A Beautiful and Bittersweet Break
I didn't think it would be as challenging as it was, but it was more than difficult! When the Ronald House social worker said to me, as I was too choked up to talk with her, Once you cross this threshold and enter this house, you can never be the same," I thought, "That is oh so true!" We returned to the Ronald McDonald House of Philadelphia to make a donation to a most incredible charity that gave us so much. "In honor of our beloved daughter and sister, Christi Thomas, we present this $1,000 check to the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House for housing and feeding us during our most difficult days and nights." I made my little speech, only thorugh the grace of God! Shayla really enjoyed going back and seeing the house again. She stayed there at the tender ages of 4-7 so I'm glad she was able to go back and that we were able to give back.
Returning to CHOP was equally as difficult. Christi's amazing Social Worker from CHOP gave us a tour (lots of new stuff there) and I really enjoyed sitting and catching up with her for about an hour. Here is some of what this lovely woman wrote after our visit:
I met you, Christi and your family early on in my career, and feel like I learned so much and became a better person and social worker because of that. I am grateful. Your family taught me determination (and endurance for that matter!) and to never give up on something that is important to you. To this day, I am awestruck that you were able to complete your school work, dissertation etc, much of while Christi was sick.
And although Shayla may not have too many memories of CHOP, my memories of her stand out strongly. I remember her joyful presence, her caring, energetic soul. I remember how Shayla often made us smile even during some difficult moments. I remember the love she had for her big sister...and vice versa. I also remember how worried you and Shayne were for Shayla. That even in the toughest times, when all energy needed to be on Christi, that you were always doing something to look after sweet Shayla. She has truly blossomed.
I thank you for sharing with me the stories of "back then" and now. We often lose touch with families and I am grateful for our continued connection. So many families wonder what things will look like as time goes on...and although we know that things will never be the same, or even close to easy, we know that life can be good.
Thank you again for taking time out of your vacation to come back to CHOP.
Angela back in Gettysburg (THEN AND NOW photos - 1972 with my sister, 2010 with my daughter!)
Wanting to "Squeeze in Shayla as much history as possible" we spent my fall break touring Gettysburg. It was very moving, highly educational and an absolutely awesome trip!
Arriving at the Welcome Center in Gettysburg - a place where we could have easily spent an entire day! AMAZING!
Enjoying lunch at a pub in downtown Gettysburg (Can you say Sweet Potato Soup?)
An amazing Park Ranger turned his 45 minute tour into 95 minutes - he was awesome! We learned so much (and got picked on! Shayla for playing "hookey" and missing school and me for returning emails on my Blackberry instead of listening intently to every word he had to say - ooops!)
Shayla enjoyed taking some pictures in Gettyburg
Photo of Shayne and Angela on a battlefield in Gettysburg. Photo by Shay
A random and candid photo - the story of Shayne's life (Two girls, both telling him what to do - opposite things of course!) We enjoyed amazing period dining in this home - and were amazed that over a hundred bullet holes are still in the brick wall - YIKES!
We stayed at the Dobbin House - a colonial home in a civil war town. It overlooked the cemetery where President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and served an incredible breakfast.
Learning on another battlefield, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
One amazing and talented young lady - wow! (Enjoy this small sampling of her artwork! It's stunning!)
Enjoying an amazing weekend! Shayne dropped us off at our friends' home and drove up to New York City to spend the weekend with the "Sad Dads" (seven guys who lost their children due to Neuroblastoma). It was VERY good for Shayne to be able to bond with friends who truly understand the nastiness of childhood cancer while Shayla and I enjoyed our precious friends too - friends we met during Christi's journey. Friends who enriched our lives and richly blessed us (and fattenedd us up with wonderful Tastykakes and rides to and from the Ronald House, CHOP and airport - countless times). Without a doubt they are angels on earth and will go straight to Heaven where they will be welcomed in and Christi will be waiting for them with toys and Tastykakes! It brings a heartwarming smile to my face when I think of how happy Christi always was when these two sweet young girls would come to CHOP to play with her (for hours), simply amazing! God is good! Angels are on earth!
Shayne joined what they call the "Sad Dads" group in NYC Times Square for the weekend. They enjoyed the Yankees game and just catching up with each other.
Enjoying Wildwood, New Jersey with friends we don't deserve!
Loaded up and ready to head out for a day at the island - gorgeous weather, incredible friends!
Fun on our friends' boat!
Thanks to our sweet Philly friends for housing and putting up with Shayla and I for the weekend! You are the best! We had entirely too much fun and great R & R too! May God richly bless you all! We are so glad you came into our lives - THANK YOU!
The Constitution Center was amazing. I vividly remember Christi enjoying it there too. Amazing!
Shay meets the liberty bell
Shayla and Olivia enjoyed our visit to the Constitution Center the best while I enjoyed touring the Betsy Ross house as my favorite part of our Historical Philadelphia tour.
We all enjoyed chatting with the individuals in period dress at the Visitor's Center in Philly. This new center was built in 2008 so we had never seen it before.
It was fabulous that our awesome friend hopped on a bus and joined us for 24 hours in Philadelphia! It was fantastic to see and spend time with her too!
How totally, totally amazing that one of the very few "orbs" in all of my photos is in this one. Here we are posed with the sweetest of sweet individuals. We got to go to dinner with this awesome volunteer at the City Tavern on Monday. And I was THRILLED, absolutely THRILLED to learn that the little kitty who arrived at the hospital - hidden in a purse is still ALIVE (and wouldn't be able to be smuggled into a hospital in a purse any longer). AWESOME NEWS! Now doesn't that orb make sense! I'm pretending Christi joined us for dinner and was probably hoping for another little furry visitor to pop out!
It was very sweet for Shayla to see that her picture (Christi's too) is still hanging on the Ronald House wall (top row, third picture from the right - girl with bow and flower, posing) Christi's picture is in the bottom row - third in from the left. (not a good day, no smile there)
Posing with the Tab Collection box at the Ronald House - great memories of the girls pouring in the tabs people sent with them to Philly
Our last stop before making the long drive home - at a great food truck in Philly! (Shayla has been a HUGE fan of "The Food Truck Race" - I think it's on the Food Network channel. We tried three different trucks and she determined who cooked the best food. FUN! FUN! Driving home it was very hard not remembering that dreaded nine hour drive home on September 19th. We left Christi's lifeless body. Sent our amazing social worker in who promised she would sit with Christi until they came for her and we got our van (with a hefty parking bill) out of the parking garage and headed home to break the news to Shayla that her sister didn't make it. Like much of the trip, it seemed like yesterday - so raw, so fresh, so heart breaking. We love and miss you, precious little Christi!
Our highlight of the "Gettysburg" portion of our fall break will be posted later, written by Shayla.
BLOGGERS Kathleen and Natalie: Yes we went to Young's Dairy (twice I'm embarassed to admit) and I just read your posts carefully now (Oct. 17th and am sad to say I just spent some time this weekend near Dayton - at Wright Patt. I would have loved to have met up with you!)