*I was honored to be asked to write this post by my friend Sheila, the writer of the popular Mary Tyler Mom blog. Sheila’s daughter Donna died of cancer at the age of four. Today, bloggers across the country will be writing about Donna in an attempt to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer. Please share this post freely, or write your own – just include the donation links at the bottom!*
When the Holocaust movie “Life Is Beautiful” won multiple Oscars in 1999, writer/actor/director Roberto Benigini said in an acceptance speech that he dedicated the Oscar to the victims of the Holocaust “who died so that we may all know life is beautiful.” I’m a little unclear on the role of God, fate, the Universe, etc. in the world, but I am pretty sure that over six million people did not die in order to teach the rest of us to appreciate life. If nothing else, it would be a pretty inefficient way of getting a message across.
But, it is undeniable that out of a great tragedy, something wonderful sometimes happens. I think about that when I think about Donna. I did not know Donna. Her parents are friends of mine. The kind of friends that you’re happy to hear about, wish you could see more of, but once you move to different jobs and different parts of town, you resign yourself to communicating via Facebook. My sole contribution to Donna’s life was helping her parents find an in home daycare for her. Another friend of mine was moving and hated to leave her babysitter without the income. Donna was just born (or possibly about to be born) and needed childcare. I was so proud of myself for making the connection.
Over the past few years I have come to think of Donna as someone in my life, someone I miss. As much as I have always liked her talented and funny parents, her death has made me also admire them.
I am one personal tragedy away from becoming an agoraphobic hoarder. If I watched my child die I would not leave my house again. Ever. I would live surrounded by stuffed animals, Winnie the Pooh tshokes, and cashmere wraps and, you would not blame me for it. If all Donna’s parents had managed to do after her death was continue living their lives, parent her little brother, and keep their jobs – we would all be impressed. We would all marvel at their strength and courage.
But, they’ve done so much more. They started a non-profit, Donna’s Good Things (DGT). DGT works to provide joyful opportunities to children facing adversity and to encourage the charitable acts of others. The motto of Donna’s Good Things is “Choose Hope.”
This past September Donna’s mother Sheila chronicled the 31 months from Donna’s diagnosis to her death in a blog post a day for childhood cancer awareness month. That’s right, for 31 days in a row Sheila relived her daughter’s death in detail and opened her soul and life to the entire world’s criticism and commentary. Why? To raise awareness of, and funds for, childhood cancer research. You can read the story here (but don’t do it all at once, seriously you can’t).
Sheila and Jeremy are still giving. They are hosting a St. Baldrick’s event to raise money for childhood cancers. They have asked bloggers across the country to blog about Donna and this event, and that’s what you’re reading now.
Donna was an amazing girl. Knowing her parents, there’s no doubt that she would have gone on to do amazing things with her life. I do not believe that she was taken from this world for “a reason” or to teach the rest of us something. I believe her life has meaning no matter what we do simply because she lived it, because we all have meaning.
But I do believe it would be heartbreakingly selfish of the rest of us, especially those of us with a connection no matter how tenuous, to let her life pass without honoring it, without trying to bring something good from her tragic death. So, here are some things you can do:
1. Donate Now to fund lifesaving research:
AN ANONYMOUS DONOR WILL MATCH YOUR GRANT UP TO $2,000 AS LONG AS IT IS MADE IN BETWEEN 2/14 AND 2/18!
2. Sign up as a Shavee or Volunteer at a St. Baldrick’s Event Near You. (Once you find an event, click on the blue box that says ‘participate at this event’. If you want to join the Donna’s Good Things team, when prompted say you want to join an existing team, and filter for “Donna” at other events)
3. Can’t find an event near you? Organize your own event. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation will coach you every step of the way. In particular, they are looking for new events in Maine, Mississippi, Alabama and Utah.
How will you choose hope today? How will you show that life is beautiful?