Birthdays Are Gonna Be Hard

DSC_0566 (1)

Reflections;

I’m the photographer in the family and have probably taken at least a terabyte of photos of Naya, Zak, Amy, the dogs, and friends and it still isn’t enough!  I find myself combing through the folders and folders of pictures on our server looking for new images and then realize there just isn’t going to be more than what already exist of my beautiful, creative, funny and smart girl.  For all of us time has been frozen.

Anger;

Most of what I feel these days is anger at not being able to protect, or keep my little girl safe, and well.  It is such a empty anger because there isn’t an immediate recourse.  I, and all of us, have to take the long term view and fight cancer and honor Naya by raising money for research to help the doctors who have dedicated their lives to uncovering a cure.  It is the path that exists so please help us and help the medical teams anyway you can.

Future;

Naya lives on through all the memories she imprinted on me every time I had the chance to enjoy her amazing presence.  She will forever be my future marine biologist and I will forever be better for all the amazing time she and I spent together.

Happy Birthday Naya, I love you!

Dad

Naya’s Day

IMG_1237

IMG_1230

Tomorrow would have been Naya’s 12th birthday. It seems like a stupid statement, but only this weekend did I completely understand that the last images I will have of her are from when she was just a child, just 11 years old. I’ll never see her turn 12, 18, or 20. No pictures of the future with her. She is just gone from our lives. How can it be? It still seems like a bad dream.

For the last two years, I’ve tried to look at the positive side in life and appreciate each day and experience. I’ve tried to be positive, open, kind, forgiving and loving. I’m not in the mood right now for any of it. Why? Because it really sucks to lose Naya.

I look for signs, only to wonder if I’m just seeking what’s not there. I pray that she hears me, or sees me. When I drive alone, I imagine she’s with me holding my hand in the car and singing a song. I think about her all day, and my heart is tied to her forever. I talk to her daily. I hear her yelling at Zak,and laughing at the dogs.

I’ve organized Naya’s pictures, voicemails and mementos so I never forget anything about her. Even so, I’m realizing I will forget things. And that is scary. How can I possibly remember it all?

I’m realizing that the 5 stages of loss or lessons on the first year of grief are so shallow. There are no stages, and there’s no way a quick read brochure can alleviate my grief. There’s nothing good or right to say. There never will be. Sometimes, I just want to stop listening. But then, sometimes, I can’t stop listening.

I feel an immense sadness from these realizations. A new sadness. It’s different from losing her, which is still fresh and so, so painful. It’s sadness mixed with fear and anger. It’s about the fear of losing precious memories of my dear daughter. It’s about losing the future that she was robbed from living. It’s about shutting people out or letting disengenious people in.

Tomorrow, I’m taking the day off. I don’t think it’ll be a celebration. But it will be in her honor. I’ll ride her horse PJ and eat at her favorite restaurant. I’ll work on her foundation. I won’t work or even look at my phone. That’s what she would have wanted.

To honor her tomorrow is to also renew my faith in the goodness of people and life. I want to live my life happy because she would want me to be happy. I want to remain positive because she was positive. I know she loved me deeply, and that gives me so much strength to love others in the same way. I was so fortunate to have Naya. Tomorrow will be a day where not a moment goes by where I don’t think of what she represented: joy, love, life, strength and perseverance. It’ll simply be a day dedicated to my Naya, just as her birthday should be.

Treasures Remind Me….

cardsontable1

I save things. Anything with any sentimental value is saved. Photos, kids artwork, cards and favorite things the kids kept around when they were little. I have at least 4 places to store photos so I never lose them, and a large container of all of the cards and well wishes Naya received when she was going through her illness.

On Mother’s Day, I didn’t do anything out of our ordinary routine. Hank and Zak made a nice dinner, and bought me a beautiful necklace. We speculated about what Naya would have done for Mother’s Day, and concluded she would have made me a special craft and wrote me a deeply touching card like she always did.

Hank and Zak both wrote meaningful cards which, of course, I need to keep forever. Today, I decided to put the cards away, and found myself in a small project to organize the cards that were piling up in my office. I have hundreds of cards from the last 2 years. My desk was overwhelmed with cards, and I was beginning to use my floor as storage. The mess was adding to my anxiety and inability to concentrate.

