Wednesday January 11, 2017

We have survived another one of those dates on the calendar that looms so large in our memories...  the anniversaries of Shannon's death and funeral have passed.

We survived because Dan, Erin and I are a team. We survived because there are amazing people in our lives who love us on our good days and our bad. We survived because Shannon wanted us to...

Erin had a few Shannon coincidences last week. Her new volleyball team handed out their jerseys. They choose numbers by going down the roster alphabetically... you guessed it. Erin is 9th in alphabetical order and will wear #9 this season...

Erin has also been working on a project for her Econ class, highlighting a business, their finances and activities. She did the Shannon O'Hara Foundation since she sits on our board... she presented her project on January 6th. Uff da...

So now we go on with the rest of our lives again...

I managed a weekend overnight to my friend's cabin with a group of tennis friends. I probably shouldn't just refer to them as tennis friends... they are so much more than that... we drank coffee, wine and Moscow Mules as we talked about husbands, children and grandchildren... we talked about the things we love about them and the things that drive us crazy... it's good to vent once in a while!

The older I get, the more I value these people in my life who see me for who I am, warts and all... I hope these women are a part of my life forever...

Dan had to head back out on the road this week after 3 weeks at home over the holidays. I'm not saying Erin and I are happy about that... I'm just saying... well... it's good to be back in the routine :)

Today at my division meeting at work, I am "In the Spotlight". That means my supervisor shares a little bit about me with my colleagues so they can get to know me. I had to choose family photos and such to share... damn... I included Shannon because, well, she is still a part of my family... I have(had) two daughters and I can't let a room of co-workers think otherwise...

I think about this for Erin as she goes forward in life. Her world is getting bigger every day and she meets new people more often than Dan and me. College looms not far down the road. How will she choose to share her story? Time will tell...

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." - Søren Kierkergaard




Five years ... Jan. 6, 2017

Today marks 5 years since Shannon passed away. Dan, Erin and I have felt this anniversary so deeply this week. I think 5 seems like a big number. We count anniversaries of all things in multiples of 5, so this one has some extra weight that we can't escape...

It's also the first time that the days of the week match up... Jan. 6 is a Friday this year, just like it was in 2012...

We have been reminiscing and re-reading parts of Determined to Matter to jog our memories about Shannon's final days. I am so grateful we have this written log so we don't forget any of it...

Remembering her smile and sassy personality, remembering her spirit and her fight, remembering the relief, anger and sadness we felt when her battle ended...

And remembering Erin's role in this, too... 5 years ago Dan drove Erin to school for another day of 6th grade... we called the school hours later and asked that someone bring Erin home. We were all together on that sunny January day as Shannon drifted away. Erin, 10 years old, sat on the bed with her sister and watched her take her last breaths. Sunny the Wonderdog was at her feet.

That experience has obviously shaped us all, but none more than Erin. There's a lot more growing up to do between ages 10 and 15 than there is between 42 and 47 or 48 and 53... she's navigating it better than we could have imagined...

But for today, we don't expect much from ourselves. We'll do some work and some school, but we'll also be together and recognize that we've survived - mostly in tact - to the 5 year mark. 

Thank you to all who have been and continue to be a part of our journey. Grief and loss is a journey that never ends...









Happy New Year

2017 is here. I love the landmarks of time like this. The closure of one year and the possibilities of the year ahead. Each passing year makes us recollect where we have been and where we hope to go next...

2016 saw a big change for me in that I became a full time employee of the Mayo Clinic. My role on the News and News Delivery team is a perfect fit. I get to write, research and organize - three of my best skills. I am so grateful to find a job I love at the age of 47. I hope it continues for years to come.

Dan had another successful year working for the same company, EFS, now owned by WEX. This coming summer will mark 10 years with this organization. He's not near the end and his days on the road continue, but retirement can at least be a part of the discussion now :)

Erin, of course, accomplished the most in this past year. She's a junior in high school and busy every day and night is seems. School, friends, volleyball, golf, student govt... she was elected to the National Honor Society this year as well.

I anticipate Erin will also be busy in the year ahead. 2017 will bring her 16th birthday and the long awaited driver's license. 2017 also will bring the beginning of the college journey - explorations, applications and acceptances (hopefully!). It is so exciting and a little bit scary...

Dan and I hope 2017 brings good health and time to enjoy life. We are so fortunate to have family and friends who make life a little bit easier.

We count anniversaries in multiples of 5, and a big one is looming for us on January 6. It's still unimaginable the Shannon has been gone for 5 years. I wasn't sure how we'd live without her, but here we are, 5 years down the road.

2017 is a year of potential for the Shannon O'Hara Foundation. Our first scholarship recipients will graduate from college this spring. We will hit the $20,000 mark in scholarships we've awarded. We have a goal of reaching $150,000 total raised by the foundation in the 5 years since Shannon passed...

Amazing, humbling, rewarding...

Happy New Year to all. May 2017 bring love, friendship, health... and time to enjoy them!

Christmas Eve 2016

Our trio is hitting the road this morning... over the river and through the woods...

First up is the Harkins crew... Grandma and Papa are hosting this year now that they are Minnesota residents. After 10 years in the desert, we are happy to have them back. Eric, Jen, Jack and Laurynn will be there as well... might be the first time we've all been together since we cruised in April!

Life does move so quickly these days...

Then, and O'Hara gathering this evening with cousins ranging from 15 to 30... all stages of life are represented when we get together, including Dan's parents who are both in their 90's! A big family is a constant reminder that there are many ways to get where you are going if you just keep moving...

