|Our Chick-fil-A Birthday Dinner|
As you know, we marked Charlotte’s 7th birthday on Monday. The day included laughter, tears, hugs, an honorary mention on WCVE, dinner at Chick-Fil-A, a chocolate milk toast, and a showing of Finding Nemo. Roger and I were touched by the sweet messages we received as well as the generous donations made to the foundation in her honor that day.
On Friday morning, I turned to Roger and said, “Wow! It sure has been a long week. Monday seems like a long time ago.” He agreed. Between the emotional exhaustion at the beginning of the week, the Wine Down event on Wednesday in which we raised $1000 for CJSTUF (hurrah!), and the normal business of our jobs, it had proven to be a very long week, indeed.
Then came Friday. I ventured off to my job at the Dominion School and Roger had the opportunity to participate in the Moriah McNeil Celebrity Golf Classic to benefit ReeseStrong. One of the generous patrons of the organization had bought an extra foursome and donated it for use by dads of pediatric cancer patients. Roger joined Reese’s dad and a few other guys for a beautiful day on the links.
|Roger, Walter Klauer, & Emanuel McNeil|
Moriah’s dad, Emanuel McNeil, is a former NFL football player. He lost his daughter Moriah to cancer in 2004 and organizes this charity golf tournament every year in her honor. The proceeds benefit a different children’s charity annually. With these connections, it made sense that quite a few NFL players would be hitting the links. It wasn’t until Roger reached the tournament, however, that he realized some of these guys were the same football players who came and sang Frosty the Snowman to Charlotte on a hot summer day when we were holed up in the ASK clinic for a treatment in 2009. The visit had been a huge hit with Charlotte and had even been featured on the CBS news (briefly). As Roger talked about this with the football players, many of them mentioned remembering Charlotte. Then one guy pulled out his phone and showed us this video.
In the meantime, among my many meetings of the day, I was scheduled to interview a potential instructional assistant for the Dominion School. The young lady arrived at the scheduled time and we began to talk about her work history and why she was seeking employment with us. I asked her to say a little bit about why she liked her job and she told me this story. She works at Build-a-Bear.
“I really love being able to see the happy faces on the children. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a family that came into our store. The little girl was about 3 or 4 years old and she was sick. She came into the store after hours with her best friend and together they made creations for her, her parents, and her best friend. We were so touched by this little girl and found out a few weeks later that she had passed away. I still think about her a lot and how we were able to make her happy.”
|Our creations from Build-a-Bear,
including Frosty the Bad-Ass
As I sat there listening to her story, I realized where this was going. I was near tears as I listened to her accounting of our very own Build-a-Bear visit. I was thinking, “Should I say something? Is that appropriate?” Finally, I realized I needed to tell her. I said, “I hope this doesn’t upset you, but I need to let you know, that’s my daughter you’re talking about.” I pointed towards the picture of Charlotte on my desk and the girl’s jaw dropped to the floor. She said, “Oh my goodness! That’s her! We have her picture in our office at the store and I still think about her and talk about her all the time!” We both started crying.
Eventually, we composed ourselves and carried on with the rest of the interview. On my way home from work, I got a message from Roger that he had something interesting to tell me. I told him that I had a great story for him as well. We met up and recounted these stories to each other in disbelief and amazement.
I don’t always believe in “signs” or messages, but perhaps these simple, touching stories delivered to both Roger and myself on the same day are a way of showing us that Charlotte continues to touch people’s lives as much in death as she did in life. Of course, I think of our girl every single day. But it warms my heart in unimaginable ways to realize that she had such a profound impact on people who are virtual strangers.
That, my friends, is the best birthday present anyone could ask for. Don’t you agree?