Saturday, January 18, 2014

Scatter Kindness

Dear friends, 
Welcome to my new web home.

Many of you followed my other blog - landing on my feet.  The two years of writing in that space after Erin passed away was an exercise in introspective digging with a resulting cathartic purge of grief.  You rode with me on that roller coaster as I shared both carefully planned essays and stream-of-consciousness rants, and also promoted causes near and dear to my heart.  I spat bitterness, cried out in sorrow, began to breathe the power of hope and even experienced (dare I say) joy.  As I often took one step forward and then two steps back you remained patient with, supportive of and compassionate toward me, and I remain deeply grateful.

That blog was an integral piece that bridged the transition from who I was after watching Erin live/die for three years to the person I've become today, four years after her departure from this earth.  Four years!  

The unthinkable happened to me.  Why I was chosen remains unanswerable.  I just was.  Period.  I'm certainly not the only one who wears heavy shoes.  That fact is affirmed at the monthly Compassionate Friends meetings I still attend faithfully, for in order to remain balanced I keep one foot in the world of that club with high dues next to others who've buried children, while the other walks more confidently with the majority of the population as time goes on.  Perspective cultivates my equilibrium.
I recently read a well written piece by Rita Glenn Larom in a Compassionate Friends publication, a portion of which says,  "One in a million" occurs.  Few children die of illness, or accident, or birth defects, or mistakes in judgment or become victims of crime.  But some do.  The unexpected and the unbelievable can enter our homes.  Earlier generations knew they could easily lose a child, but now it is the exception.  Bereaved parents become lonely in their uniqueness.
Add completely lost, angry, scatter-brained, broken... to lonely, and the package becomes an even more complete, yet unmarketable, product.   

Over time, a good portion of my ragged edges have mended, and a new life has begun to take shape.  Each of us who has experienced a tragedy such as this eventually finds our way through whatever means offers a personally dedicated avenue to heal and find the fortitude it takes to step back into the world as a functioning and dynamic individual.  I continue to be a work in progress. And truly, who isn't? 

Personally, I made the conscious choice to enter the field of healthcare, where I sit in comfort and understanding with the patients who enter our doors seeking assistance with the challenges they face when the unexpected happens to them.  A  once-tidy life blown to bits one day by the results of a test.  WHAM!  Been there.  Done that.  Understand how you feel.  Please, let me take your hand.

Enter, a new blog. 
When the winds of changes shift, the title of this new space, is taken from Bob Dylan's version of "Forever Young" copied in my sidebar. Pretty simple and appropriate, really.  Nothing is stable.  Nothing is forever.  The unthinkable happens to so many individuals in some way at some point.  Be ready... even though you truly can't.  So, may you have a strong foundation (allow those who are brave enough to stand firm with you the privilege of doing so)  when the winds of changes shift (mine already did and they may again at some point, beware - a sudden gale may blow you off course as well). 
And, of course, Erin will remain forever young. 

The URL for the blog, is quite simple, too.  The photo below shows the candles we shared with everyone who participated in our 2011 Birthday Blood Drive. (By the way, for those of you who are counting, to date we've collected over 615 units in Erin's memory.  Just sayin'!!)

The tags display the Edith Wharton quote -
There are two ways of spreading light;
to be the candle
or the mirror that reflects it.

Each of us is a host of inner light .
We can ignite our own candle.
We can choose to follow in the glow of another's initiative.
We can carry the light of an individual who no longer can.
Endless possibilities with ripple effect.

Many of you are aware that I'm currently employed at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital in Patient Access Services, and also a member of one of the committees planning for the opening of the Adventist Cancer Institute, now slated for July 2015.    

With this new venture on the horizon,
I am so excited to share the news of           
a fund we've created in Erin's memory.

(logo created by Aimee Hucek Design for Hinsdale Hospital Foundation)

Please click on Scatter Kindness to go to the Foundation's main web page.  To learn more about the fund, scroll down a bit and click on the sunflower graphic.  You'll also be led to Erin’s Story where you can learn about how we reached the decision to create this special remembrance.  Those of you who've stayed with us for the past several years on the roller coaster ride will understand.  Anyone new will catch on quickly.  Welcome!  In elementary terms - we love (note, present tense) Erin, and we want to help others who are now wearing the shoes we once did.  

Scatter Kindness will be used for unique Patient Experience Programs that support individuals and families who must face the challenges with which we became all too familiar during the three years Erin lived with Ewing's sarcoma.  When an individual is diagnosed with cancer, the whole family is affected by the disease and the resulting emotional impact can be staggering.  Not every cancer patient can be cured. We're personally and painfully aware of that fact.  With that in mind, patients will be encouraged to live for today as we extend healing hands through programs sensitive to the needs of each individual.
As stated on the website, the fund will be supported through monies collected at the Annual Erin Potts Invitational Volleyball Tournament.  This year's event will take place the weekend of February 7-9.  Again, local 7th and 8th grade teams will compete at St. Cletus School in La Grange, and all athletes will take home special participation medals. T-shirts will be sold to commemorate the games.  (Click on the shirt in the sidebar for the order form.) Alumni of all ages will also dust off gym shoes and knee pads and join us on Saturday evening.  So much fun while supporting a great cause!  Please join us.
Personal donations are also gratefully accepted.  When offered in memory of a loved one, a lasting tribute is created that allows that person's legacy to live on.  Hence, "be the candle or the mirror".  Erin's light shines through the good works of so many of you, and that gives me such peace of heart.

Current oncology patients at Hinsdale and LaGrange Hospitals already need a little TLC, so the great news is that our programs will begin NOW!  We won't wait for the completion of the Cancer Institute.    
   A couple of months ago, we enlisted the help of some 8th grade students to lift the spirits of a patient in need of a little encouragement while she was undergoing treatment.  (Some of you may remember the snowflakes made by the St. Cletus School children for Erin. The seed was planted then.) The kids made cards that contained news about themselves, some silly jokes and lots of messages of hope.  

 This simple little package let our friend know she wasn't alone.

We wanted to help another patient celebrate the completion of six weeks of radiation treatments, and some special 1st graders helped us with that one. Talk about some really cool artwork!  It doesn't get better than this!

I can personally attest to the success of these initial endeavors.

As part of Scatter Kindness, we hope to partner more groups of kids with patients.
A patient who needs a little boost + kids who have big hearts and creative minds and a willingness to learn about others who are less fortunate than they are = a potentially fabulous program with effects that ripple on for miles. 
so many possibilities
If you've experienced the impact of a cancer diagnosis in your family and have suggestions about programs or services you might find helpful, please leave a comment so I can forward that information. Experience is always the best teacher, and we welcome your ideas.    
Check back with us for updates.
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Did I mention how excited I am?!? 

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It's great to chat with you again.  I've missed you!
Hope to hear from you soon.