Our second Christmas without Natasha here on earth is quickly approaching. In some ways, it's a little easier. Less stinging. In other ways, it's worse. It's the new normal that we don't ever want to be normal: Living our lives without watching Natasha grow up to live hers.
We attend Westside King's Church (www.wkc.org) and recently Saskia, along with two other woman, was asked to share Christmas testimonials. All three woman have had to overcome major life challenges, learning to discover God in a new and deeper way. Each was asked what Christmas means to them now that they've experienced their trials and tribulations.
May your Christmas be filled with Hope, Joy, Peace and Love - even as you experience the challenges that this world has to offer.
The 3rd Father's Day since Natasha's diagnosis.
Father's Day 2015, Natasha was about half way through her first round of radiation treatments (33 sessions in that round). Her face was bloated from the steroid meds. Her school was organizing a big fundraising event "Movie Night" with music, food trucks and auctions. We were planning a trip with friends to Mexico after her radiation treatments. This trip was the kickoff to a 'summer of a lifetime'. We had just connected with TheTruth365, which would propel Natasha's fight to a level of publicity we could not yet imagine. We were experiencing fear, hope and excitement. We were still in shock. Natasha was mobile, articulate and determined to live life to the fullest. "Stay Happy and Live Long"
Father's Day 2016, Natasha could not transfer herself from her wheelchair to her bed or to the toilet. She could not speak a sentence without stopping to catch her breath. Her left arm was not functioning, her right arm so weak we had to do everything for her. She felt fatigued a lot. I took leave from my work for two reasons: To help with Natasha's daily care needs and to spend as much time with her as possible. Our friends were gathering around us organizing meals and helping hands for all kinds of errands. We had begun the process of setting up palliative in-home care. We were consumed with the day to day caring for Natasha, trying to make her as comfortable as possible in a body she felt trapped in, a body that was quickly shutting down around her. And because DIPG had not affected her cognitive functions, she remained fully aware, witnessing all that was happening to her, while becoming decreasingly able to communicate her thoughts and experiences. She was 12 years old. She posted her final blog earlier that June.
Father's Day 2017, I'm sitting here reflecting on this, as I often do. We are also planning CureFest Canada coming up in September. Through social media we know of other kids who get cancer, who get DIPG. We learn of their diagnosis, their fight and their death. I recognize (no, I know) the hope and despair of the parents. I want to turn away, but I can't. I have to continue to look at and to talk about childhood cancer. It's a part of me now. It's a part of all of us who cannot accept that the amount of kids that die each year from cancer is somehow acceptable or tolerable.
I am learning about grief. I get it now, how the death of a child is not just about the adjustment to the loss of the child. It's not just about the fact that the child is no longer present. Everything has shifted. Cancer is terrible. Loosing a loved one is terrible. My experience is loosing a child to cancer. It's terrible. I'm sad and I'm tired of being sad. It's not like it was shortly after Natasha passed. It's not as 'burning'. Is it better now? In some ways. It's more of a deep ache with flare ups of burn. I have flash backs. I guess I'm trying to find the 'new normal' which will never be 'normal'. I miss her so much. I'm glad she isn't sick anymore.
My relationship with God is evolving. It's complex. It's personal. It's simple. He's a good God.
Do I like a sympathetic ear? Sure, I do. Does it bring comfort when others can empathize, when they can identify with me? Absolutely. But I want more than that. I want our society to say "We are not OK with the amount of kids that get cancer. We are not OK with the lifetime maladies and disfigurements pediatric cancer survivors face. We are not OK with the number of kids that die each year from cancer, that it's the 2nd leading cause of death of our children, the number 1 disease cause of death. We are not OK that many treatments and medicines have not changed in 40 and 50 years or more. Not only are we not OK with all this, we find it to be abhorrent. We are compelled to do something about it."
Father's Day. To be honest, it was mostly a 'Hallmark Holiday' in my eyes. Nothing to make a big deal about. Not any more. It's a reminder.
Recently we uploaded Natasha’s Celebration of Life video, Liam’s friend Paul helped us add some subtitles and in the u-tube description you can click on the live links to view various part of Natasha’s Celebration of Life. Here too is a printed copy of the eulogy we did for Natasha and a picture of the letter we received from Joe Clancy – Director of the USA Secret Service (to be added soon)
Thanks to everyone who helped us to honor Natasha.
