Till We Meet Again…

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It’s been an emotionally charged couple of weeks…

More beginnings. More endings. And lots of in betweens.

Marisa’s 6th birthday. Terri’s NYC Astoria Park Bench Dedication. The 6 month anniversary of Terri’s death…

And then came the silence… The sadness… The searching…

Until finally, the answers appeared. Signed, sealed and delivered by Terri.

This will be my/our last blog post. Is it any wonder I have been avoiding writing it? Or that as I type, tears are streaming down my face? How do I “say goodbye” yet again? Staying connected to all of you through this blog has been my lifeline to Terri. Staying true to the promise I made to her when she whispered to me, “I think I am dying. I want you to tell people,”  has been one of the most profoundly life changing experiences of my life.

But she has gently and lovingly been sending me signs, markers, and messages that it is time. Guiding me as her mother did before her on my grief journey.

And her message is/was loud and clear. It brings to mind something she tried to explain to me about a week before she died. She kept dreaming about these scarfs. They kept changing colors and would get wet every time she made a questionable moral decision. They were a constant test.  Everyone had to wear them. But in the end, “We all had to tie them together until we were all in agreement…” In the end, “It is not about being perfect. It’s about being whole.” In the end, “There is enough love in the universe for everyone…”

How incredibly “Terri’ is that?

Right up to her death, she was sharing her profound visions of hope. Of universal love and truth. Of the critical importance of connection.

Then, right before she drifted off she said, “It meant the world to me to have you all here to celebrate with me. That I was not forgotten…”

No, my love, you will never be forgotten. I promise you that.

Nicole and I will publish your blog, just as you wished.

Miss M will be loved in true Mamãe style forever and always-dreaming big, honoring her truth, dancing, loving, traveling and changing the world…

And this final video, which you so brilliantly saved till now, will keep you just a “click away”…

Deepest gratitude to Michael and Kathy Murray from Summer Wind Wedding Films who worked tirelessly with me to capture Terri’s essence and the depth of love we all feel for her.

And for those of you who haven’t yet heard my sister Dori’s powerfully heartrending, “Hymn for Terri”,  sung by Dori, my niece, Tanya and my daughter, Erin, you are in for an incredibly moving experience. If you would like to own a copy of the song, we will send anyone who donates to Miss M’s College Fund through the GoFundMe link on this page, a free mp3 download.

So, my beloved niece, till we meet again, “We’ll find, we’ll have to find, our way without you…”

Terri   password-terri

 

 

Memorializing Miss M’s Mamãe

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Terri Luanna DaSilva’s Park Bench Dedication

Sunday, May 31st, Noon- ?

Astoria Park, Shore Blvd. (near Ditmars Blvd.), Astoria, NY

Overlooking the East River

OPEN TO ALL

 

Open to all…

That was Terri. Through and through. Open to all of life’s lessons, gifts, people, adventures, beliefs, challenges…

So it is with an open heart, on this day when we honor Mothers everywhere, that Terri’s family invites all of you to her bench dedication in her beloved NYC. Please join us as we gather together to remember. To honor. To commemorate. To grieve.

It’s what we did today with Miss M on this first Mother’s Day without her cherished Mamãe. It’s what I did when I travelled recently with Miss M to Bowen Island and Vancouver to visit Grandpa and Aunty Cole- communed with all that was/is Terri Luanna…

We invite you to do the same.

So pack a picnic lunch, bring your lawn chairs, perhaps a kite or two, an instrument if you like, but most importantly, bring your memories and your stories of Terri Luanna, of our gracefulwmoanwarrior, to share with one another. Because in the end, it’s the only thing that makes sense. It’s the only thing that eases the ache, fills the void, lessens the tears. That brings forth Terri’s essence. Her light. Her love of life and of all of us.

There will be music. And there will be dancing. And there’ll even be a piñata for the kids and a birthday cake for Miss M’s 6th birthday!

I can’t wait to see all of you. Because in seeing you, I see Terri…

Love, Aunty L

PS- Here’s the email I received from Terri’s cousin Jeanne after she “christened” Terri’s bench for all of us.

