Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Thank you.

Words have been failing me lately, which is odd, considering how long I've used the English language. Some things are just too hard to process, I think, and even the poet's technique of condensing the most feeling into the fewest words doesn't help. In this case, there is no way that I can make the words "thank you" express the gratitude that I feel, and the amazement that people who only communicate in text and emoticons can come together in such a way. I used to joke with my husband about "imaginary friends" but I've realized that whether we're across the country from each other or across the street, we can be friends and neighbors. Well, maybe I've been playing my son's Mr. Roger's Neighborhood tape a little too frequently lately, but that's truly the way I feel.

One of the hardest things about the medical bills we have been facing is the fact that they are very difficult to deal with emotionally. Things like bills for the blood testing or the ultrasounds that were being done when we thought she had a chance are still a little bit like being punched, or bills from the doctor who, though he provided adequate care medically, was completely unprofessional in his bedside manner and made a horrible situation even worse. We had made a payoff plan, but were originally looking at about two years of dealing with collection and the like. Thanks to all of you, one smaller bill is now paid off and another will be gone in two months, and speeding up the process immensely. We also now have an emergency fund which will cover a hospital deductible if necessary, as everything had been wiped out in that frantic scramble to try and save her if possible.

We are readying a family cemetery on my parents' land; it's something we'd all talked about and intended to do, but had no idea that it would be needed so soon. My father is carving a marker which will hopefully last for several generations, but will eventually rot away, so the base Sheila constructs will eventually remain as the more permanent memorial after all of us are gone. We hope to have everything completed so that Aeryn's ashes can be interred next April.

There are still days when it's going to be rough, and will be for a long time. I want you all to know, though, that you have helped in so many ways, even just mentioning that Aeryn came and went means so much, and what you have come together and done for us is simply amazing. It's inadequate, but thank you.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Random Act of Kindness

I am a member of Women in Red, an online community which offers support and resources for women working to take financial control of their lives. The goals of our members include paying off debt, increasing savings and educating ourselves about our financial options.

Within our community, there are several subgroups. Included among them are WIRRacers, WIRSavers, and the Grocery Challenge to name a few. The group in which I'm most active is one known as Controlled Spend. The CS group is not the focus of this blog, but therein lies it's origin. Each week the controlled spend thread posts a question of the week and a challenge of the week. Recently the challenge asked each member to perform a random act of kindness. It is that challenge that laid the path to setting up a fund to help Lisamomof4.

The support that came in was not limited to controlled spend members, I've received e-mails from many members of the WIR community at-large offering to contribute. The compassion and generosity of our community amazes me. Although we each face our own financial hurdles, seeing so many find room in their budget for kindness leaves me in awe.

The original idea to help Lisa has been expanded to include another regular WIR poster, New-Mummy. Several members who contacted me in regard to helping Lisa mentioned they also wished to do something for New-Mummy at this difficult time in her life. I understand times are tight and our resources are limited ... that's exactly why its so important to help them now. By joining forces, we can help ease their financial burden without significant damage to our own monetary goals. Whether you are able to give $1 or $100, know your contribution will make a difference.

The accounts for both members have been set up through ING. The accounts are held jointly by fellow controlled spend member Sheila in Cali and myself. Paypal donation buttons have been included here for both recipients to facilitate the process. Please know, we will provide a detailed account of both funds on a regular basis to SES Books (WIR CS member / fund administrator) to protect the legitimacy of the cause. When the time comes, funds will be transferred either electronically or by certified check to Lisa and New-Mummy (or to the designated payee - i.e. cemetery, monument company, hospital etc.). Please know, I'm learning as I go on this and hope anyone having questions, suggestions or comments will feel free to post them or e-mail me.

Whether you are making a donation or simply offering your prayers and support, we thank you for your kindness and generosity. Know that you have made a positive impact on Lisamomof4 and New-Mummy's lives, emotionally and financially. It is with certainty that I say both of our recipients will pay the kindness forward many times over.

With sincere thanks,
Barb Lafferty (beej67 - WIR)


I wanted to update everyone on how things are going. To date, we have just under 80 total contributions for the two funds combined!