Natasha Rose Gould January 28, 2004 – August 4, 2016
Celebration Of Life
Recorded; Friday August 26th, 2016 at 2:15pm
First Alliance Church, 12345 40th Street SE, Calgary, Alberta
00:00/2:10:46 Pre-Worship, Thy Will be Done by: Hillary Scott, Never Gonna Stop this Singing by: Jesus Culture Ft. Kim Walker-Smith, In the River by: Jesus Culture Ft. Kim Walker-Smith , He's a Good Good Father by: Chris Tomlin
15:40/ Family Processional, Song: You Make Me Brave by: Heather Thirsk, Introduction/Welcome: Pastor Ray Matheson Speaks, Song: Heaven Come by: Jen Johnson
26:49/ Video: Natasha’s Celebration of Life (Montage)
30:34/ Presentation: Janelle Mozill and Jennifer Nixon (Childhood friends)
35:33/ Presentation: Mike Gillette - Co-founder of The Truth 365
55:35/ Video: Radioactive
55:35/ Video: Tom Mitchel – Founder of the Still Brave Foundation
1:00:56/ Video: Washington TV news footage – Candle Light Vigil
1:03:03/ Video: Joe Clancy – Director of the USA Secret Service
1:07:45/ Song: This Love is Magic cover by: Justine Tyrell, Taylor Cullen, Lisa Jacobs
1:12:04/ Presentation: Jody Pereverzoff and Deidre Bailey (Calgary Connect School teachers)
1:13:32/ Video: Calgary Connect School - School friendships
1:20:47/ Pastor Ray Matheson speaks
1:33:05/ Song: It is Well by: Heather Thirsk
1:38:43/ Eulogy: Bill, Saskia and Liam (Natasha’s Parents and Brother)
1:53:43/ Natasha’s last recording singing; This Love Has Magic
1:57:12/ Prayer Invitation, Song: Just As I Am by: Heather Thirsk
4:00pm: Reception and Enjoy Some of Natasha’s favorite treats 4:45pm: Bike Race (on location)5:45pm: Chelsea Donaldson (Natasha’s Cousin) Speaks, Butterfly Release in memory of Natasha
- 2 years after Liam was born, I was beginning to accept that we would only have one child
- The summer before Liam turned 3, on a Friday, I was thrilled to see Liam get out of diapers. That Sunday, we learned that Saskia was pregnant
- So much about Natasha was a little easier – her birth, she didn’t do bottles, didn’t need a soother, she slept better, we didn’t sterilize everything that fell on the floor
- Our only concern was wondering if and when she was going to start growing hair
- As she got older, I remember thinking that Liam was having more influence on her than we were. She was infatuated with him. He was her role model in so many ways
- Later on, of course, we began to see her unique personality start to shine. Where Liam became more involved in sport, Natasha gravitated to performing arts
- She was kinetic – always moving and dancing. Even in her sleep – she was hard to share a bed with
- Even when I was mad at Natasha, it often felt more like I believed I should be mad but wasn’t really. I could see a smile trying to find itself on her face and I often tried to hold back from laughing. I loved her giggle.
- Natasha said she believed God wasn’t going to let her die, that she was placed amongst kids with cancer to make a difference. Natasha, only your body died. You are still live in spirit and we will carry on trying to make a difference here on earth. You did so much with the short time available to you. It was an amazing year, but the price was too great. We will continue to pay it forward, trying to match our efforts to the price you paid, even though we know we never can.
- Natasha was and is my beautiful baby girl.
- An easy-going kid and who rarely drove me crazy, although truth be known, these past couple of years I was beginning to get a hint of what joys of parenting a teenage girl could behold and the memories we could have made.
- Instead I will focus on the treasures of memories we have made.
- Natasha was social and quickly made new friends. On family trips, when she and Liam wanted to play with a group of kids, Liam would encourage Natasha to break the ice, and she always stepped up, even if she was shy, she’d do it for Liam and the anticipation of playing with new friends was all to enticing to resist.
- Natasha loved her friends and loved bringing them together, her friends were very dear to her, and she loved you all.
- Spending time with extended family and actively helping to make these occasions special came naturally to Natasha. She loved her Auntie Anita’s Christmas Eve gatherings, however, I’m not sure if it was because Santa was going to make a visit or if the chocolate fondue table was the highlight. Oh and she loved baking Auntie Carla’s famous Chocolate cookies, better still was baking them with Carla.
