Leave the world better than you found it

I remember those days in 1990, the early ones following my dad’s very sudden death on May 8th. I remember the way people rallied around us, the way they showed up. I remember people finding ways to show love to us when we needed it. I remember people telling us how much my dad meant to them. I remember my mom choosing to donate his organs, and the letter she received letting her know that two people were able to see now because of that choice. He was gone too soon, but in so many ways his life had deep impact on so many people around him, people he knew and people he didn’t. He was a kind, loving, gentle man, and the world was better because he’d been here.

I remember how important that felt, knowing that while we’d lost him decades ahead of when we should have and we’d never be the same for that loss, the way he lived his life had meaning, and that was a big thing to hang on to in the wake of his death.

No one gets out of here without losing someone important to them – even Jude went to his first funeral just weeks before his own – and through the years our family experienced many more losses. Some at the end of long, full lives. Others when there should have been so much more time left together. And there’s nothing that can make these losses better. Nothing can bring back our loved ones when they’re gone. But we can honour them after they’ve left us. We can remember the impact that they had on us and the people around them. We can recognize the ways they made positive change and carry on their good work for them, when they’re no longer here to do that. We can continue their legacies.

And when they’re gone too early, far too early, before they’ve had that opportunity to make the difference they could have made. What then? How do we honour the people who didn’t have the time to leave their mark?

We do that for them. We become their legacy. We know that the world was better than they found it because they were here and they were part of our lives, and we are better for having known them and loved them. And we take the part of us that has become better and we reach out with that, and do their good work for them.

Jude died on May 6th, 2016. Suddenly, without warning, without a chance to fight for him to stay. We have a chair that shouldn’t be empty, a tiny Superman who left us before he had a chance to decide what he wanted to do with his time here. He was here just long enough to show us who he was, what made him laugh, what made him excited, what made him tick. Through this past year we’ve hardly been able to keep breathing, but something we learned long ago is that we are strongest when we hold each other up. Giving back has always been important to Craig and I – we even met while volunteering for Foot Patrol, and we wanted our kids to learn the importance of helping others however and whenever we can. We wanted them to grow up knowing that a better world doesn’t happen on its own, but because people see an opportunity to do some good and they do it.

And Jude left too soon. Already he was a hilarious, loving little kid, who seemed to understand things far beyond what we’d expect him to at his two years, three months, and twenty days. We couldn’t wait to see what he would become, and we’re heartbroken that we’ll never get to watch him grow up. There’s little more that we can do for him now, but we can remember him, honour him, and do the good work that he’ll never get the chance to do. In his honour we can leave the world better than he found it, and that becomes his legacy. Good will be done and people will be helped because he was here.

On Saturday it will be one year since Jude’s death. Somehow, impossibly, we have survived that year. It seems hard to believe that we’re still standing, when so many days it seems like a much better idea to stay in bed and never get up. But we have something Jude didn’t get: time. So we’ll use that time for him and leave the world better because of him. Are you looking for a way to make a positive impact on the world? We’d love to share some ideas with you, and we’d love to hear if you decide to support any of them, or if you just decide to do anything to reach out to someone because of this. These have been chosen carefully with Jude and his family in mind, and they’re only a tiny fraction of the very worthy causes out there. How will you leave the world better than you found it?


Unicef Super Hero Pack

Jude died from a vaccine preventable disease. He’d had his shot, but as sometimes happens his body failed to develop immunity, and when it was introduced into his system his body didn’t have the tools it needed to fight it off. His life wasn’t saved by his own vaccine, but many others are, and higher vaccination rates could have protected him from ever encountering the illness that killed him. If you knew Jude, you know how much he loved Superman, so Unicef’s Super Hero Pack feels like a great fit, and we were blown away when a good friend told us she’d donated one in Jude’s honour for his birthday this year. For your donation you can provide 100 vaccines, one vaccine carrier, and ten mosquito nets to help protect kids who otherwise wouldn’t have the access or resources to get these life-saving vaccinations. It’s easy here in North America to forget how dangerous many of these illnesses are. We are fortunate that the generations before us developed vaccines to prevent us from ever having diseases like smallpox and polio, and our chances of contracting illnesses like measles are greatly reduced because so many of us are vaccinated, and we are all healthier for it. By supporting Unicef you can help give that protection to children around the world. We love this one.

