And that’s a wrap…

As we turn the page and begin our new chapters, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your support and kind thoughts, and to wish you all health and happiness in the coming year.

These past 6 ½ years of writing for Camp Erin Parents have been a gift and I truly hope that my words have brought you comfort, hope and healing. Opening yourself up, sharing your story and pain isn’t easy, but I have found that despite the sadness, the bonds and friendships that have formed are beyond worth it. I am truly blessed to have been given this opportunity and will treasure it always.

Wishing you all the very best in 2018!

– Sheila


Any Given Day…

Please excuse us as we take a break from all this holiday stuff and focus on football, okay?First down Yes folks, I’m an Eagles fan – always have been and always will be. And yes, although we just lost our Quarterback to a season-ending injury, I keep the faith that my Birds will overcome this setback and continue to Fly! Life’s a lot like football, don’t you think?

Suit up and Settle in – This is Grief and this is Life.

Want the good news or the bad news? That seriously has to be the worst question ever! “Oh yes, please give me the bad news, because I just LOVE bad news”.

Ok, well here goes. You’re getting the bad news first.

You’re on my team and you’re stuck with me. By the way, I didn’t want you on my team. I didn’t choose you. There was no combine, no stats analysis, no draft, no signing bonus, no big contract.

Oh, and once you’re on this team, you can’t be traded or fired either. You’re a “life-er” so settle in.

So here’s the good news…

You’re on my team and you’re stuck with me. There are no rules, no expectations and no playbook. On any given day you can choose your position – from Quarterback to Linebacker, to Head Coach and even GM! You can play offense, you can play defense – the choice is yours.

Training Camp…

Some of you arrive to the locker room quietly, knowing that someday you’d be here. Others make your debut kicking and screaming while the door slams  shut behind you. You didn’t see it coming and you want out NOW! This wasn’t in your playbook.

Don’t worry, it wasn’t in ours, either. We didn’t want to be here as much as you. In fact, we spent much of our rookie season trying to figure out how to just suit up every day, never mind how to play the game. We totally get if you want to sit on the sidelines for a bit, because when you’re on our team, your presence matters, not your stats.

The Opponent…

GRIEF, or as I think it sometimes feels, LIFE. One is not separate from the other. When you lose someone you love, your grief becomes your new life. Your responsibility as a member on this team though, is to not necessarily defeat your opponent, rather to embrace it. Think about it – without loss there is no gain. Week after week we see our favorite teams stuggle, triumph, fight, win, lose and keep going. Week after week, year after year, the game always remains the same.

The Players…

A little advice for the rookies, here. There will be days when you show up to play and days you will sit out. Days when you return that punt for a Touch Down and days when you will be sacked for a huge loss. The thing about your opponent is that it doesn’t take a day off – EVER. It’s a relentless force that can set you back 10 yards leaving you defeated and ready to give up. But the beauty in Grief and Life and your new team, is that you’ll stumble upon those veteran players out there who pull you back up to your feet and give you the strength to keep fighting. Yes, you’ll make huge gains only to lose big yards, and you’ll feel like you’ve won the Super Bowl one season, to not even making the playoffs the next. This is Life and this is Grief, so settle in.

The Fans…

Oh don’t get me started!!!! You know the fans – the die-hard season ticket holders, the fair-weather (bandwagon) fans, the “know-it-alls” and the, “I’m just here to watch the show” spectators. They’re at every event and they’ve taken their seats at your game too. The ones who are tried and true (and few), the ones who think they know how you should play the game without ever stepping on the field themselves, and the ones who like to watch for your next slip-up so they can report back to whomever will listen. The bottom line is this – the “fans” can say what they want, but until they suit up themselves, they will never truly understand what it’s like to play the game – PERIOD.

So you’re on my team – and although I never wanted you in the first place, I’m glad you’re here. It may not be the path we’ve chosen, but it’s a team that you and I simply can’t live without.

  • Sheila

A Loss for Words…

32094467841_ba43222e2a_o (2)I really am. There are no words to describe the sadness, fear and anger over last night’s tragedy in Las Vegas. We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims, families, friends and first-responders of this senseless act of terror.

As the owner of a dance studio, I see kids of all ages come through my doors, dancing their way into class, and tonight was no different. They filed in, the doors closed, the music started and they danced. It’s was, and always is, a beautiful thing.