- Natasha was sensitive to conflict and she coached her family and friends on relationship issues, of course she came by this gift quite naturally and she would often consult me the head coach. It was a privilege to share with her what I could about what makes a healthy relationship and we practiced together what we coached others, we were quick to apologize and forgive each other so we could come back to that place of harmony that she and I so valued.
- I am grateful for her open heart. Although she never gave up teasing me about the talking stick I once and (only once) introduced into one of our rare structured family meetings, the talking stick became our inside joke, you know those inside jokes that are treasures to families, …keep making them.
- I am sure Natasha sang while she was in the womb. Her spirit was designed to sing. She sang all the time, around the house, while climbing the tree in the back yard, in the car, everywhere and at all times possible. I teased her that she would be most happy living in a musical. I am sure as a few others have declared to me; they too are confident Natasha is is leading worship in heaven and God is truly blessed with her singing praises.
- As parents we have memories of our kids we cling to, when we are surprised to discover something in them that you kind of knew possible but are amazed to see unravel. One of those times for me is when in her first her first year at the science school now called Calgary Connect this school that goes from grade 4 to 9. In her first year there, in grade 4 she bravely on her own sang Taylor Swift’s I’d Lie at the school talent show, … and she did really well. And the best part was watching the enjoyment and learning she got out of the experience.
- Over the years I have helped Natasha save every story, every journal entry she ever started, yes started, she loved writing as much as she loved singing. You see she loves beginnings, endings were not as important to Natasha as starting, which when you think about it is a good life lesson, there is always a new beginning. I will pull together all her beginnings and I am sure it will be a good place to start from, a platform, a rally call, and a story of her beginnings.
- Natasha spoke her mind – if she had a strong opinion about something, she’d say it, sometimes (often) without filters. In this last year of her life on earth, she became very powerful with her words and there are many of you here today that are personally convicted by her candour. Please keep her candour alive in your life let it be your beginning.
- One of my beginnings will be; “be happy”, to seek joy in living, I promised Natasha that I will not curl up and die, while living here without her, instead I will seek the presence of God daily in my life, in all things, in all my relationships. I will find joy in living this new life without her, I promise you Natasha, by the grace of God I know I can and will in your honour.
- I will miss her everyday and on that frightful day; May 01, 2015, when we were given the horrible news, later that day…Natasha in her uniquely gifted way, grabbed my hands, looked me squarely in the eyes and said to me, but to herself as well, and declared; “Mom we will be together forever”. You see we knew that no matter what this DIPG cancer nightmare was going to bring us, we knew; we knew that our hope and faith in God and our love would guide us. We never gave up hope and clear expectation in our hearts that God could miraculous heal Natasha even up to her last day on earth. …And we also held the possibility that she might go home early. We rested daily in hope; faith, love and we put our trust in God.
- You see Natasha is free again, she is not trapped in her body, her death reminds us all that this stuff, is nothing. We don’t bring it on, it stays here, and your spirit leaves this earthly form. We are nothing without our spirits; and praise God we have the opportunity to move onto the spiritual realm of heaven.
- Make memories, make good ones, resolve conflict, forgive, that’s what you bring with you to your new beginnings in heaven, …“forever Mommy”
- Natasha along with her brother Liam are gifted with an amazing entrepreneurial spirit – and every summer, every lemonade stand, was a beginning, Natasha loved it! But it did not stop at lemonade, they liked to push the envelope and lemonade became frozen ice slushies’ of every imaginable flavour, and well people need to eat so we need to bake cookies and cupcakes, and what about art, that sells well, everyone loves a greeting card painting by a kid….
- … Liam I pass the talking stick to you now
- Natasha loved the outdoors. We went camping every summer and Natasha loved the routine of camping: swimming, sun bathing, climbing trees, and especially shmores.
- When we were little, we built a tree house in our back yard. We dreamed of creating a massive jungle gym between all the trees in our backyard, but it ended up being just a few 2x4s nailed into one of the trees. She still admired the work that she had done with her big brother. That is one of the things that stuck with me, it’s not about reaching a great goal but more about how you get there and who it is with.
- Halloween was one of her favourite times – and not because it’s our mom’s birthday. Natasha had a sweet tooth. She couldn’t make her candy stash last as long as I could of course I always got more than she did. She loved every moment of it, dressing up as her favourite character that year, racing from house to house collecting as much sugar as she could. Then pilling it all up on the floor when we got home and organizing her stash.