Currently Lisa's fund is just over half of the total estimated costs for replacement stones and installation. I have a good feeling we'll achieve at minimum the cost of the markers themselves, if not installation. Installation includes footing construction, survey and stone approval fees (from the cemetery). I had no idea there was so much involved going through this process, I can't imagine making these decisions when one isn't of clear mind. No matter what our balance ends up, we will have helped Lisa's family to honor Robbie and Nat.

Our efforts for New-Mummy are also going well. The plan at present (pending feasibility) is for New-Mummy's dad to carve the memorial for Aeryn. What a lovely tribute to his granddaughter! Once completed, the piece will be shipped to Sheila in Cali, and her company will design and craft the concrete base to house the memorial. Sheila's husband's employer has the capability to etch the base to further personalize it. Both companies have generously offered their services free of charge. The fund will cover material, shipping and installation costs. Once costs have been determined, any remaining funds would be used for grief counseling and outstanding medical expenses. Thanks to your response, New-Mummy's family will know that Aeryn will never be forgotten.

I've had the opportunity to correspond with both Lisa and New-Mummy by e-mail. They have both been overwhelmed by the response of the WIR and have a hard time putting into words what this has meant to them ... I want to thank you all again, though I feel that truly I can't ever find adequate words for thanks. I too wish to express my appreciation for your generosity, kindness and compassion. I am proud to call myself a member of WIR and honored to be a part of your community.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lisamomof4 - Remembering Robbie and Nat

Lisamomof4's Story:

Lisa's Words : (excerpt from WIR What unexpected events have slammed you and your budget 03/18/08)
I didn't always make bad financial choices...4 yrs ago I would have said we were in good shape. We had an EF/savings with $5000 and had just refi our home to a 5.3% fixed. Life was for the most part good. it's odd how in a blink of an eye your entire life can change. I wonder if that's how these Bear-Sterns people feel today? A table can be sooo stable but kick one leg out and it's all going down. I can't give a totally clear, point by point on what happened...it's like my brain see's it just in flashes, blink there it is, blink and it's 3-4hrs later, blink and a month is gone....I went from being a Mom of 5 to burying two of my children. You have health insurance, but you never think about needing life insurance for your kids...they aren't supposed to die. It's mind blowing how much funerals cost and it's all up front, they don't do payments. Robbie's birthday would have been this past weekend he'd be a junior in high school now...Nathaniel would be riding a bike and getting into the mud...I can close my eye's and still see it, remember the phone call coming in, the desperate dash to the hospital, calling dh to tell him to come meet me there...I will be forever grateful that I made it in time, going into the ER, promising not to freak at what I would see...holding my eldest son's right hand..the left was gone..looking into his eyes' and telling him it was ok, mommy was there and it was ok to go...dh afraid to go in to see...but he was gone already by then. going up to the children's ICU( life flights are expensive...but still worth it) talking to his cardiologist, knowing that his stressed heart couldn't take much( Nat was born with a genetic heart issue...could be minor to severe..his was an issue)...dh kneeling in the hall outside his room just crying, the kids coming to say good-bye, grateful that he held on that long, giving the ok to unhook the machines and letting him go back to God ...

4 years ago Lisa's family suffered a crippling loss. An accident suddenly took the life of their son Robbie. Speaking as a parent, this is that one thing that is absolutely unthinkable. I cannot imagine myself in Lisa or her husband's shoes. My mind simply will not allow it.

I wonder how they managed to pick up the pieces and paste them together in some semblence of order. According to Lisa, you inch along, minute by minute, wandering through the fog, doing what you must to get by. You try to pretend things are normal to reassure your children, you attempt to hide your grief because people don't understand. In short, you cope the best you can.

And then WHAM. Devastation strikes again. Yes, the unthinkable happened twice. A few short years after Robbie's passing, heart problems steal younger son Nat's life. I find myself at a loss for words at this point of Lisa's story. No family should have to suffer so much.

Whether one knows them personally or not, the tragedy they've endured brings tears to the eyes. Time passes and despite everything, Lisa's family emerges intact. In fact, in the midst of devastation, joy can even be found. Her name is Chloe, the newest member of Lisa's family. With her she brings hope and renewal to the fragile family.