 

Thank you, Laurie!
After you alerted me that the plaque was on the bench, I could hardly wait to go see for myself. Last Friday night, after work, instead of hopping off the train at Broadway as usual, I rode to the end of the line. By then, I had to pee :) so I stopped in at a bar (The Let Love Inn), used the restroom and drank a glass of white wine alone at the bar. I was suddenly feeling very emotional over seeing the bench. I decided that I wanted to bring a flower for Terri, so I walked back to the florist on the corner. At this point, the sun was swiftly setting, so I quickly chose an orange gerbera daisy and told the florist that I didn’t need it wrapped. He handed it to me, smiled, and said, “Miss, it’s on the house.” Of course, at that, I started to cry. I just thanked him, hurried on, and clutched my little flower all the way to the river. It was such a beautiful night, the first time this year that I had noticed crocuses and daffodils beaming up from the earth. The sky turned pink, I smiled through tears at the people I passed, and then suddenly I was upon it. The bench. And there was our Terri’s name, in all it’s glory. She has the perfect spot. It was so pretty there, and I sat in a peaceful private moment, and I am just so glad that Terri (and all of us!) will have this bench. Thank you thank you thank you for arranging it!! And thanks so much for letting me know that it was done! I won’t share any pics of the plaque ahead of the great reveal… but here are a few other photos from my visit. (The bench on the right, beside the lamp post, is Terri’s.)
See you soon.

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“These are a few of my favorite things…”

It’s been awhile.

I am sitting in Jeanne’s living room on Bowen Island and Terri is everywhere…

In the pictures. On the ferry ride. In the tears of pure joy that streamed down Grandpa’s face. In the living room, dancing right along with Auntie Cole, Mr. Ed, Miss M and I to Grandpa’s joyous guitar playing.

Terri loved this island. As did her mother. It’s hard to describe the mystical magic that surrounds this place. I remember Jeanne telling me it was once considered a sacred healing ground. I can see why. It is why I came here and why I brought Miss M with me. To heal. To grieve. To honor all that is Terri. All that is her mother.

I barely made it onto the porch before the tears started flowing. Auntie Cole and I wrapped our arms around each other as both the absence of, and Terri’s palpable presence, washed over us. Miss M ran from the couch to the chair, grabbing Nana Canada’s zen pillows, hugging them close, saying, “Mamãe, Mamãe”, her radiant face filled with the essence of her mother’s love.

It was beautiful. And painful. And so very important.

I am so grateful to Papai, Auntie Cole and Mr. Ed for this gift of time with Miss M. For this opportunity to accompany her on this journey. This journey of life and of death. Of making sense of the senseless and tragic leave-taking of our magnificent gracefulwomanwarrior. Of Miss M’s beloved Mamãe.

This morning at Auntie Cole’s, I read the daily reading from my new meditation book, Your Daily Rock; A Daybook of Touchstones For Busy Lives by Patti Digh, given to be by my BFF. It offers a morning and evening question and this morning’s was, What is the question? 

Miss M went first.

“Why is heaven up so high in the sky?”

“That’s a really good question,” Auntie Cole said.

“Hmm,” I replied. “Why do you think, Miss M?”

“So we can’t see them.”

“Wow,” I said. “That’s true isn’t it? We can’t see Mamãe up there, can we? That’s the hard part about heaven. It makes me really sad. But I also think it’s up so high because it’s so beautiful up there in the sky. When you were sleeping last night on the plane, I took this picture of the sky. Look at it. Isn’t it beautiful? I think that’s why it is so high up. So Mamãe and Nana Canada can be together in such a beautiful place, watching over us.”

Auntie Cole went on to describe how it’s so beautiful up there because heaven holds the essence of the love that we have for each other. That it is always with us for ever and ever. Like Mamãe.

This was one of those powerfully pivotal moments. Those moments that occur when we take the time to be present. To join together to embrace the memory of our loved ones.

They are there for the taking. We just have to be open.

There were an abundance of them the day we gathered with Papai and Miss M to lovingly sift through Terri’s belongings. It was a painfully beautiful ritual that Miss M directed, each of us choosing one our favorite things to wear with love and cherish always.

We laughed. We cried. And we remembered. Just as we did today.

You are invited to do the same. To create yet another powerfully pivotal “Terri moment” when we gather together in NYC for her park bench dedication.

So please mark your calendars for Sunday, May 31st, at 12:00 p.m. in Astoria Park, Astoria, NY. Your “invitation ” will arrive soon. Right here on Terri’s blog.

Hope to see you there…

Love, Auntie L

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Trying on Mamae’s crazy pink wig!

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Auntie Cole and Miss M together again!

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“View from heaven”

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Miss M and Grandpa jamming

Happy Birthday Mom Revisited…

Today would have been my sister, Jeanne Robinson’s, 67th birthday…

Compelled to honor and celebrate the magnificent woman that birthed our beloved gracefulwomanwarrior, I journeyed to the birthplace of our matriarch, Dorothy; that magical place on the tip of Cape Cod that has always been a sanctuary for the Rubbicco/Robinson women- Provincetown.

