Friday, May 10, 2013

As we near Mother's Day...NASCAR to the rescue!

What an interesting day as we approach Mother's Day 2013.

I got an email today from a grieving mom, formerly from the Arizona group, recently relocated to Kansas and is starting her own MISS Foundation support group there.

It said:
Dr. Cacciatore,

My husband Brian nominated the MISS Foundation for an award from the Jimmie Johnson Foundation. He received a call this morning saying MISS Foundation was chosen as a winner and will receive a $10,000 grant, and an ice cream party sponsored by Blue Bunny, and the MISS Foundation logo will be worn on Jimmie's helmet during a NASCAR race. We are thrilled for this news... As it comes on Brianna's 2nd Birthday.

This is why our families are so extraordinary, even in their deepest sadness.  It is their precious daughter's birth and death day, and this news came, serendipitously, today.

A few things I want to say about this.

First, it came in honor of Brianna today which I find pretty danged awesome.

Second, I'm in awe that it actually came at all.

You see, the MISS Foundation has applied for countless grants. I'm not kidding here- countless. We are consistently turned down, time after time.  Why? I've heard many excu...uh, reasons, not the least of which is that we aren't "sexy" enough. Huh? Say again please?

That's right. Grantors want "sexy" causes.  And the deaths of babies and children just ain't sexy.

But really, I take issue with this nonsensical postulation.

First, we help - literally - thousands upon thousands of families every year from all socioeconomic classes, all religions and regions, all ages and causes of death, high profile cases and the invisible and marginalized deaths. We help parents, siblings, grandparents, and entire communities. We offer counseling. We advocate for families. We have support programs. We conduct and support research. We educate. No one does all that we do for our families.

Second, people may not want to think about child death. But it affects us all, through generations. That is not an overstatement. What we do not address now, for lack of compassion, training, and awareness (incited by death avoidance)- will come back to bite us in the ass - hard - later. This, I promise. I've seen it enacted over and over in family systems and narratives.  So the death of a child in the community represents a loss for us all, one that will ultimately affect your children, my children, all of us.

Third, yeah, yeah, we're not sexy and no one wants to associate with us. Until they need us. Until it is their employee, or neighbor, or friend. And when it does happen within their circle of perceived safety, who do they call? Yep. But how soon folks forget who helped in the community when it was most needed. Rather, some- many even- go on to support other causes. They needed us, desperately, at those desperate moments, then all too soon forgot who helped and forgot that many who will follow in their footsteps will need help too (I could rant here but I'll withhold). 

Finally, the big secret is that by confronting death- by helping families dealing with life's most tragic sacrifice, we gain as a culture. We gain because we give during the darkest hours of others. And nothing, nothing, nothing can give a philanthropist more value than that. Nothing. Clear? Nothing. Listen, I hate that we need money to do what we do. I really hate it. But the reality is that we do. The breadth and scope of this work can't happen without financial resources. And what we do with our resources has changed lives and aided families.

We have countless binders with handwritten letters and cards from people around the world:

"Thank you for saving my life!"

"You helped our family stay together through our child's death, thank you!"

"We don't know where we'd be without the MISS Foundation."

"When others shunned us, you were there."

"We cannot express our gratitude enough."

"Seriously... you saved us... thank you."

"The help I got from you was help I could not find anywhere. 
I was headed down a path of self-destruction... now I have my life back."

Still, talking about the death of a child and a philanthropist's association with this organization takes courage, and lots of it to support us not only financially but also philosophically. Did you hear? The great NASCAR driver will be proudly wearing our logo on his helmet at a race. That's the epitome of cool.  You see, those who have turned us down don't get it. They'd rather be involved with fixing- curing - preventing. All fine and good. And there are so many worthwhile charities which do that. Death just doesn't give them that warm, fuzzy feeling. And of course, they must then confront the reality that their own child may die. Awful, I know.

But guess what? Through history and in perpetuity, a percentage of babies and children die before their parents. We cannot eradicate death, we will not - ever- cure all children from every disease. When we find a cure for X disease, another will supplant it.  Y disease? Same thing. So some children will always precede their parents in death, tragically. And what about those families who don't get a 'miracle' or a 'cure' or just good damn luck? Do we forget and discard them and let them figure out how to navigate a child's death on their own? Nope. We don't.  When the worse possible thing happens in a family, sexy or not, the MISS Foundation is there. Nothing- not homelessness, hunger, joblessness, or disability- can tear a person apart the way a child's death can. Nothing is sadder than this.

And so this work is worthy of recognition, support, and funding so that we can continue to help these families.

Ironically, a fantastic and one-of-a-kind dog toy company in Golden, Colorado, KONG has been one of our sole and very consistent donors. 

Another nonprofit in memory of a spicy little monkey, the Ronan Thompson Foundation, has also helped us immensely. 

And, today, a compassionate family man and NASCAR driver, Jimmie Johnson, stepped up to help where many others have not. And I am personally and professionally grateful beyond words.

So to Jimmie Johnson and his family, I pause- look into your eyes- and bow deeply and slowly for the heroic generosity which will help us continue our valuable work. Really, thank you, on behalf of so many very sad families who have had to say farewell to their beloved babies and children.

And to Brianna- we remember and honor you today. Your life matters, now, then, always.

Special thank you to all the families whose $5, $10, $20, $50, 
and $100 donations have, through the 17 years of our existence, sustained us. 

1 comment:

Lynn said...

I lost my first child, a son, May 17, 1972. I wish there had been an organization to help me at that time. If there was I never found my way to it. Due to the pain and grief of losing the thing I most wanted in life, a son, I ended up back in the hospital. Unable to cope, on antidepressants, no one could understand, all the wrong things being said by others, his grave stone being placed in the wrong location.......... many years of anxiety and panic attacks. Two years later I had another son. He was and is the light of my life. The solice I have had after the birth of my second son is : if Jeffrey had lived, Jay would not be Jay, there may not have been the second son. Going thru what I did in the loss of Jeffrey made me stronger and grateful. I don't believe in a god, I do thank what ever alignment permitted me to have my second son. I would not trade that experience of watching him grow and become the man he is today, for anything. I did the best I knew how in raising him. Thanking for doing what you do, even tho it is thru pain you also began.
My pain is now channeled to saving animals who have no voice, destined to die by the hands of those who are supposed to save them.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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