A brief glimpse into the daily happenings of a 6-year-old, his new baby brother and his family.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Early Saturday morning, Allyson passed away. I haven't blogged about it until now because I don't know what to say. Today I decided that, instead of making this blog about her horrible cancer or the amazing sadness I feel, it was much more true to Ally if I shared some of my favorite memories and the positive things I've learned from knowing her.

Even as a preschooler, Allyson was completely fearless and totally comfortable in her own skin. In fact, she thought her skin was pretty terrific and that the whole world should know just how terrific she was. Many times, I'd watch as she'd strike up a conversation with a random stranger (never kids her own age-- she liked the high school crowd or adults) about their day, her new shoes, what she had eaten for breakfast, whatever was on her mind. After a few minutes, the stranger would be ready to buy the kid a pony or anything else she might want.

Once at the lake, she said something way beyond her years and I called her "Miss Sassafrass." Now, normally, I could have told her to jump off a bridge and she'd have smiled and asked if she should land in a tuck or pike position. But, for some reason, she was totally offended. I don't think she even knew what "sassafrass" meant, but she decided it was unacceptable. For several hours, no matter what I said or what deals I tried to make, she wouldn't speak to me. She wouldn't even look at me. I had crossed the line and would be punished. Years later, when she was in junior high, I asked if she remembered that day. She said the only thing she remembered was that I had "called her a name and made her really mad". When I told her what I called her, she laughed and said, "I was a sassafrass. I'm still a sassafrass." How right she was. (Below is a picture from that weekend. I've been carrying this picture in my purse since Saturday.... it's my favorite picture of her because I remember how much fun we were having and because she was completely healthy. It's nice to remember her that way.)

Right after Allyson got sick, I picked her up from school one day. We were discussing her leg surgery and the impending chemotherapy. She was an 8th grader at the time. She was telling me about some painful procedure and she swore (for some reason, I think it was the dreaded "S" word). With a slightly shocked, slightly apologetic, slightly sly (sassy?) look on her face, she turned quickly to gauge my reaction. I started to laugh at her and right then and there, we made a pact. Since she had to deal with cancer and treatments and hospitals, she was free to swear with me anytime she wanted. No words were off limits (as long as it was only the two of us and as long as, if a word slipped out when anyone else was around, she didn't rat me out). So, for awhile, she threw colorful adjectives and interjections into stories anytime the two of us spoke alone. But, being the positive, upbeat kid she was, once the novelty wore off, she replaced those words with comments about how nice her nurses were or how hard everyone was working to help her.

I know it was very important to her that everyone knew she fought her illness bravely and that she didn't give up. I don't know exactly how she'd say she wanted to be remembered or what wisdom she'd pass on, but here is what I will carry with me:

1) A smile and a "thank you" is as good for the person's soul who is saying it as it is for the person hearing it. (even when those hearing it are doctors and nurses who put you through painful, but necessary, procedures and who don't always have the answers.)

2) Be sassy... or as she might have put it "livestrong".

3) Speak up and work tirelessly for something you truly care about. Allyson spoke to a congressional committee to lobby for more funding for research, donated her time to the Children's Miracle Network, and the Dream Factory. It was Ally's wish that people continue to support these charities because they had done so much for her. In addition, she was an amazing role model for other kids who were battling illness.

4) Make lemonade! I have never known anyone who could consistently find something positive in any situation. If you've read the journal entries on her caring bridge website, you know that is something she learned from her mom. Every time I want to take the easy road or complain, I have a Jiminy Cricket named Allyson who helps me stop and re-evaluate the situation. It makes a huge difference.

Please keep Allyson and her family in your thoughts and prayers. If you'd like to read her website or sign the guestbook on the site, you can visit:

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