Saturday, August 22, 2015

Alexis's 32nd Birthday

What is a birthday? It's the day you give birth to hope, love, joy, in the form of a little person who you created and excitedly introduce to the world. You spend hours trying to imagine who they will become. When Alexis was born we thought she was a superstar from the very beginning. She cried tears early, spoke early, was potty trained early. In school she did well and as she grew we became aware that she was socially smart garnering many loyal friends. As she got older it became apparent that she had a passion for travel and when it came time to discuss a career, anything that involved travel was her goal. Armed with a degree in HR she immediately sought work in the Travel Industry. One month after getting her job she discovered that she had relapsed. We will never know if she would have continued this path, if she would have stayed in Toronto or moved to work overseas. During her illness the dream changed to working in Israel, she loved it there. I was happy to know she was still making plans, trying to figure out what her next step would be, because that meant she felt hopeful that she would recover. I wish I knew how her story would unfold, but sadly I don't, she took all her dreams with her when she died. Today Lex would have been 32 years old, would she be married, working? have children? With Dani's upcoming marriage I wonder about her involvement, showers, stagette, maid of honour, speeches. She is not here to participate in any part of this wedding, there is a terrible void without her. Dani has grown into a beautiful adult, someone I enjoy talking to and spending time with, I am proud of my relationship with her and am happy and excited for her wedding. I know she misses Alexis, misses the 'what could have been' and the intimate sharing that occurs between sisters. Losing Alexis altered the fabric of my family forever, a deep wide gash that we are trying to patch, but will never fully repair. Our longing for her feels so much more poignant this year not only because of her birthday but because of her sister's approaching wedding where Lex's absence will be profoundly felt by all who knew her. So today while we should be celebrating the anniversary of our daughters birth we are instead remembering her with sweet sadness. I feel that the past, the present and the future are all colliding as I remember my beautiful Alexis, missing her today and everyday and moving forward without her.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Recently I went to a funeral.  The person who passed away was my age.  I knew her briefly and wanted to honour her memory by attending..  She died of Cancer.  She is survived by a loving husband 2 adult children, aging parents, sisters, nieces, nephews and friends.  She had a full and beautiful life, needless to say her family is devastated.  As I listened to the beautiful words her son spoke I felt  such sadness.  This young man will survive but, he will  be changed forever.  His is a loss  of innocence and the realization that to live is to be vulnerable and susceptible to tragedy.  Her sisters also spoke and through their tears and pain they were able to paint a picture  of a woman who was strong, proud and passionate, I feel their loss.  I understand their pain.  Nothing will ever be the same again.  Death is always sad no matter what the age or circumstances but to die in your prime after suffering from illness for years is cruel.   The one thing I know is we who are the survivors somehow go on,  we are helpless to the passage of time.  Suddenly 4 years have passed, you are 4 years older and you have moved on without them.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer in Alexis' name


 I wanted to share a special message we received.
I have always known that Lex was a person who welcomed everyone with warmth, grace and acceptance, she loved people and I greatly admired her ability to make everyone her friend.  Over the years many stories have surfaced that illustrate the warmth of her personality.  We recently received an email from Australia that demonstrates this beautifully 

‘Dear Debbie and Rick,

I’ve been meaning to write this for some time.  I was lucky enough to meet beautiful Alexis in France in 2008.  Alexis was the first person that I met on my first trip (an 8 month trip of Europe) She befriended me instantly and her warmness as a person and fellow traveller was immense.  Throughout all my travels, I have tried to match this warmness and I feel that this has helped develop me into the kind and loving person that I am today.  I am so impressed at your fundraising efforts and have donated to the good cause.  All the best for the 27th September and much love from Australia!’

 I am proud to know that Alexis is so lovingly remembered by people at home and abroad, that she was able to positively impact their lives is a wonderful legacy.  The desire to share  their stories of my daughter is heart-warming.  There is a lesson here,  how many of us can say that how we treat others has the ability to change their lives for the better.....Alexis can!

