Saturday, January 19, 2013

and then my heart grew 10 whole sizes.

there are moments in your life where you can literally feel your heart grow and your perspective broaden. in those moments you look at the people around you and immediately want to embrace them all in a group hug. in those moments you realize that at the end of the day what we have is each other. you realize that there is no race or finish line to cross, we're in this together. and if you're lucky, those moments aren't fleeting. they linger... for a few minutes or hours.. perhaps even the day. you learn in those moments how to grab ahold of them and ride that shooting star's tail right out of the room. if you succeed, that star doesn't burn out when the day is over. that moment has become part of an intricate quilt and you wrap yourself with it's warmth and appreciation for all the days of your life. 

in october i met a 4year old girl, isabelle. she lived in the town where i went to high school and had been diagnosed with stage 4 neutroblastoma in january. i read about her fight in the local newspaper and decided to friend request her mom on facebook so i could follow along with her journey. i wanted to help in some way but an opportunity hadn't presented itself. yet. fast forward to october, again... isabelle's mother had posted on facebook that her 5th birthday was approaching and they were looking for suggestions of places to have the party as funds were short this year and space was limited. my chance. there it was. i didn't think twice, i actually didn't even think about it. i immediately emailed her mom and asked if i could take care of the party, venue, favors, decorations, games etc. she gratefully accepted my offer and i'm pretty sure i was more excited in that moment than i ever had been on any christmas morning in my past. 

isabelle's only requests for the party were a mickey mouse clubhouse theme, a pinata, and pepperoni slices. i had about 4 weeks to plan the party so i set out finding photo booth props, crafts, decorations, candy for a candy buffet, prizes, games, a minnie mouse party dress for the birthday girl and i even found mickey mouse shaped pepperoni slices. people rallied around me asking what they could do, they gave money, their time, their talents and other donations. i was blown away by it all. i felt so grateful for the amazing group of friends and family that i get to call mine, they supported me and helped in any way they could party wise, but they filled my heart to the brim as well. 

the party went off without a hitch. i rented out a local recreation hall and we filled it with mickey mouse clubhouse balloons, decorations, candy, games and music. isabelle's family and friends poured in to celebrate this sweet little girl's life. unfortunately isabelle wasn't feeling very well but after the party, when she went home, she told her nanny and baboo that she had so much fun and she continued to talk about her party in the weeks to come to anyone who would listen.

isabelle continued her brave battle with neuroblastoma for 57 more days after her 5th birthday party. she passed away surrounded by her family and knowing that so many people loved her. 

in the days following her passing i struggled with the unfairness of it all. thankfully i had gotten the opportunity to visit with isabelle in the hospital a few days prior and gifted her with photos from the birthday party. together we looked through them and she pointed out pictures of her and her friends playing the games and opening gifts. i wished more in that moment then in any other, that a miracle would take place and this little girl would live a long and healthy life outside of the hospital walls. i wanted that so bad for her. to be able to grow up and to continue becoming blissfully aware of just how beautiful life can be. 

but, there are those lives that are meant to shine super bright for just a short time. it doesn't make sense. it never will. but i can promise you this, when you're given moments with a life as extraordinary and beautiful as isabelle's, they never fade. those moments plant a good seed in your heart that grows and in that way, isabelle lives on. she lives on in so many many lives. seeds are growing everywhere. she's created a garden of love and goodness that shares it's beauty with the world every single day. 

i have reminders of isabelle and our short friendship everywhere. in frames, on the refrigerator and around my wrist. those are things i can see everyday. but what i love most is what she planted in my heart. i nourish that gift and share it with the world to the best of my ability every day. 

delivering her minnie mouse party dress the day i first met her.

the sweet shoppe table. my amazing co worker painted the portrait of isabelle.

one of my best childhood friends came to help out! she was the face painter.
the prize table.

the craft table sign.

at the craft table the kids decorated photo frames.
my amazing co worker drew this picture of goofy.

photo booth.
isabelle's grandmother made these awesome cupcakes....
and this awesome cake!
the kids dressed up as their favorite clubhouse character.... mostly minnie!
birthday girl taking her whack at the pinata. i made it last minute and it lasted awhile to my surprise!

opening presents!

isabelle and i opening a gift of mickey mouse artwork for her new bedroom.

the night i found out about isabelle's passing, i couldn't stop listening to this song. i think it's beautiful and it will forever remind me of my sweet little buddy.

(photos taken by me, stan hill, and sam little of freeman photography)

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