Kate: In Her Own Words

I’ve sat down numerous times over the last several years, wanting to write about Kate, or her Mommy, or her Mommy and Daddy. I’ve wanted to express how deeply Kate touched my heart and make sure Mike and Lindsay know that we are here for them no matter what, no matter when, no matter how. You see, I’m not a writer, I don’t do well expressing my feelings on paper, I just don’t, and that’s ok. But on the eve of Mother’s Day, one of the hardest of all holidays, I want her to know how much she is loved,
admired, respected and appreciated.

Her name is Lindsay White Rhoades, she’s Kate’s Mommy and one
of the best Mommy’s I’ve ever been fortunate to know. I met Lindsay in May of 2013, when she was still Lindsay White. Thanks to YEO, we traveled to cool places together, had some amazing experiences, and laughed…a LOT. She met her amazing husband Mike, who could appreciate the fact that I made fun of his soon to be wife when she tripped as she was heading down the aisle to marry him. He’s smart, funny, kind, and has a heart of gold, he loves a good debate and brown spirits.

On June 5, 2011 Kate Olivia arrived and completed their little family, sweet,
beautiful, perfect Kate. That lovable girl held the hearts of everyone she met, and she continues to embrace the hearts of those that didn’t have that privilege. I was blessed that on two separate occasions she sat in my lap to take a few selfies and to open presents for her birthday.

When we have children we look forward to and hold onto the small things, the I wuv you’s, the wet kisses, the hugs that are so warm and slobbery but you never want to let go, the joy that, at the moment, your child wants to be with you and only you, the cuddles under warm blankets on a cold day,
the joy of bubbles or of jumping in puddles, their perfect little hands and feet, talking about Parasaurolophus and their friends, watching your child take “schnoozies”, or that your child’s favorite color is the rainbow because she didn’t want to leave any colors out, and the giggles, the wonderful
giggles. We have all witnessed that pure joy in Lindsay from the moment Kate entered this world.

Lindsay is a prolific writer, you feel the raw emotion in her ability to capture moments perfectly, as she expresses her feelings so vividly. That beautiful, smart, kind, brave, strong, wonderful, loving woman is making sure that none of us forget Kate, that her death will not be in vain, and founded Kate’s Cause to do just that. Lindsay makes things happens. She has an ability to rally people and get things done.

Losing a child is the loneliest, most desolate journey a person can take and only those that have experienced such a thing can understand. Mike and Lindsay have joined the exclusive club of people who have experienced a grief so deep that is truly immeasurable to those who haven’t. Those of us who know her well, those that have met her through the loss of their own child, and those of you who have been drawn to follow her have all been witness to the undeniable strength, resilience, perseverance and true love she possesses.

On the eve of Mother’s Day, I ask that we continue to remember Kate, if you see something that reminds you of Kate, tell Lindsay, speak Kate’s name, share your favorite picture, tell stories of your interaction with her and don’t be afraid to ask about Kate, to want to know more. Lindsay and Mike will tell you anything you want to hear. Know that we can’t fix this, as much as we want to, and accept how broken they will always be without Kate and be ok with providing the love and support they need. Understand when they need time out and that not a day goes by that isn’t a struggle.

The toy drive is still running , just a few more weeks to buy a toy for the clinic, or make a donation; $4 for how old Kate was when she became an angel, $12 for the date that Mother’s Day falls on this year, or any amount that works for you. Let’s give her the best Mother’s Day we can, knowing that this is one of the worst for her, and because she deserves a good one and so much more.

It is a privilege to call her my friend and I am forever grateful for her. Thank you, Lindsay, for all that do, the world is a better place with you in it.

Happy Mother’s Day, my dear friend. I love you!

Katherine: In Her Own Words

The Kate’s Cause Birthday Toy Drive is always a little bittersweet for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and it’s a perfectly Kate way to give back to the community. But, it also makes me think about the utter joy on her face as she opened presents. It didn’t really matter the occasion or what was under the wrapping paper, she loved opening gifts. You’re probably thinking what kid doesn’t, and that’s true. But with Kate, it was as much about getting the gift as it was about her wanting you to know just how much she appreciated it.

