We are very close to a family that we have known for a long time…over 40 years. The Franz family. Melissa always called us "Franz wannabe's". There are 11 kids in the family, multiple grandkids, great grandkids and their spouses. And somehow we feel like we belong to this family. We love all of them.
Donny played softball with the brothers, and I played softball with all the sisters, then nieces. We grew into this family. Mary (one of the sisters), is Donnys age. Her oldest daughter, Alissa, was born eight months after Melissa. She always said we were like her aunt and uncle…we'd been around the family since she was born. Weddings, funerals, graduations, softball games. We are often invited when there is a celebration in the family.
Alissa was on a waiting list for a multiple organ transplant for the last couple of years. She finally got her turn…the surgery was the day before Father's Day. She was an athlete and an avid sports fan…especially a Cincinnati Reds fan. The day before the surgery, she was posting her opinions of the Reds right up to her surgery.
The surgery went well. Her mom and dad were able to talk to her in ICU the next day. The following day, Alissa passed away due to complications of the surgery. She was only 36 years old. We were devastated.
Her funeral was the following Monday and Tuesday. When we came home from the luncheon Tuesday afternoon, Donny went down to the basement for something. Then I heard him yelling for me to come down to the basement…
This was a reflection of light on the floor. From the angle he was looking at it, he thought it looked like a butterfly…but from MY angle, it was definitely an angel. We have never seen this reflection on the basement floor before…and find it very interesting that it was there the day of Alissa's burial.
Synchronicity? We think so.
We love you Alissa, and hope that Melissa greeted you with that beer you have been yearning for and then gave you the grand tour of heaven! We love you and miss you both!
This was definitely a week of HOPE. We attended our first Compassionate Friends National Conference in Boston two years ago. Donny wasn't as much interested in the conference as he was seeing Boston. He was willing to compromise…we go to Boston for a week, and then attend the conference. Boston was amazing, and the conference was the cherry on top.
So we went to Chicago last year for the conference. It did not disappoint. We met some wonderful people, heard truly amazing speakers, and went to some very helpful sessions.
This year the conference was in Dallas. We have decided to tie our vacations into the conference.
Flew into SanAntonio and stayed on the Riverwalk for the first two days…
View of The Alamo from our room!
Restaurant we had lunch at on the Riverwalk (on the left)
lots of waterfalls
Me by a live oak tree behind The Alamo
Boat tour on the River in San Antonio
Nighttime on the Riverwalk
Donny at The Alamo
The one thing Donny REALLY wanted to do was go to the top of this tower….
and he's afraid of heights. Wouldn't go NEAR the window. WTF?
Donny likes to dress up…he's being Davy Crockett here…
On Tuesday, we rented a car and left San Antonio for Dallas. Went through Austin and Waco. Texas is a pretty interesting state. But the drive isn't much different than driving through Ohio. Four hours from San Antonio to Dallas. We made a stop in Arlington at ATT Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Got to check out the locker rooms too...
Did you know the cheerleaders have a locker room too? I didn't. Interesting thing…They have these life size pictures of each of the cheerleaders…there was a Melissa and a Courtney (our friends, Mange and Mary went to the conference with us - their daughter Courtney died of ovarian cancer). Our other friends, Randi and Carolyn lost their son Sam. He died in Bagdhad. There was a Sam(antha) too.
We are looking for signs from our kids all the time. Had quite a few this week…pretty sure Melissa and Courtney would be laughing at the pictures. They were both athletes and (at least Melissa) didn't consider cheerleading a sport.
Coach Fort speaking in the Media Room…I was his audience...
Going into the Miller Lite Club, right behind the sidelines. This is where the players enter the field.
Players locker room.
From there we were on to Dallas - and the conference at the Hyatt Regency. A stones throw from Dealey Plaza and the JFK Museum.
This is our hotel. The view is from the School Book Depository…one window over from where Lee Harvey Oswald stood.
Checking out the book/magazine by the author who believes the assassination was a conspiracy.
We bought them..(the magazine and video).
Donny standing behind the picket fence, where some believe a second shot came from.
Donny, Mange & Randi discussing the mystery of JFK's assassination...
Donny, standing where Abraham Zapruder stood while he filmed JFK...
