Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Holding Hands With Grace

So how does life go on? We lost Anna just over two weeks ago and we now have a lifetime ahead without her. Every minute going forward seems impossible. Even this first blog post seems impossible. But it can't be. It must be possible. So how is it done?

We follow her lead of strength. Anna always had a look in her eye as if she knew something no one else did. Now I understand her look; she knew that there was comfort in the small acts of living. My husband wrote a song in the early months of Anna's illness and coined the phrase "holding hands with grace." Even amid struggles that most can't imagine, Anna was holding hands with grace. So we too will find grace.

We'll find comfort when we dig in to things that are hard on the outside and discover the sweetness within.

We will gain strength by passing along joy and compassion to those who come our way.

Grace will appear as we try to maintain balance, maneuvering this new shaky ground.

We will find comfort in routine.

We will gain strength from friends who give us a gentle push to get us back in the swing of things.

We will find joy again even if we have to start with fake smiles to get us there.

And we will cherish the past and keep our family whole through memories, love and faith.

When I close my eyes
and picture you in my mind
I see you living a life of love.
Joy and Peace on your face
'cause you're holding hands with Grace.
 - Bo Weevil, September 2011

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Celebrating Anna

Just a brief note to let you know that my beloved niece Anna passed away on Tuesday, May 8th. While her passing is an engulfing loss for our family, we are eased by knowing Anna is at peace. Anna's entire family is together this weekend celebrating her life. We are truly blessed by the gift of Anna.

To read more, here is the full article from the Geneva, Illinois Kane County Chronicle about our Anna.

Celebrating Anna

Family and friends to celebrate life of East’s Daley

Anna Daley seldom had the luxury of physical comfort in her final months. She still saw to it that her friends would have it when they came to say goodbye.

At Monday’s memorial service in honor of Daley, who died Tuesday from complications of acute myeloid leukemia, friends and classmates are encouraged to attend and wear relaxed clothing, especially St. Charles East orange, according to Anna’s mother, Lisa Daley. The service will be at 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Geneva’s West Campus.

“Anna never once wanted to dress up for church, so the kids need to come in their sportswear and casual and they need to come and celebrate her life and her friendship and what she stood for,” Lisa Daley said. Daley, 17, spent a portion of her final day planning details of the memorial service, adamant that her St. Charles East golf teammates were treated as an extension of her family. It was important to her that the service be a celebration of her life, rather than an occasion to mourn.

Her close friends recall a determined, loving and spiritual girl who somehow maintained her endearing characteristics, even as her body was ravaged by treatment, first at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield and later at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Nicole Rae, a former teammate of Daley’s on the Saints girls golf team and now a student at the University of Iowa, called Daley “absolutely one of a kind.” Rae recalled a touching correspondence with Daley after Rae’s first college competition with the Hawkeyes’ golf team in the fall.
“She got sick, and she wasn’t doing well that weekend, and she cared enough to text me and ask me how my tournament was going,” Rae said. “Even though she was so sick, she was still caring for other people than herself. ... She was an incredible fighter. I don’t know how or where she got that strength, whether it was in golf or her fight with cancer. She was just so strong and positive all the time.”

Daley made drastic strides in her golf game between her freshman and sophomore seasons with the Saints, and enjoyed a promising summer of golf leading up to her junior year until she was diagnosed with leukemia just before tryouts. The ensuing months were primarily spent in hospitals, with her parents, Sean and Lisa, guiding her through the harrowing treatment as friends and strangers throughout the community rallied in support.
Their efforts culminated in a highly successful bone marrow match drive in the fall. Lisa Daley said two of the roughly 300 prospective donors have been informed they are a match for somebody in need of a transplant, a legacy of which Anna took tremendous pride.

Sean and Lisa Daley met at the University of Tennessee. Between Anna’s southern roots and her zeal for golf, she was a natural best friend for East student Darby Crane, who shares both of those characteristics; Crane was born in Alabama, and notes that “both of our moms still have the heavy accents.”Aside from Anna’s parents and her boyfriend, East lacrosse player Alex O’Brien, nobody knew her as well as Crane. Anna didn’t have siblings, but Crane said it became an “unspoken” understanding that the pair’s relationship was more like sisters than friends.

Crane loved Anna for her forgiving nature, her sense of humor, her warmth. After youth group on Sundays, they would play with small children at the First Baptist Church’s preschool. The kids adored Anna.

“They really loved her,” Crane said. “She was a big hit. One of the kids called her ‘Panda’ because he couldn’t say ‘Anna,’ and she thought ‘Panda’ sounded so funny. They all loved her.” Even as Anna was robbed of so much during her illness – she even had a dress in hopes of attending East’s recent prom, but had to scrap those plans when her condition worsened – her love of family, friends and commitment to faith provided solace.

“As the months went on and on, she just grew closer and closer to God every single day, and even though she may have been mad because things weren’t going the right way, she still prayed to Him and loved Him,” said Alexis Cayton, a friend and classmate of Daley’s who said Anna hooked her on country music. “She never once lost her faith.”

Reliving stories of Anna’s happier and healthier days have helped friends and family cope in what has been an extraordinarily difficult week. That is exactly what Lisa Daley expects to see unfold Monday night, with plenty of orange in the crowd. It’s what Anna wanted.

