Wednesday July 29, 2015

Shannon would have turned 17 today. Our fourth summer without her rolls on...

I often think of how unfair it is in the context of being her mother. I didn't get a chance to see her grow up and I feel cheated.

But sometimes I'm reminded to think of it in the context of what others lost.

My parents, who not only had to watch their granddaughter die, but now live with watching their own daughter go on living with that loss. That's a double whammy.

Dan and his whole family. The O'Hara cousins are getting to spend a lot of time together this summer with two family weddings.  I know they miss Shannon, and their chain of cousins has a missing piece.

And Erin. She really got cheated. She is lonely sometimes without her sister. Summer brings lots of opportunities to realize what she's missing.

Those family weddings - seeing siblings stand up for one another - has an edge to it for Erin. She won't get that chance.

Summer also finds Erin hanging out with friends - and their siblings. Seeing two teenage sisters together - the older one driving the younger one around - well, that can be a painful reminder of what she's lost.

Kids this age start to think about their future. Erin will be here after Dan and I are gone. She will be the one to carry on our story. That's a big burden.

Most of the time, Erin doesn't show her pain and she carries on with confidence and a smile most days.

But every once in a while, she lets it go. Last night there were tears, missing her sister. We sat together and just allowed ourselves to miss her. Nothing wrong with that.

Happy birthday, Shannon.

Saturday July 25, 2015

I am busy this morning tying up loose ends from Monday's golf tournament. I've uploaded the photos to the foundation website, so check them out. Lots of smiling faces and fun foursomes there! Here's the link:

It's strange to me the things that elicit emotion. Monday, we had 140 people together honoring Shannon, and I didn't shed a tear. Yesterday, I took a photo of Shannon down off the wall and it got to me.  I think I will continue to learn about grief for the rest of my life...

I wanted to hang some photos from our trip to Ireland. We decided on a wall in our basement. A wall where pictures of Shannon and Erin from the summer of 2011 have been hanging for the last 4 years. Erin was ready to take down the pics that showed her a a little 10 year old, smiling while watching Shannon battle.

So, those pictures will find a new home somewhere else, or maybe just in my mind. Time does march on. We've been new places and seen new things in the past three years. Erin wants to see that forward progress hanging outside her door. So we made the change.

I am coming to realize that this year will be a really tough one. Shannon's classmates are seniors. Some of them are already posting their senior pictures on social media. I've sat in on several conversations about college visits and the next stage of life. It's just going to be really hard, as milestones tend to be.

I'm sad I didn't get to see Shannon as a senior in high school. I'm sad we didn't get to experience the madness of choosing a college with her. I guess I'm allowed to feel that way. Most of the time I'm able to carry on and move ahead and know that we did all we could while she was here. But, we got short changed, and sometimes that's still painful. I think it always will be...

The pictures of Ireland that now hang on the wall look beautiful. It doesn't mean we've forgotten what used to hang there. It means we are living because of what we learned during that summer of 2011.

It's Shannon's birthday week. What a smart, sassy 17-year-old she could have been...

MGG Swings for Shannon raises $14,000!

MGG Swings for Shannon was a great success. We had beautiful weather and great support for out event. 140 golfers this year helped us raise almost $14,000.

I enjoy going around the course and seeing each group. Almost everyone has a connection to me or Dan or Mayo Girls Golf. Some of these people knew Shannon. Many of these people were a part of Shannon's journey. Seeing Shannon's 7th and 8th grade teachers playing golf in the Shannon shirts is pretty special. They have been changed by their experience with that girl...

While the event is a lot of work, we don't do it alone. So, thank you to all the volunteers - friends who continue to support us and help us with organizing our events.

Thank you to everyone who sponsored a tee sign or donated a raffle prize.

Thank you to Coach Steve Myhro, Coach Cathy Ruedinger and the Mayo Girls Golf team. Your manpower makes things run smoothly.

And finally, thank you to each and every one of you who played in the event. Hopefully 5 hours on a golf course in the sun made you feel good. Hopefully you felt Shannon shining down on you.

We will do it all again next year, so mark your calendars for July 18, 2016!

Monday July 20, 2015

The MGG Swings for Shannon golf tournament is today. Weather for this afternoon looks good. I know Shannon will shine down on us.

This will be our biggest event yet and I'm excited to see all the family and friends who are coming out to support our foundation and remember Shannon. The Mayo Girls Golf Team will be there to help us out, too, which really gives the event a special feel.

We've been planning for months and it's finally here. It's going to be a great day...

Tuesday July 14, 2015

This past weekend, Barbara Park died. She succumbed to ovarian cancer at age 66.

If you raised kids in the 1990's, this name will ring a bell. Park was the author of the "Junie B. Jones" books, written about a smart-mouthed girl with opinions about everyone.

Titles like "Junie B. Jones and the Stupid, Smelly Bus" and "Junie B. Jones and That Meanie Jim's Birthday" certainly grabbed kid's attention. Kids loved these books. Shannon loved these books. IT was the first time they got to read something a little controversial. Kids weren't allowed to say mean things out loud, but Junie B. sure could think them!

