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Atticus VanSlyke

Day 90/90 – Atticus’ Memorial

Day 90 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? We celebrated the life of Atticus VanSlyke as a community.

Photo by Amy Donohue

Photo by Amy Donohue

Literally hundreds of people followed this family’s journey as their little son Atticus battled cancer. He battled it while spreading joy and love everywhere he went. I loved seeing the photos of Atticus walking the halls late at night and looking up at the light displays in the lobby with wide eyes and his jaw dropped with wonder. Our collective hearts broke when we learned the news that Atticus passed away.

We came together as a community to support this family and remember Atticus. The church was packed with all walks of life from people in suits to people wearing jeans and “Team Atticus” t-shirts. I wore a yellow cardigan and my dress with the pleated skirt that makes me want to twirl. (I may have twirled a few times when I put it on that day.) It seemed appropriate.

The service was beautiful. It was filled with images of Atticus from his too-short life and some of the most gorgeous music I’ve ever heard – especially the performance of Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone). Krys and Melissa planned to sing this song when Atticus was cancer-free, but they played it here because their son was free from the chains of cancer in a different way. I’d never heard this variation of Amazing Grace before, and even though I’m not a religious person, I bought the song on iTunes when I got home. Listening to it still makes me cry.

Atticus' Balloon Release

Atticus’ Balloon Release

Krys and Melissa both spoke at Atticus’ memorial. I don’t know how they did that, but they each spoke from the heart and with such openness and love for Atticus and their family, sharing stories that few people know. I was in awe of their grace and how openly they shared what was in their hearts while the rest of us soaked tissues and handkerchiefs with tears.

The service ended with a balloon release. (Yes, I know we engaged in communal littering and it’s bad for the environment, but shut up – it’s what this family wanted.) I hope it helped give them a sense of peace and the feeling that they are still connected with their son and brother.

I hope the VanSlykes know that they are surrounded by love. Even though the rest of us will get on with our lives while they are deep in their grieving process, we will be there in a moment’s notice if they need us. And as time passes on and they re-experience their grief as they celebrate holidays and milestones knowing that Atticus is missing, I hope they know that we’ll be thinking loving thoughts for them.

In case you missed it: Day 89 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I registered the trademark for this blog!

Day 82/90 – Moment of Grace

I can’t say that Day 82 of the 90 Days of Awesome was awesome. The Phoenix community woke to the devastating news that our friends’ child passed away from cancer earlier that morning.

Krys and Atticus

Krys and Atticus

We had all been following Atticus’ story since he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at 13 months old last October. The family kept us in the loop about his progress and setbacks. It was heartbreaking to learn that his cancer started to grow even while he was on chemo. Throughout this entire process, it was a joy to see the photos of Atticus smiling and the videos of him roaming the halls of the hospital. He brought happiness everywhere he went. This family has so much of love for their children and their community – and we love them all back. It seemed so unfair that these wonderful people and this innocent delightful child had to endure so much.

Facebook was flooded with messages of love and sadness as we all learned about Atticus’ death. A lot of people said things like, “I’m going to go watch the sunrise and cry.” I knew I wasn’t suitable for human consumption, but I still had work to do; so I went to the office, closed my door, and told my receptionist that I wouldn’t be taking any phone calls that day. Instead, I focused on my client’s work that was fairly straight-forward – responding to emails and closing files on completed projects – while dabbing the tears that periodically trickled from my eyes.

There was a moment of the grace among the sadness – I appreciated how lucky we all work to be part of this loving community, so none of us, especially this family, didn’t have to suffer alone. Whether we live in Phoenix or are part of this family of friends that is scattered across the world, there were loving words and virtual and actual hugs for all. I am sad that Atticus is gone (but never forgotten), and that this family is in pain, but I am also grateful to be part of a community of so many wonderful people. Knowing the depth of our collective pain reminds me that we are also capable of this magnitude of collective joy.

In case you missed it: Day 81 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Sometimes the highlight of the day is not being hurt when you step on your dog’s rawhide bone.