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Friday, March 13, 2020

Riley Run 2020 is canceled

Given the current pandemic, this should come as no surprise. It's a disappointment, none the less. We'll be back next year. It will be the last Riley Run. Here is the message from our amazing run coordinators:

Hello Riley Run supporters!

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, we were notified by the City today that the Riley Run has been cancelled due to concerns around the coronavirus. While we are disappointed that we won't be able to officially gather to honor Riley on the 19th, we don't want anyone's health to be jeopardized.
Along the same lines, we won't be printing shirts this year. If you have donated and would like a refund, please let us know and we will get your money back to you quickly. If not, your donations will be sent to Camp Taylor and Children's Heart Foundation in Riley's name as they are every year.

If the timing works out and it is more safe to gather, we would love to reconvene maybe without the run, but we will play that by ear at this point.

Thank you for continuing to support Riley and his family. We have a wonderful community and we feel lucky to be part of it.

Megan and Cassandra

In the meantime, think of Riley on April 2. It would have been his 17th birthday. Thank you to all who signed up for the first time, thank you to all who have been supporting us year after year. We are grateful for your love.

Suzanne, Riley's mom

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Grief and the little sister

It was a year ago last Sunday that they cut her out of me. A silver scar across my abdomen is the proof. I barely acknowledged the pregnancy, so it was equally strange to have a baby cut from my body and handed to me. A daughter, the doctor said. And there she appeared around the paper divider and into my line of vision with a mess of brown hard smeared across her head.

And now she is here already a year old. She lives in our house. She sleeps in Riley’s room. She holds Riley’s things while she nurses in the chair next to his bed. She reaches for the things hanging on his walls when I change her diapers. She is the sixth chair at the dining table, once balanced with four school-aged kids and two adults, only to be completely unbalanced after Riley died. His empty seat. His voice not heard. His laughter gone. And now there is a high chair at the table. It is not a replacement. Only a different kind of chair holding an entirely different child. Even though all of the seats are full, the table is still unbalanced. It will always be unbalanced. And I will always be unbalanced, even though my arms are full right now.

She cannot replace him. I never thought she would, but it was my fear. That somehow holding her and hugging her and nursing her and reading to her and feeding her and bathing her and loving her, that somehow, somehow she would rub away his memory that is seared into my heart -- my Riley-shaped scar. But that isn’t the case. I didn’t know what it would be like, but it isn’t like buying a new gallon of milk to replace the empty gallon of milk or getting a new candle after the wick is gone on the other. I haven’t stopped thinking about him. He is in my thoughts just about every waking minute of every single day. Maybe more intensely now. Now that I spend so much time in his room surrounded by his things. As I remember him at one month old, six months old. As I think of his weight and remember marveling at his tiny body, my first baby born.

Sometimes I call her Riley by mistake. Sometimes I wish she were him and that she would grow at high speed and become the nearly-17-year-old young man that he is supposed to be. But most of the time, I try to focus on appreciating her. It’s a messy, imperfect approach to living in a seemingly impossible world where she is here and he is not. It’s not her fault that her 11-year-old brother died. It’s not her fault that she was born. Yet here we are.

She is goodness in an abyss of pain. So I work on telling myself that at every chance. I want to make sure that I flip to the things that she is, instead of the things that she isn’t. I want to strengthen the neural pathways of love and appreciation for this being that has come into our lives unexpectedly. Here are some of my appreciations: I appreciate that she is an excellent sleeper; I appreciate that she is generally good natured; I appreciate that she will happily sit and play on her own while I make dinner; I appreciate that she will contentedly be in the carrier on my back while I do the things that need doing; I appreciate that she lets me hold her; I appreciate hugging her; I appreciate that sometimes she hugs me back. I appreciate that she continues to wake up even when my mind says that she will not. I appreciate that she didn’t die the night she choked on her dinner and was rushed to the ER. I appreciate feeling her weight and her warmth on my lap and in my arms and across my chest. I appreciate seeing her torso rise and fall on the monitor. I appreciate her tiny hands that reach for mine. I appreciate her eyes that look for me. I appreciate her cries that indicate her aliveness.

When I’m holding her and hugging her, I feel slightly less sad. This doesn’t mean there is less grief. It just means that the grief is being temporarily combated with this 19-pound force of love. It’s an internal battle sometimes to let it feel like love and not betrayal. But I hear his voice saying, “Love her like it’s me because she’s part me because she’s half of you.” It’s flawed 11-year-old logic, but I think what he means when he whispers those words into my head is that it’s okay to love her because he loves her, too. Of course he does. He was an amazing big brother. And she is his tiny sister, who already knows his name and waves when she sees his picture.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Grief and sales pitches

Riley Run 2020! To get this year’s shirt, register by March 19. To register, send email to OR leave a comment saying you want to sign up. #only2runsleft #wewanttoseeyou #bringafriend #centralmiddleschool #sequoiahighschool #carlmonthighschool

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Grief and parents of San Carlos

Parents, this is for you... Many of you know Riley’s story because you follow my blog (even though I haven’t written in a few months). Since his death, you’ve learned about him and his love of Tabasco. You’ve also learned about a mother’s suffering through my words and stories. You might recognize me at Trader Joe’s. You might have seen me walk around school with a hat pulled low over my eyes. I can tell you that while most of the time, I move through the world with trepidation, the day of the year when I feel the most alive is the day when I’m surrounded by people who are thinking about Riley with me. That feeling happens at the Riley Run. That’s when I look out at all of the faces (maybe with tears in my eyes), and feel my boy’s essence in all of the faces looking back at me. There are only two Riley Runs left — only two. Come. Bring your kids. You don’t have to run. And maybe we’ve never met or maybe we haven’t seen each other since his memorial. Or maybe you only learned about his death after the fact. And maybe I wont recognize you (or your kids because they’ve grown up so much since 2014), but come anyway. To be honest, marketing the Run is my least favorite thing because it makes his death feel like a sales pitch. But I need you to come. It’s only $25, and it benefits some worthy charities. But those couple of hours fill my broken mama heart for a little bit. Can I count on you? It’s April 19, at 4pm. To learn more or register, send an email to:

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Grief and peers wanted

You knew him... You were in the same classes; you played baseball on the same team (or on opposing teams); you played music together; you ate lunch together; you walked the same streets; you played at the same parks. Come remember him with us at the Riley Run (no running required). April 19, 2020. For info or to register:

Sunday, March 01, 2020