I am proud to tell you that over the last 5 years my family has personally raised more than $110.000 for Cancer research. When Alexis was diagnosed with ALL we joined the Leukemia fundraiser “Light the Night” where we walked with our friends and family,  Lex carrying a survivor balloon.   We only did this event once more after she had died because carrying the memorial balloon was too painful.  Alexis personally raised over $10.000 for the Weekend to End Breast Cancer and planned to walk with her friends but found out that her Leukemia had returned and was unable to participate, her sister Dani walked in her stead that year.  Subsequently for the past 3 years my husband Rick has participated in the Princess Margaret Hospital fundraising event “Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer.” ‘Team Lex’ has raised over $50.000 dollars for cancer research in 3 years.  This is the 4th year  that Rick and his ‘Team Lex’ team mates are participating in this event.  The team proudly wear hockey jerseys with the number 28 on the back a number significant to my family 28 means ‘Koach’ in Hebrew which translates to the word ‘Strength.’ 
This is your opportunity to change someone’s life for the better, by donating you will help find a cure to this terrible insidious disease that stole Alexis from us.
If you would like to support this extremely important and meaningful event you can donate to:
ROAD HOCKEY TO CONQUER CANCER - TEAM LEX
on or before: 
Wed Sept 24/14

http://rhcc1.akaraisin.com/toronto2014/lex2014


Please help,
Thank you

Friday, September 12, 2014

Acceptance

During the grieving process it's tempting to look for reasons why your child died.  Perhaps if she hadn't gotten mononucleosis as a teen a possible precursor to Leukemia she wouldn't have died or maybe we should have moved because of our proximity to a Hydro field or,  you shouldn't have fed your family processed foods, or allowed them to drink tap water, or used Nix shampoo a pesticide when the entire grade 1 class got lice. There are so many variables that we are exposed to every day that could cause Cancer that attempting to pinpoint a specific cause is virtually impossible, but that doesn't  mean  you don't try.  In my opinion a much healthier and more positive route and I believe the true beginning of the 'healing' process,  begins with acceptance, when you finally understand that your child is truly gone, and, yes in the beginning I felt like somehow magically she would come bouncing through my front door, that her death was somehow a terrible, cruel mistake.  Acceptance happens when you realize that gone is gone...forever.  Focusing on her death instead of remembering her life is not healthy.  But nothing about this experience is easy accepting her death means letting go, but letting go doesn't mean forgetting - just the opposite.  Accepting the death of an adored one  is a process that takes time, years, probably a lifetime and there is no rush.  I realized that I needed to embrace my life, find peace and be happy it doesn't mean I no longer grieve quite the opposite I will always grieve the loss of my daughter as I will always love her with my whole heart  and it is because of this love that I choose to honour her life and not dwell on her death.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Finding Balance With the Help of a Little Dog!

As we approach Alexis' 31 birthday - 3 1/2 years after her death  I realize that somehow we have found balance.  While the ache of our loss never leaves, by creating a safe environment where we can talk freely about Lex telling 'her' stories and including her in ours has helped.  Losing Lex was our 'rock bottom' nothing that happens in the future will ever  be as devastating,  aging parents, people who disappoint you,  nothing will ever compare.  However, 'being happy' has been sneaking up on me, I am surprised to find joy in moments of distraction.  Some of these 'moments' are provided by our dog Turtle.   Each morning after she is fed she goes outside and hops onto our garden swing where she naps.  Watching her lying on that swing so content and peaceful warms my heart, the simplicity of this act has helped me understand what is important now.  Turtle has been integral to our coping with the loss of Lex.  How surprising that this tiny animal is so important to my family.  Turtles needs force us to function outside our grieving.  Watching her doze on the swing calms me, taking her to the park to play catch distracts me and being the recipient of her licks makes me smile.  Caring for her is a commitment but the rewards far out-weigh the work involved.   Turtle is helping us find balance by teaching us to appreciate simplicity in life.  Sometimes it's the smallest things that give the greatest joy.  My only regret is that Lex never met Turtle, how she would have loved her.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Leading By Example

