Hello all – It’s been a very difficult six weeks for our family as we try to navigate these new waters without our little girl. I’ll share a bit more below but we wanted to invite you to attend Sally’s funeral mass and Celebration of Life that will be held in Bay Ridge on Saturday, November 3rd at St. Patrick Parrish located at 9511 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209. We are asking everyone to please wear bright cheery colors, and that children be comfortable in whatever they wear. If you can’t attend, we’d still love you to wear bright colors that day, wherever you are.
The funeral mass will begin at 2pm in the church. This will be a standard Catholic funeral, we will have an urn containing Sally’s ashes there. Fr. Greg, who joined us in Sally’s hospital room at the end and performed the Anointing of the Sick for her, will say the funeral. Everyone is invited to join us, there is no RSVP required for mass.
Immediately following the mass, we will hold a separate Celebration of Life event for Sally next door in the church’s auditorium. Having spent time in the childhood cancer community over the years, we have attended other Celebrations for children we’ve known and lost, and felt it was the best way for us to honor Sally’s memory in a way she would have wanted.
The event will be one that Sally herself would have loved, a party. She loved her parties. Almost every touch point will be Sally-inspired, from the music to the activities. It’s our way of celebrating what she loved. After church ends we’ll ask everyone to proceed over to the auditorium where there will be beverages and light fare. The event is both adult and child friendly. If you can’t attend the mass, you can drop in at any point between 3:30-8pm and stay for as long or little as you like.
To ensure we are prepared for the right amount of people, we are asking that anyone who plans to attend the Celebration to please RSVP at this website: CLICK HERE TO RSVP FOR THE CELEBRATION.
The event is intended to be fun, Sally would want us all to be happy and enjoy her party. There will be a DJ playing Sally’s favorite kind of music. We’ll have fun activities for the kids including lots of crafts, a sand table, play doh, trains – things our little girl LOVED to do. We will also have a quiet sensory room for children in the back who prefer not to be in crowds.
We want to fill the room with photos of Sally and capture everyone’s favorite memory of her or how she impacted your life. We kindly ask that you pick your favorite photo of her, print it out and bring it with you. At the event, we ask that you write your memory or her impact on you on the back of the photo and a volunteer will help you hang it up. You can use photos from Sally’s social media pages or blogs, but would also LOVE photos you’ve taken of her, especially if they are ones we’ve never seen. We plan to keep all of the photos and what was written on them so we can always remind ourselves and Thomas & William of the amazing impact our Sunshine had on the world.
During the event, we will have a brief presentation which will include a short list of guest speakers who knew Sally at the various points of her life, a video and a performance.
Other than that, we invite both adults and kids to come together, be like Sally, and just have fun.
A lot of friends have helped pull this event together and taken off much of the weight, and can’t thank them enough. The last few weeks has been a real struggle. Nicole and I have spent weeks going through thousands of Sally’s photos and videos so we could use them at the event. It’s been an extremely emotional exercise, on one hand it makes us incredibly sad and breaks our hearts that she’s gone. On the other, we have gotten to see that she was so happy for most of her life despite everything she was up against.
After she died, I struggled to recall the time when she was “healthy” with flowing blonde hair. By going through the photos and videos, I was able to relive that period when she could eat what she wanted, climb at the playground and run around care-free without restrictions. It was a blessing as those are memories I can eventually focus on. It’s too hard to now, the pain is just too great, it literally hurts in my chest and starts the instant I wake up and lasts til I sleep, which doesn’t come easy. She’s left such a void in my heart that I’m struggling to learn to cope with. All of the “firsts” without her have been hard, and know all those to come will be too.
Luckily it was a kind stranger who first asked me how many kids I have and their ages one day at the park after Sally died. I told him I have three kids – 12, 9 and forever 6. He understood and took time to talk to me about Sally. I know it won’t always be that smooth, and we all dread it.
Nicole and I feel like we’re being stabbed each time something brings us sadness about losing Sally, and it happens hundreds of times a day. Speaking with other parents who have lost a child, I imagine these stabs will always be there, but will turn into more manageable thuds that we need to learn to live with over time. That’s not to say we don’t love talking about Sally, keeping both her memory and what she brought to all of us alive will be our job as her parents. She was too important, and are eager to talk about her. Saying her name to us is the greatest gift you can all give our family, both now and in the coming years. Please let her memory live on.
The boys miss their little sister greatly, but being kids handle their grief in their own ways. Thomas always remarks when something makes him think of Sally, or grows sad when he has an experience that he knows she would have enjoyed. William speaks about her often, he looks for signs that she is “calling” him which have included sunflowers, yellow flowers, anything yellow or gold, or a particular song. One day he was upset that Sally didn’t call him. We asked if he thought about her at all that day, and when he said yes, we explained that when she’s already speaking to him, she doesn’t need to call him. He excitedly said that she had called him 1,000 times that day then. He was relieved, but it also broke our hearts.
Both boys have been kept very busy with school, homework and activities. Nicole has been working part-time, I’ve been going to the office once a week but plan to return after the Celebration once we have some semblance of closure. Most funerals occur within a week of one passing, but between the autopsy/cremation and available dates for the church we’ve been in a long limbo without any real closure. It’s allowed us and those planning the Celebration to have time to do it right, but has also made it very difficult on us emotionally as a family. We have fortunately been extremely busy focusing on the boys, our dog Charlie, getting our lives and bodies in order and organizing for November 3rd.
We love when people stop to ask us how we’re doing (and give us hugs), so please keep it up. We also don’t want it to be the only thing we talk about. We have good hours and bad hours, but need to live, to make new memories. As Fr. Greg told us, Sally is everywhere now and is a part of all those new memories. We have to keep reminding ourselves that Sally would want us to be happy, even in the tough times, just like she was. Be like Sally.
We want to thank all of you, Sally’s village, for the incredible support you continue to give our family. Nicole and I took a long walk around the neighborhood today and continue to see signs of Sally everywhere from sunflowers and gold ribbons, to a store with a giant sunflower painted in the window (with a small In Memory of Sally ribbon next to it) and a chocolate shop selling chocolate sunflower lollipops to raise money for our family. It shows that her village is in this limbo with us. Friends have been constantly checking in on us, even if we aren’t quick to reply it’s much needed. We can’t tell you how much this all means to us.
We hope you’ll join us on November 3rd, even just to drop by and give us a quick hug, and celebrate Sally’s life with our family.
Please keep Sally and our family in your thoughts and prayers.
Matt & Nicole