I feel her presence here. Terri’s presence. It is such a comforting feeling to surround myself with the memories we created walking the dunes, shopping at the Himalayan and candy store, climbing the Monument, trekking to our favorite dune shack, sitting in the parlors of our Tia Marguerite and Tia Marion, witnessing the spectacular sunsets at Race Point.

Revisiting and embracing our grief helps us transform it. Integrate it. Own and manage it. It allows us to live without the ones we love while still holding them close.

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Looking ahead, you too will have an opportunity to pay homage to your beloved Terri. Soon. Plans are taking shape for her NYC Memorial Celebration. Her Astoria park bench is being created as we speak. Mark your calendars for May 31, 2015. Together, we will gather, remember, grieve and celebrate Terri’s life, just as she did for her mother in her blog post below…

Love,

Aunty L

 

March 30, 2010

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Today is my mom’s birthday. She would have been 64.

Unfortunately, as most of you already know, my mom passed away almost 2 years ago. Cancer.

But today I celebrate her birth and remember the brilliance of Jeanne Robinson – dancer, writer, choreographer, Buddhist, sister, wife, friend, aunt, and of course, mother. I could go on and on about how kick-ass my mom was. Anyone who met her knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Hunter College Graduate School of Social Work -  New York City (2005)

Hunter College Graduate School of Social Work -
New York City (2005)

I took some time by myself today to walk in the woods and connect with her. Listening to the birds.

 

Watching the ripples on the pond. Feeling the breeze. Telling mom how much I miss her. Wishing she were here with me during my own struggle with cancer. Crying.

I’ve been crying all day. Thinking about her. Remembering. Watching old videos of her and Miss M. Looking at photos.

In doing so, I realize that amidst all the turmoil and sadness of mom being sick there were still so many moments of joy, laughter, dance, music, and love. The videos and photos were full of them… My mom and dad singing and playing guitar while Miss M bounces up and down to the beat. The family walks through the magnificent rain forests of Bowen Island. Miss M giggling and my mom soaking up every possible piece of her. The love we all felt just being together.

I am so glad Miss M was born when she was. I’m sure it was no coincidence. Miss M helped us stay rooted in the moment and not dwell on the fact that mom was sick. She made my mom so happy and allowed her to forget about the cancer. Even now, Miss M continues to lighten our days during our second round of cancer. It is no coincidence that she arrived when she did. Miss M and my mom had a special bond.

Today, on my mom’s birthday, I remember all the good memories. Today I give thanks.

Thank you mom for being such an inspiration. Thank you for showing me it is ok to be a parent and still go after your own dreams. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Thank you for modeling compassion. Thank you for being my #1 cheerleader. Thank you for helping me become the strong, confident, and loving woman I am today. Thank you for being my mom.

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Valentine’s Love for Mamae…

Valentine’s Day. The day to proclaim your love to all those you hold near and dear. Not such an easy thing to do when the one you love is just beyond your reach…

From the moment we woke up today, Miss M and I yearned for our precious Mamae. So off we went, in search of that elusive thread of connection.

Suddenly, there she was. In her daughter’s wide eyed excitement as Miss M opened her first Leggo kit- a Frozen Castle of course. Luckily, cousin Andrew, Leggo master extraordinaire, was on hand to build it with her.

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And there she was again, at Alden Court, as Miss M melted into Nana Nana’s loving arms.

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But still, our need wasn’t satisfied.

So to satiate our unfulfilled longing, the skyping commenced. We still hadn’t heard back from Auntie Cole whom we had left a hilarious video message for, so we moved on to Grandpa on Bowen island, followed by Papai in Ct. Next it was Eryka in CA, but still no Auntie Cole.

So to kill some time I pulled up the pictures of one of my Ohio visits in search of the picture of Miss M in her green frog hat which we had packed for our 4 day visit.

And there she was. In picture after picture. Our beautiful, beloved Mamae.

Suddenly, Miss M clicked on a movie clip. There the three of us were. Kitchen Dance Party in Ohio!!! Boogying away to our favorite “Badia” by Earth Wind and Fire.

My eyes filled with tears. Miss M leaned in closer. And closer. We touched. Kissed. Laughed.

“I miss her,” I said, tears falling. “She loved you so much.” “She’ll always love you…”

For almost two hours we communed. Remembered. Rejoiced in all that was Mamae. I even drew Miss M a family tree as I tried to explain how Nana Canada was my sister and Nana Nana my mother. When we got to her at the bottom of the tree, I said, “Some day, you may have a family and then we will add your child to this tree..”

Then Jamie, Lala, and Uncle Markie arrived with dinner, having braved yet another New England blizzard. And right on cue, the Skype ring tone sounded, and the bright and beautiful Auntie Cole arrived!

