Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Birthday girls

By the skin of my teeth (in this time zone anyway) I'm sending a huge bucket of birthday wishes to the lovely Gramma Dooley. Frances, I think about you every single day.

In just a few minutes, the clock will tick its way into a new year for me. This is one of the semi-big ones: it has a 5 at the end...though not at the beginning...yet. I don't have to tell you what I wished for last year, or the year before. Thinking about it now really smacks my priorities into place. This year, my wishes are just as ambitious. And a little more scary, because now I know they don't always come true. But nonetheless, I throw them up into the air, like so many dandelion seeds or butterflies. I see them as a good sign.

Thank you to everyone who shares their Sahara stories today. (And yes, the Cannon family gets special dispensation--you can tell your tales anytime.)

In Sahara’s honor, Shannon has sold t-shirts over the last couple of months, raising money for MVTH. We have only a few shirts left, and we have been stunned by the response. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has purchased a shirt! The total collected is…drumroll please…
$2125.00. Can you believe it????? $2125!!!
(Susan F. – your generous donation put us over the top!!! Thank you!!!)

We will present a check to MVTH, hopefully on her birthday, which is on Thursday. I am so excited and so proud of Shannon. He worked so hard on this and it was a total labor of love. Thanks again to everyone who participated!

I thought the attached photo was one of the wonderful things I’ve ever seen. This fantastic family is very special to us. Sahara attended daycare at Christian School for the Young Years and Community Day School. Ms. Kathy, Ms. Jennifer and Ms. Liz continue to be special friends, very near and dear to our hearts. They recently took a family vacation in Kansas City – and the entire family bought Sahara shirts to wear! I just bawled when I saw this picture, but then I smiled, because I know Sahara would absolutely LOVE it!!! Thank you, Jennifer, for giving us this wonderful gift!!!

I suspected that the weeks preceding this one would be tough…and I was right. Everything from random crying spells to sleepless nights (and nightmares when I do sleep). Over the last few days I’ve found myself reliving all of the events that happened two years ago, when this unthinkable journey began. The weird symptoms…the loss of balance…the subtle differences in Sahara that prefaced her death sentence. The first MRI that showed a large mass. The crushing reality of a brain tumor. The biopsy and subsequent days of sheer terror, punctuated with the diagnosis of stage 4 cancer, glioblastoma multiforme. Houston. Stanford. The next seventeen months of doctors, chemo, radiation, surgeries, steroids, scans, alternative therapy, physical therapy, tumor resection…then a glimmer of hope, but ultimately the loss of our precious daughter. My mind presses “play” and the story unravels yet again, every night as I attempt to surrender to slumber.

Shannon and I have done our best to channel our grief into productive and meaningful things, and so far I think we’re doing okay. Neither of us are the types to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, even though I can understand how easily a parent could slip into the oblivion that sorrow can create. No one who has not lived it can ever truly understand, yet so many miss her as much as we do. Several people have come up to us as time has passed, giving us a hug or pat on the shoulder, and assured us that time will help…that it will get easier…and that they can say this because of their own experience. It is such a sad surprise when this happens, because we did not realize that this person had lost a child. It is difficult to be a member of this club, but we know that we are not alone.

That said, we are most assuredly able to remember time after time after time that Sahara gave us enough memories to fill many pages. She was so funny, with a well-developed sense of humor that went far beyond her young years. I think anyone who knew her could tell something funny that she said or did. She delighted in embarrassing me in any way possible and at every opportunity, and I could never stay mad at her because she would make me laugh about whatever had happened. Pamela asked for posts about funny stories…and I can’t wait to see what comes up. I have a few favorites of my own.

Once, when she was in 6th grade, there was an event at school that parents were invited to attend. One of the DARE officers was present, and was taking questions from the students. Of course, Sahara’s hand shot up at the opportunity. I cringed, wondering what her question would be, and with good reason. He pointed to her and she jumped up. He asked what she’d like to know. Her question, with a sly smile: “So. How old do you think my mom is?” He was very gracious and said something sweet, I think, but I wanted to crawl under her messy desk. (You know, the desk that was so full of crap that it could only be shut on the first day of school, and never again thereafter.)

She once told everyone that I was pregnant and that she couldn’t wait until her new brother or sister got here. It was fun explaining that one away.

She threw a pitcher of ice cold water on my head while I was showering one morning. A most inspiring way to start the day. Very nice.

She took a special, evil joy in cannonballing into the pool while I was dozing on my float. She would always claim total innocence, swearing that she didn’t mean to do it. Yes, she DID.