My chore to organize chaos became a treasure today. I read every card Naya and Zak ever gave me. Every time I read their words, I was reminded how much they loved me as their mom. It was as if Mother’s Day was happening again for me this year.

I have every card Hank gave to me since we were dating. I’m looking forward to reading those tomorrow, and discovering my next buried treasure. And, then I get to follow with cards from my brother, Dad & Mom.

We are a close family. I’m thankful that Naya knew how much we loved her, and that Zak feels our love and knows how to love back. Someday, Zak will go through some of this stuff. When he does, he’ll be reminded of how much his sister, Hank and I love him.

Raising the World’s Empathy Quotient

I’ve been on social media sites for years. Social media was a part of my job as a marketer. Over the last two years, social media has been a lifeline for survival and therapy for me as my daughter fought and lost her battle to cancer. Now, I think of social media as a lifeline for others, and I feel a responsibility to help others in need of a voice. I’m in a position, both as a person and professional, to make the world a better and more empathetic place.

My voice is getting louder as I help causes and efforts very close to my heart – pediatric cancer cures, STEM and advancing women. Recently, and with the help of social media, I’ve expanded my voice to areas that needs more empathy and understanding. Whether it’s influencing change in the State of Indiana, sharing stories that might help others, getting the world out about Elon Musk’s ideas to reduce carbon emissions, or listening to the needs of minorities in our inner cities – I’m trying to do my part to make our world a better place.

Many of you already act as a megaphone for others. For those of you who do, thank you. I’ve learned more about the world through your words and images, and am a better person as a result. I’ve also met some people who are changing the world and are heroes in their own right, and they are my source for inspiration.

But many of us still back away from stating our opinions. We’re worried about losing “friends” and “followers”, causing controversy, or seeming political. When I retweet or post something, I think about those things too. I don’t believe the “opinions are my own” will save me from repercussions. The stakes are high the more you put yourself and your brand in the public domain.

You can state your opinion and be responsible. You can state your opinion and not be political. All you need to do is state your opinion and be human, hopeful and not hateful. Let’s raise the world’s empathy quotient and make it a better place.

Going to the Radnor Hunt? Buy a bracelet and support Pediatric Cancer Research

Buy a bracelet, and support kids!
Buy a bracelet, and support kids!

If you’re going to the Radnor Hunt, listen up!

Tracy, a former classmate of Naya’s, student, and amazing young lady, is making bracelets to help raise funds for pediatric cancer research. These wonderful bracelets will be available at the Radnor Hunt for between $1.50-$3.00. Of course, she’ll accept more if you want to give more :)

Buy a bracelet from Tracy and support The Naya Foundation at the same time.

When you get to the field at the Radnor Hunt, look for our logo.  Cash only please.  Thanks Tracy for your amazing talent, love and support!

My Plan in May is to Honor Mothers and Daughters – Join in

I’ve been thinking about May a lot these days. Naya’s birthday is this month, and so is Mother’s Day. I also lost my dad in May. I know it’s going to be a hard time, and while I tell myself to live each day to the fullest, the anticipation of the month gets the best of me at times.

I have a plan for May to help me through it, and I hope you’ll join me and contribute. This month, I’m going to write or cite great stories and videos about mothers, and sometimes, about our relationships with our daughters. There is nothing more important to me than being a mom, and I have been blessed with amazing children. You have all read about my journey with Naya. Being her mother was an incredible gift, honor and responsibility, and the most loving time of my life.

I’m going to begin ahead of schedule with a story about someone I have the pleasure to work with at TE. She’s a young woman, with an amazing story that all mothers, daughters and parents should hear.

Meet Lexi…

The Naya Foundation Site Launched!

On April 2nd, we launched The Naya Foundation with many friends, family members and passionate supporters of our family and Naya.

We are excited to announce that we have alsoTEAM_NAYA_PLAIN launched the official website for Naya’s Foundation!! Please check out the site at http://www.thenayafoundation.org

There are a few things we are working through which you’ll notice on the site.

First, this blog will eventually be redirected to the Foundation site. We will also begin blogging in both sites so that Naya’s supporters can get used to the new site.

Also, we’re finalizing the IRS non-profit designation so the donations will continue to go to CHOP, with all funds raised going towards pediatric cancer research and cures.

And, finally, we are looking for committee leaders and volunteers.  Let us know if you have interest, but didn’t get the notes from the April 2nd meeting.  You can email us at nayasummy@me.com