So I’ll leave you with a few precious video memories of our beloved Mamae. I hope you created some of your very own on this Valentine’s Day.

Love, Auntie L

Modern Dance Marisa

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Marisa’s 2nd Bday

Dance party With Miss M and Mamae

THE LESSONS CONTAINED IN THE SUFFERING…

On this wintery, blustery day, I went searching for the perfect epitaph for Terri’s bench. So naturally, I went straight to the source; gracefulwomanwarrior. Back to the beginning…

Two hours and many tears later, I made it through the first year of Terri’s blog.

God, could that girl write. And inspire. And energize. I am fired up with an indescribable need to get her blog published. And I only got one third of the way through! In the last few weeks of her life, Aunty Cole, Terri and I spoke often about bringing this dream to fruition.

Rest assured, Team Terri WILL make Terri’s dream a reality. In the mean time, here are a few gems from our Warrior to ponder in the days ahead.

Aunty L

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FIGURE OUT WHAT’S IMPORTANT

When you’re faced with your own mortality it causes you to reevaluate what’s important.

At the ripe old age of 37, death is not something I really contemplated before now. And then – wham! You’re diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and your whole perspective changes.

I know some people facing serious illness and terminal disease may be tempted to continue living their lives just as they had before. Changing nothing. And although I continue with the day-to-day tasks of everyday living as I always have, I’ve also been overcome by this strong desire to prioritize. To decide what is truly deserving of my time.

I don’t want to waste my time on bullshit.

I think questioning what is truly important is a good exercise for everyone to do. Are you spending the time you have in a nourishing and fulfilling way? Do you enjoy your work? Do you enjoy your time outside of work? Do you make decisions in line with what you truly want out of life?

Even though I’ve figured out what’s important to me, the hardest step is incorporating these things into my life. Making them a priority.

So let’s all do it together. Let’s make the effort to prioritize the things that bring us joy. Find a few moments each day to do something enriching and enjoyable. Something that makes your day a bit better. That makes this life worth living.

If not now – when?

Make it happen. Peace to all. -T

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CHOOSE WELL

Even when it seems life is backing you into a corner you always have a choice. I cannot control the fact that I have cancer. But I can control how I deal with it. I can choose not to let it ruin my life. I can choose to keep on living in spite of it.

It’s your life. Choose well.

With love, – T

3-25-12

MAKE LEMONADE

Even with metastatic breast cancer I’m still enjoying life.

Maybe things aren’t as awful as we imagine them to be. Life in Ohio ain’t all that bad. Not nearly as awful as I thought it might be. Stage 4 breast cancer? Yeah, it sucks a lot of the time. But it hasn’t made my life totally awful.

Maybe it’s really about what you make of the turmoil and not the turmoil itself. Shit happens to everyone. Life has lots of sucky moments. But life only becomes truly awful if we allow it to be.

I will not allow it. Just use your lemons to make lemonade.

Peace. – T

6-22-12

MY CROSS TO BEAR

This is my cross to bear. It is what it is. And who’s to say one person’s cross is worse than another person’s? Every cross is different. And they are all difficult. They all suck. They all bring pain. And yet, our crosses can also force us to ask big questions, re-evaluate priorities, and make a commitment to living a fuller life. Amidst the turmoil we can try to make peace with our crosses. Figure out why that particular cross is ours to bear in the first place. Understand the lessons contained in the suffering. And use it all as an opportunity to grow, learn, and discover who we truly are.

To all those out there with a cross to bear, I feel your pain. We’re all in this together. As my dad, author Spider Robinson, and many of you have said, “Shared pain is lessened, shared joy, increased.” So let’s all keep sharing.

Peace. – T

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GOING BEYOND CANCER

Many people tell me how inspired or touched they are by my blog. I know how therapeutic it is for me to write all this down but the fact that my ramblings bring special moments to other people’s lives is so amazing. This whole thing started out as a site to keep family and friends up-to-date on my treatment and has now become so much more than that. I’m still not sure where it’s going, but I know that staying connected with the blog, and everyone reading it, is a good thing.

I think we all have a desire to make our marks in the world. Make a difference in someone’s life. Live a fulfilling life. And yet, it’s so easy to get stuck in fear or the comfort of our routines and completely miss out on the opportunity to do something big. To appreciate the beauty that is all around us. To connect with each other. Take a risk. Try something new.

Let’s not wait any longer to make our mark on the world. We’re all here for a reason. What’s yours?

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IT’S NO FUN HAVING CANCER

As I said, it’s so much easier to be happy on the good days. On days like today, when my body starts acting up, there is no denying my reality. I so wish I could be done with it all. But that’s not an option. This is my life. My new life. And sometimes it’s kind of depressing… and it sucks… and it’s totally no fun at all.

