Ten months ago during a road trip to St. Louis I wrote my first ever blog post. It was unlike me to open up to anyone, let alone the world. It had been about a month since Margo had passed and I found myself unable to talk about it with anyone. When Margo was first diagnosed many people suggested she speak to a professional. It was an idea she was against from the very beginning; instead she took to the internet and decided to share her journey with the world. Writing seemed to work for her so I decided to give it a try. I never could have imagined that both of our blogs would eventually end up being viewed by hundreds of thousands of people across the world. From the U.S. to China to Australia to South Africa, the countries were endless. Complete and total strangers touched by the story of a brilliant individual and her families struggle to move on without her. I’ve shared with you all the many ups and downs associated with losing a loved one. My triumphs and my tribulations. Today, eleven months later, I find myself ready to close the book on this chapter of my life. So for the final time I share with you all one last post:
Four years ago I arrived at St. Joes as a naive eighteen year old. Many probably would have described me as selfish, and I know for a fact my sisters thought of me as quite a brat. Things had always come easily to me. School, athletics, friends; I guess you could say I had it all. I grew up in an affluent area where the every day struggles of many individuals were distant thoughts for most of us. Our “reality” was anything but reality. While my family of course had our issues I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood. I had two parents that loved each other, three sisters to torture, and the best dog in the world. Four years later I stand here today as a completely different person. I have been to hell and back. I think it is safe to say that my life has been anything but ordinary, I’ve experienced things in my first 22 years of life that many adults have yet to experience, things that, I hope, with all my heart none of you reading this ever have to endure. However, these are the things that have made me who I am today. The things that have opened my eyes to reality and what life is truly about. I am most definitely not perfect, nor will I ever be. I have made my fair share of mistakes and I’m sure will make a few more. The events that have unfolded over the past two years of my life have undoubtedly changed me forever, but one lesson sticks out above all; there is nothing we cannot overcome with the help of our friends and family. It took me 22 years, but I finally realized that its ok to ask for help. Its ok to swallow your pride and admit you cannot do everything by yourself. We all need help at one time or another. We can be at our lowest low, covered in bruises and writhing in pain, but its important to remember it can always be worse, and for countless others it is. A “bad” day for me will never be anywhere close to a bad day for my sister. After watching her 9 month battle my worries seem trivial. In reality, I have nothing to complain about. When I’m feeling down or I think I’m having a bad day I think about my sister. I think about her determination to push through each day, no matter how much pain she was in or how sick she felt. One memory that unfortunately has stuck with me is my sister telling me that she didn’t want to feel sick anymore and the feeling of helplessness and heartache I felt after hearing this. I didn’t have the power to take her pain away. No one did. However, I do have the power to make the most of each day and be conscious of the fact that so many others are fighting greater battles.
It’s been four months since graduation and I’m already missing the life I had and the people in it. Just as I was getting used to my life again it came to a yet another screeching halt. My school, my teammates, and my friends have become family to me. I’m not so sure I would still be standing today if it weren’t for them. The thought of moving on without them is, well, quite frankly terrifying. While I wish I could move to Never Never Land and never grow up the time has come to put on my big girls pants and take a leap of faith into the real world. Obviously if it were up to me I would continue to stay up drinking with my best friends until the sun comes up, sing Cruise at the top of our lungs, see how many people we can fit on a roof before it collapses, wreak havoc on Spankys, waste half a tank of gas a week driving in circles around manayunk looking for parking, spend my days in study hall, go to class drenched in sweat after an early morning practice, and live with four of my best friends. Unfortunately, college can’t last forever. Lately I have tried to once again find the good in the bad. I have been incredibly lucky to attend such a great school and have parents that supported me throughout it all. I have had the resources and support that so many are not fortunate enough to have. In March I learned that my hard work had paid off; I was offered a job with E and J Gallo Wines. This past Saturday I took a leap of faith, packed up my car, and moved to New Hampshire. As corny as it sounds I have had this overwhelming feeling ever since I got here that this is where I am supposed to be right now. Its a fresh start,the chance to put my mistakes and my struggles behind me and start over. My sisters story was extremely public. I sincerely appreciated the words of encouragement and admiration i often received, but at the same time I just wanted to be normal. I wanted to be able to go out and not have to talk about cancer. I wanted to be just like every other college student. I’m not sure that ever would have been possible had I stayed close to home. In New Hampshire no one knows me, no one knows my story.
