“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 me 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


Trying on Mamae’s crazy pink wig!


Auntie Cole and Miss M together again!


“View from heaven”


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…


Aunty L


March 30, 2010

Bowen Island (2009)

Bowen Island (2009)

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls (2005)









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.

Happy Birthday!img033


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

Car ride love note

Marisa’s 2nd Bday

Dance party With Miss M and Mamae


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



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



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



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



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



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?



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



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



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



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


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.









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


Nicole, Amy, Terri, and Maureen















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…


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.”















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.

















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.
















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…





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

Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon

Spider Robinson




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


Hubby and Nana Nana

Hubby and Nana Nana

Kids craft table

Kids craft table


auntie L and grandpa


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


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…


The sun is rising and our Warrior is sleeping soundly beside me.

It has been a powerful week with our girl. Things have shifted in the last 48 hours…

I stayed over Tuesday night. It’s uncanny how in the wee hours of the morning, usually between 4-5 a.m., Terri and I have the most profoundly intimate interludes…

That morning she looked at me and said, “There’s these 2 Coast Guard guys.”

I said, “Tell me about them.”

“They’re nice… Good looking.”

“Are they dressed in white?”

“Yes, and they really like the ladies.”

“I bet that’s my Dad and Uncle Frank. They were in the Merchant Marines. Nana always said they loved the ladies. I think that’s your grandfather, Terri…”

“Yeah, I bet it is.”

I asked her if Jeanne had come and she said no…

We went on to talk about “home”. She said she felt like she had found a new “home”. I wholeheartedly agreed, citing the loving, compassionate care she is receiving; reflexology, reiki and massage at her fingertips,  a beautiful room filled with light and lovingly decorated by Miss M, friends and loved ones dropping by.

auntie Cole and I were up late that night talking, and talking and talking… Terri’s devoted BFF has not left her side and doesn’t plan to. We both wondered about what Terri was waiting for. Because that day she was clearly not ready to go.

She told Nicole she wanted to see Marisa. So on my way to see Terri on Tuesday I stopped and shared a magical bedtime hour with Marisa.

We sat together at Mamae’s altar, re-enacting how Mamae sat on her pillow, talking about what mediation is and prayer. About how Mamae will always be with her. That Mamae wanted to see her. So we made plans for me to pick her up after school the next day.

Then we read When Someone is Very Sick, a workbook to help children understand end of life. Marisa furiously worked on a drawing for her “special person who is sick” on the car ride to see Mamae.

I asked her to tell me about it. It was her and Mamae, with vibrant, bright colors, a sun shining and birds flying. Mame’s dress was particularly beautiful. The bottom was filled with flowers. I asked what was at the top.

“An x.”

“For love and kisses?”

“Yes. And for God.”

Out of the mouths of babes…

Although things started shifting for Terri Wednesday- lots of sleeping and glimpses into the other side, Marisa and Mamae had a lovely visit.

As I danced with auntie Cole to the “Happy Song” Marisa played for Mamae, I caught a glimpse of Terri’s arm, gracefully “dancing” in the air. Just as her mother’s had from her couch, the week before she died.

On my way home I put on my playlist from Jeanne’s Memorial. Shed a few tears but mostly felt numb.

Then, “Will You Still Love Me” came on. That is our “Jeanne song”, the one the five sisters sang to our mother whenever we gathered.

Then it played again… And again… And again… It played continuously, for almost 30 minutes, until I pulled into my driveway. During that time I communed with my beloved sister and her daughter, at times raging at the fates and at Jeanne’s inability to “save” Terri. But in the end, I pleaded with her to enfold her daughter in her love.

Things are shifting. Since Marisa’s visit Terri has been sleeping mostly. She occasionally asks us things like, “Are the papers ready?” “Does everybody trust everybody else?” She also told auntie Cole, “It’s so beautiful…”

Visions are the order of the day.

Together, we are all bearing witness to our Warrior’s incredibly courageous journey…

Love to all,
auntie L and Team Terri

popsicle cheers!

popsicle cheers!


auntie L here

My beloved niece has asked me to speak on her behalf. Sitting next to her in Chicago as she painstakingly “wrote” her last post, LIFE AND DEATH, was truly a humbling experience. She has been using a voice recognition program for some time, and that post took her 3 hours to complete. I offered numerous times to type for her, but the writing process is a deeply personal experience.

So I sat next to her, tears flowing, bearing witness to her compelling message.

And now, Terri has a new message…

In the end, our Warrior settled into a new “home” at the incredibly loving Weiss Hospice and Palliative Care Unit at Middlesex Hospital. The pure grace, compassion and comfort provided by the staff and volunteers in this exceptional place are truly like no other. Positive energy abounds.

Amidst the inevitable pain and discomfort of Terri’s disease…

The rehab we landed in after our miraculous Angel Med Flight was only to be a stepping stone for Terri. Team Terri (as we now call ourselves) was destined to take an incredibly frustrating journey from Mystic to Weiss. Suffice it to say, our medical system is infuriatingly inept at managing the “in between” transition from life to death. But I’ll save that dissertation for another day.

After much soul searching, our Warrior chose to move into a space of comfort and love, combined with the best quality of life attainable, in order to embrace and cherish those she loves in her time remaining.

So many things have happened since we moved here a little over a week ago. Within the incredibly heart wrenching emotions of this difficult journey with our beloved Warrior, the pure love is almost indescribable…

Like the moment I walked into miss M’s classroom to volunteer on her mother’s behalf and her face lit up with a kaleidoscope of emotions.

Or the tears of love and loss her hubby and I shared as we looked ahead at how to carry on Terri’s legacy of love for her daughter.

A 66th birthday celebration for grandpa form Terri’s room, officiated by none other than miss M.

A steady stream of her dearest, closest family and friends, surrounding Terri with light and love accompanied by deeply intimate exchanges.

A Thanksgiving overflowing with gratitude, love, family, music, beauty and sorrow within this end of life journey with our beloved Terri Luanna.

Terri told me that night she felt she was moving closer to dying…

She described it as feeling like she imagines dementia might feel, and she said I needed to tell all of you about it.

I asked her what she wanted you to know and she said, “Tell them it isn’t scary…”

She says it’s also a bit confusing and very “busy”. Lots of images, people, dreams and a sort of veil of uncertainty between realty and “something other”. Especially while she is sleeping. Which she is doing a lot of these days.She wondered out loud if she’s “seeing” so much because she’s lived and traveled to so many places and if folks who live in the same place all their lives have a different experience…

She is also having lots of “visitors”. After a Reiki session she turned to me and asked, “Are Daniels’s parents passed?” I said, “Yes.” And she said, “They were just here.” She told auntie Cole that same day that Nicole’s father had visited her the  night before, inviting her to sit with him on the porch. That is exactly where Nicole spent many cherished moments with her deceased father.

But in the end, it was her bodhisattva daughter, miss M, child of her mother and grandmother, Jeanne, who provided the ultimate gesture of love…

After decorating practically every surface of her mother’s room with her stupendous art work, then preforming dance after dance on Thanksgiving eve (much to her mom and dad’s delight!), miss M lovingly whispered in her mother’s ear while saying good night, “I’m sorry you have to die, Mamae…”

No tears. Just a rare moment of enlightenment we can all take a lesson from.

Terri wants you to know she is surrounded literally and figuratively by all of you who love her. She feels your love, compassion and strength each and every day.

She wants to thank each and every one of you who helped bring her “home”. And she welcomes your continued prayers, positive energy and support in the days ahead…

Love, auntie L and Team Terri


Our miraculous Angel Med Flight


family loving…

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