I remember sitting on the couch at Lindsay and Mike’s house with a present I was pretty sure she would love. It was 2014, she was in the middle of treatment and it was a particularly tough time. As I watched her open it, she watched me out of the corner of her eye, pausing to oooh and aaah every so often, gently pulling off the wrapping paper. As she pulled the Pteranodon wings out of the paper, she started grinning ear-to-ear. For the next 15 or so minutes, she flew around the room being chased by her daddy wearing a T-rex head. It was 15 minutes of perfection. The memory is so strong that I can close my eyes and replay it in my head. It’s how I often think of her now — flying around, being goofy, with a big grin on her face. I always stop when I see toys in the store. I look for ones that I’m pretty sure she would like, and I think about her and those wings.

If you haven’t had a chance, take a look at the toy drive list. Find a toy that makes you smile. Think about the joy it would bring to kiddos fighting for their lives, and help Kate’s Cause bring an ear-to-ear grin to another beautiful face.

Easter After Great Loss

I missed sunrise service at Kate’s Place today, the sweet garden in the back of our church and in front of the preschool where Kate spent her days the last four months of her life.

I say “our” church as if we attend regularly. Truthfully, we don’t. I’d like to, but only recently did Pastor Gary retire. I couldn’t hear his voice without thinking of her funeral and, well, that’s just not something I aim to revisit. There is a new Pastor, who Kate’s Grandma really likes. I wanted to go…they held the sunrise service there today because “it’s the prettiest place we have.” Truth…on so many levels.

Like many, Easter used to be mostly about the bunny, the eggs and the chocolate. Only in the crushing pain of Kate’s death do I truly understand the power of what today means and how it has changed everything about my life.

Easter and the promise of eternal life in Heaven…it’s what I live for now. 
But. I read this blog early this morning, when I’d hoped to be at church and it summed it up precisely why I was missing that service I’d so hoped to attend. I am still “Saturday people” afterall. I am still reeling over what happened just yesterday, and I don’t yet KNOW what will come.

I have learned and come to completely believe that our separation is temporary, but knowing she waits for me often makes the pains of today harder. Why? How come? Well…because my hope in the future does not lessen the pain of my today.

Because today, I’d really like to have an almost 8 year old on a sugar high running through the grass and pink cherry tree petals of my front yard. I’d really like to know who she is and what makes her tick today. I’d really like to know if she’d ever eat jelly beans and I’d really like to not have to miss her like I do.

Miss her I do. Today and every day. I love you Kate. I miss you. Best friends forever. I promise.

And because He is Risen, I really do mean forever.

Marc: In His Own Words

I’ve started this at least 10 times already, but I must get it right. See, I’ve written to/about you before, but that was my blog, my space. Now, your Mommy gave me the honor of writing something in your name where your army of supporters will see it, and to do you justice, it must be perfect. Because, my gosh, you were perfect, sweet Kate. You were too young and vibrant and loving to be anything but perfect. Too perfect…

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Megan: In Her Own Words

Kate has had an incredibly large impact on my life. She provides me with a sense of calm, passion, and perserverance; things I historically struggled with.

When I get tired and feel overwhelmed, I remember how tired she was during treatment and that cuddling on the couch with her mamma made her happy. So I take to my couch and cuddle. When life gets busy, I am reminded to look for the little joys and embrace them. Often baking with my girls and talking about “our Kate” as they call her.

My heart lights up to see Kate’s photo or the Kate’s Cause logo pop up in my notifications, knowing I will have a chance to share her story and honor her memory. When shopping, I often find things Kate would love and purchase them for my girls or to donate to the children’s hospital in her memory. We have dinosaur salt & pepper shakers and a dino cookie jar, both purchased at moments like this.

When I feel helpless in the fight against childhood cancer I donate platelets which are used to treat leukemia patients at Inova. I visit her often; I stop by on random days when I am in the area, on rainy days when all is quiet and still, and on warm sunny spring days. I leave feeling peaceful and connected to her.

She makes me a better person, a better friend, a better mother daily. She makes the world a better place.

Thank you Kate! Love you always!