“She never gave up,” Lisa Daley said. “She fought completely and entirely and she loved St. Charles and she loved this area. Now, it’s time to celebrate her life.”

• Jay Schwab is sports editor at the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or

When: 6 p.m. Monday
Where: First Baptist Church of Geneva, West Campus, 3435 Keslinger Road

Of note: The entire community is welcome to attend and Anna's friends and classmates are encouraged to wear St. Charles East orange, which is also the color for leukemia awareness. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested memorial donations be made to First Baptist Church of Geneva, West Campus

Author: JAY SCHWAB -

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Deja Birthday

There are many reasons to celebrate today. It is Helios' birthday and he is nine years old today. He is my second born and I sit here a bit stunned realizing that nine years have passed since we first met. This is how he looked then.

This is how he looks these days.

He was a redhead at birth and has stayed that way.

Right now, you are probably having a moment of deja vu, feeling that you've already read a post that started out a bit like this, a post about some other sweet child-o-mine's birthday. Your senses do not lead you wrong; you did read such a post just four days ago. Yes, my boys' birthdays are four days apart which means their birthday parties are generally held within the same week. So the first week of May is Birthday Week in our house. Every year. No matter what. Good thing I love to plan parties.

Your astute sense of deja vu is going to get even stronger as this post rolls along. Just shake it off and keep reading.

Helios celebrated his birthday last night with his closest friends. For the past several years, Helios' party has followed a similar schedule: pizza, age-appropriate entertainment, cake, presents. This year's age-appropriate entertainment was a trip to Shadowland, a local laser tag emporium - a perfect destination for 8 nine year olds and their 2 twelve year old sidekicks.

You know my thoughts on laser tag (not liking it so much) so you might ask why did I agree to two laser tag parties in one week. Two easy answers: Monkey see, Monkey do was heavily at play when the boys were asked what type of party they would like. Or maybe it was Copy Cat. So they had the idea.

And I thought how easy would it be to plan two identical parties? It's a piece of cake...especially when the cakes to be served are also the same: Devil's Food with excessive sprinkles.

The cakes were not exactly the same. Helios' ended up with a few too many decorations. I couldn't decide on a theme.

No wait, I did have a theme.  It's called
"If Charlie Brown made a cake, he wishes it would look this good."
I think Cake Boss might be calling me soon for some pointers.

Meanwhile back at Shadowland, the group had a rowdy fun time and here's a picture to prove it.

You only have to ask once for this group to make crazy faces.

But this is my favorite face of the day.

Pure happiness!
This look tells me that Monkey Do was as happy with his Deja birthday as Monkey See was with his.

Happy Birthday my son! And many, many more!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

And Many More....!

There are much more than a dozen reasons to celebrate today. It is Leonardo's birthday and he is a dozen years old. He is my first born and I sit here today a bit stunned realizing that twelve years have passed since we first met. This is how he looked then.

This is how he looks these days.

He has a bit more hair now than he did back then.

He celebrated his birthday last weekend with his closest friends. For the past several years, Leonardo's party has followed a similar schedule: pizza, age-appropriate entertainment, cake, videos game, sleepover. This year's age-appropriate entertainment was a trip to Shadowland, a local laser tag emporium - a perfect destination for 6 twelve year olds and their 2 nine year old sidekicks.

Being female and a few years over 40, I care not for laser tag. But these guys were so stoked before, during and after their laser tag adventures. It was hard for them to come down from the adrenaline rush. In fact, I don't think they did come down until several hours later. Of course, maybe their rush was sustained longer by devil's food cake with extra sprinkles.

This core group of boys have been celebrating with Leonardo for a number of years. It has become a cherished tradition (for me at least) to take a group picture of the guys some time during the evening. It started in 2009 when they piled up on the couch. They look sweet in this picture but that sweetness was quickly forgotten when my husband and I were telling them to be quiet and go to sleep many hours past our bedtime.

In 2010, they were just as deceivingly sweet, even with a few faces missing and a new one added to the mix.

The tradition continued in 2011 with the core group reunited and rowdy as ever. Sweetness gone!

And this year 2012, I asked nicely again and they obliged.

They look so grown up. And they must be because this year my husband and I were able to go to sleep only a little bit past our bedtime without excessive noise from the basement keeping us awake. The boys were clearly exhibiting maturity and self-control. Or maybe my husband and I are just that much older and increasingly tired to hear what was going on two floors below us. I like to think the boys were just that good and my age and exhaustion have nothing to do with it.

I cherish these group shots of my son and his friends. You can see their changes each year, see when the baby faces disappeared. You can see the angular lines of manhood beginning to hint that they aren't little boys anymore.

The days and weeks leading up to this party were eye-opening for us. We were forced to address some mature subjects that we never expected for our still eleven year old. Some things that should still be mysterious for a sixth grader are now out in the open. Kids are growing up quicker and quicker with each generation. Leonardo has witnessed and been made aware of things in his young life that were reserved for high school and college days in my generation. These are not your middle school years.

But all those mature topics, which prematurely surfaced, were set aside for a few hours while these boys were just boys hanging out with friends. In the van on the way to Shadowland, there was actually quiet broken only by one boy reading Calvin and Hobbes aloud to his buds and the riotous peals of laughter as each punch line was delivered. That's good, clean, twelve year old fun. The way it's meant to be.

Happy Birthday Leonardo! And many more!!!