Its been said that time heals all wounds. That with each passing day things get a little easier. It’s true, things have and will continue to gradually get easier. There is no doubt I have come a far way since that day in September that I lost my sister, but I will say that I am fairly positive that no amount of time will ever heal this wound. I have learned that for the rest of my life there will always be good days and bad days, happy moments and sad moments. No matter what the world will always feel somewhat empty without my sisters presence. The process will be never ending, and so far has been quite a journey. There will always be awkward moments and difficult questions. How many siblings do you have? A question I’m still not sure how to answer. In my mind I will always have 3 sisters, but the question is usually followed by “what do they do?” or “how old are they”. Questions I can’t exactly answer anymore. I’ve had countless people tell me that they admire my strength and ability to handle such a tragic situation, but the truth is I’m no super hero. In fact I’m no different from all of you. I don’t think any of us are aware of what we are capable of. Time and time again we find ourselves filling our lungs after situations that should have left them empty. It is in these moments that we realize there is nothing that we cannot overcome, our capability as humans is endless. Had you asked me a few years ago if I thought I would be able to handle losing one of my sisters I most definitely would have told you no. If you haven’t experienced it the thought of it is truly unimaginable. The truth is we endured far more than the pain of just losing a loved one. I never knew I had the strength to hold my sisters hand and tell her that it was ok to let go, to free herself of the pain and suffering. I never knew that I would be able to stand in front of a packed church and deliver a speech about my sister who lost her life at the age of 24 just days before. I never knew I could stand in front of her husband and the three boys she loved with all her heart and not be at a loss for words. I never knew that I could lose such an important person in my life and one day find true happiness again. I did it though. Why? Because I didn’t get a choice. What I have taken from the past eleven months is that dwelling on it will never do me any good; no amount of anger, pain, sadness, or frustration will ever bring my sister back. So why not live? The truth is I’m the lucky one; in fact every one of you reading this post are the lucky ones. You woke up today, and whether the sun was shining or not, you still were blessed with another day on this unbelievable planet. Another day to become one step closer to achieving your dreams; an opportunity so many are stripped of. Another day to do the things you love. Don’t waste any time. Today is a day you’re never going to get back. One of the most valuable lessons I will take from my experience is to never take anything for granted; you have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Had I known that I wouldn’t have the rest of my life to spend time with my sister, to talk about our lives, to tell her how much I love her I may have done things differently. We can’t change the past and we have no control over the future, but we always have the present. If you care about someone tell them. If you have a broken friendship fix it. If you’re afraid to take a risk don’t be. If you wanna travel the world do it. Change someones life. Face your fears. Be who you want to be. Love the ones that love you back. Say goodbye to the ones that don’t. In the end its true, life’s too short to be anything but happy. For the first time in my life I will admit that I’m scared. I am absolutely terrified of what life has in store for me next, but I know one thing for sure, I will make the most of it and continue to achieve greatness. I’m not just living this life for myself, I’m living it for the both of us.
THis past year has been a year of first. Margos first birthday without her, the first Christmas, the first wedding anniversary. THis upcoming Saturday will conclude the year of firsts as we reach the one year anniversary of that gut wrenching day. TO be honest I can’t believe its been a year. 365 days since I last saw my sister. TO say I miss her would be an understatement. Words simply can’t describe the emptiness I feel. I couldn’t think of a better way to pass the day than with the people that were by my side on this day one year ago. When I learned of my sisters passing I was on the bus with my teammates. This year, I will once again be with my teammates. We will honor Margo’s memory yet again with a Hawks vs Cancer event. Fitting if you ask me.
I love you and miss you more than words Margo Mallory Ambler. Put on those famous sunglasses of yours and buckle up because you’re in for one hell of a ride. We’re about to live an unforgettable life.
Thank you family, friends, and the 208,744 complete and total strangers from 91 different countries that have taken time out of your day to read my blog. I can only hope that my sister and I have in some way made a difference in your life. You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living so do her a favor and get busy living. BamIT.