The School Book Depository. The square window on the sixth floor, far right was the window where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly took the shot. The small square in the bottom right of the window is a box propped up on the window ledge, where he allegedly(?) propped his rifle. (Kind of sounds like I believe the conspiracy theory, doesn't it? After being there, and WALKING it, just doesn't seem possible that one person could have done this.)
Mange, ready to catch Donny WHEN he falls...
Mange with the author
The "X" on the street where I am standing is where the car was when JFK was shot.
A replica of the car from the motorcade.
The grassy knoll.
I was in second grade when JFK was assassinated. But I remember that day vividly. And to be standing where it took place was like going through a time warp. It was almost exactly like it was November 22, 1963. Took the tour of the JFK museum too. It was just the 6th floor of the Book Depository - wish I could have taken pictures there. It was a five minute walk from our hotel.
And it got even better…a conference on grief. Who would ever think that could be a good thing? Probably just a bunch of sad people walking around.
That couldn't be farther from the truth. Oh, there were definitely a lot of hurting people there. 1500 to be exact. Every attendee, speaker, presenter. Every one had either lost a child, a grandchild or a sibling. We heard so many stories…EVERYONE has a story. Some a lot worse than others. But the end result is the same. We were all hurting. Missing our children. Our grandchildren. Our siblings.
There were some amazing sessions-our favorite all three years was Mitch Carmody's "Whispers of Love - Signs from our loved ones", and then the sharing session that evening. There were over 100 people there. It was supposed to go from 9-11. We didn't get out til midnight. Every single person had a story to share of a sign they'd gotten. If I can remember some of them, I'll share on another post.
Me & Mitch Carmody. Mitch's son Kelly is Melissa's age. He died when he was eight years old - he had a brain tumor.
Another of my favorite sessions was a panel of Siblings of various ages answer questions of parents. One of the most difficult things after you lose a child is not forgetting that you have other children (if you are lucky enough to HAVE other children). It's not that we forget, but we are so focused on the one we lost, it seems like we are forgetting our surviving children. They answered very honestly and I learned a lot from them (although I thought I was doing everything right because I too am a bereaved sibling. You just don't know HOW you will react when you lose a child) I told Nick we need to sit down and talk. It was eye opening for me.
The Conference ended with the Walk to Remember and the closing ceremony with the siblings performing. And they say it every year, it's hard to come to your first conference, but it's harder to leave-the safety of having a place where everyone GETS IT, and all the new friends that you make.
And the old friends that you only SEE at the conferences!
Me and Venceta. She's from Rock Hill, SC. Met Venceta when she was sitting at the bar with a new friend we made, Patience. Patience lost her four year old son just two months ago. Xavier. He died in the care of a Day Care Center. A tragedy. Venceta lost her two year old son, Vincent. I believe it was to SIDS.
I met Betty-Jeanne two years ago in Boston. I attended her session - An Avalanche of Losses. I attend her session every year. It really helps me see the progress that I've made, or if I've taken a few steps back. We keep in touch on FB too.
Met Maryellen in Chicago. She was sitting behind me in a session and we started talking. Realized we were both from Ohio. She's from Toledo.
Donny met Mary on the first day of the Conference. She is from Las Vegas. Saw her every day then saw her on the walk! Will see her in Scottsdale next year too.
Carolyn walking for Sam.
Donny, Mange, Randi
Donny walking for FORT & JP
Carolyn, Pam, Mary
Randi & Carolyn
The Walk to Remember
Mary walking for Courtney, Melissa & Sam
Randi, walking for Sam
Mange (Curt) & Mary
Donny getting his medal from Alan Pedersen. Executive Director of TCF.
Poster from the Savannah, Ga. Chapter of TCF.
The siblings performed before the keynote speaker. VERY emotional.
On the flight home, looked out the window…and whaddaya know…I got a HEART from Melissa!
She sends me hearts all the time.
Also could see our hotel from the plane! It's on the middle left of the picture - next to the tall tower. Pretty cool.
And for a perfect ending to a perfect week-we get a rainbow.
Thanks Melissa, Courtney & Sam. You come through when we need you, and we KNOW you are always with us!
And of course I can't end a post without Andrew & Max. It's for Melissa…
The end of a great week of Camp with their camp leaders! Can you tell how much Max loves Andrew?
Taking Pamma's car for vacation to Hilton Head! They had a great week and got home safely!
Nothing makes me happier.