A Letter Today, Just Because I Miss You

March 3, 2019 1:27pm

I’ve spent less time in here. Have you noticed? I feel like I should have more…or maybe better things to say besides how much I miss you. But here, among your things and your bed and your sweet clothes, it’s the only feeling I have besides how much I love you. Is that okay? That nothing more interesting or profound comes to mind? Nothing more earth shattering?

Funny isn’t it? That I say that? Feels pretty profound and earth shattering to me. Maybe only to me and those who love you. But that feels like enough to make the Earth stop moving. But it hasn’t. And I’m still not sure how.

I miss you. And I love you. And I have no way to tell you, so I say it out loud every day. I think I speak to you all day, every day, don’t I? I don’t even know anymore because I don’t think I ever stopped. I think you are around me like the air.

I am terrified of forgetting you. Your unique “you-ness.” Your smell. Your touch. Your weight. The feel of your breath. But how could I, really? Here, in your room, I remember it all. It hurts so much, but it feels so right. Necessary. Because it’s you, and the pain AND the love I feel for you are all I have left of you. What else can I do but say I love you and I miss you every day?

Love and miss you I do, my girl.  Love and miss you, I do.

When Facebook Memories Aren’t Needed

Facebook memories. They can be so helpful and hurt so much at the same time. Reminding me of little moments I may have later forgotten, or slowing down my pace to linger and smile over a chubby baby foot or get a chuckle out of a sweet thing she once said.

But there are days like today where no memory of anything that happened prior to or after January 10th, 2016 can erase what THAT day brings to mind. There weren’t any posts or pictures but it’s burned into my head and heart deep and searing.

Continue reading “When Facebook Memories Aren’t Needed”

Kate’s Kindness Award 2018

Kate’s Cause had a really great morning. We got to surprise our friend Campbell with the first ever Kate’s Kindness Award, which is a gesture of thanks and appreciation for the kindness shown not only to our family but to Kate’s Cause. This is the first we’ve granted and something we hope will be an ongoing thing for years to come and it kicks off a new year in such a positive way.

Campbell is 12 years old and she and her family mean a great deal to us. It was such an honor getting to see her sweet face (and her family & friends) today. The video is posted below, along with what we shared with Campbell and her family:

“We’re here surprising Campbell Neiman with a very special, first-of-its-kind award, which is a gesture of thanks and appreciation for the kindness shown not only to our family but to Kate’s Cause. This is the first we’ve granted and something we hope will be an ongoing thing for years to come.

The award is called the “Kate’s Kindness Award” but it is truly inspired by Campbell.

Campbell’s efforts, passion and kindness towards our family, Kate’s Cause and OTHER organizations supporting children with cancer are astounding. For a girl who just turned 12 a few days ago (happy belated birthday!) Campbell has done some truly amazing things.

When she was just 9, Campbell marched & rallied with us at CureFest. She made posters and joined us in our protest march to the Capitol. She knew at just 9 that childhood cancer was something that needed MUCH more attention than it was getting and she was going to make her voice heard – alongside Kate’s Cause. Something we will NEVER forget. For her 10th birthday, she asked for nothing for herself, but rather, donations to Kate’s Cause. On that birthday she raised $160 and would continue this trend for years to come. In total, for Campbell’s last three birthdays, she has raised $880 for the Cause. All her idea. All her choice.

And then, this fall, Campbell and her travel soccer team called the Shenandoah FC (Football Club) Elite worked on a community service project as a team and together, chose to support Kate’s Cause with their efforts. Their fundraising brought in over $2300 for Kate’s Cause which blew EVERYONE away.

Campbell has attended every Kate’s Cause event she can – the PanKate breakfast being a favorite. This year, she recruited friends! She volunteered for the Kyle’s Kamp holiday store, helping patients select & wrap presents for their families. (What other 11 year old do you know who would do that??) She advocates, remembers and honors Kate at every chance she gets and she supports us in a thousand other ways.

Campbell, we are so grateful to have you in our lives. Your passion and dedication to help children with cancer is so contagious. We wish some adults had a fraction of the heart you do – to make our children a priority. There is something really special about you, and you are the embodiment of what I say often – that kids today are going to change our world. You already have. You do. And we are so proud to know you and get to have you in our circle.