Its been a while since my last post. I find myself needing to write less and less these days, which in a way I guess is a good thing. Not to say I don’t still think about what happened every day. Of course I do. I have just been making an effort to once again find a sense of normalcy in my life. In a few weeks my life will once again change. I’ve spent the semester trying to enjoy my last few months of college and figure out what I am going to do after graduation. The past four years have absolutely flown by. My parents always said it would be over in the blink of an eye and I guess I never really listened to them. They couldn’t have been more right. I remember moving in freshman year like it was yesterday. I was scared to death and extremely overwhelmed. It took me a while to adjust to everything, and at one point I was 99% positive I was going to transfer. I couldn’t be happier that I decided to stay. I have had an amazing college experience and am sad to see it end. Sure there were ups and downs, but I’m grateful for every single experience, good or bad, because they helped make me the person I am today. I have definitely matured a lot over the past four years. I have a new outlook on life and a new understanding of myself. I can’t say I ever imagined my senior year playing out the way it has so far, but in the end I know that it too will only make me a better person. I have to admit I have thought a few times that there must be something unlucky about being a senior for me. It was the fall of my senior of high school that my dad got sick, and it was the fall of my senior year of college that I lost my sister. Not the start I was hoping for. Soccer ended in November and I felt like I lost another large part of my life. Friendships changed. I lost a few friends I saw myself staying in touch with forever. It was sad and difficult, but I told myself all I could do was keep going. The spring has been strange. Not having soccer allows for a lot of free time in my life. I became more open minded and willing to branch out. I met new people and allowed myself to start enjoying myself again. In a way, it seemed like things were just falling into place on their own. I thought maybe that old saying really is true, sometimes things fall apart so better things can fall together. There really was a point where I thought things were too good to be true. I guess in a way I had gotten used to bad things happening; I never really let myself get my hopes us about things anymore. Regardless I was feeling like myself again and can’t begin to describe what a relief that was. I know that things will continue to get easier, but I also know that for the rest of my life there are going to be bad days. March 21 marked the 6 month anniversary of Margo’s death. 6 months. I can’t believe that it has already been half a year since we lost our angel. About two weeks ago we lost another member of our crazy clan. Dudley was out first and only dog. It really is how crazy how much love a dog can bring to a family. When we first got him my dad told us no more girls, we would be getting a male dog no question about it. Growing up he was the only “brother” I ever had. For 13 years he provided our family with unconditional love. He anxiously awaited everyone at the door, always with his stuffed duck in his mouth. He made a one of a kind noise that we like to describe as chewbaca and when his tail wagged his entire body moved. There was no one he loved more than my dad. He followed him everywhere and knew exactly what time of night to begin waiting by the door. It was hard to watch him grow old. I will never forget reading Marley and Me thinking that one day my family and I would experience this as well. I swore to myself I would never see the movie; reading the book was hard enough. As the years passed our energetic pup began to slow down. Over the past year he spent most of the day sleeping, but still tried to do maintain the life he was used to. If my dad was in the yard Dudley was there to, not following his every move like he used to but none the less still keeping his best friend company. His hearing and eyesight gradually grew worse. He could no longer go up or down the stairs. A few weeks ago things got so bad that he could no longer even walk. It would have been unfair for us to continue letting him live that way. I think one of the toughest parts of having a pet is making that decision, but ultimately we cannot be selfish.
“When my legs grew too weak to carry me,
And my tired eyes could no longer see,
When it pained me to struggle for each new breath,
When my heart beat weaker, and I drew closer to death,
You did me the kindness of letting me go.
You didn’t make me hang on when I was suffering so.
I promise I don’t think that you loved me any less,
And I love you all the more for your selflessness.
You freed my spirit from its body so wracked with pain,
And let me run the fields of Heaven, where I’m sure we’ll meet again.”
The one comfort we all found in this all was knowing Margo would no longer be alone. Dudley was Margo’s “snuggle bug”. When she came home she always said hi to him before any of us. It was a Tuesday night when my mom told us we were going to have to put Dudley down. I said my goodbyes and went back to school. I knew that the next morning my parents would be taking Dudley to the vet, and we would all be losing yet another big part of our lives. Wednesday morning I woke up knowing what would happen that day. I decided to clear my head and go for a run. I went to the locker room to change and when I looked down I found yet another dime. I have continued to find dimes ever since Margo’s birthday, but the funny thing about it is I always seem to find them at a meaningful time. Her birthday, the hawks for Margo game, and now the day our beloved dog would be joining her up above. I picked up to the dime put it in my bag and added it to my collection. A collection of messages from my sister, signs that love is never ending. On that day I knew that Dudley would be ok. Margo was waiting for him.
Our house hasn’t quite been the same since. Before, you were never home alone. I still haven’t gotten used to walking into a quiet empty house. I still expect to hear that unique chewbacca noise and the sound of his tail thumping against the floor excited to see you. The space in the kitchen were his bowls once were is now empty, and 6:30 at night (the time when he ate dinner and cried until he was fed) is far to quiet. Its funny how we take such little things for granted. These were things that made home what it was. I had forgotten what life is like without a dog.
