Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Signs from Sophie

Greetings Smiles for Sophie Supporters!

I have so many things I want to say, and if I wait to put them all in one post, it will be pages and pages long! First I want to thank Marc's parents Bob and Kathy Quayle, and his brother Brett for putting together an awesome 3rd Annual Smiles for Sophie Forever Golf Outing.

For the third year in a row, the weather and company were perfect, and the event raised close to $10,000! We couldn't be happier. We thank those of you who attended and those of you who donated items for raffles. We thank Kathy's office friends and colleagues who helped solicit items and organize the raffles. Your time and efforts allow us to help 10 more families, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. (More information about the Golf Outing will be shared in the August issue of Smiles for the Season - our quarterly e-newsletter.)

Fine Bella Salon here in Avon Lake offered to do a fundraiser to benefit the Foundation. We are humbled by the generosity of this salon. You can find more details about the fundraiser on the main page of our website under events. If you are near Avon Lake on July 25, please stop by. We'd love to have your support.

I know many of our followers are patiently awaiting the results of the Birthday Bash and Dash - not the race results. These have already been posted! Everyone wants to know how many people we had and how much money was raised, and as soon as we get everything calculated, I will be sure to post an update.

I thought I'd wait to include what's below in the post about the success of the race, but it's too amazing to wait to share.

If you've ever been part of planning a big event...maybe your know the stress, anxiety and excitement that comes along with it, as well as all the ups and downs you experience along the way. It was like that this year with the planning of the race. We definitely had a head start the second time around and some things came easier this year, but we did face some challenges and bumps in the road. It was stressful and overwhelming at times. But the week before the race, everything fell into place and the plans were finalized; we had one last planning meeting at Walker Road Park (where the race would be held) on Tuesday June 30.

The weather had been crazy that day. Raining, sunny, cloudy, and everything in between. As Marc and I were leaving our house for the meeting, the rain started again, yet the sun was shining. I said to Marc, "There is definitely going to be a rainbow." As we pulled into the park, Kristin was pointing to a rainbow in the distance. We proceeded with the meeting and finalized things with the volunteers, and just as we were wrapping things up, hovering over the park again was the biggest brightest rainbow I have ever seen. (In fact, in the picture, you can see it was a double rainbow.) I was in shock. It took everything in me to not burst into tears. I knew in my heart that Sophie was right there with us guiding us and encouraging us. Whether you believe in God, and heaven or not, I can offer no other explanation. It was grace and beauty and God at His best.

The rainbow on Tuesday continued to motivate me up until the day of the race, and I was delighted to watch the sun come up to a perfectly blue sky on Saturday the 4th. Although I was sure I wouldn't be seeing a rainbow that day, I was thankful that Sophie gave us another day of unbelievable weather as the backdrop for our second annual birthday bash and dash.

I know I am biased, but I have to say the event was awesome. Not perfect, not flawless, but certainly an amazing testament to what can be accomplished when people work together for a common cause.

Of course our event is a 5K race and that is a huge part of it; we had chip timing this year as a way to accommodate the "serious" 5K runners, and it seemed to be an appreciated extra. But an equally important part of our event is the "Bash". It truly is a party - a birthday bash. I know if Sophie had been here on Earth with us on July 4th, she would have loved every minute of the celebration. The smiles I saw on the faces of the children made all the days, weeks and months of hard work so worth it. And although we had some challenges with parking and starting on time, the kids didn't seem to mind. From the cupcakes to the games, to the food, to the music, to the dunk tank, to the candy scramble and sack races, to the cookie walk, bounce houses, snow cones, cotton candy and crafts, the kids enjoyed a glimpse of the heaven that Sophie enjoys daily. I have to thank Elizabeth Gedeon and Paula Koziol and their awesome planning committee and amazing group of volunteers who made this part of the race such a success!

As the event came to an end and our dedicated volunteers hung around to help clean up, tear down everything and carry load after load to the cars, the sun continued to beat down on us. I walked with my goddaughter to the balloon arch that was at the start line. We used biodegradable balloons, so sending them up to heaven was a perfect choice for disposal. As we released the arch, it floated into the sky, and as it got higher, the wind took the line of balloons and shaped it into an "S" . It was backwards to us, but it was as though Sophie was writing it from up in the sky. I just smiled with a tear in my eye, and shook my head in disbelief.

We made it back to the pavilion and continued clean up. At one moment, I just stopped what I was doing and looked up at the bright sun in the sky, and was shocked to see another rainbow in a ring around the sun. I had to look twice before I pointed it out to anyone - just to be sure I wasn't seeing things. You almost needed to be wearing sunglasses to see it, because to look at the sun without them was blinding. Volunteers stopped what they were doing and starting pointing and staring. I heard many people "gasp" and say that they had goose bumps.

To some, a rainbow on a perfectly sunny day is unexplainable, but to me, and many others there on the day that would have been Sophie's 6th birthday, the rainbow in the sky made perfect sense. (This was the second time I have seen a rainbow like this. I had never seen a rainbow in a totally sunny sky with no rain until earlier last month). Many people there were saying that they had never seen a rainbow around the sun. Some children who were still there, remarked that the bottom of the arch of the rainbow under the sun looked like a "smile" from Sophie.

When I stop to reflect on the miracle of these signs, it once again puts everything into perspective. I still miss Sophie everyday. I'd give anything to have her back with us, celebrating her birthday "in person". I'd love to see her play with Sarah who just turned three. Sarah has become quite the character, and I can just imagine what a mother Sophie would have been to her. I can't get the fact out of my mind, that Sophie's third birthday was the last one she celebrated "healthy." I remember what a happy time it was, and how excited she was to visit me and baby Sarah in the hospital just 4 days after she turned three. She was a great big sister from the start. And then one short year later in 2007, she was in the fight of her life...with three months left to live. Who would have thought??? I'm reminded again how short and precious life is, and how the simple things in life are much more important than the material. I feel blessed to have been reminded of this lesson, as it is one that I know will matter in the end.