- She liked to try new things – especially anything I would do: surfing, boogie boarding, ATV-ing, soccer, biking and skating. She played for a few years of soccer, but didn’t like it if the weather was too cold, or too hot, or too windy. That happens a lot in Calgary!
- Our whole life Natasha and I were participating, in what we that, was the most important competition off all, brother and sister rivalry. I excelled at many things such as biking, hockey and other sports and became known as the family athlete. Although I had the athletic corner of the game locked down she dominated in basically everything else. Singing, reading, writing, and horseback riding. She tried so many things: Ballet, dance, sparks, wrestling, tuba, guitar, piano, voice training, skiing, snow boarding, long boarding, skating, horseback riding, vaulting, and 4H. In 4H she won a big trophy – of course for public speaking! She wanted to try it all.
- Natasha you are the most amazing person that ever came into my life, you had qualities that no other person has and I just pray some of those qualities rub off on me. I will never be the same without you, I love you so much my beautiful little sister.
- Natasha did a lot, but one thing she didn’t get to do, was grow up to be a singer/songwriter. As you heard earlier, she just may have had some talent in that direction. Here is she is for you now practicing her song. She tried to learn to play it on the guitar as well, but her hand became too weak.
- Cue song
- Natasha developed a passion for praying for people. Examples:
- A woman waiting while her daughter was getting an MRI
- A man with pain in his legs while outside a church
- A young boy named Rhythm, from Hawaii, who was diagnosed with DIPG on Easter Sunday, and died all too quickly
- Following Natasha’s lead, we would like to pray for you here and now. If you have any physical, emotional or spiritual need for prayer, please come and join us down here in front of the stage. While we pray for those who come to the front, everyone else please relax, pray, contemplate or meditate while listening to some beautiful music. We have about 10 minutes for this, and then we will be wrapping up.
On July 1st 2015, Natasha held a live Facebook event where people could ask her anything. One of the questions Natasha answered was “Who is your favourite singer?” Her reply was MacKenzie Porter.
Little did Natasha know that one of the participants in that Facebook event knew somebody, who knew somebody – well, long story short, days later Natasha received a phone call from MacKenzie Porter! That phone call led to text exchanges until one day MacKenzie came to Calgary to meet Natasha face to face. They went out for dinner and then roller skating. Not sure who struggled more on the roller skates, but they had a great time!
They continued to stay in touch, and on October 3 2015, Natasha and her friend Sophie (who had introduced MacKenzie’s music to Natasha) went to MacKenzie’s concert in Medicine Hat. Natasha, and Sophie, ended up on stage and had a great time of it.
After Natasha passed, we asked MacKenzie if she’d be willing to do a cover of Natasha’s song. She didn’t hesitate. We just posted it on Natasha’s Youtube channel and we hope you enjoy it.
Thank you Justine Tyrell and MacKenzie Porter for doing covers of “This Love is Magic”. Please look for opportunities to perform Natasha’s song, and helping spread Natasha’s message about more needing to be done to treat and cure childhood cancer.
We want more covers done of “This Love is Magic”. If you are interested in doing a cover, or if you know someone who could, please contact email@example.com. Hello Jan Arden, Paul Brandt, WOTE, Adelle, Beyonce, Justin Beiber, Taylor Swift! Come and join in!
People we love can, and do, die. The scenarios can be diverse depending on our relationship to the loved one (parent, partner, child) and the the cause of death (accident, disease, violence).
While each scenario has it's own dynamics, grief is grief.
We have a remarkable circle of supporters who have helped us shoulder the weight of Natasha's life with cancer, and her departure from this world. When we first read the poem, we immediately related to it. We recognize that people in our circle get it.
This came to us from grieving parents we don't know, through a mutual friend. We share it with you now, for those of you who grieve and for those of you who know someone grieving.
Please See Me Through My Tears
You asked, “How am I doing?”
As I told you, tears came to my eyes …
and you looked away and quickly began to talk again.
All the attention you had given me drained away.
“How am I doing?” … I do better when people listen, though I may shed a tear or two. This pain is indescribable.
If you’ve never known it, you cannot fully understand.
Yet, I need you.
When you look away,
When I’m ignored,
I am again alone with it …
Your attention means more than you can ever know.
Really, tears are not a bad sign, you know!
They’re nature’s way of helping me to heal …
They relieve some of the stress of sadness.