To Daryn & Michele, Campbell’s parents and my friends from high school, I know how immensely proud you are. Thank you for letting Campbell be a part of our lives, and for letting us love her like we do. The apple obviously does not fall far from the tree here, and we are so thankful for your WHOLE family for the support we’ve been given from day one. It’s really amazing.

When we first started to discuss the idea of Kate’s Cause…a way to honor our daughter, I had these huge, grand ideas that we wouldn’t be successful unless we CURED childhood cancer. Unless we raised MILLIONS of dollars. Unless we got the attention of every doctor and researcher in the world and made strides no one else had. A cure was the only thing on our minds. While a cure remains our number one priority, I realize now that the feeling of Kate’s life having impact is what is most important. Her legacy lives on in people like you, Campbell. Because she touched your life, you’ve carried that flame. There is no greater gift to a parent who has lost a child than that.

Campbell, you’re the first award recipient of the Kate’s Kindness Award – there truly could be no one else. We love you and we thank you!”

To Those at My Table

Maybe you’ve stood in a store, mindlessly running your fingers over the glittery ornaments that seem to be made just for you and your child, but you wonder if you should buy them because…well…

Maybe you’ve stood in that same store, or maybe it’s another one (because you’ve gone to 10,) and cursed everything in your path because try as you might, there exists NO store that carries anything perfectly suited to decorate a four-year old’s headstone for Christmas instead of her play room tree. Maybe you’re crying as you move numbly aisle to aisle, hearing her in your ears and wondering what she would be like today, cringing as the little girl with cat ears and pink boots twirls by.

Maybe you have a rack in your garage like me, with organized bins and shelves full of decorations of the past 3 holiday seasons and now you ache and cry and wonder if anyone really knows what that feels like. That a quarter of your garage is dedicated to storing cemetery decorations because you cannot bear to throw anything away because it’s all you have left; all you have to give anymore. This is life now. This is “normal.”

Maybe the very thought of the holiday tears you in half because you WANT (oh how you want!) to remember the good holidays for a moment or shoot, you’d even be okay remembering the bad ones when chemo threatened to destroy your memories. You’d actually give anything for the bad ones again because they were REAL. They happened. They were actual, real life and now, you can no longer create more of those new, real life memories, hard as they were at the time. And you feel torn because how in the hell can anyone ask you to feel thankful, grateful and blessed when the world has ended and left its mark as ashes at your feet? You know you are all of those things, but you are also and sometimes MORE devastated, isolated and broken?

Maybe you feel one day like it’s okay to be angry, but cry yourself to sleep because you feel AWFUL at being angry because you know it’s so very, very far from what your little girl wants for you. There is a face that others see, but even that is cracking and you feel like screaming and spitting like a caged animal at the rage you feel inside because no one really understands that YES, GOD DAMMIT, IT DOES STILL HURT THIS MUCH!

But then you catch one glimpse of her face in a photo and for a moment, you go back in time. Maybe you close your eyes, but I know you wish with every cell in your body that you could just stay there forever. Or for one second, because even that long would be okay. You relive the “lasts” you experienced with your love over and over again. All of the “befores” and “untils.” You cherish the perfect family photo from that last Thanksgiving that you still get a giggle over because of the blasted turkey carcass in the background that is now part of a larger story and you wonder “how many times did I tell her I love her that day?”

Maybe it’s not your daughter. Maybe it’s not your child at all. Maybe it’s your husband or your mother or a very dear friend. Maybe it’s your first season without them or your 20th. In my third this year, it hurts worse than I expected it to because she’s still gone. And she will be gone for the rest of my life and something about that just can’t be explained to people who just don’t know. Something about that kind of pain longs to be felt, explored, examined, revered and honored, but in doing so you feel you could die from how much it hurts.