But the scene in the lobby told another story. As the parents took their seats to wait for their children, the conversations quickly turned from casual chit chat to the latest news on the number of victims, the shooter, the debate over gun control and the feeling that none of us are safe anymore, no matter where we are.

Frightening stuff and rightfully so but it got me thinking. If we, as adults and parents don’t feel safe, how can we help our children process such traumatic news? As I walked around the studio tonight, peering in to each classroom, I couldn’t help but wonder how this is impacting our kids. They are growing up in a world so completely different than us. What do we say, or not say? What should we be doing to ease their fears and how do we do that when we are just as scared? 

There is no manual for this, but thankfully we have solid resources and suggestions from professionals dedicated to helping our children in times of crisis. I am (again) sharing this very helpful and insightful article written by The National Center for School Crisis & Bereavement, in the hopes that we can gain the knowledge and use the dialogue in this piece to help us all in such uncertain times. Please click on the link below:

Talking to Children about Tragic Events in the News

Thank you.

  • Sheila

Help carry them through…

32094467841_ba43222e2a_o (2)Thinking back to 2009, things were pretty dim in my world. My late husband’s disease was progressing at warp speed, we were struggling financially with the loss of income, and our kids were sad, scared and confused. Their dad was getting worse by the minute and they were too young to understand why. Safe to say our world was crumbling and completely out of our control. We didn’t ask for it, and there wasn’t a damn thing we could do about it.

If you’re reading this blog and you’ve experienced loss, you know what I am talking about. The lack of control over what is happening, being completely overwhelmed, scared, and unsure of the future is terrifying. But somehow, someway, we make our way through and to the other side.

But we don’t do it alone…

Thankfully, there were people in my life who helped us through. I confided in a good friend one day about how much we were struggling to keep it together. She enlisted the help of some wonderful friends and family and the next thing I knew our community rallied and raised money to keep a roof over our heads, cooked us meals, took the kids places so they could have some fun and made sure that we were surrounded by good people who would walk with us through the storm. Friends, family, co-workers, business owners and even complete strangers helped us get to the other side.

So as I sit here looking out my window, I notice the clouds rolling in. Normally I’d be bummed that the weather is supposed to turn dreary over the holiday weekend, but not this time. My thoughts are with the millions of people weathering an absolutely devastating storm in Texas. The images and accounts I see all over the news are of mass destruction. Entire communities are wiped out, families have been ripped apart and there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could have done about it. The storm was in control.

But we can help…

And we should. We need to be the community of people who help get them through this time in their lives. Just as so many of us remember the ones who carried us during our toughest times, we need to show our fellow neighbors that we care and will do all we can to get them to the other side.

There are plenty of ways to show you care and I will be donating today. I am not endorsing or recommending any specific charity – just asking that you join me in making a difference in their lives. It’s the least we can do.

  • Sheila

P.S. – Please feel free to comment below if you know of reputable charities and organizations that directly help these victims. Thank you!

If I become “that” Mom…

KT_SeniorYrDear Kyle,

I’ve written this a million times in my head, but the time has come for me to put it on paper. It’s been something I’ve been putting off for months and finally just had to do it – and do it alone. You don’t know where I am tonight – I just told you that I had to work on a project and wouldn’t be home. Truth is, the project is this letter and I’m in a hotel room just a few miles away.

Honestly, I’ve been so scared to start typing because I knew I’d be an absolute mess – and I am, just a few sentences in and a box of tissues deep.

You’re about to graduate from High School, and although most moms out there will be hot messes come that day, I am genuinely, really worried about how I am going be. You know me, I’m not the overly-emotional mom. I’m the mom who pretends to cry on your birthday each year, the super-sarcastic, “I brought you in, I’ll take you out” kind of mom. The one who looks so tough on the outside, she must not have a heart on the inside, kind of mom. I’ve spent over half my life building walls to protect my heart, but this major milestone in your life will crash through like a massive boulder. I’ve only had this feeling once before and I’ll tell you about that in a little bit. But knowing how I reacted that first time makes me extremely nervous and, I think in my own crazy way, if I write it down and you read it, you will at least know why.