I ran into Alexis' grade 3 teacher recently.  The first words out of her mouth when she realized who I was were words of condolence.  She said she remembered Lex as a beautiful well behaved, quiet girl and actually of all the children who have passed through her classes during her career Lex stood out as one of her favorites. Her reaction when she realized who I was, was, sad and uncomfortable.  She expressed her feelings and then kept repeating how good I looked, to the point where I actually felt ill at ease because I wasn't acting or looking miserable.
Funny, how people expect you to  grieve on the outside, maybe if I walked around with a wad of balled up Kleenex in my hand constantly dabbing my teary eyes that would fit her image of how a grieving mother should act.  Instead of feeling proud of the person I  project when I am out, she  made me feel like I shouldn't be happy or friendly. This is the 1 dimensional preconceived notion of the grieving parent that I have encountered before.  The fact that I am able to carry on with my life by being a productive person with a positive attitude should be applauded because I have worked hard to get to this point.  Projecting positivity doesn't mean I am not heartbroken over her death, but I owe it to both Alexis and Danielle to try.  Alexis modelled this very behaviour right up to the moment she died.  I can only imagine how hard this must have been for her knowing what she was facing but, she did it. She needed everyone  to feel comfortable in her presence and she needed to be treated as normally as possible.  Fulfilling these goals was important, surrounding herself  with positive energy helped her to maintain a good attitude thus sustaining a good quality of life and  I can say unequivocally and that she achieved both.  So how can I not attempt to attain the same goals as  Lex?   I know with my entire being how disappointed she would be if I didn't try, this was not her way, it is not my way, I am not that 1 dimensional grieving parent.    The way I conduct myself literally models Alexis', who lead by example - behaving in the way she wished to be treated.  I also hope I am a role model for Dani by showing her that you can have a full, positive life in spite of suffering the greatest sadness.

Monday, January 6, 2014

LISA AND CHESTER'S WEDDING

This month Dani and I attended the most beautiful wedding.  Alexis' friends Lisa and Chester were married on Dec. 30, in Jamaica.  I have so many mixed emotions that it's been difficult to sort them out.  We've been waiting a long time for this wedding.   Lisa and Chester have been together for 11 years and they met because of Alexis.  I believe that you can gauge the quality of a person by the friends they keep and Lex's friends are wonderful.  Kind, generous, caring and even after 3 years missing her terribly.  Their love and devotion to her memory is both heartwarming and terribly sad.  I have been insulated in my grief and although I am aware that she was loved and is missed by others I hadn't given it much thought until this trip.  These friends loved Lex completely and I am so proud.
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Dec. 29, was the 3rd anniversary of Alexis' passing.  It was also the night before the wedding, Dani and I were quietly watching the sunset when we noticed an unusual cloud formation that resembled two letters I and C,  holes in the clouds with the orange of the sunset glowing behind them that were so compelling that I took a picture of them. I  C,  we both felt that we were seeing a message from Lex telling us that she was with us, watching.
                      
It was important to Lisa to include Alexis in her wedding so she borrowed a beaded necklace that Lex had made and  braided it into her hair, she also wore one of Lex's bracelets.  The wedding was in a beautiful setting overlooking the ocean,  the weather perfect, the bride radiant, the groom handsome, everyone looked wonderful and the feeling of love caressed us like the warm sun on our skin.  Then a song was played by the violinist that was not part of the playlist  provided by the bride and groom.  'Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Its a Wonderful World'  is a song that I have not been able to listen to in 3 years because I associate it so strongly with Alexis and there it was played in its entirety.  Everyone was stunned and then, not stunned because we understood that Lex was telling us that she was with us on this important day.

As happy as I am for Alexis' friends as they move through their lives, I am also saddened by what we all have lost.  Sometimes I try to pretend that Alexis is living her life, working, travelling, married and  having children.  I try to imagine that she was never touched by this terrible disease that stole her from us. That my beautiful child never felt the fear that she had to face.  I see her running around organizing everyone, beaming her beautiful smile at us happy and excited about life's possibilities.  I pretend that the words of the song 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow and It's a Wonderful World' were true for her.  When I awake from my dreaming to the harsh reality of her absence from my world I am grateful that she surrounded herself with such wonderful people and I realize that it is these friends that are her legacy and I am comforted by this.