Just like losing people, losing our pets is a part of life. We know from the beginning that there will come a day that we will have to say goodbye. I’ve known for a while now that this day was mostly likely approaching. It was difficult to say goodbye and I will miss him in the way that I miss my sister, but will take comfort knowing he is no longer suffering. Somethings just truly are irreplaceable. We may have lost another member of our family, but we gained another angel.
Writing this post is a little different than the others. I first started my blog back in October. Before Friday’s episode of Say Yes to the Dress I had a little over 5,000 views and my record for most views in a day was just over 200. That all changed the moment people heard my sister’s story. Since Friday my blog has been viewed 124,898 with a record of 89,470 views in one day. These views come from all over the world; a total of 45 different countries. Canada, Israel, Turkey, Thailand, Australia, and Japan just to name a few. These strangers all viewed my blog for the same reason; to find out more about the incredible 24 year old with the radiant smile that they briefly met for 30 minutes on Say Yes to the Dress. It has been an overwhelming response as well as a fitting tribute to who Margo was. Today I feel as though my voice is louder than ever.
On Friday night I sat down with my roommates and two teammates to finally watch Margo’s episode of Say Yes to the Dress. It had been almost a year to the day since we made the trip up to New York to film. I wasn’t sure how I would react to the episode. I was excited to see Margo’s bright smile again and hear her voice, but how would I feel afterwards? It was a bittersweet 30 minutes, and while I admit I shed a few tears I also couldn’t help but smile the entire time. One thing I have struggled with following Margo’s death is remembering her as the vibrant young person she was before cancer, and not the cancer riddled body I saw in the hospital that last day. Although it has only been a little over a year since I last saw Margo as the outgoing loving blonde that I knew the majority of my life, I often feel like it has been much longer than this. My sister had no hair on the episode, but everything else about her reminded me exactly of whom she was. Her smile, her laugh, her kindness, and her love of life all shown through during the short 30 minutes she was on the TV. My sister had the biggest heart. She had a way of touching the lives of anyone she ever met. On this night she continued to touch lives. Her reason for going on the show was to not only be an inspiration for the many other men and women battling cancer, but to remind people just how precious life is. As humans we often get caught up in the little things in life instead of taking a moment to appreciate what we have in life. I don’t think Margo ever thought for a second that she would not be alive to view the episode. Like so many of you reading this blog she hoped her story would have a happy ever after. I obviously wish more than anything that she was with us watching, but at the same time I think her death made her story even more powerful. The reality is anyone can be taken from us at any given moment. Unfortunately age doesn’t matter. So many of us live our lives thinking I’m only 22 I have my whole life ahead of me. We wait to do things because we think we have time. We fight with people we love because we think we can apologize tomorrow. We think about what we don’t have instead of appreciating what we do have. What if there is no tomorrow? What if today is your last day? We all think it won’t happen to me, but the reality is that it could. Would you be happy with the life you have lived if it ended today? Have you gone after your dreams? Have you said I love you as often as you should? Have you apologized for the mistakes you’ve made? Have you lived the life YOU want to live? I know that my sister could not have been anything but proud of the short life that she lived. She loved others whole-heartedly and appreciated what she had. She was kind even to complete strangers and had a way of making other people feel special. Since Friday’s episode I have received over a hundred comments from complete and total strangers. Each of these individuals heard Margo’s story. Thirty minutes was not long enough to know everything there was to know about this young vibrant woman that decided to invite the world to join in on her fight so these strangers took to the internet to find out more. What they found was my blog. All seemed to say the same things; her smile was radiant, she was gorgeous even without hair, those bright blue eyes, I cried when she took her hat off, she was so brave, she was genuine, and their hearts broke when they learned of her death. It was an unexpected punch in the stomach to many. They watched this beautiful 24 year old shop for her wedding dress and marry the love of her life in a beautiful ocean side ceremony. It seemed like the ultimate motivational story. This young girl looked cancer in the eye and told it she was not afraid, she shared her story in hopes of helping others, and in the end she married the love of her life and lived happily ever after. I don’t think many were expecting to learn that Margo had lost her battle only a month after her fairytale wedding. I understand, trust me I understand, how gut wrenching it is to learn of such a tragedy, but I have always tried to find the good in the bad. It is my hope that all of you can do the same. Countless people shed tears for a woman and her family that they never knew. Their hearts broke, and many of them decided to share this with me. My sister would be honored to know how many of you were touched and inspired by her story, but she would