Coincidence vs. Fate.
It’s a battle that rattles many A.C. brains. In the months that have passed since Maddie’s passing, I have hesitated to dig too deep into the debate. Mostly because we’ll never know. We can only guess. Or hope. Or dream. My only commitment is to absorb all of the meaning that life’s symbolic breadcrumbs seem to so often leave behind. To acknowledge those moments as they arrive. To feel their meaning. And to smile right back. 🙂
That said, every so often an experience makes me pause. Inquire. Question.
On April 20, 2017, as so many of you know, Maddie and I walked into the Lurie Children’s Emergency Room thinking that she had a cold. Only to later learn that this cold was really a rare, cancerous tumor called AT/RT that affects just 30-50 kids in the United States per year.
And yet, just days apart, a little girl named Emma was walked into the Rush Children’s Emergency Room. After weeks of assuming little Emma just had a virus, her parents – Kyle and Sadie Finke – learned their new AT/RT reality as well.
Emma’s parents’ initial written words? “You always think your child is one in a million, well mine was, just not like I expected.”
The first words of Maddie’s Miracles? “Every parent thinks their child is one in a million. On April 21, 2017, we discovered that Maddie, our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, really was.”
Neither of us having ever met. And yet the same words flowing from our fears to our fingertips.
After her surgery, little Emma was transferred to Lurie Children’s to continue her treatment. Emma’s formal transfer date to Lurie Children’s was May 4th (Pammy’s Birthday). 2 years and 6 months to the day younger than Maddie (literally, Maddie was born on June 26th and Emma on December 26th), little Emma battled cancer not as a toddler. But as a baby. A baby filled with the same brave light that buoyed Maddie’s battle. In one particularly sweet visual, Emma’s dad recounts, “Emma finished her chemo on Halloween and rode out of the 17th floor dressed as a strawberry after delivering candy to the staff.”
Two little girls delivering sweetness in a world filled with darkness. There was no better medicine on the 17th Floor.
And then came the holiday season of 2017. Maddie and Emma’s cancers recurred within weeks of one another. With our families sharing the frail embraces of finality on January 4th and February 2nd respectively. For months, the Finke Family and the Kramer Family walked the 17th Floor together. We left behind dancing footprints of joy. We left behind puddled tears of pain. And we left behind legacies of love. And yet until months after their passing, we never met. At the same time, it’s like we’ve known each other for a lifetime. Shared emotions and experiences that physical time together could never replicate.
In honor of sweet Emma, the Finkes formed an organization called “Emma’s Memory.” 100% of the proceeds for Emma’s Memory are donated to the Lurie Children’s Brain Tumor Program. Their initial goal? To raise $300,000 in Emma’s Memory. And to memorialize the legacy of their little legend, the Finkes would dedicate a window seat at Lurie Children’s in her honor.
For those who have followed Maddie’s journey, you may recall that these window seats occupy a special place for battling families. In so many ways, these special windows are windows into our souls in both times of peace and grief. A perfect place for a perfect little girl to be remembered. As of today, the Finke Family has raised over $338,000 in Emma’s honor. And The Emma Finke Window Seat sits beautifully on the 17th Floor as a space of serenity for those in need.
As this year comes to a close, Emma’s birthday arrives. It would be her 3rd birthday. But with each year, I have no doubt that little Emma’s Memory will endure. That her legacy will remain.
In honor of Emma, 50% our royalties for Maddie’s Miracles the remainder of this month will be donated to Emma’s Memory. The other 50% will be donated to Dancing While Cancering and the St. Baldrick’s/American Cancer Society Research Partnership.
Grab a copy on Amazon today by clicking here. Whether for yourself. For a friend. Or for a family member. In doing so, you’ll not just be sharing a beautiful story. You’ll be preserving a memory. And restoring hope for so many other families looking out from the Emma Finke Window Seat as we speak.
Meanwhile, as I stare out my window on the year passed and the year ahead, I still cannot fathom what brought our family together with the Finke Family. How these two stories could co-exist within miles of one another…within weeks of one another. The icing on the “is it coincidence or fate” cake? Take one guess as to Kyle’s mother’s maiden name:
But like I said, my only commitment is to absorb all of the meaning that life’s symbolic breadcrumbs seem to so often leave behind. To acknowledge those moments as they arrive. To feel their meaning. And to smile right back. This might be quite a breadcrumb. But the meaning is palpable. Two beautiful memories with two forever connected parents. Building legacies of love together.
Happy Birthday, Emma. I know one little girl who is always dancing by your side…
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LEARN MORE about Maddie’s inspirational story by reading Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life (available on Amazon by clicking here). To date, we have donated to 13 different nonprofit organizations from our royalties. Looking for a quick summary of Maddie’s impact? Check out our special memorial blog post entitled Legacy of Love. Looking to find out where Maddie’s journey began? You can start here.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE by supporting Dancing While Cancering, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed in Maddie’s honor. Dancing While Cancering is dedicated to bringing joy to the inpatient hospital experience for children with cancer. Check out our website at https://dancingwhilecancering.org.