Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Dear Ed and Nadia and Olivia,

I ever-so-much wish that I wasn't welcoming you to this awful club, this community of those left behind in the terrible backwash of childhood cancer. So we'll call this an "unwelcome letter."

Emily's face on the front page of this morning's Chicago Tribune made my heart thump harder, my eyes water, and my stomach clench over my coffee. And to read those words, "she is survived by..." made me sob through the whole article. I can't stop thinking about your family today, thinking about the fog and the haze, the way that you're looking out the window and wondering how, how, how is it that the sun had the audacity to come out?

There's noise, I'm certain of that, and a lot of people milling around your house. And then there are the quiet moments, the stillness that feels so deafening, knowing that there's one person just missing from your house.

It's been 522 days since Sam died, and I remember those first hours as though seared into my mind. The first phone calls, the plans, the obituary-writing. I remember wondering how we would live. I remember soothing children and standing under a hot shower, weeping. And I remember how many people reached out, perhaps not right away, and their very existence helped me to see that I would get up the next morning, and the next and the next. Some of them did it by reminding me that I still had an important mission in this world, the mission to make this world a better place. But many of them did it by telling me their own stories. "My sister died." "My daughter died." Stories that I didn't know. Stories of deaths that happened when they were young, so young....and this person was standing in front of me, still standing, and their arms (real or virtual) were wrapped around me, telling me, yes, you will go on.

We get recognized occasionally, as "that family whose son died." We nod. We smile. We might cry a little when you mention his name.

Ed, Nadia and Olivia -- I'm so sad to see your beautiful Emily on the front page of the Tribune. As I said, when Sam died, there are a million-billion other ways that I would have wished for this "fame." (Sam always wanted to be famous, you know.) I wish I had great wisdom to offer you. I wish I had known Emily, and I wish that Sam and Emily could have stood together on an amazing stage and shared their pride and glee at being survivors. I wish we could have seen them receive awards and diplomas, find life-loves and fulfill dreams. When I tell you that Emily did so much in her life, that she accomplished so much and brought so much awareness, I imagine that you say, like me, "if only there had been more time to do more."

It might not feel like it today, and it will certainly never ever be the same, but there will be light again. The light will feel different, a little dimmer perhaps, or a new hue. But there will be light again...for all of us.

With sadness and blessing for your family,

I'm heartbroken to remember that Emily was one of SEVEN children who died yesterday from childhood cancer. I'm even more heartbroken to know that 46 more children were diagnosed yesterday and today and tomorrow with cancer. I believe in a future in which this isn't the case. The 36 Rabbis have reached our goal of $1 million but we can't be done. How can we be done? Please help us.

2 years ago today


  1. My Gd give us humans the wisdom to discover a cure and prevention.

  2. And may it be swiftly and in our day. Amen.

  3. God be with Emily's family and with Sammy family, always.
    Fran Kapp


  5. wishing you strenghth to continue on your holy mission. sending warmth and love to your family.