AW

A Year Ago Today…A Little Angel Earned Her Wings

In Family, Giving Back, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons on December 11, 2010 at 3:11 am

The text message simply read…..“She’s gone.”

As my heart sank into my stomach, I stared at the message in disbelief, wanting it to be a mistake, wishing that I could somehow turn back the hands of time and make things right with the world again.  With tears streaming down my face, I dialed the phone to reach out to my good friend, Trish.  It was a call that I knew that I would have to make someday, but I wasn’t ready to make it yet.  And surely, Trish was nowhere near ready to receive it.  Not before her sweet Olivia got the chance to celebrate her 5th birthday.  Not before Olivia’s wish was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  And not when things seemed to be looking up.

But ready or not, Olivia Grace Armand earned her wings a year ago today (just 10 days before her 5th birthday).

When I made the call, I didn’t expect Trish to answer, but I felt like I had to leave a message, even though nothing could possibly lessen the blow of this tragedy.  To my surprise, Trish answered.  She was in the room getting ready to give “Cookie” one last bath.  As she told me what she was doing, I broke down…crying uncontrollably.  We both did.  No words can accurately capture the pain that we shared in that moment.

I don’t remember everything that was said.  I just remember telling Trish over and over again that I was so sorry.  And I’ll never forget that somewhere in the middle of our conversation, Trish seemed to be the one comforting me.  There are no words to describe the incredible strength of this woman who has been dealt the cruelest hand that one can possibly be dealt…the pain of losing a child.

Trish knew that this day was coming years ago when her daughter, Olivia, and her son, Mikey, were diagnosed with a rare metabolic storage disorder called Mucolipidosis II (or “I Cell”).  Children with this disorder are born without the Lysosomal enzyme which is responsible for breaking down complex carbohydrates in the cells.  Although both Olivia, and her brother, Mikey, were given bone marrow transplants to obtain the missing enzyme, it does not cure the disease…it merely slows down the progression.  Children with “I Cell” rarely survive beyond ten years.

Many people (including me) were in constant contact with Trish when Olivia went into the hospital last November.  We were all elated when the news was good, and saddened and worried when things took a turn for the worse.  We all fell in love with Olivia through the photos, videos and stories that Trish shared on Facebook.

Even though I never got to meet her in person, I feel a very strong connection to this amazing little girl.  My kids feel that same connection to her.  They love watching the videos of Olivia and Mikey.  My son is old enough to understand what is going on…my daughter is not.  At 4 years old, she cannot grasp the gravity of the situation.  She just adores these kids, and cannot get enough of watching their videos or seeing their pictures.  There is an excitement in her voice and on her face that is simply indescribable.

The video that always comes to my mind is the one of Olivia eating pancakes during her final days.  She seemed so happy and full of life, and as adorable and lovable as usual.  I remember smiling while watching it last December, and thinking that things were going to be okay.  After watching it again today, it is still so hard to believe that this little angel earned her wings five days after this video was taken.  It just makes no sense.

Trish has done amazing things since her daughter’s passing.  She has shown strength and courage that many may dream of, but very few achieve.  Less than a month after ^^Olivia^^ earned her wings, Trish established the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation (www.OliviaGraceArmandFoundation.org) to “pay it forward” in her daughter’s name.

Because of their disorder, Trish’s children have spent many days in hospitals.  Aside from the support of her friends and family, the one thing that helps Trish during these trying times is the incredible nurses who dedicate their lives to pediatrics.  They are truly unsung heroes who help to ease the pain for families whose children are hospitalized.  But there aren’t enough of them, and Trish is doing her part to change that.

Today, on the one-year anniversary of ^^Olivia^^ earning her wings, the first pediatric nursing scholarship is being awarded by the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation to a very worthy candidate named Susie Kustad.  Once again, in her darkest hour, Trish will be the one giving support.  Simply amazing!

The presentation of the first scholarship today will surely be a very bittersweet time for Trish.  The fact that she chose to present it today speaks volumes about who she is as a person.  If only there were more people like her in the world.

The greatest gift would be to bring ^^Olivia^^ back into her mother’s loving arms.  Sadly, that is not possible.  But it is possible for others to help Trish in her quest to increase the number of pediatric nurses in this country.

Despite a tough economy, we can all find a way to contribute something…a few dollars or whatever you can afford.  Think about the good that can be done if each person decided to give one less gift this year and put that money towards this incredibly noble cause.  Please visit www.OliviasCookieJar.org to donate whatever you can.

During this holiday season, remember that the greatest gift that you can give cannot be found in a store.  It cannot be gift-wrapped, and it can NEVER be returned.  It is the gift of time, and being there in the moment with your loved ones.

This holiday season, think about the little angel who earned her wings (a year ago today) as a reminder of what is truly important in life!

Olivia’s life was short, but her impact will last a lifetime!

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