If you have read this far, somehow I think we might be feeling the same things this holiday season. I don’t have a Thanksgiving table anymore, but if I did, know that you would belong there. For whatever reason you are hurting this Thanksgiving, I see you. Lord knows I don’t know how to help, but at least you know you aren’t alone in my house and in my world. I’m grateful for those who see me and welcome me with open arms despite how very hard I am to love right now and I pray that you feel the same, even if it’s just from this. I pray for a peaceful and gentle Thanksgiving to those who are hurting and I send you my love all the way to Kate and back.

Kate, I love you. I miss you. Best friends forever. I promise.

Hurting for the Holidays

It starts at Halloween. Her favorite, I think. Kate was diagnosed in August, so the Halloween that followed was an absolute blow for her. She was so sick and in so much pain that for that particular year, it was all about what we could do. We crafted, we looked at decorations online and in our cul du sac. We couldn’t go far, so she developed a love for the holiday from the safety of her covered cart at Target. She loved the decorations and the costumes. She’d choose 10 things each year she would like to be. She only ever got two REAL Halloween adventures, but she loved those two nights so completely. She didn’t even care about the candy, really. For Kate, Halloween was all about the build up. The days leading up to. Now, I can’t even answer the door. All the costumes that grace my Facebook feed or parade around my neighborhood only serve as a reminder of who she would be.
Thanksgiving hasn’t ever been my favorite holiday, but since Kate passed away, it has almost become so. I think it’s more that it’s a favorite memory than anything. Kate was feeling so, so well her last Thanksgiving and she was little miss personality. It was the very last day that I can remember her feeling good. Being 100% KATE. In love with life, her whole future ahead, family all around. Now, we bury our heads in the sand, sometimes choosing to half-hardheartedly participate, sometimes not. Each time we don’t, I feel I’m betraying her. How dare I not invite the whole family over for the same feast we’d served when she was here? How could I even think of not celebrating a day all about family; something she cherished?? But then when I do, I also feel it’s a betrayal, even considering a family gathering when she cannot participate. Afterall, WHAT is my family without Kate?
The sound of Christmas carols makes my stomach hurt. Twinkle lights make me cry. I went from being the mom who did it all – decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping, hosting, crafting – to…well…nothing. I don’t say that to sound arrogant. I really don’t. I’m a mom who LOVED the holidays and Kate just made my love and joy for them magnified x 1000. She allowed me to be the mom I always dreamed of being and together, we got to turn a whole month into excitement, joy and fun. She was my little sidekick and from as early in her life as I can remember, she was right there with me oooh’ing and aaah’ing at every sparkle that caught her (our) eye.
It breaks my heart, really. Kate loved (LOVED) the joy of celebrating. All of it! St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day. It didn’t matter. Counting down to special occasions was something she truly loved to do. Having her family descend on our house, helping to set the table, just giddy with the excitement over the pure merriment of the season. Presents? Sure, she loved that part. Cookies for Santa and leaving him and the reindeer letters? Absolutely. But my girl just loved the JOY of it all. After all, she was at the center of our world and she just simply loved her life. She really did. We were told once “the short experience she had here was wonderful. She was not defined by illness. She was made to feel lived and important and she was cherished. Cuddled. And that was what really mattered to her.” She LOVED her life, her family and her world and I wish I could just live in that world again. It was magic, really, the bond of us three.
I dreamed of taking her to the Nutcracker. Dressing in special glittery, twirly skirts and taking her to a special tea or dessert restaurant and delighting in all things sugar plum fairy-ish. In fact, when I found out she was a girl, I think this might’ve been my very first thought.
I want…I SO WANT…to be able to celebrate for her. To rejoice in the feelings, do all the things she couldn’t. Because I know with every fiber of my being that she’s right there with me in spirit and to me, that means something. “In spirit” doesn’t just mean “oh she’d love this.” No, to me, it means she’s THERE. In my lap. holding my hand, twirling in a pretty skirt. And she wants me to. OH HOW SHE WANTS ME TO. I just don’t know how. I don’t know how to pretend it’s okay when it just simply isn’t.
The holidays are just so, so hard. I want to be okay and I just don’t feel like I ever will be. For her, we will keep on trying to find out how to carry forward with her in my heart.
Kate, you made every single part of my life better and I’m trying as hard as I can. I love you. I miss you. Best friends forever. I promise.