Trillium Gift of Life Network

Are you registered to be an organ donor? Are you wondering if you’re officially an organ donor? Great news! They’ve made it really easy for you to check! Have your health card ready when you click this link, and it’ll let you know whether or not you’re already in the system, and it gives you the opportunity to change your status right there. On the fence about whether or not you want to donate? I can tell you how much it meant to our family to know that because of my dad, there are two people who were given the ability to see. My dad had a really lovely outlook, and I love the idea that there are people out there seeing the world through his eyes. After Jude’s death we asked immediately if we could donate his organs, and sadly it turned out that this was not an option. We don’t know why, exactly, but I wish we could have passed life on to someone else who needed it, when Jude was no longer able to use his organs. We can’t take them with us. We have no use for our organs when they are no longer giving us life. But there are many Canadians dying each year while waiting for an organ transplant, and registering as a donor could mean the difference between someone else getting a second chance at life, or leaving their loved ones while waiting for an organ. This is a beautiful way to keep making the world better after we’ve gone. Are you an American? Here’s the link you need!

SickKids Get Better Gifts

I would give anything for one more happy memory with Jude. I would give anything to have given him one more happy memory while he was here. Right now, there are a lot of families who are facing the challenges and fears that come with having a child fighting a serious health issue. SickKids Get Better Gifts give you the opportunity to send love to families who are dealing with things that no kid should ever have to deal with. Scroll through, and give a mom a fun experience with her child, give some kids new craft supplies and books, help provide a rocking chair to comfort SickKids’ tiniest patients.

Adopt an Animal

Our tiny lion with the big heart and the love for penguins. He loved the zoo, and we loved taking him there. The Toronto Zoo does a lot of fantastic conservation work, and your support can help them protect these beautiful animals. Adopt your favourite animal, or borrow one of Jude’s, and then go say hi for him. He would love that. ♥

Make-A-Wish 

When you grow up knowing how unpredictably short life can be, you make a point of grabbing whatever opportunities are available, because sometimes there isn’t a later or next time. We never imagined that it would be Jude’s life ending so soon, but we knew that we wanted to have adventures with our kids, and we’re so glad that we made a point of that right from the start. We find some solace in the life that we gave him in his very short years. We don’t know what he might have wished for if he’d had the chance, but we hope we made his dreams come true. Make-A-Wish helps kids dealing with life-threatening illness realize their own dreams.

Ronald McDonald House Canada

When life is scary, you need your family. Ronald McDonald House helps families stay together while they have a child in the hospital away from home. This lifts the burden off families who live far away from hospitals where their children need to receive care, and helps their child have the support they need from the people they love most. Ronald McDonald House has helped a lot of people we care about. And delicious news! Wednesday, May 3rd is McHappy Day. When you visit McDonald’s this Wednesday the purchase of every coffee, Big Mac, and Happy Meal helps fund RMH so that more families can stay together when life has thrown them a scary turn.

Canadian Blood Services

I actually can’t believe that I didn’t think to include this one here, but this one is so important. Thank you so much to my beloved friends Kam and Andrew who made a point of going out this week as first time donors to give blood in Jude’s memory. There’s a huge need for blood of all types, and especially O- (like me!). This costs you no money – just time and blood. And they give you juice and cookies when you’re done! Check out this link and set up an appointment. What a great way to save someone’s life. Americans, this link is for you!


Jude’s not here. We’ll never know where he would have put his efforts, who he would have wanted to help, what difference he would have made. But we know that our loving, caring, hilarious little boy would have had a huge impact however he would have chosen to. We’re still here, even though some days it feels too heavy to still be walking around when your child is gone. In whatever time is still ahead of us, we’ll do what we can to leave the world a little better than we found it. For Jude, for everyone. We’d love for you to join us and make a difference in whatever way speaks to you. We are strongest when we hold each other up, so we’re going to keep doing that. This week is going to be hard, but together we can make life a little easier for someone else out there, bring someone a smile, make someone’s dream come true, save someone’s life, be someone’s hero.

 

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