me a wonderful opportunity to do something for another person...and I snatched it up and ran with it. Thank you, God, for giving me a moment to take my eyes off my own sorrow and focus on the needs of another.

I did a good thing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Funny Valentine

On this day last year, Maura and BFF Katie prepared dinner for both sets of parents at our house. In true Maura/Katie style, they turned the evening into An Event-- a cooking show, complete with aprons, chef's hats, flair,and sketchy Italian accents. For a "commercial break" they performed the flower duet, Dome Epais, from Lakme, which they had sung together in a high school choir concert, and then went back to cooking our feast of chicken and pasta...it had an Italian name, but i can't remember it. I just remember Maura.
How sweet that on her last Valentine's Day, Maura made us her Valentine.

Monday, February 1, 2010


I never cared much for Frida Kahlo paintings. Never really enjoyed them much. But this one comes to mind frequently these days. I think it was meant to express some of her grief over the philandering Diego Rivera. But for me, it's that Maura-shaped hole in my heart.


Lots of literature pairing winter and grief
Here's a piece of a poem from a book called Medieval English Verse:

Winter rouses all my grief.
Branches strip til they are bare,
And sighing in sorrow, I despair
That earthly pleasures come to nothing.

Fleeting joys, now here, now gone!
True it is, as many say,
Except God's will, all fades away.
Willy-nilly, we shall all die.

Gotta hand it to those medieval Brits. Love that last line. Can you believe that they were saying willy-nilly way back in medieval times?

And then there is this paragraph from the foreword of Winter Grief, Summer Grace by James E. Miller (the title is longer but I can't remember it at the moment.)
A few generations ago, a book like this would have been unnecessary--unthinkable in fact. People knew about grieving because it was a natural part of life. It was both understandable and understood. People of all ages lived with it and honored it. But ours is a different time. And because so many of us are ill-informed about and ill at ease with dying and death and grief, your task is even more difficult.

You can say that again! Oh, to be in a culture that could understand and honor my forgetfulness, my lack of focus, my micro cries, my outbursts, my anything having to do with missing Maura. How I wish I could just wear a color or a garment or something so people would know and I wouldn't have to feel awkward or embarrassed or explain myself or apologize! Why do I apologize? That's just ridiculous.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Eight months. Seems like eight days.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I love, love, love hearing stories about Maura. I love the little glimpses into pieces of her life that I did not personally witness. I love hearing how she affected others. In the past couple of weeks I have heard from someone who made her chili for a cook-off and took second place. I heard from the lead singer/guitarrist of a local band who, one night last year, jumped off the stage to dance with Maura, leaving his band to finish the song alone. I heard about her songs and laughter and smile.

All the stories make me happy.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I miss her already.

She is on her way to Australia to study music.
Just for a year. Probably.
Studying at Hillsong is the first thing since Maura's death to make her happy. She's nervous and worried, but excited. And happy. -ish. Everything is -ish for all of us.

I spoke with a friend of mine who very recently lost her husband to cancer. "Will I ever feel joy again?" she asked me, somewhat rhetorically.
Yes, I told her. It's still raw and it doesn't feel like it did before, but it is unmistakably joy. Maybe just a sliver.
I told Card Blue the same thing because he was so worried about his wife and kids. I think it might have helped him a little bit. He said it did.
Not that I'm all happy and bubbly like before because I'm not. But maybe some day...

So, it's wonderful to see Danielle pursuing something she loves, something that gives her a modicum of joy. It won't make the pain go away for her, but it seems like it must be a start.

But I worry.

Why do my daughters insist on making major changes in their lives when all the wisdom and all the advice and the books say not to make any major changes for at least a year?

I miss Danielle and Lydia and Maura. When Dani disappeared through the security checkpoint at the airport, I broke down just a smidge. But then I remembered it was only for a year. Eleven months, actually.
Not the rest of my life.
It was a strangely cheering thought.