not want you to cry for her. She would want you to live the life she was stripped of. Learn from her story. Many of you shared with me that Margo made you want to mend broken relationships. You realized that life is too short to hold grudges, especially with family. She taught many of you to not stress the little things in life. She made you want to be a better person and help others. It was truly overwhelming to read all of your responses. You saw my sister briefly on a TV show and, for many of you, she changed your life. It was Margo’s goal to inspire others and share her story, but I don’t think she could have ever imagined just how far her message would spread, how many lives she would eventually have an impact on. During her short life here on earth she touched countless lives, but amazingly she touched even more after her death. I wish that I could respond to all of your comments individually, but unfortunately do not have that kind of time on my hands. What I can do is thank you all from the bottom of my heart. My family and I are overwhelmed by the response to Margo’s episode. The thousands, and I mean thousands of you that have visited this blog are only the ones that decided to find out more. I am sure countless other people watched the show and were moved by it, but did not search the internet for more. I have read every single comment and appreciated each and every one. I am blown away by the kindness of complete strangers. Your actions and your kind words prove that there are good people in this world. One person can make a difference, and my sister is proof of this. Many of you shared stories with me about rifts with siblings. Others shared their own personal cancer stories. A few could relate to losing a sister or a daughter. Many shared how their hearts broke for Derek. The point is it was amazing to see how many people were moved by someone they never met. How their hearts broke for a family they did not know. How many of them felt inspired to live a better life. Others were encouraged to stop putting off going to the doctor. What surprised me most was how many people shared that they felt as if they knew Margo. Thirty minutes and one blue-eyed vibrant young girl somehow had the power to change countless lives forever. This world is something else.
“Its amazing how she is touching lives even after losing her fight with cancer.”
“My heart broke tonight for your family and I hope that you all are finding peace in knowing that Margo had the wedding of her dreams and is no longer suffering”
“She was SO beautiful, inside and out, and her zest for life and her adoration of her fiance were so evident, it was almost contagious”
“It is apparent just how many others your story and Margo’s has touched.”
“Her story reminded me that I haven’t had my physical in a while and need to schedule one soon. God bless you all.”
“my heart was broken when I found out that this beautiful spirit…this beautiful wife, sister, friend had lost her courageous battle to cancer”
“I am a chubby old man who only watches football, wresting and silly shows like Gold Rush but I was moved to the core by not only the disposition and beauty of this young lady but her bravery as well.”
“She is a true inspiration to other young women going through the same ordeal”
“I don’t think her smile left her face for a second”
“Your sister, daughter, wife showed such grace and courage. She truly touched my heart.”
“She wanted other girls to feel beautiful even if it meant that she was uncomfortable in the process.”
“She was so young and so much in love, I guess it was hard to believe that she hadn’t beaten cancer”
“A beautiful soul taken far too young”
“My first thought was how beautiful she is…..Her smile could touch 100 hearts”
“I’ve never experienced a person’s inner beauty on a reality show like I did with her.”
“She honestly was a “physically” gorgeous girl – her smile brightened up a room but the inside of her soul is was what knocked the breath out of one”
“As I am beginning my plans for a wedding it puts everything in perspective about what is really important.”
“I haven’t really had the best year and sometimes I forget about how lucky I am and about all of the good things in my life. Your family’s story reminded me to not let negativity consume me”
“Words simply are not enough but perhaps you will find strength and courage knowing that Margo made such a difference to so many unknown people”
“In 30 mins I feel as if I knew what an amazing person she was.”
“Your Margo made a difference in this world and her Light was a Shining Beacon of HOPE. Thank you all for carrying on this legacy of courage, faith, determination and love!”
My sister was an incredible person. She was kind and loving and cherished the life she was given. I am sure she would have written the ending to her story differently, but I know that when her time came she had lived a life she was proud of. We miss her dearly, but take comfort in knowing that she is no longer suffering. She is in a better place, free from pain and heartache. She is our angel watching over us, often reminding us of her never-ending presence. I hope that each of you that met Margo on Say Yes to the Dress take something from her story. Life truly is so precious. Appreciate all that you have and know that each day is a gift. Make a difference in people lives and go after your dreams. There is NOTHING stopping you. I can guarantee you that Margo is shining down on each and every one of you wearing her trademark smile. Make her proud. Love and miss you more each day sis. 1-4-3 BAMit
*Please be sure to check out our website for more information on Margo and our fight to end cancer http://www.teambamit.com/
Link to the final entry of my sister blog, written by my mom. Definitely worth reading.