But millions of people experience life altering situations every day – accidents, strokes, heart attacks, death, illness… And things are never quite the same again. I guess the key is recognizing that even when a situation is horrible, it doesn’t mean our whole lives have to become horrible as well. There will be good days and bad days. Ups and downs. It is what it is. Some things we can’t change.

Thanks to everyone for pulling me through. For giving me a reason to keep pouring out my soul on this blog, face my feelings, and contribute to my healing. It means a lot. Especially on the “not so good” days like today.

Much love to all. – T

7-22-12

NOT WASTING ANY TIME

Of course there is no way to know how my life will play out. No way for any of us to know.

A few nights ago hubby opened up about how sad he is. Sad that our lives are forever changed. Sad that I have to go through surgery and be in pain. Sad at the thought that Miss M might lose her mom.

Of course I’m sad too. But I’ve gotten really good at detaching myself from the sadness. Just putting one foot in front of the other. Trying to enjoy the moment because who knows how many moments you have left… I don’t want to waste them. I don’t want to be asleep when I can be awake. I don’t want to obsess about cleaning when I can be enjoying time with Miss M. I don’t want to be watching trashy reality tv when I can be reading a good book.

Every single moment truly matters. Time is precious. Let’s not take it for granted.

Peace. – T

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GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN

In January I go for my next set of scans. I believe they will show NED (no evidence of disease) – knock on wood… If that is the case, then in my mind the battle becomes one of prevention rather than active treatment. Regardless, most doctors want me to continue taking medications for the rest of my life. However, I truly believe that if it’s all about prevention, all the actions I am taking to fortify and heal my body, mind, and spirit can work just as well as medications – without all the horrible side effects.

It all makes so much sense to me. It feels right to me. The difficult part is convincing everyone else that I’m not crazy for going against the grain and making such “radical” choices. But, I’m learning to get over that. I am listening to my gut. I am honouring my feelings. I am seeking information from all sources. And ultimately, these are my decisions to make.

This is my life. I plan on living it to the fullest.

Peace. -T

12-24-12

PARENTAL LESONS ON LIFE

Parenting is one of the most difficult endeavors I have ever taken on. Nothing tests your patience more than an angry, screaming child.

What I had hoped and expected to be a beautiful festive family day, ended up being a day from hell. And I couldn’t seem to shake the bad energy off me. I carried it with me the rest of the day.

So today I consciously made an effort to start fresh. I sipped my morning coffee from my favourite “Serenity” mug (the same one my mom used to drink from each morning)… I met Miss M where she was at (a valuable skill I learned in social work school) instead of imposing my own expectations or preferences on her… I paid attention to her… We laughed and played together… And aside from one minor incident over some M&M’s this morning we’ve had a pretty awesome day so far.

I realize every day offers an opportunity to start fresh. To let go of the past and welcome each new moment. Do things differently. Make better choices.

It’s been one year since I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I am so grateful to still be here. To be feeling well. To have the opportunity to celebrate another holiday season with those I love. To live another day.

Wishing everyone a fantastic holiday – filled with serenity, beauty, love… And fresh starts :-)

Peace. – T

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Quest for the Bench

Been missing Terri… So much…

As are Miss M. And Heron. And many of you.

I know because some of you reached out this week. Feeling the same ache. Missing her smile. Her light. Her irrepressible positivity.

Two weeks ago, Miss M and I channeled our grief by embarking on a quest to NYC to find Mamae’s perfect bench.

Terri wasn’t attached to Memorials. Or Funerals. Or Cemeteries.

Her requests were simple; a party-check, dancing-check, scattering some of her ashes in the ocean by her favorite city in the world- NYC, and maybe a bench in her memory, where we could sit “with” her at Astoria Park.

So a core group gathered- Miss M, myself, Erin and Matt, Grandpa, Auntie Mary, Uncle John, cousin Jeanne and Uncle Jim. Miss M brought along her brand spanking new magnifying glass to solve the mystery of which bench was pictured in a photo of Mamae, 9 months pregnant, sitting along side the two sets of overjoyed expectant grandparents.

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After a half hour of searching, our determined group was perilously close to frost bite. As the sun began setting on the Hudson River, Erin exclaimed, “There it is!!” In true Nancy Drew style, Miss M meticulously examined every inch of the bench. (Terri had asked Erin to turn Miss M on to her favorite detective series, hence the accompanying magnifying glass!)

