A number of Katie’s friends have suggested writing about my experiences and including them on our “We Believe” website. I agreed that maybe it would be a good thing but for whatever reason the time just didn’t feel right. I think it does now.
Perhaps sharing what it means to survive tremendous loss might help someone else. Offering updates about our lives, Gracie’s life (Katie’s daughter) and “We Believe” might be interesting.
And, I would like the opportunity to share the many stories of kindness, generosity, and “spiritual events” that I can’t explain I don’t want to sound “Twilight Zoney” but so so many things have happened and continue to happen that have no earthly explanation…I KNOW it’s Katie’s loving presence at work.
So here goes my first “Blog Post” …
Loss like this is a strange thing. When Katie first died (still hard for me to write the word) I didn’t think I could “go on”. I didn’t want to. Would the pain ever stop, would I ever feel whole again, how could I possibly live without my beautiful daughter, closest girlfriend, and a child I loved so deeply?
While life does indeed “go on” there are some things I’ve learned about what that really means. First, I couldn’t do it alone. I (sometimes just me and sometimes with John) got help - lots of it. I cried – hard – a lot. I read, took long walks and tried to be grateful for what I have. I reached out to people, and people reached out to me. I made new friends, lost friends and found others who have lost children and knew my pain. There were people who could so easily ask about Katie (and yes, say her name) and others who couldn’t – maybe it was protecting me or just too painful for them to think about. And to be totally honest, I probably would have been the latter kind of friend – until now.
Time has brought me to a place where I can say Katie’s name without crying (I think Joe Biden said the same thing about losing his son Beau) and even remember the things she did that made me laugh and smile. It’s easier to look at her pictures and remember. I spend time with Gracie and see Katie and laugh – she is so much like her mom. The pain does subside. The “kick in the gut - I can’t get my breath” grief moments come much more infrequently and have changed to a dull ache that never goes away and never will. I KNOW her beautiful spirit and presence is with me… that will never leave. Her spirit is very powerful and good.
On the 16th of January it will be 2 ½ years since Katie left this earth. In some ways it was yesterday and in some ways was so long ago. My life will be forever defined as the time before July 16th, 2016 and my life after that day. Now, it’s a matter of building a different life than the one I thought I would have. I strive everyday (some days easier than others) to be grateful for Brian, his family, Gracie, my friends, Katie’s friends (that have now become my adopted “daughters”), family members (especially Claudia) and the professionals who have been so loving and supportive. I truly am grateful.
As you know, a big part of our “new life” is our nonprofit “We Believe in Katie”. To date, we have raised nearly $80,000.00 for scholarships, blood cancer research and Make-A-Wish Wisconsin. Benefiting others has helped us in so many ways. How long will we continue? Right now as long as we can and are able. As for now we’re planning our spring benefit, which leads me to our event update.
The upcoming Spring Benefit will be changing – in a really good way – with a new name and a broadening of our efforts.
The new name is “We Believe Spring Benefit: Honoring Katie and Rayce” .
Rayce Raschka was a young man from Sauk City who last June died of Aplastic Anemia, a curable blood disorder and although not cancer, very similar to the type of leukemia Katie had. He was an otherwise healthy high school senior looking forward to his last semester of high school and entering the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire in the fall.
It started last January when Rayce suddenly got a nosebleed that wouldn’t stop and from the emergency room, was admitted to American Family Children’s Hospital. After three bone marrow transplants and numerous treatment plans he tragically died last June. It’s a horribly sad story that wasn’t supposed to end this way – I understand.
I found out about Rayce through a number of uncanny connections and coincidences (as my grief counselor reminds me so often – there are no coincidences).
We first heard Rayce’s story from our friend Rebecca at Make-A-Wish and learned how similar his loss was to Katie’s. The two of them had a number of things in common - Rayce was into musical theater (like Katie). Rayce’s teacher and friend, Matt Brennan performed at three of our We Believe fundraisers and is a good friend of Meg Aspinwall (Katie’s good friend). Rayce’s close family friends are related to a family we happen to be close to as well, the Sweeney family (Kaylan’s family).
Rayce is described as having an “old soul” as Katie was so often described and has a birthday 6 days after Katie’s. He was kind and loving…like Katie. Both Rayce and Katie were supposed to survive.
Through Meg I was able to reach out to Rayce’s mom, Jess where we shared a two hour coffee at Starbucks…we were the two mom’s crying in the corner. Long story short – we decided to include Rayce in our Spring Event. Rayce’s family and friends have a wide circle of support and want to do something in the spirit of Rayce, an exceptional young man. It seemed to make perfect sense to combine our efforts.
After meeting, talking and crying with Jess, I feel that Katie and Rayce’s strong loving spirits were involved with helping their moms. Who knows?
We will be sending out more details as they evolve. For the time being please mark your calendars for Saturday, April 27th. And, if you would like to help we are always looking for volunteers….we would love the help.
There you have it – my first “blog post”. Just another example of this new life I’m living. Who knew I would become a “blogger”!?!