Not A Goodbye.
I have often written about the many regrets I have frequently struggled with. As time goes on I am learning that there is absolutely nothing I can do about the past; it is what it is, history. No matter what I do or say it cannot and will not be rewritten. The important thing to realize is although I have no control over the past, the future is in my hands. I can dwell on these regrets and think about all the what ifs forever, or I can learn from them.
It is often said that when something bad happens we have three choices: let it define us, let is destroy us, or let it strengthen us. The obvious choice, but at times the most difficult choice, is to let it strengthen us. The events that unfolded throughout the past year of my life have had an enormous effect on me in numerous ways. I will admit I used to care about such trivial things in life. My sisters using my hair straightener, someone eating my leftover food, the way my hair looked, or the parties I was missing out on. Today I see these things as minuscule details in the broader picture of life. Why waste time and effort worrying about things that are so irrelevant? I can say it a million times, but I don’t think many people realize just how precious life is. It sounds cliche, but tomorrow is NEVER a guarantee. Would you really want to waste your last day on earth mad at someone for wearing your clothes? Talking behind someones back that you don’t even know? The truth is we all do it. We all worry about things that we think matter, but in reality have little effect on our lives. For me, it took my sisters illness to realize this. Cancer is something to worry about. Losing your life is something to worry about. What you wear or how your hair looks isn’t something to worry about. It is so easy to get caught up in life and gossip. I will admit, as I’m sure everyone will, that there have been times that I too have gotten caught up in all the wrong things. I have said and done many things I am not proud of, but I have also owned up to them. I believe that is not our mistakes that are a reflection of ourselves, but what we do after the fact the shows our true colors. This is an important life lesson that we can only learn through experience. This experience is often us getting a taste of our own medicine. I can say with confidence that in the present I will not speak badly about someone I do not know. I will not let something someone else says about them influence my opinion. We cannot say things about people we do not know. We have no idea who they are or what they are going through. I realize this is something I am guilty of in the past. I also realize that this is something many other people are guilty of. I have heard and know of things that people have said about me. In the past I can assure you I would most likely not forget what they said or did, but today I believe they are to be forgiven. We all make mistakes. I made the same mistake. It would be a waste of time and effort to hold on to such a simple grudge. Let it go. Live life. Meet new people. Someone you thought you didn’t like could end up being one of your best friends. Recently, I have been shocked at the behavior of many so called “adults”. At 22 I find it hard to believe how many people are still so wrapped up in drama and other peoples lives. In a few months many of us will be graduating college, and yet at times I feel like I’m stuck in high school. The dirty looks, the snide comments, the gossip. Some people are down right mean, and clearly need to put others down to make themselves feel better. Let it go. Be happy, be forgiving, and be you. Don’t worry about anyone but yourself; you are the only person you truly know. Do something for others. Don’t be selfish. Forget the past and be grateful for the present. Cherish life and those around you. Surround yourself with people that make you a better person and say goodbye to those that bring you down. Live for today.
We all have complete and total control over our own actions. Don’t let other people influence yours. Be who you are. I can assure you that you will be a lot happier. I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. I have made mistakes, but I have swallowed my pride and owned up to them. I have learned from them and will never make these same mistakes again. I can go to sleep at night with a clear conscience. Can you?
Since the majority of my posts have been about my life after Margo’s death I figured I would talk a little bit about who Margo was as a person. While I’m sure most of you know the boy who stole her heart was Ambler I’m not sure you all know that there were three other boys, Garret, Jax, and Wes. While Margo was living in West Chester she worked at the Goddard School where she first met Jax and the Pinkston family. She would always come home telling us all about “Jaxers” and showing us her pictures. It was obvious she adored him. When Kim and Aaron asked Margo to be there full time nanny it was a no brainer. Of course she wanted to spend all her time with her best bud. I consider the Pinkston family one of the best things that ever happened to my sister. It was always her dream to marry the love of her life and start a family of their own. She loved kids more than anyone I know. She may not have ever had the chance to raise her own, but she had three boys that she loved with all her heart. Margo’s smile was always the brightest when she was with those boys.