Proclaiming the mystery solved, we hustled our freezing asses back to our cars and journeyed to Terri’s favorite Italian restaurant, Trattoria L’incontro, where we were led to the same exact table that Terri, Heron, Miss M, Nana Nana and I celebrated Marisa’s 1st birthday and Heron’s graduation. (Thanks Terri…) We savored exquisite Italian delicacies while reminiscing, reconnecting and reenergizing our heavy hearts.

I can’t tell you how deeply grateful I am for these moments of connectivity; of shared grief. They are incredibly powerful in tempering the ever present, heart wrenching pain of losing Terri. Soon enough, you too will have an opportunity to do the same.

Dori, Tanya and Erin are putting the finishing touches on Dori’s  hauntingly beautiful,  We’ll Find Our Way (Hymn For Terri), soon to be featured here on Terri’s blog.

Application for said bench is in process, and will be followed by a NYC Dedication Celebration in true Terri style, open to all.

In the mean time, I offer you this opportunity to join with me in remembering our beloved gracefulwomanwarri, Terri Luanna, by clicking on this link…  Terri’s Life Celebration

Love Auntie L

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Tributes to Terri…

“Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call, and I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend.”
James Taylor

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Nicole, Amy, Terri, and Maureen

 

 

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I woke up this morning “filled” with all that is/was Terri. In my dreams. In my heart. In my soul.

James Taylor’s song, playing in my head.

So, on this New Year’s Eve, take a moment to remember our Warrior through the eyes of three of her BFF’s; Nicole, Irene and Amy…

A Poem From Nicole…

HIGH FLIGHT

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

“Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds —

and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of –

wheeled and soared and swing high in the sunlit silence.

Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along

and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

 

“Up, up the long delirious burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,

where never lark, or even eagle, flew;

and…while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

the high untrespassed sanctity of space,

put out my hand and touched the face of God.”

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Irene’s Tribute

28 years encompasses a whole lot of memories with my best friend Terri.

It was always Terri’s kind soul, her openness, her ability to make new friends wherever she went, and her fun and adventurous spirit that I admired most about her throughout our lifelong friendship. People were inexplicably drawn to her, as was I. Her zest for living in the moment and hunting down life’s adventures were so apparent and infectious even way back in high school. I remember one particular choir trip down to California. Terri and I convinced a few of our very straight and narrow choir friends to sneak out of our hotel rooms after bed check and party it up all night. We even hitchhiked part way back to the hotel in the back of a pickup truck with some random cute guys. I know…seriously…what were we thinking? But that was who Terri was. That’s who she and I were together…Adventuresome. She lived in the moment and her love of life positively radiated to those that surrounded her.

I also very clearly remember the day that we both decided to ditch our stable careers at IBM and Ogilvy Advertising in search of more foreign adventures. Terri called me up one day at work as we did whenever we were bored and said, “Where are we going next?” We’d both been talking about wanting to see Asia for a little while. I said, “If you’re ready to ditch your job and go give teaching ESL in Taiwan a try then let’s do it together.” Terri’s response was, “Are you serious Reen?” And I said, “Hell ya! When are we ever going to have another chance in our lifetime to do this together?” And that was it. Within the next few months we had both quit our jobs, drove across the country and flew out of Vancouver to Taiwan, ready to embark on our latest exploration into Asia.

There are so many other stories I could share with you about my adventures with Terri. But I think the final most important one was the leap we took together into this crazy journey we call motherhood.   There was no way I was entering this next stage of life without my bestie right there beside me. So what does any good girlfriend do when they don’t want to fly solo? We planned on having our kids at the same time. And you know what? The powers that be allowed it. My eldest daughter Kaya and Marisa were born a mere 3 months apart. What more could I have asked for than to have experienced one of life’s greatest gifts, motherhood, with one of my closest and dearest friends. I see so much of us in those two beautiful girls. I see Terri’s open and loving nature; as well as wisdom beyond her years in Marisa’s eyes. I also see a natural ease of friendship between these two girls despite the geographical distance and sporadic visits.

When I had the honour of visiting Terri just a month ago, there were two things that she whispered to me while we were sharing a quiet moment together. The first was, she told me to be the best mom that I could be. The second was that she wanted our girls to know each other. I plan on honouring Terri in both.

Terri, you have always been my best friend, my confidante and my sister from another mother. I will miss you like no other but like you said to me just a few short weeks ago, “I’ll see you when I see you”. And I know that knowing you…I’ll be seeing you in the most unexpected places while you move on to your next adventure.

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Amy’s Tribute

Hello, for those of you who don’t know me my name is Amy, and I’ve known Terri for as long as I can remember. I, along with Maureen, were lucky enough to grow up in the Patton Street neighborhood where Nana lived and Spider and Jeanne chose to send Luanna each summer. I will forever be grateful that they made that decision.