Erin is excited for the day, and Erin's joy brings us joy, too.

As we head out for family celebrations today, we remember Shannon and the joy she brought to our lives... she is missed so dearly by her family, immediate and extended...

But, we are proud of the fact that we have carried on in her absence and have managed to find happiness and even joy in the after...


Saturday December 17, 2016

Today I am thankful for Barbara... Barbara is the person who owned my care before I did. It was Barb's when it was brand new... Barbara was smart enough to buy the model with heated seats and to have a remote starter installed... These are wonderful things to have on a day like today with wind chills in the double digits below zero. And tomorrow sounds even worse...

But team O'Hara is home safe and sound and our house is warm. We are grateful for that.

I had a great week at work. This week, the show I help produce, Mayo Clinic Radio, reached a high water mark - we now have 139 affiliates around the U.S. that carry our program. We get to interview experts on all different health and wellness topics and share that knowledge each weekend.  It is an honor to know that the information we are able to share is helping people all across the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.

So, Dan, Erin and I all need to get through one more week of school and work before we can settle in for the holidays...

I do love getting the mail each day at this time of year. For us, it's a mix of two positive things - Christmas cards and donation checks.

We run a holiday fundraising letter campaign each year for the Shannon O'Hara Foundation. It is truly humbling each day to see the checks arrive, big and small. We are grateful for that, too.

And, the holiday cards that arrive bring a smile to my face, too. I love seeing the pictures of people's children and grandchildren. Poignant, yes. Our Christmas card will never be complete again. But, life is full of beauty and joy if you focus on the right things...

"Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day." - Henri Nouwen

Friday December 9, 2016

The last time I wrote, I was lamenting that it was still warm and the grass was green... be careful what you wish for! The forecast for the next week says single digit high temps and potentially 3-6 inches of snow tomorrow. OK then...

Sylvie the cat loves to be outside, but she's not winter-tough quite yet - she whines and scratches the door to go out, and then minutes later, she's meowing to come back in. Over and over and over... I'm happy to say Sunny the Wonderdog is smarter than that - go out, do your business, come in and return to the couch or the bed...

Two weeks left until winter break for Erin. She said to me yesterday "I love my school". Mayo, along with the other Rochester high schools, are in the middle of their holiday fundraising. Mayo's is called GOFA - Give One For All - with proceeds going to the Dorothy Day House and the Women's Shelter. As a student government member, Erin has been a part of organizing GOFA activities. Last year, they raised just over $40,000. It is fun to see how passionate the kids are about doing something for the greater good.

I had a Facebook memory pop up today of Erin, 5 years ago:


She is standing outside the Grizzly House, the on campus housing for patient families at St. Jude. This time 5 years ago was the beginning of Shannon's decline and Erin was there to watch the whole thing.

I don't know how to quantify the journey that kid has been on for the past 5 years. Erin is her own person, but she shares so many good qualities with the sister she lost. Erin had to learn at such a young age to be tough and compassionate at the same time. I think it will serve her well.

So, on we go towards the holidays. It's a time of year to reflect and count your blessings. Mine are many...

Thursday December 1, 2016

December has arrived. While we had a few snowflakes yesterday, the grass is still very green in our yard... I won't digress here into a discussion on global warming...

Our Thanksgiving getaway was wonderful. Relaxing for all three of us and gorgeous weather made golfing and time by the pool quite nice. We do like our "new" tradition and hope we can pull it off one more year. After that, Erin will be in college and then, who knows...

Erin going to college has been creeping into my thoughts lately. Spending last week with the Shives and many of Ariana's friends gives a window into the next step of life. Erin, as always, loved hanging with the college kids. This year, there were more! Ariana (a senior), T Connor (junior), Ariana's roommate Katy, from the island of Jersey of the coast of England (senior), and joining us for Thanksgiving dinner were two of Ariana's triathalon club teammates, Dan (sophomore) from Syracuse, NY, and Dario, a grad student from Milan, Italy who is a Fulbright Scholar studying the clarinet at USC.

How's that for a reminder that the world is a big, wide place...

Erin soaked it all up and by the time we get to the next stage, she will be ready. Me, on the other hand... I've got just under two years to get there...

But, now we are back in Rochester and in the middle of Erin's junior year. School is going well and she'll be busy this next month with the student government fundraiser called GOFA - Give One For All.

She's also playing off season volleyball with a new team this year, as our Southside Juniors club didn't have enough kids at the upper level to make a team. So, Erin tried out for a new club and now has teammates from all over southern MN. This team will travel far and wide starting in January. Trips to Minneapolis, Omaha and the Wisconsin Dells should make the winter go by quickly. This has been the first week of practice and so far, so good...

Dan is busy this month, too. Traveling with his boss today and then headed to Nashville for company wide meetings next week.

My job continues to energize me and I feel like it's such a good fit for my skills. I am so fortunate to find that after staying home with children and not being in the work force for a great portion of my adult life. It's such a conundrum for women. I got the best of both worlds - a chance to be a stay at home mom when my kids were little, and now a chance to do a job I love. Gratitude.

So, bring on December. We head towards those memories of Shannon in her last days. How can we be approaching our 5th Christmas without her? And yet, Erin said to me yesterday, "I love Christmas". The holidays still represent family, love and generosity. Shannon amplified the importance of those things for us. It is never the same without Shannon, but it can still be good.