Monday, August 29, 2011

My Turn

When I started thinking about the act of kindness I would do to celebrate Elliot's life, I started to worry that something random wouldn't show up before his anniversary and then I wouldn't have done anything.  It also made me realize that I was kind of asking something big of all of you.  So again, thank you!

Because I didn't want to wait for something to just present itself, I decided to seek something out.  When I started thinking about it, one of the first ideas I had was to do something for another family that had been impacted by Vein of Galen Malformation.  Believe it or not, it wasn't so easy to find another family, as rare as VOGM is.  I found a few support groups online with different stories.  Many of them were from parents who had lost children years and years ago.  Some had stories of parents who had discovered their children had VOGM after they were born, and they were years out from their children's procedures.  It was wonderful to read all of the children who were doing well, and honestly, really painful to read stories from mothers like me who lost their babies.

There was one mom who stood out.  She had a little boy and had recently discovered that he had VOGM, just a few months ago.  They had already undergone his embolization procedure.  Everytime I read her story, it just struck me.  I would read about other children, but I would always come back to this mom and little boy.  So, I decided to send her a message.  I told her about Elliot and I told her about his giving tree.  I asked her to tell me a little about her son and her family.  And I asked her if I could send her a care package, explaining that I would like that to be my random act of kindness.  I included a link to this blog and a link to the Children's Hospital Al's Run page with Elliot's story so that she wouldn't think I was a random internet crazy person.  And then I waited.  After a couple of days not hearing from her, I was pretty sure she did think I was an internet crazy.  And really, who could blame her?

But then, about a week later, I got a message back!!  She told me all about her son and what had happened with him starting from just before she got pregnant with him.  And as it turned out, her son was born within days of when Elliot was born.  Her little boy was the exact age that Elliot would have been had he lived.  And it dawned on me why I had continuously come back to her.  I don't typically think about how old Elliot would be had he lived, it just hurts a little too much, and I guess this is why it never clicked for me, even though I knew from the support group page how old her son was.  Though it has been really scary and difficult to deal with the VOGM diagnosis, it seems as though her son has a good prognosis and is going to go on to live a normal life - which is so wonderful to see.

It has been great to message back and forth with her.  Though she talks about being grateful to have someone to share her story with who knows about VOGM, I really feel like it has been a gift to me to be able to share Elliot's story with her.  She just understands in a way that other people don't.  Each time I get a message from her, I get excited.  It's such a unique connection to another person, and I feel really grateful.  I did end up sending her family a care package, but that seems like such a small part of the whole thing.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised that in trying to do something for Elliot, to honor his memory, I end up feeling like it's a gift for me.

It's hard to believe that on Thursday it will be one year since Elliot was born.  What seems more unbelievable is that a year ago today, I was still in ignorant bliss about my pregnancy, not having any sense of what was about to hit us. I feel really proud of what we as a family have done with the last year.  We fought harder than ever to keep our family together, to have Gavin feel happy and safe, and to bring Quinn home with us.  Thank you to everyone who helped us through this difficult year, it helped more than you can know having people who were pulling for us along the way.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Couple More

Yey!  I finally have a free moment to update Elliot's blog!

Some of our friends went to Fort Bragg in North Carolina to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July.  It was very crowded, and after the show ended, there was a rush of people headed to the exits.  Along the way, there was a row of tall trees with large protruding roots that had to be crossed to get to the exit.  Our friend noticed that there was an older woman trying to negotiate the roots with her cane in the dark.  She was holding an arm out looking for assistance, but people just kept passing her by.  Our friend stopped and offered her a hand to help her make it through the roots and to the pavement, leaving the old woman genuinely thankful.  He commented at the end of his message to me how good it felt to help someone else.

One of our family members was leaving her gym after her morning work out, as she was leaving she noticed a woman in a wheel chair trying to leave, but the handicap accessible doors were not working.  So she helped the woman get through the doors and realized that the woman didn't have anyone waiting for her to help her, so she asked if she could help get her to her car.  The woman quickly said "Yes please."  Our family member said she seemed tired from her workout, so she pushed her to her car, helped her stand by the driver's side door, and moved the walker in her back seat so that the wheelchair would fit.  After lifting the heavy wheel chair into the car she asked the woman if she does this everyday, wondering how this woman could lift the chair on her own.  The woman responded saying that her husband normally picks her up, but today he was having foot surgery - she was waiting for a special someone to help her.  Our family member ended the email saying, "I know that Elliot made sure my timing was on so I was there for her ( yes I admit I hit snooze twice).  She had the largest smile when I left and I knew that Elliot sent me to help her!"