I heard countless stories and received picture after picture, but didn’t get to meet the boys until a few summers ago. I will never forget that day. I was eagerly greeted at the door by a two year old Jax in his pull up and garrets oversized backwards baseball hat. At that moment I knew we were destined to be best friends. As he sat there at the kitchen table tan as could be he told me that he just got his hair cut yesterday (a good looking buzz cut!). Wes was still a baby and Garrett was off at camp so Jax and I spent the morning playing together. As we ran around the house shooting each other with nerf guns Jax hit the floor and screamed “Aw man you shot me in the peanuts!!” I still laugh thinking about his raspy little voice screaming that. Since that summer I loved spending time with Margo and the boys. We had countless lunch dates at Bravo where Wes couldn’t wait to finish his pizza so he could get his “ummy ums”. We spent many hot summer days at the pool; sometimes it was nice to feel like a kid again. When Wes was really young and Garrett was off playing with his friends I took on the task off keeping up with the wild man Jax. Man does he remind me of myself. Sprinting through the baby pool and continuously belly flopping; totally unaware of the small children around him! When we first started going to the pool Wes was still crawling. I remember he would crawl down the slope into the baby pool into the water until the water got too high and Margo would turn him around.
The boys became an enormous part of Margo and Ambler’s life. The two of them loved spending time them more than anything. When Ambler decided to propose to Margo he knew exactly how to make it special; make the boys a part of it. He gave them each a rose with a word on it. First Wes walked into the room holding a rose with the word “Will” on it. I remember Margo telling us she thought who is Will and why does Wes have a rose for him?? So typical. When Jax came in with “You” Margo caught on to what was happening. NExt came Garrett and than Ambler with “Me”. I don’t think he could have thought of a better way to ask my sister to marry him. She was on top of the world.
Last spring Wes had a sleepover with Margo and Ambler at their apartments. Margo was so excited for her bud to spend the night. He was a much needed distraction. I remember her posting a picture of Wes in one of her hats. The smile on her face was so bright; having her boys around made her so happy. Margo tried to take care of the boys for as long as she could throughout her treatment. In May, after her second sugary, I went out to help her. She was fully capable of taking care of them on her own but unable to drive because of her meds. It was a difficult day for me. I remember admiring my sister so much for her strength. When I walked into her apartment that morning she was dressed in a cute skirt and top. I rarely saw her without her hate but she had just gotten up and was making her coffee. Its an odd memory to remember so clearly but I remember her standing in the kitchen making her coffee and rubbing her bald head. It took every bit of strength I had to hold back the tears. There was my beautiful sister standing there. She had woken up like it was just like any other day. She got dressed for the day and had a smile on her face. Cancer was a part of life for her, but I was still trying to get used to it. We took Jax and Wes to the park that day. Jax had just learned to ride a two wheeler and was so excited to show me. He rode it all over the park. I had to push him to get him started and boy did he exhaust me! Afterwards we took the boys to lunch. Margo and I split a sandwich. While the day was difficult to begin with I felt better by lunchtime. Margo had spent the day with a smile on her face and plenty of energy. She ate a decent size lunch and I felt like she was healthy. I never expected what was to come in the following weeks.
About a week later when Margo began radiation they discovered another tumor. This time it was not in her pelvis and it was inoperable. Margo’s health rapidly declined and watching the boys became very strenuous. However, Margo refused to give up. One day in June Connor and I went out to help her. Her original plan was for us all to go to the pool. She packed the bags as Connor and I entertained Jax and Wes. Then she told me she needed to lay down for a little while. Eventually Margo told us she was ready to go so we loaded the car and set out to get lunch. We went inside and Margo immediately turned to me and told me she felt sick and was going to go out to the car. Connor and I got the boys their food and got back in the car. Margo told me she wasn’t feeling well and didn’t think she could go to the pool. I dropped her off at her apartment to rest while Connor and I took the boys to the pool. It was so incredibly difficult to see my sister so sick but I knew I had to be strong for Jax and Wes. Connor, Jax, Wes, and I went on with the day and played in the pool. When it was time to pick Garret up from soccer camp I left Connor alone with the boys. I felt bad leaving him alone, but I knew he could handle it. He had become Wesley’s new best friend. I will never forget the scene Garrett and I returned to. Six foot two Connor was sitting on a lounge chair with these two tiny boys on either side of him; all three eating ice cream happy as could be.