I remember Shannon reading and laughing about the sassy girl who was narrating the stories. Shannon and Erin loved when Dan and I would take a turn reading the books out loud so we could all laugh together. That's a sweet memory for me.

Now kids Shannon's age are making college visits. Through golf, volleyball, hockey and our foundation, we still have contact with so many of Shannon's classmates. This is their senior year. Those kids who grew up reading Junie B. Jones are prepping for the next stage of life.

The heartache of what we are missing will never go away. Something as simple as a children's book author passing away can trigger a memory and make me remember our loss. Dan, Erin and I share Shannon memories all the time, but sometimes the memories we didn't get to make creep in and grab me.

Life is good, and yet, there will always be a piece missing. Dan, Erin and I constantly have to reconcile that in our own minds. We can be happy - we are happy - but something will always be missing.

This year will be tough. Watching Shannon's peers choose their colleges and graduate from high school will not be easy. We will miss her and we will miss the idea of who she might be now. One can only imagine what that Junie B. Jones loving girl might have turned out to be...

Thursday July 9, 2015

I picked up a new order of Shannon shirts this week in preparation for the golf tournament. I think this may be our tenth different shirt. That's good and bad all at the same time...

It's bad of course, because it means she's been gone long enough for us to produce ten different shirts for ten different events. Hockey tournaments, golf tournaments, Brains Together For a Cure walks, etc. We're working on our fourth year of fundraising. How is that possible? I can't think too hard about that because it hurts deep down in my marrow.

But, when I showed up to play tennis on Tuesday and my three friends were wearing three different versions of Shannon gear, well, that's just pretty damn cool. When I see the shirts, it doesn't make me think of what I've lost, but what I've gained: deep friendships and unwavering support from family and friends If someone is willing to wear a shirt in honor/memory of my daughter, that warms my heart and makes me want to keep going...

We sell t-shirts to fund our scholarships and make small donations to support brain tumor research. We'd have to sell millions of shirts to raise the kind of funds needed to really support the research, and that's probably not in the cards for us. But, we will keep doing what we can on a small level to honor our girl.

Shannon's desire to donate her cells is making a difference, though, and that offers us hope to see a change in the way brain stem gliomas are treated. Dr. Richard Vile and his research team have been inspired by Shannon's story and they are working with her actual cells in there immunotherapy research. An article was published this week online by Mayo Clinic that covers Shannon's story and the legacy she is leaving behind through Dr. Vile's research.

You can read the article here:    Mayo Clinic In The Loop

Go Shannon, go...

Friday July 3, 2015

Day five of our Irish adventure finds us in Dublin this morning. We have experienced some of Ireland's big cities in Limerick and Cork, and we've stopped in small towns like Innistomen and Dungarvan along the way. We've seen the Cliffs of Moher and the River Shannon, and more pubs than I can count.

We've had strong coffee and good seafood. I've had a pint or two and Erin has been sampling different food options and some of the best hot chocolate she's ever had. We are doing what we can to be among the local people in each spot. It is true what they say about the Irish, they are a friendly people.

We've done a lot of the usual stuff people do on holiday here - sightseeing and visiting the pubs for food and drink. But on Wednesday, we did something really special for the three of us. We played golf at Ballybunion.

Ballybunion is along the southwest coast of Ireland, hard by the Atlantic Ocean, as they say. The course was founded in 1893 and it's a true links style course, rated in the top 20 in the world. There are pot bunkers everywhere and gorse where you can lose your ball quite easily (trust me). There are hills and mounds and you can find yourself hitting off a side hill lie where it's tough to keep your footing (trust me).

Caddies are for hire, and are almost a necessity to help you navigate with some local knowledge. Dan had a caddie named Willie Joe who insisted on calling him "Danny". Erin and I shared a caddie named Tom - a crusty old chain smoker whose skin was weathered by the weather.

Erin was nervous about having a caddie, but it didn't take her long to settle in. By hole 3, Tom had won Erin over. He was offering advice and reading the greens for her. By hole number 8, where she almost made a hole-in-one, Erin had proved that she's got game.

The caddies give you a target to aim for and tell you where you don't want to miss it. They talk to your ball, telling it to go or sit or get left. They also congratulate you on good shots and chide you a bit when you don't follow their instructions. Tom kept telling me to aim left and I kept going right. By the end, he threw up his hands and said, "I've done all I can." We laughed a lot, me, Erin and Tom...

We had perfect weather for the first 12 holes - no wind and comfortable temps. But over the last six holes, the Irish weather showed up. We put on our rain gear and played on through. Really, it just added to the experience. It felt like a British Open where the weather changes during the course of the round.

In the end, we shot decent scores and enjoyed every minute. Golfing together is something the three of us love to do. To do it in a place like Ballybunion is extra special. I am so grateful to be having this experience with the people I love.