Friday, March 01, 2013

Donna Day ...

Donna has been on my mind.

I think of Donna daily. This picture of her sits on the desk in my office, so I greet her every morning and every evening, I bid her goodnight.

But lately, specifically, I've been thinking about Donna and school.

Donna really wanted to go to school. So much so that even as her weeks were waning, school was how she chose to spend her days. And even as my friend Sheila offered to stay, to help her (since her balance was beginning to falter), Donna reassured her that she would be OK.

I so admire the way children approach their lives. Unencumbered by experiences and filters that adults often employ — wittingly or otherwise before making decisions — most children simply act. I would certainly do well to apply the same approach to my life, to not let what might happen tomorrow prevent me from pursuing something that appeals to me today. I suspect many others could claim the same truth.

Donna's Mama, as my friend Sheila is also known, has written exquisitely about her daughter in Donna's Cancer Story. I encourage you to read it in its entirety.

But it is a passage in "Choosing Hope," the penultimate post in Donna's Cancer Story, that I most want to share today, for it contains a most simple but profound request:

In these days, our neighbors, Chabad Lubavitch Jews, encouraged us to travel to Queens, New York with Donna, where the leader of the Hasidic movement was buried. They believed that his burial place had healing powers and thousands travelled there daily and were cured from illnesses as critical as Donna's. If we were not to travel, they encouraged us to send a prayer via email and it would be placed at the Rebbe's grave.

We are not religious, Mary Tyler Dad and I, but I embrace the belief that no one truly knows what is and is not in our world, or what happens after we leave this world. Each day as Donna would nap, I would type the same message to the Rebbe and think about it as it made it's way to Queens, was printed, folded, and placed next to the Rebbe's grave: "May she live until she die." That was my wish for Donna. I did not ask for her healing or a postponement of her inevitable death, I humbly asked the Universe to allow Donna to live until she died. No suffering. No pain. No lingering. May she live until she die, was my mother's plea, my last wish for my dying daughter.

Donna truly lived until she died.

A four-year-old girl, whom I know only through her parents' loving words and the sweet face I see on my desk each day, inspires me. To be more mindful. To live more fully. I am nowhere near as brave as she. I hope to be someday. Because we never know what tomorrow will bring.

And because in about the same time as it has taken you to read this far, somewhere in this world, a child has been diagnosed with cancer. One child is diagnosed every three minutes.

And research for pediatric cancer is woefully underfunded, which will never cease to baffle me. Why do we not devote plentiful resources to finding cures for cancers that affect children? Why do we not give them every possible opportunity to live long, full lives?

Thankfully, St. Baldrick's exists. Formed in 1999 by a group of insurance executives, St. Baldrick's has since granted more than $100 million to researchers who are trying to find cures for childhood cancers. It is the largest funder for childhood-cancer research outside the U.S. government.

Before Donna's death, Donna's Mama and Donna's Daddy created Donna's Good Things, a charity that benefits many children in many ways. Its focus is not solely on children with cancer, but last year, Donna's Good Things hosted a St. Baldrick's fundraiser with a goal of raising $20,000.

Donna's Good Things did not raise $20,000.

It raised $79,000.


On March 30, shavees will once again offer their manes for this exceptional cause. At the moment, the oldest registered shavee is 89 years old. She is participating with her daughter, a return shavee from last year's event. If you'd like to register to participate, there's still time. You can click on the blue button on this page to join.

If you'd like to contribute instead, you can click on the green button on the same page.

As Sheila says, "Any amount will be awesome! Seriously. Many people chipping in $5 and $10 makes a HUGE difference."

Wouldn't it be a lovely bit of poetry to raise $89,000 this year, to surpass last year's total and to acknowledge the awesomeness of an 89-year-old shavee?

You can contribute in honor or in memory of someone you love. You can contribute in Donna's memory. You can remain anonymous. It's up to you.

But please do consider a contribution today.

Today, March 1 – a.k.a. Donna Day – Donna's Good Things wants to spread the word of the noble mission of St. Baldrick's and raise as much money as possible to help fund ongoing research.

Whether you're able to contribute, you can also help by sharing this post on Facebook and Twitter. Let your friends know about St. Baldrick's and Donna Day. Kindly tag your tweets with the hashtags #donnaday and #conquerkidscancer.

All of us who love Donna thank you for taking part in Donna Day.

Today and every day, choose hope.


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