I know you fear that asking how I’m doing brings me sadness … but you’re wrong.
The memory of my loved one’s death will always be with me, only a thought away.
My tears make my pain more visible to you, but you did not give me the pain … it was already there.
When I cry, could it be that you feel helpless, not knowing what to do?
You are not helpless, and you don’t need to do a thing but be there.
When I feel your permission to allow my tears to flow, you’ve helped me.
You need not speak.
Your silence as I cry is all I need.
Listening with you heart to “how am I doing” relieves the pain for when the tears can freely come and go, I feel lighter.
Talking to you releases what I’ve been wanting to say aloud, clearing space for a touch of joy in my life.
I’ll cry for a minute or two …
and then I’ll wipe my eyes,
and sometimes you’ll even find I’m laughing later.
When I hold back the tears, my throat grows tight,
my chest aches, my stomach knots …
because I’m trying to protect you from my tears,
Then we both hurt …
Me – because my pain is held inside, a shield against our closeness …
And you – because suddenly we’re distant.
So please, take my hand and see me through my tears …
then we can be close again. Please See Me Through My Tears.
Join us this evening when we light our candle while enjoying
Join us this evening when we light our candle while enjoying Justine and Taylor's cover of Natasha's "This Love Is Magic". They, along with bass guitarist Lisa Jacobs, played at Natasha's Celebration of Life. You can see that recording at http://bit.ly/2dtU1zo
We have a dream that more recording artists will do covers of Natasha's song, thereby helping spread her message to an ever wider audience. If you want to do a cover, or there is a recording artist in your circle of contacts, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We will soon be posting another cover by one of Natasha's favourite singers - stay tuned!
A year ago, we travelled home from Washington, DC.
Still feeling the eNeRGy from our time there, Natasha made an inflight announcement, using the opportunity to spread her message.
We arrived home to emails and voicemails from media outlets including CBC, ABC, NBC and Associated Press. We were beginning to realise the stir that had been created around the Secret Service incident.
One of the media appearances Natasha made over the next couple days was on the Al Jazeera program, The Stream. It was a last minute request for Natasha to participate on a scheduled discussion panel regarding childhood cancer.
It was one of the best media opportunities for Natasha, providing a more in-depth and thoughtful discussion about childhood cancer than most of her other appearances. Plus, the program’s international reach brought a global perspective to the issue.
As we look to lighting our candles tonight at sunset, please put 30 minutes aside to watch this episode of The Stream. Then reflect and pray for all children, all over the world, who are affected by cancer.
Today is Bill's first birthday since Natasha passed away on August 4, 2016. We are told; the year of first's are the hardest. Today Natasha would have been first up with hugs and birthday cuddles. But instead she is singing her song "this Love is Magic from Heaven - for you Bill.
Most often a little girl's first love is with her Daddy. Our Father in heaven's love for us is magical. God's design is for us to have a taste of that healthy kind of love from our earthly father. Bill God blessed you richly when he picked you to be Natasha's earthly father. Relish in that joy today, keep her close to her heart. Today in honour of your birthday we publish her song for you with subtitles to savour each word. Happy Birthday Bill we Love you. Love Saskia, Liam, (Ryder & Mia) and Natasha from Heaven.
God Bless you Bill!
When asked which Church we go to, our default answer is Westside King's Church. While we have a history with that Church that goes back to its beginning, many regular attendees would be surprised to hear us say that it's "the Church we go to." We don't go often, even though it's close by: a pleasant walk or short bike ride. Why don't we go? Busy life, shifting priorities ... lots of familiar reasons.
Shortly after Natasha was diagnosed last year, our dear family friend (more like a niece), Natalie, went to Westside with Natasha. Later that day we learned that Natasha had asked to be prayed for.
Last week, Westside's Missions Director, Adam Bedford, completed a four part series of sermons call "Invisible: Ruth and the Guiding Hand" Towards the end of his message, Adam shares Natasha's story. He recalls that day last year when Natasha asked to be prayed over, and he quotes from one of her blog posts.
Searching for meaning around Natasha's illness, and her passing, will likely be a lifelong process for those who knew and loved her. Adam's message is part of the search. Thank you Adam.
Please take a listen to Adam's message, and how he wove Natasha into that message. For a fuller context, you can listen to the first 3 parts of the series as well.
Our continued gratitude to the many people who continue to support and care for us as we continue this journey.