Kyle, what you have been through in your life, and how you have grown into such an amazing young man, is nothing short of inspiring. Things could have turned out so much differently and I am incredibly proud of you and thankful that, despite losing your dad at such a pivotal time in your childhood, you chose to continue to live your life fully with deep gratitude and appreciation for the cards you were dealt.  I remember taking a trip to the Harley Davidson store the year after your dad died, in honor of his birthday. The plan was to check out the bikes and pick up some cool gear for you and your sister to wear around town. We stopped at the cemetery on the way so you and your sister could place a card for him. As we made our way out, you said to me, “Mommy, I miss daddy a lot but I am really happy that he is with his parents in heaven because I know he missed them so much.” Yeah, cue the waterworks, the sunglasses, and more tissues…

That’s the kind of guy you are, Kyle. From a very early age you have been able to see and appreciate the good that can come from the bad. You know and understand that we tried to make the best out of a very unpredictable family life and you trusted me when things took that turn. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing and how I was going to get you and your sister through this, but your trust never wavered. You saw me at my weakest moments, but never once did you act out or push back. You had to listen to people say that you now had to take care of me and your sister which made my blood boil. I never wanted you to feel that way and I did all I could to be sure that didn’t happen. You never judged me or made me feel inadequate as a parent. You kept working hard at school and stayed involved in sports and other activities. And when it came time for me to tell you about a great guy I met, you trusted me and welcomed him into your life.  You kept loving and appreciating life and I am forever grateful.

But those walls I built over the years were not only there to protect my heart, they were there to stop me from looking too far into the future. Knowing ultimately what would happen, I had to learn to live life one day at a time, and from time to time, I’d let down my guard and live life from one scan to the next. The future didn’t hold much meaning for me. I figured when it got here, it got here.

And now we’re here.

My tears have now turned to a downright monsoon and we may just be in for a rain delay if I can’t pull myself together. Yeah, I knew I couldn’t write this within eyesight and earshot of anyone.

As I said earlier, there has been just one other time when I have felt the magnitude of emotions that I am feeling right now, and that is when your dad’s doctor and nurse, who had treated him since day 1, walked into the funeral home to pay their respects. I know you may have been thinking it was the moment when he actually died. Don’t get me wrong, I lost it then, but within those tears was also an incredible sense of peace knowing he wasn’t suffering anymore. There was comfort in that knowledge and I know that you understand that.

The moment happened at the end of the night as the viewing was wrapping up. We had hundreds of visitors come through the line and I had managed to greet and thank them all without any major episodes. That is, until I saw Dr. Miyamoto and Nurse Kathy Hackney out of the corner of my eye. In that very moment, my walls came crashing down. The future that I had tried to hide from was now reality. These two amazing people were the only two who truly knew the journey inside and out from the very beginning. Seeing them walk through the door literally brought me to my knees. Their presence that night signaled the end of one chapter, and the start of unchartered territory. I realized at that moment, that the life I had known of scans, surgeries, medications, seizures, radiation and chemotherapy was over. I never looked far enough ahead to envision getting to that place, but here we were and I was simply overwhelmed with emotion that I could not control.

Kyle, you too, have been a constant, strong, steady source of strength through this journey with me and I cannot help but feel completely overwhelmed with emotion at the thought of you graduating from High School. How did we get here? How in the world did we survive and manage to thrive through all of this? I know you will embrace all that college and beyond offers you because of the lessons you’ve learned from loss.  For me, this ceremony is similar to seeing dad’s doctors. It marks the end of a chapter and the beginning of a whole new journey for you. You make me so incredibly proud and I know that you have learned so much from life’s circumstances. I will try my best to hold it together, but in the event I become “that mom”, just know that I love you and am so incredibly proud!



The Debate over Death…

DSC_0453“Well Sheila, at least you got to say goodbye.”

“I’m sorry, what did you just say?”

Do me a favor and someone please add that to the, “what NOT to say to someone who has lost a loved one” list! Truth be told, if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that, I’d be on the cover of Forbes!

That age-old debate over what’s worse – dying the slow death or the sudden one. It’s an argument likely to continue until the last one standing leaves this earth. We, as a society discuss it endlessly saying things like, “I just want to go quickly and not know when it’s coming”, or “I want to be able to make peace and say goodbye on my own terms”.  Everyone has their own opinion as to how they want to “go” and their own reasons why.