A good friend was standing in line to rent a redbox and noticed a woman and her toddler standing behind her, so she let them go ahead of her, thinking of Elliot.

Another family member ran into a friend at church who's wife has been diagnosed with cancer.  He asked the man if there is anything he could do to help, like make some food.  The man said that his wife hasn't had much of an appetite, to which our family member responded, "But you have to eat."  The man's eyes lit up, and so our family member brought over dinner.  He ended his message to me saying, "Elliot is amazing and VERY inspirational."  I continue to realize this more and more.

Though this isn't an act of kindness, since it is Elliot inspired, I thought I would share.  The evenings with Quinn have been rough.  She seems to hate the hours of about 5 pm to 10pm - give or take a couple hours each night.  So last night I took her for a walk in our neighborhood during Gavin's bedtime.  She pretty much screamed the entire 40 minutes that we were walking.  I was starting to get frustrated since I had hoped that the walk would put her to sleep.  It suddenly occurred to me that I never really got to hear Elliot cry.  Most of the week he was alive he was on a ventilator and his screams were silent.  I remember saying to Nathan, "I have never wanted to hear a baby cry so much."  Remembering this, I smiled and the panic that a mom feels when her baby cries melted away.  We are blessed for each moment that we had with Elliot and as few as they were, they make us appreciate Gavin and Quinn all the more.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

More and Thank You

So, this week, some kids started joining in the acts of kindness for Elliot!  This makes me smile so much, I can't even tell you.

An old friend of the family sent me the sweetest message the other day letting me know that she had shared what we were doing in memory of Elliot with her six year old son.  He told her that he wanted to do something too.  A few days later, they were standing in line at the zoo and he let his sister and a friend go ahead of him in line, later he told his mom that he did it because he wanted to "do something kind to remember Lisa's baby."  I love kids so much, they have such amazing hearts.

Another friend recently told me about her daughter's lemonade stand.  She said that her daughter told her that she wanted to give the money she had raised from the stand to Children's Hospital.  When my friend told her daughter about Al's Run and us trying to raise money for them in honor of Elliot, she told her mom that that's what she wanted to donate the money to.

Another old friend sent me a message telling me that her four month old son has had an ear infection.  His very compassionate older sister, who is two, has been feeling bad for him and the pain he was in and wanted to help give him his medicine.  My friend, remarked on how it was difficult enough to give her son his medicine without the "help" of a two year old.  She went on to say, "I initially said no, that mommy and daddy had it covered. But then I thought of baby brother Elliot and how much love he showed people in such a short time. It seemed appropriate to let her shower her baby brother with love (and pink stuff) in Elliot's honor. So - we let her squirt in the last drop of medicine and she was delighted. Now at each dose, she wants to put in 'just the last one.' It's fun for her but you can also tell she feels like she is helping her little brother."  I loved this one so much.

A family member of ours recently remembered Elliot by spending time at the bedside of a terminally ill friend and reading to him.

I got a text message from a friend the other day that she lent her ipass to a coworker. She said how much it brightened her day to do something kind for someone else in memory of Elliot.

Another friend has been collecting school supplies for children who need them in honor of Elliot's memory.

The old friend with the amazing six year old also shared with me that in memory of Elliot she wrote a letter to a friend who lost her husband two years ago.  She shared with her friend how often she thinks of her husband, misses him, and what an important person he was to their family and church community.

And even though I would have done these two things anyway, it was wonderful to do them for Elliot - I babysat for some great friends who haven't had a date night since before their two month old was born.  And recently I took a little trip to see my Great Aunt Betty who is in the hospital.  She is a wonderful woman, and I brought her flowers to brighten her day, and chocolates to give to her visitors.  She is a giver, and I imagine it is torture to be visited by so many people and have nothing, being that she's in the hospital, to offer them.

I can't thank everyone enough for participating in this.  Receiving these messages and adding them to the blog has made me so happy, and made me feel closer to Elliot.  This is such a gift at a time when I am missing him so much.  Thank you.