We thank all of our volunteers and planners. And of course you, our supporters. There are so many people who put in many many hours to make the race a success. Many of you have been "with us" since day one, and for that we are so grateful. It means so much to have you standing and fighting with us. To those of you who are "new" to our cause, your dedication is equally important. To have new people joining our cause, means we are doing what we set out to do. To raise awareness and money. We know that we cannot do this without your support, and we hope you know, that your help isn't for us. It's for all the kids and families that will be afflicted with brain cancer. So I thank you on their behalf. I am including a link to a YouTube video/song that means a lot to me. The song is entitled, "Thank You" and it is written by Ray Boltz. I first heard the song at a church retreat back in 2004, and the song has been with me ever since. I share it with you, as a reminder that when you give your time, talent or treasure to Smiles For Sophie Forever, or to anyone or anything, you are giving so much more than you realize, and for that I say, "Thank You."

I also want to thank my family who has been there with me every step of this battle. My Mom and Dad alone raised over $3000 on their active fundraising page, and my sister and her husband raised almost $2500. My brother made another $1,000 donation this year, and his employer Encana matched it, for a total of $2,000. It's amazing to me that my family was responsible for raising 1/3 of the total money raised on our active fundraising page. Of course they were all in town for the event and helped non stop from sun up to sun down. I can't say enough what an awesome family I have. I love you guys!

The money, of course, is what keeps the Foundation running and helps us work our mission, but the physical presence of family, friends and loved ones, gives us the ability to fight on days when it is so emotionally draining. So many people tell us all the time how strong we seem and what a great job we are doing. But honestly, there are so many days, a year and a half after losing Sophie, that we just don't feel strong. Days when we just want to stay in bed and hope to wake up from the nightmare. It's those days that we realize that this whole life is so much bigger than us. We know we aren't in control. We know that we gather our strength from God through the presence of the ones we love and those who love us. So we thank you, for being with us at the fundraisers we hold. Your presence speaks of more support than we can explain.

Back in June my Mom suggested wearing rainbow shirts for our family photo. This was the first one we had taken without Sophie in it, and it was a perfect way to include her. It's hard to look at, knowing right where she would fit in, but it honors her and the impact she has had on all of our lives.

So today, as I say my daily prayer thanking God for the chance to be a mother to Sophie, I will thank God for all of the people he has placed in our lives who help us to make a difference. I will thank Him for showing me His love through the "signs" He sends from Sophie, and I just might ask Him to show me a few more.

Gratitude and blessings to you,


alison said...

I am just amazed at how awesome Sophie's birthday was! You continue to amaze me with your strength and grace. I know Sophie had a big smile on her face and she is so very proud of you! You are a blessing to so many people.

Alison Nebl

Anonymous said...

What a privilege it was to be celebrating Sophie's birthday with so many people who are determined to make a difference.
Still holding you close in prayer,
The Koziols

Anonymous said...

And what a beautiful celebration it was! Thanks to all who helped to keep Sophie's memory alive.
Sophie certainly was with us, watching from her perch in heaven.
God bless Emily and Marc.
Grandma and Grandpa

Anonymous said...

Thank you for continuing to share your miracles with us! You are an inspiration to me.

Michelle Hardin said...

Sophie's story is such an inspiration knowing that through tragedy that she still smiles on you and your family.

My family and I are actually friends of Andrew Smith. We have known their family for 20 years. He is such a blessing to us and helps us remember what an awesome God we have.

My prayers are with you and your family as you continue through this journey. I just sat here and cried at what an impact your precious baby girl has on so many lives.

We have done several fundraisers for Andrew, but I would like to get some others up and running.

With love and prayers,


Lynn said...

i have been reading your blog for along time now, since before sophie went to heaven. you are in my thoughts and prayers often. i ask that the Lord continues to comfort you while you endure this earthly life without your beloved daughter. i know you will be reunited one day.

i am thrilled that God has been sending His rainbows...true 'hugs' from Him! I found that "S" in the sky simply amazing. wow!

God did some similar things for me , when i had to part with two wonderful people in my life at young ages.i just had to write , as i remember the encouragement it brought me!!

Keep relying on Him to get you through the many difficult times. You are an inspiration.
blessings, lynn

blessings, lynn

Anonymous said...

How wonderful that Sophie sends you these precious gifts. She obviously wants to help keep you strong for the good work that you do. And she's letting you know how loved you are. She makes me smile. Love, Aunt Lynne

Anonymous said...

Wow Emily! I read this and had chills all over! How amazing to have such overpowering signs that Sophie is still with you. I can't even imagine the comfort you get from these little miracles! I am so sorry we had to miss the race this year, but I am so happy it turned out so well again!

Love, Misty

Anonymous said...

Praying for your family today.

Anonymous said...

Dear Emily,

I am so happy to hear that Sophie's birthday bash went well! Once again, I wished I could have been there to support the foundation and honor sweet Sophie. What a blessing that things went smoothly. I can't believe how much money was raised between that and the golf outing. You're doing such a wonderful thing for present and future families who will have to deal with this tumor. I was completely awestruck when I saw the rainbow pictures and backward "S" in the sky. I think of you and your family often, even though we've never met (: May God continue to bless you all and the worthy foundation you've started. What a proud little girl Sophie must be to know that her parents are doing so much to help others. Take care!

Molly (:

I also love the family picture with the rainbow shirts! What a sweet idea (:

Anonymous said...

Sending prayers your way....

Kelly said...

Thinking of you...

Anonymous said...

Always thinking of you. This blog has been so quiet for so long. I hope you are okay.