But for someone like me who had a spouse who died after a long illness, the “at least” part hits hard – as if my loss was somehow easier than someone who lost suddenly. Yes, I did get to say goodbye and so did my kids, my family and my friends. Yes, we knew it was coming and prepared for it. I wrote his eulogy over and over in my head and, for years, wondered how I’d raise my kids without him. Hell, I even visited the funeral home to pick out his casket and Mass cards the week before he died so that when it actually happened, I wouldn’t have to make those decisions. Sounds pretty ominous, doesn’t it? But for me, living life while “knowing” was extremely difficult, and I found myself many times longing to be one of the ones who never saw it coming.

Don’t get me wrong – never seeing it coming has its own set of problems. Here you were going about your normal routine when suddenly the floor drops out. No warning, no prepping, no nothing – just gone. Shock sets in, wears off, then grief begins. There are often so many “what if’s” and “should have’s”. Lots of words left unspoken and every-day occurrences left unappreciated. Moments taken for granted and lots of hope for the future… a future I already knew I wouldn’t have. For those who don’t get the chance to say goodbye, your pain is so raw, new and unexpected, that it is often seen as more painful than those who have known in advance. You had plans. You lived your life as though you would be together forever. You planned, saved, dreamed, and lived a life free from terminal illnesses, treatments, addictions and despair.  You had the world in the palm of your hands until the universe said otherwise. Now you are left to pick up the pieces of your broken heart and your broken life. And I’m sure somewhere along the line, you’ve heard, “Well, at least he didn’t suffer”, right?

At the end of the day, we all know there is no “winning” when it comes to loss and there should be no debate over which way is easier or better. The bottom line is that it sucks no matter which way you look at it, and that both sides have very valid arguments as to why. I can tell you that losing someone slowly over time means you start grieving somewhere along the way. That every single day is spent living with the illness, physical or mental, and that illness takes priority over everything else. You’re no longer the person, the spouse, the family that you were before. Every single decision about every single part of your life revolves around the diagnosis, whether it’s spoken or not. Oh sure, you may talk about plans for the future, saving for family vacations, 5-year, 10-year goals, retirement, and hope that somehow things will turn around, but that little voice in your head is always there to remind you that it very well may not play out that way. Life is lived one long day at a time, or at best, in between scans and tests or maybe in between rehabs and treatments. That’s the reality – plain and simple. You quietly grieve while trying to live some sort of normal life under abnormal circumstances. Over the course of time you accept that death will come, and when it does, you seem, (at least to those looking in) better equipped to handle it.

There are a million articles out there written about what not to say to grieving people, but I’m really starting to believe the only people who read them are the ones who don’t need the advice! We’ve been there, done that, and could very well author our own book of No No’s.

So, what did I really say to the woman who tried to make me feel better by reminding me that “at least” I got to say goodbye? Nothing. I just gave her a little smirk, took a deep breath and excused myself. She wouldn’t understand and that’s okay. Maybe next time I’ll smirk, take a deep breath and say, “You know, you really should read this great piece right here!”

  • Sheila

Standing the Test of Time

book1Times may change, but our stories remain…

It’s been 7 years, but as far as I’m concerned, it just as well could have been yesterday. Ask anyone who has lost a parent, spouse, child, sibling and we’ll all say the same. The passage of time means nothing -the loss is as fresh as the day our hearts were torn apart.

Time doesn’t heal the wound, time forces us to stitch it up and live with the scar.

I think that’s the really hard part about grief. Unless we choose to tell our story for years to come, we end up doing it alone.

“When days seem like years and years feel like days.” –  Robert Brown Fulford

In some way, there is a certain aspect of grief that gets harder as the years go on. I know, I know, you’ve got people telling you that it will get easier and that time will heal the pain. But if I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on the, “you haven’t been there” category, right? Yes, time does help us develop coping skills and allows us to learn to love life again, but that’s not overcoming grief. What many who haven’t been there don’t know is that there is, and will never be, a day in your life that you don’t think of the one you’ve lost. Some good memories, some not so good memories, and some downright awful ones. Moments that will make you smile, cry, take your breath away, and moments that pull you right back to that very day – that’s grief.