As I tried to figure out what to say about Terri and how to reflect on a lifetime of friendship, I realized that the idea of summer is, in some ways, the perfect metaphor for her. First of all, everybody loves summer and everyone I know who met Terri, loved her. Like the summer sun, she enveloped you in her warmth and she shined, she radiated, love, peacefulness, and grace. And, like most of us know, summers are always too short and are gone before we’re ready for them to be over.

So you have to pack a lot of things into the time you have and Terri was able to do that. She travelled the world, lived in the city that she loved, became a social worker, met amazing people, fell in love with the man of her dreams, started a beautiful family, and became a writer. Though not the writer she imagined, her blog has inspired, moved, and motivated people across the world.

She taught us all what’s important: to make the most of every moment, to live fully. In the short time that Terri was here, she blazed bright. And though we all wish we could have more time with her, I am so thankful that those summers forged a friendship that will live on through my memories and the friendship that our children will continue to have.

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Last but certainly not least, as you contemplate the new year before you, consider these words from Terri Luanna written on her spiritual pilgrimage to Europe a year ago.

Sure to inspire, Terri’s wisdom and joy de vivre offers each of us a  bold blueprint for a life truly worth living…

Happy New Year,

auntie L

 

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Terri’s “Big Idea”

“Why not think big? Dream big?

People may not get you- but the dreamers are the ones who change the world. When you honor yourself, everyone benefits.

Better to be true to yourself. Be different. Be unique. Honor your truth.

So dance. Love. Pray. Travel. Meditate. Learn. Grow.

Be inspired and inspire others. Be good to yourself and others. Find the beauty in life. Nurture you soul.

The time has come…”

Tributes To Terri…

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“Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased.”

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On this bittersweet Christmas Eve, my heart and soul ache for the loss of my beloved niece…

I have learned over these last few weeks that my brother-in-law, Spider, was right. So, in an attempt to lessen my pain and increase my joy, I will be sharing excerpts from our phenomenal Celebration of Terri’s Life over the next few weeks. I hope it provides you comfort and inspires you to celebrate this holiday season wrapped in the warm embrace of your loved ones.

Terri Luanna da Silva

Welcome to our Celebration of Life for our beloved Terri Luanna da Silva, also lovingly known as our gracefulwomanwarrior. Today’s service, brought to you in true Rubbicco style, promises to be an extraordinary tribute to an extraordinary woman, full of powerful music, inspiring words, laughter as well as tears, and most importantly, per Terri’s request, dancing.

Marisa has her fabulous new rainbow dress on and her IPOD is ready to go. So we promise you, Terri, we will get this party started, just as you wanted.

But first… A few words about my incredible niece.

Where to begin…

Terri was my niece, my daughter, my sister and my friend. She was one of the most remarkable, brave, gifted, radical, compassionate and inspirational human beings I have ever known. She lived her life with a level of grace, compassion and a compelling wisdom that is very rare. And in doing so, inspired people all over the world.

And I do mean all over the world. The overwhelming reaction and response to Terri’s passing is truly mind blowing, to use a phrase frequently used by my sister, Jeanne. Blog comments, letters, and donations are pouring in from all over the world; Australia, Russia, Italy, Portugal, Brazil, Canada, Amsterdam.

And even… Macy’s department store at our very own North Dartmouth Mall.

I kid you not.

The other night, in an attempt to escape the ever present grief that consumes me, I decided to head to the mall for some retail therapy. I passed by a woman in the shoe department and our eyes locked for just a second. I smiled, as did she, and I moved along. A few minutes later I turned and there she was.

“Are you Dori’s sister?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“I thought so. I’ve seen you on Facebook.”

She hesitated for the briefest of moments, then said, “I had to come over and tell you how sorry I was about your niece’s passing.”

Tears sprung to my eyes.

“Thank you,” I replied, touched beyond belief. “I can’t tell you how glad I am you reached out to me.”

“No, thank you,” she answered. “I don’t know what it was, but I just felt I needed to come over to you.”

“It was Terri.” I said.

She smiled. “I’m sure it was. I can’t begin to tell you how inspired I was by your niece’s story. And by your family. You let us all in during such an unbelievably difficult time. We have such a hard time talking about death and you and your niece did it so beautifully. I just had to come over to tell you how deeply her story has affected my life.”

I went on to tell her how we plan to publish Terri’s blog, and as we talked more, our serendipitous connections continued to unfold as we made more and more connections around our work and our kids.

All thanks to Terri.