Lisamomof4's posts on WIR allow us glimpses of her grief and heartbreak, but it is her compassion and strength which always shine through. These qualities have endeared her to many in our virtual community. We were recently saddened (not to mention outraged) to learn that Lisa had discovered Robbie's grave marker damaged and Nat's stolen for the value of the bronze. Several members of the WIR decided to reach out to her. It is our hope to help her with the cost of replacement markers. So much has happened that has been beyond her control, but this one thing we can help her make right.

Lisa was reluctant to accept our assistance. She is a proud woman and she wondered whether she is deserving of such a gift. Finally a few simple words from her pastor helped her understand our desire to help and say yes. "There is grace in both giving and receiving." In allowing us to help remember your boys, Lisa, you are indeed giving us a gift. For that, we thank you.

New-Mummy - Remembering Aeryn Siobhan

New-Mummy's story:

When the idea began to take shape to start a fund to help Lisamomof4, several WIR members e-mailed me expressing a desire to help New-Mummy as well. I believe we WIR must have our radar set to the same wavelength, because that very thought had hit me time and again whenever I happened upon one of her posts.

Anyone present on the Women in Red board in early April likely remembers New-Mummy's story. But for those of you who are new or who were absent at that time, I'll try to tell you a bit of it here. New-Mummy is a mother of a preschool aged son and was expecting her second child, a daughter, this past spring. She found out very late in her pregnancy that there could be complications. Very serious complications it turns out. Most of us had never heard the term Hydranencephaly before, but we would soon learn it wasn't good.

"Hydranencephaly incompatible with life. Will be off the boards for a while."
I don't know about you, but the above post will never leave me.

Aeryn Siobhan was not long in this world, but her parents' grief was very real and their loss absolutely devastating. It was shared by many people who have never personally met them through New-Mummy's posts at WIR. Their loss is still so fresh I'm afraid to go on so I will give you her words to complete the story of their daughter.

Aeryn Siobhan was born at 8 am. She was 4 pounds and 13 ounces. They wrote on the certificate they gave us (the state will not issue a birth certificate for her, but the hospital made a nice little one for her with her footprints and information) that her hair was blonde, but it was looking like it would have been red like her brothers had she kept growing. She held on for nearly two hours, and she did try to cry and did try very hard to turn her head if you brushed her cheek. The neonatal doctor attending basically grabbed her from my expletive doc, cleaned her a little, checked that she was breathing, and gave her a mild painkiller, then while the nurse was wrapping her up came and let us know that it was definitely hydranencephaly, warned us that Aeryn could not open her eyes due to the skull malformation, and told us what she had done medically. Then Aeryn was put in her daddy's arms and stayed there until they finished stitching me up. She was in someone's arms the whole time she was alive, and she was snuggled and kissed and loved. They did allow us to stay with her as long as we wanted, the nurses were wonderful. Three of the sisters (Catholic facility) even came and prayed and blessed her.

When you lose a loved one to a medical condition, unfortunately you don't usually lose the associated medical bills. Savings depleted from tests and related expenses don't magically reappear. Ironic and sad how that works. Often when there is a death, a memorial fund is established to help cover funeral/burial expenses or to be designated to the memorial of the family's choice. But for some reason this ritual doesn't seem to apply to a newborn. I don't believe it's because people don't care, I think most simply are at a loss as to how to respond in the situation. Too often we're afraid to say or do the wrong thing, so we do nothing.

Let us reach out to New-Mummy and her young family. Her posts at WIR have exposed her heart - laid it bare for all to see. Whether one realizes it, that (sometimes brutal) honesty is a gift to us. Without pretense she gives us insight into very powerful human emotions and struggles. That insight leads us to feel compassion and let's face it, that's something this world could use more of. May we each be left with it in our hearts and let it serve us well in our everyday lives.

New-Mummy has mentioned that they have been looking into replacing the garden stone temporarily honoring Aeryn. When asked on the board about grief counseling she's indicated that couseling hasn't yet been arranged due to lack of childcare for their son and related expenses. It's not too late to establish that memorial. I hope you'll help to honor her daughter's memory.

Let her family know that Aeryn's short life had meaning and will not be forgotten.