Once we truly blindsided Shannon on April Fool’s Day…we put a rubber band around the faucet on the kitchen sink…he turned it on twice before he figured out why it was spraying him in the face. We were rolling around and laughing hysterically in the living room as he got soaked.

She dearly loved to dress her cat, Semo, in clothes from Build-a-Bear. Semo did not enjoy this as much as she did. She had the scratches to prove it.

Every time we stayed at a hotel, our ritual was to run in the room and jump on the beds. I still do it. Shhhh.

She loved seeing if she could get a free dessert at a restaurant by telling the server it was her birthday. She would do this on ANY day, not just her birthday…and she would call them cheapskates if they didn’t offer anything.

I could go on and on…and it always makes me smile to think of these silly things. They still overshadow all of the sickness and bad times. The good times weren’t just good, they were awesome. What a blessing she was.

I still keep a pair of her favorite Skechers by the back door, as she would have left them. Her last Butterfinger Blast from Sonic is still in the freezer; I guess someday I’ll have the fortitude to throw it away. The canvas that is our refrigerator still holds a thousand different photos, papers, awards, all the stuff that we put there over the last few years. I think those things will probably stay. I have a photo that she took of herself at front and center, so I’m able to see that big smile first thing every morning. We still wear our orange bracelets. We hold on to what we can, both tangibly and what’s in our minds.

Shannon and I took a vacation trip to Oklahoma recently. We went to Rocklahoma (a five-day 80’s hair metal festival…LOL), in Pryor, OK. I don’t think much happens in Pryor when the music festivals are not in town. (They also host Country Fever, the twangy cousin to Rocklahoma, in June. There’s Bikelahoma, too…something for everyone) The weather was wild while we were there; pouring rain, intense heat, scary storms, you name it (it even made our local news and scared the heck out of my sister). We came out unscathed, thank goodness. The two side stages, however, were flattened. We nicknamed the place Mudstock. Anyway, one of our favorite bands, House of Lords was there. Some of you may remember a Sahara trivia bit, as she was named after their song and album of the same name. As the band came on stage, the rain began to come down in buckets, but the die-hard fans didn’t care. We heard the familiar beat…and the very first song they played was, “Sahara.” It was SO GREAT. Nobody even noticed my tears because we were all soaking wet from the rain. J She absolutely was with us that day. What a cool experience. The rest of the days were fun and we had a great time, but for me, that was the highlight of the week.

We’ll survive her birthday, just as we have survived all of the other firsts, holidays, and days filled with memories. I want the world to remember how much she LOVED her birthday, calling the days before and after the actual day her “birthday week,” how she loved to get cake all over her face just to aggravate me, how she loved ripping the paper off of her presents, and how she loved singing “Happy Birthday” to herself at the top of her lungs. She truly got maximum enjoyment from the blessed event. It was soooo hot on the day she was born, and it looks like it will be again this year. She was a summertime girl in every sense, thriving on sunshine and being outdoors. Maybe when you feel the sun on your face on Thursday, you’ll feel her in its warmth. I know I will.

Next Tuesday, July 29, Rick’s new CD, “Venus in Overdrive” will hit the stores! There are three songs on it that were inspired by Sahara. It is an amazing effort on his part and I know you will all enjoy it immensely! Get ready to pick up your copy! Rick will also be appearing on several morning tv shows next week. Check out for more information.

Thanks to all of you who continue to read the blog. Keep checking in…we’re working on something EXTREMELY cool and will post more very soon!

Oh, and please don’t forget to send Pamela best wishes and chocolate on Thursday as well!

With love to all of you,

Monday, July 14, 2008

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming

We're back on the air. Sorry about the momentary blip. I changed hosts for the website, and in the interim, the main site was down. The blogspot address was still working, but I needed to tug and pull the rest of the site in a little red wagon.

I've got a request for all of you. As many of you know, next Thursday (July 24) would have been Sahara's 14th birthday. I know that's going to bring up lots of emotions, and some of them will be on the sad side. Feel what you feel, I say. It's all good. Tears are a healthy, natural cleansing mechanism from the soul.

But I've got an idea. Rather than posting here that day about how much Sahara is missed, let's do something to really honor her. Let's tell wonderful, funny Sahara stories. I'm giving you over a week to think of something. If it's something her parents didn't know about, all the better.

Think of each tale as a candle burning brightly on her birthday cake. Imagine her laughing so hard, she can't blow all the candles out. I'll open up a birthday thread the night before--and for those 24 hours, we'll go hog wild.

I can't wait to read what you're going to write.