So much has happened in 7 years – lots of changes and lots of new friendships. Most of the people I meet now only know Volume 2. They see me as a happily married mom of 3, running a business and raising a family. And when they find out that I have a 17yr old, 13yr old and 3yr old, they assume I’m divorced and remarried. What they don’t know is that Volume 1 is a story about life spent married to a man with brain cancer while raising 2 babies, and scraping every penny to keep a roof over our heads. They don’t know about the never-ending seizures, surgeries, treatments we had to endure as a family or about the day I told my kids their father was going to die and walking them into that hospice room for the final goodbye. They don’t know that I had no idea how I was going to do it alone, or how I look at them every single day with such love, admiration and awe because of their strength and resolve. Gee, I wonder how that that conversation would go, right?

So, life moves on and many of our stories get buried down deep. We learn to live with the everyday memories and grieve alone because we’re “moving on” just like we’re expected. Things were easier when the loss was fresh, with tons of support and opportunities to talk about feelings and memories. Time goes on, conversations fade and people get uncomfortable. But there’s a big flaw in the theory of moving on. The problem is that, at any given moment, in any given day, we can be snapped right back to THAT chapter in our book – “the reality of what actually happened” chapter. Something, anything, can trigger it – a song, a word, a street sign, a stranger…anything and everything and without warning. It has the power to change the course of your day and often it will. I actually had a moment today when an old familiar song came on the radio while driving – the song I used to hear every time I drove back and forth to hospice. It jolted me right back to the point that I had to pull over and let it happen. I listened to the entire song, took some deep breaths and collected myself, by myself. It’s in these moments that I realize that the trauma of death never goes away, no matter how much life changes. That’s when I worry most about my kids. They’re going to have so many more of these moments in their lifetime and I really hope they don’t feel as though they have do it alone.

I keep my story alive by writing and speaking. Honestly, I’m really not sure how I would handle these moments if I didn’t have an outlet – a way to work through that timeless chapter in my life and to help others in the process. So dig deep and pull out that story. Find your outlet and share it with the rest of us stitched up hearts learning to live with loss. Or as a very cute, wise, witty little girl who left us way too soon would say, “Sharing is Caring”! -HP

  • Sheila

Lasting Lessons from Loss

Thanks, Facebook – I really didn’t need to be reminded of what happened 7 years ago DSC_0453today. But there you were this morning, just waiting for me to log on to see the post I wrote at 5:14am on this day in 2010.

I’m not mad or angry or anything. I just think that if you have the ability to manipulate my newsfeed and ads based on my Google searches, you should be able to write some kind of “don’t need to be reminded of your loved one’s death” code or logarithm or whatever it is you call it.

This morning’s “On this Day” did prompt me however, to log back into my Carepages account to see the full post. I had to reset my password first since it had been years since I signed in. The last entry I wrote there was from this day in 2011 – the one-year anniversary. That was a particularly hard one for me since it seemed like the entire world remembered. My phone buzzed all day with messages of care and concern. I remember feeling like I just wanted to shut it all down and fast forward to February 1st. I didn’t want everyone to remember the day he died. I wanted everyone to remember the days he lived. I suppose that’s what inspired me to make that final post a positive one.

I’m sharing it with you today, because it continues to ring true 7 years later. I still remember every detail as though it were yesterday, and I will always be grateful for those memories because they have helped me live a better, more appreciative life.

