Tag Archives: Ronald McDonald House

Thank You Letter

Fall flowers and a donation to Ronald McDonald House in memory of her deceased daughter inspired kindness and generosity for bereaved mother Robin Botie in Ithaca, New York.Dear Wag’in Tail Dog Grooming in Auburn, NY,

Thank you so much for your gift to Ronald McDonald House in memory of my daughter Marika Warden. I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m not even sure Marika knew you. But I’m very grateful for your donation. Unless you are another bereaved mother you probably wouldn’t understand how much it means to know that the life of your child mattered, or could make a difference somewhere. It means the world to me that five years after her death, Marika could inspire kindness and generosity.

And I’m so glad you chose to give to Ronald McDonald House. Because in the sad parting from the city where I last “left” my daughter, and in all this time since she died, I never really thanked the warm people at Ronald McDonald House and the Ronald McDonald House-Within-the-Hospital who welcomed the distraught mother standing at their doorsteps dazed and red-eyed, early on in her journey through the wilds of cancer, sobbing, “Is this for real? You mean I can sleep here and you’ll wake me if the hospital calls?”

Imagine you’ve traveled far from your home to seek treatment for your sick child. You know no one in this city. You sleep in the hospital’s uncomfortable reclining chairs, not wanting to leave your precious one alone. You eat from your child’s almost-untouched meal trays. You’re told not to use The Patient’s Bathroom, so you dash down the hall to the ladies room when you have to, and hug the sympathetic nurse who shows you the shower in a nearby slop closet. Your kid reacts to chemo so horrifically you don’t dare leave her bedside until things stabilize, and when they do you suddenly realize how tired and disheveled you’ve become. You don’t know how to begin to resuscitate yourself. And then, one day you’re offered a very affordable room close by.

First it was a room right in the hospital, a few floors down from the oncology unit. Later it was in a house a couple of blocks away. A room with a real bed and my own bathroom. Washers and driers nearby. Flowers. Meals lovingly prepared and left for whatever hour of the night I would tear myself away from my daughter. There were other mothers to talk to. Families. People like me, living in a strange city with invisible thick rubber bands tethering them to their critically ill children in the hospital, gratefully pulling themselves back and forth from their home-away-from-home, to regroup. Ronald McDonald Charities. You picked a good place to help out.

So thank you, Wag’in Tail. For your gift, for reviving my memories, for letting Marika’s story move you, and for allowing her life to still count for something. Cheers!


PS: Wag’in, The note Ronald McDonald House sent to inform me of your donation was what gave me the most joy this week. I don’t know your real name. But I know you are no longer a stranger.


Healing from Loss on the Longest Day of the year

early photo of Marika Warden with angel wings taken by Robin botie of Ithaca, New York at the old Michigan Wymyn's Music FestivalThree years ago in December, I was staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester, a few blocks from Strong Memorial Hospital where my daughter was preparing for her stem cell transplant. At the time there was only one family and very few staff there; everyone else had gone home for the holidays. When a small troupe of musicians showed up one night, the volunteer in the office begged me to join the tiny audience in the living room. I did, although I was not in the mood for Christmas carols. Marika had sung in caroling groups and now she was stuck in the hospital with leukemia. It didn’t seem right that I should be serenaded in that beautiful living room, next to a huge lit-up tree.
The musicians outnumbered the audience. I sat before them in a rocking chair and tried to smile. It was fine for the first couple of songs. But when they started “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” something inside me cracked. I tried to hide my tears. I did not want to be hugged by the volunteer or anyone. By the time they got around to “Silent Night” I was completely broken.
My reaction surprised and confused me. Marika was still alive and there was so much hope. We were moving forward. We were on the upside. Why was I miserable? I had no idea then that in less than three months our world would crash.

On the longest night of the year, three years later, I went to the Gifts of the Winter Solstice concert at Ithaca’s Hospicare. The large living room was packed. There were only a few familiar faces in the crowd as I wormed my way to a seat in the back.
It was supposed to be a celebration of the winter solstice so I did not expect Christmas carols. Three notes into the introduction of “Silent Night” my heart catapulted into my stomach. I glanced around wildly to make a quick exit but there was no way out of the crammed room. I was stuck.
The lights blurred through my tears. But halfway into the song I knew I would be all right. The lyrics were about heavenly peace and redeeming grace, brightness and calm. It suddenly became a lullaby and I let it settle me.

In the past three years, peace has grown within me. The pain of my daughter’s death sits more gently on my heart now. After the concert I lingered a short while to have cookies and a few words with friends from my old grief group. And later, in the rain, walking my dog before bed, I sang “Silent Night” to the invisible moon. I sang to my angel on the other side of the moon, on the darkest longest night of the year.