Wednesday December 5, 2012

A year ago today, we headed to Memphis, TN.  That's one of those days that's like a photograph in my mind.  Shannon was wearing her airbrushed hockey hat with her name on it, and a nervous smile.  We arrived in an unfamiliar place, and we were scared. We felt we had to go, and I can admit now, it was the first time in our journey where I felt desperate.

While our time in Memphis was filled with so many sad days, I am grateful that we got exposure to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  I contend that anyone who is treated there, even if it's only for 17 days, is changed by the experience.  Part of our mission going forward is to support St. Jude through our foundation.  Shannon wanted to make a difference, and we will continue to work towards that goal.

We have reached this season of anniversaries for us.  The next month will be a tough one, but we continue to find strength by sharing memories and stories, by sharing Shannon with others.

Last night, Shannon was everywhere.

She was on the minds of the Mayo and JM/Lourdes girls hockey players who sported lime green ribbons in their hair, and lime green tape on their shin pads and their sticks.

Shannon's friend Taylor shared memories of Shannon and let the crowd know about the kind of spirit Shannon had.  Taylor has known Shannon since kindergarten.  Not a dry eye in the room after that one.

Shannon was on the minds of her former teammates, coaches, and friends who were there.  She was on the minds of the Rochester youth hockey community who showed up to hear us speak and share our message.  People bought t-shirts and bracelets and helmet stickers and helped us raise over $3000 for the Shannon O'Hara Foundation.  Amazing.

Hell, Shannon was even on the zamboni!  Literally.  A tribute to her and her picture now adorn the Graham Arena zamboni.  She must be laughing about that one...

Erin was on people's minds, too.  Her basketball teammates came out to support her as we walked on the ice to speak to the crowd.  Some of these girls never really knew Shannon, but they know Smiley, and they were there for her.  Erin stood proudly as we talked about her sister, and carried herself with a confidence beyond her years.

Tomorrow marks 11 months without Shannon.  The days are moving quickly now, and the memories of a year ago are painful.  But the memories shared last night were happy ones.  Every time we gear up to go speak, I have a teeny tiny panic attack about doing it.  But then when I get there and see my friends supporting us, and I see Shannon's friends honoring her, I remember why I want to do it:  I can't bring her back, but I can carry her spirit forward...