January 31, 2011
Today marks one year since Jeff passed away. It is so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that an entire year has passed. Surreal doesn’t even come close to describing it. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember it with such incredible detail. Detail you would think would be lost in the overwhelming emotion of it all yet is so crystal clear to me. I remember all of the moments leading up to his passing, I remember the moment he took his last breath, I remember leaving that hospice room with a bag of his clothes that he would never wear again. I remember the elevator ride down to the street, walking to the parking garage, driving home in absolute silence. I remember sitting down at my dining room table at 5:14am to write the update I never wanted to write. As painful as these memories may seem, they are memories that I am grateful for. They are memories that keep me grounded, memories that every single day, give me a deeper appreciation for life and all we have been given and all we have to live for while we can. I also remember asking you to pray for us and to pray for strength and I remember all of the love and support we received in return.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your overwhelming generosity and support this past year. It is because of you that we have been able to keep moving forward. It is because of you that we are able to smile, laugh, enjoy and cherish all we have left. It is because of you that we are strong enough to remember all the good times with smiles on our faces. And it is because of you that we are able to keep Jeff’s memory alive by continuing to raise money and awareness for Cancer research.
A lot has happened in all of our lives over the past year and I truly hope that the good has outweighed the bad. I think it is safe to say that we have all been changed in some way because of Jeff. He was, and will always be, an amazing example of someone who fought through some unimaginable challenges and rose to each occasion. He was the guy who never wanted you to know he was sick – even up until the very end. The guy who quietly fought this disease for 14 ½ years. I believe we are all better people because of him. I know that I hear many of you refer to him now when you are faced with challenges in your lives. He has left a permanent mark on us all and his memory and legacy will forever live on in the strength he gives us to face these obstacles. My hope is that we will all continue to remember Jeff and draw strength from his memory for the many years to come.
A few months back, the Moyer Foundation sent me a book called, “Better because…of you”. It is a book filled with inspirational stories and poems to help make life just a little bit better. I refer to this book quite often and there is one particular poem that spoke to me then and I hope will speak to you now.

“You can shed tears that he is gone,
Or you can smile because he lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he’ll come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all he’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him,
Or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow, and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him only that he is gone,
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
Be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what he’d want:
Smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
– David Harkins
My hope is that you will continue to remember Jeff for the love, strength, faith and resolve he gave to us while here on this earth. I hope that you cherish your memories of him and let his legacy live on by helping others through their challenges. Finally, I hope that you will keep his memory alive by living your days with purpose and love for one another and that you will continue to do all you can to find a cure for cancer.

Out With the Old…

happynewyear2017 Can’t Come Soon Enough, Right?

At least that’s what everyone is saying on Facebook, I see. An unprecedented number of celebrity deaths this past year has yielded an overwhelming number of friends on our feeds to declare 2016 a complete disaster.

David Bowie kicked things off in January, with George Michael and Carrie Fisher wrapping up 2016 in the past few days. We’ve seen icons like Prince, Glenn Frey, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Christina Grimmie and Alan Thicke succumb to heart attacks, suicides, cancer, murder and drug overdoses. And the scary part is that we’ve got a few more days left of this banner year.

So what exactly does everyone think will happen at 12:00am January 1st, 2017? How will the turn of the clock change things? Do we really think that less celebrities will die, or are we just holding on to hope that life will get better somehow?

Believe me, I too am saddened by those we have lost this year. So many of them shaped my childhood, my teen years, and continue to inspire me, but am I shocked?


Maybe it’s because my husband died from brain cancer at 37, or friends f mine had a daughter die from the same at just 11 years old. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too many of my close friends lose sons and daughters, brothers and sisters suddenly and expectantly, well before the age of any of these celebrity icons.

Oh I do know how it feels to turn the page so don’t get me wrong.  My husband died on January 31st, 2010 – the last day of the month. I remember so clearly getting back home from hospice that day and looking at the calendar hanging on the wall, thinking to myself, “Ok, well at least when I wake up tomorrow morning, I’ll be able to physically turn the page”. It had been a long, painful battle that I knew was coming to an end, and flipping that page to February was somehow cathartic. A new month was beginning – just one day after death.

I suppose that’s how most feel about turning the page this December. That, somehow turning that page will mean new hope for the future. But what I really hope for, is that more have the courage to look back and appreciate all that was and all that was gained for knowing those we’ve lost. Because beyond the pain and sadness is a blessing, and a deep, deep appreciation for those who have made a difference in your life – no matter how long they are with you.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” – Dr Seuss

Wishing you love, health and happiness in 2017!


Innocence Lost…Perspective Gained

012Most people will tell you that when they think back to their childhood, they remember relatively happy times. Times spent with friends and family. Carefree summer days and cozy winter nights. A childhood filled with hopes and dreams for the future, laughter, friendship and fun. I had that kind of childhood. Sure, there were some sad, tough, uneasy and awkward times sprinkled in between, but overall my younger days are the days that I sometimes long for now…

But not my kids. My kids will tell you that when they think back to their childhood, they remember some happy times, some carefree days, some hopes and dreams, but mostly they remember the CANCER that took their father. They remember the scans, pills, seizures, surgeries, chemo and the radiation. They remember the countless trips to the hospital, the talks about the fact he was going to die, the painful days and nights in hospice, and the heart-wrenching final goodbye. They remember making the poster board collages for the viewing and funeral, pinning notes and handmade pictures inside his casket, and going back to school just days after, trying their best to carry on as if nothing had happened.