But that’s what our warrior did best. Connect. And she encouraged, no, she insisted, that we do so as well. And through that gift of connection, of unconditional love and light, she will live on. Through each and every one of us.

But most importantly, Terri will live on through her greatest legacy of all, the Magical Miss M. Marisa, you continue to amaze your Auntie Laurie with your fabulous sense of style, your crazy, silly, creative videos, your amazing dance moves, your ingenious imagination, and your magical presence. Like your mother, Terri, her mother, Nana Canada, and your Nana Nana, you live and love deeply. Auntie so looks forward to keeping Mamae’s love of life and adventure alive with you.

In closing, I want to say thank you to you, Terri, for welcoming me into your journey- of life, of parenting, of grief, of marriage, of friendship, of cancer, and of the special bond we have shared since the day you were born.

Love, auntie L

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Hubby and Nana Nana

Hubby and Nana Nana

Kids craft table

Kids craft table

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auntie L and grandpa

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Balloon Launch Message from Miss M- “Thank you for all of your love, Mamae…”

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Final Gifts

Our Warrior gracefully and peacefully journeyed “home” on Friday, December 5th, at 12:41 p.m…

Choreographing right up until the moment of her death, Terri Luanna waited for her beloved husband to arrive. Then, as in all she did in her brief life, Terri passed gracefully and in peace, surrounded by all who loved her dearly.

Terri also ensured Miss M was partaking in a fabulous adventure with auntie L at the time of her death, making sure I was almost home before Heron called to tell me that her time was imminent.

I was not destined to be by Terri’s side, literally, but rather to “unpack” her mother’s leave-taking as we had done with her mother’s cancer journey. The recurring message from our Warrior? Live life fully amidst the pain and heartache…

Heron drove to my home later that afternoon, where he found Miss M and her “favorite cousin” (her words!), Jamie, listening to their favorite pop music and doing art work between dance moves. Papai took Marisa upstairs to share the news. Soon after, they joined the rest of the O’Neil clan and it was Miss M, child of her mother, who again taught the grown ups that life does in fact go on.

Papai gave Marisa the blue light necklace from hospice, beautifully explaining its significance as he peeled off the paper, releasing a bright, iridescent blue glow.

“It will stay blue for 3 days because that is how long it will take Mamae to travel to heaven. She will always be with us and will visit us in our dreams.”

It was unbelievably heart wrenching to witness, but such an honor to call this incredibly loving family my own…

A few minutes later, Marisa asked about the play we were supposed to attend. Her “O’Neil cousin”, Lauren, was “starring in” (Marisa’s words again), our high school’s rendition of Scrooge and Marley, and Marisa had come home with me to see Lauren  make her stage debut.

“Do you still want to go?” I asked.

To which she replied,  “Yes!”

Of course she did… She is her mother’s daughter after all.

As soon as she arrived home, she melted into her Papai’s arms and went up to bed where he hung their blue light to watch over them while they slept. In the morning. Heron told me he held her close, telling her how much he loved her and how lucky they were to have been loved by Mamae. Then he kissed her cheek, she kissed his, and together, they blew a kiss to Mamae which they have done each morning since Terri’s passing…

On Saturday, we all gathered in CT.

To remember. To grieve. To celebrate.

And Terri continued to scatter her “Final Gifts”…

There was one in the red cardinal her friend Patty saw outside her kitchen window at 12:45 on Dec. 5th.

Another in the perfectly timed Happy Song that played 3 times in the car with Marisa the day she died.

And one of my favorites, the dance party Miss M orchestrated on Saturday, insisting we all dance to Mamae’s favorite “New York” song by Alicia Keys and Jay Z.

Our Warrior will be remembered most for her voracious and passionate love of life, her boundless compassion, and her deep and abiding faith in the innate goodness of human kind. The world is a better place because of Terri’s legacy of strength, hope, and commitment to living life to it’s fullest. Her indomitable spirit will live on in all of us; the people all over the world whose lives she touched…

Terri had one wish when asked how she wanted us to commemorate her life.

“I want a party and dancing…” Simple as that.

So that’s what we are giving her.

She also wants her ashes scattered in her beloved NYC as well as a commemorative bench in Astoria Park. This celebration will be open to all of you, her beloved army of soldiers, who bore witness to, accompanied and cherished our beloved Warrior.

We have set up a new gracefulwomanwarrior Memorial Fund via GoFundMe at gofund.me/icqknk, which will be used to fund Miss M’s education and cover any remaining medical expenses. A new button will be installed on this page (as soon as I can get auntie D over here to do it!)

In the mean time, please know that together, we will continue to keep Terri’s story and her legacy alive…

Love, auntie L

Celebrating Terri...

Celebrating Terri…