In so many ways, I hate that their childhood was scarred. No child should experience that level of pain- a pain that tears even the strongest of adults apart. Children should be allowed to be innocent, carefree, trusting and naive.

But in other ways, time has given me the gift of seeing just how much my children have gained through their devastating loss. Kyle and Eve’s Dad died when they were 10 and 6 years old. Kyle was in 5th grade and Eve in 1st. This year, Kyle is graduating from high school and Eve is graduating from middle school. Time is going so incredibly fast!

My son has begun the process of applying to college to study communications and broadcasting, and along with the general application listing concrete evidence of aptitude, comes the essay – the question about what in your life has sparked your transition from childhood to adulthood. Needless to say, I knew what he would write about. I just wasn’t sure I was ready to read it and share it, but here goes:

“The mental age of any given person can often surpass their physical age. As children grow, they are educated in a myriad of ways, whether from traditional textbooks or real-life experience. This permits the human mind to expand far beyond the limits of physical age. Along with learning in a traditional classroom setting, my experiences have bestowed wisdom beyond my years on me. I can credit this mental growth that I’ve gone through to my father; however, it was not inherited from some genetic adaptation or something of that sort. With my father passing when I was ten years old, my mental fortitude and overall outlook on the world had changed drastically, and at such a young age, I had already begun a journey into adulthood.

 From the moment I was born, there was no clear way of knowing when my father would pass away. Due to the uniqueness of his situation, doctors estimated that the brain tumor that he had contracted would kill him in close to one year. Instead of becoming a victim to his disease so easily, my father managed to live on for almost fourteen and a half years after that diagnosis. Not only did my father agree to have children, which was enough of a risk, but he also participated in the activities that had made my childhood so extraordinary. However, in 2010, we would have to finally part ways. It took patience and coping in order to fully recover from the events that had transpired, and my family surely felt the aftershock of it all. For myself, however, this experience had opened up my view on the world and subsequently enabled me to grow stronger as a mature human, even at such a young age.

 If I had remembered the one piece of advice that stuck with me in the time that followed, it would be that not everything can be perfect. Death is a persistent theme that we must come to terms with at some point in our lives. However, in my situation, a multitude of opportunities presented themselves soon after my father passed away.

 Shortly following our loss, I went with my younger sister to attend a weekend camp specifically designed for grieving children called Camp Erin. The founders of the program, Jamie and Karen Moyer of the Moyer Foundation, contacted our family some time after that weekend to tell us about the possibility of appearing on national television to share our story. Even though I was nervous to appear on the show, the experience was unlike any other. At 12 years old, I was effectively inspiring a national audience. My experience on television was particularly special for two main reasons. My passion for radio and television has stood the test of time ever since my family’s appearance, and the host of the show, Anderson Cooper, had also lost his father when he was 10 years old.

 After appearing on television, I was personally invited to speak on the radio program 1210 AM (WPHT), which was even more fascinating; not only because of my interest in radio and television, but also for reaching out to another large audience who was silently grieving in the same way as I.

 The most important lesson that I hold so close to my heart to this day is that I am not alone. Although each experience with grief is unique, many people feel alone, and become secluded in thought, unable to talk with anyone else. However, when someone can open up with their experiences, they learn to tolerate and accept the past in a meaningful way. While my father may have passed on, his spirit guides me to new opportunities every single day. This strength given to me through experience is what has sparked my transition from childhood to adulthood.” – Kyle T.

Kyle, you know that had I been able to protect you from all the pain, I would have. No child should have to suffer the way you and your sister have. But the compassion, perspective and maturity you have gained through your loss is beyond admirable and will certainly serve you well in your future endeavors.

Yes, the innocence of your childhood was lost, but through that loss, you have found such an incredible sense of compassion, perspective and appreciation for life and all it has to offer. My only hope is that you and your sister embrace these gifts and continue to show the world just how much good can come from love, trust and acceptance.