When we flew to the DR for the wedding Jax and Wes kept Margo company up in first class! It was a long trip for her and they were a much needed distraction. Margo would have never wanted a wedding without her three boys. I remember how excited they were to have so many big kids to play with them. The first day the waves were really stop; it didn’t stop fearless Jax. Ambler and Donley exhausted themselves in the ocean trying to keep up with him. I remember turning around to get out of the water to a naked Wes (little Wes that is, although I wouldn’t put this past big Wes running down the beach!
One of the most difficult parts about Margo’s funeral was seeing the boys. When we first arrived the church was set up with the frames we had made. They were all different collages. One of Margo and her friends, one of the four of us, one of Margo and Ambler, and one of the boys. I hadn’t seen the boys frame yet and I wasn’t expecting it to be so difficult. In the middle of it was a letter from Garrett to Margo. It was heart breaking to think of such young kids experiencing such tremendous loss. During the service I could hear Jax crying. Margo was his best friend for as long as he could remember. At the age of 21 I though I was young to deal with such tragedy. Jax was only five. When I thought about what I would say at Margo’s funeral I knew I could not talk about her incredible life without mentioning the boys. After thinking about things I realized Garrett, Jax, and Wes were the kids my sisters always dreamed of having. I wrote,
“She was a family person who dreamed of one day having her own. Some of you may be saddened that this dream never had the chance to come true, but I would say that it absolutely did. Almost five years ago she met the love of her life. Ambler you were the best thing that ever happened to her, and I consider you one of the greatest gifts she ever gave us. You are and forever will be a brother to me. For those of you that don’t know Margo worked as a nanny for two very important people in her life. She and Ambler helped raise three amazing little boys and loved them as if they were their own. I know she will continue to love them and watch them grow through you Ambler. With that said Ambler, Garret, Jax, Wesley thanks for making my sisters dream come true.”
Its been a little over three months since Margo’s death. We miss her more each day. Seeing the boys is something that has always made things a little easier. Last week Jax and Wes spent the night with us. Each night before they go to bed they kiss a picture of Margo goodnight. Wes kept walking around telling us he was tired and wanted to go to bed. When I went upstairs to find him in the guest room under Margo’s elephant quilt I asked him if he knew who’s it was. He told me it was Margo’s. I then asked him if he said goodnight to Margo and he told me we didn’t bring her with us (meaning they didn’t bring the picture) I told Wes we bring Margo with us everywhere we go and asked him where she is. He looked at me and said she’s in heaven, up there as he pointed the sky. I told him he was right, but she is also in our hearts and ALWAYS will be.
Recently my entire family has been talking about how ready we are for 2013. Who would have thought we would ever be so excited for unlucky number 13. We are ready to say goodbye to 2012 and the many ups and downs it brought with it. While we were faced with many obstacles and life changing events I will forever remember this as the year that changed my life. I would give anything to have my sister back in my life, but I am grateful for the changes her death brought about. It forced me to reevaluate what and who is important in life. I realized for so long I was worried about all the wrong things. I had no idea I already had everything I ever needed in life; the most important thing being a loving family.
Thinking back to this time one year ago is a weird feeling. Its hard to believe how much has changed in such short period of time. Margo was set to begin chemotherapy after the new year and none of us had any clue how much this would change our lives. Things started off pretty smoothly, and I think we were all optimistic this would merely be another bump in the road. In February we were off to New York in the middle of a snow storm for Say Yes to the Dress. What a day it was. Margo was so excited to find her dress, and the rest of us were so lucky to be a part of something so special. What I remember most about this day was how genuine Margo’s smile was. She was a month into chemotherapy and wasn’t letting that stop her from being happy and enjoying the moment….it also didn’t stop her from wearing heals around the city all day! In March I spent spring break in Barcelona with my team; a much needed escape from reality. The spring was difficult, but by the end of the semester my life had, for the most part, returned to normal. I was driving home from my last final to meet my family at Bravo for lunch when I got a phone call from my mom. ”Where are you?”, she asked. I told her I was on my way. Instead of going to lunch she told me to come out to Margo’s apartment in West Chester. I immediately knew why. The week before Margo had a pet scan to make sure the chemo had done its job. The doctors were happy with Margo’s progress and had told her if the scan was clear radiation wouldn’t be necessary. The results were in. The scan showed more cancer. Everything was going so well how could this be? The scene was much like it was the morning we first found out about the cancer. Margo was upset and the rest of us speechless. The cancerous lymph nodes meant another surgery. We all knew how anxious and scared surgery made Margo. The news caught me completely off guard. Just when we thought the cancer chapter in our lives was almost over we turned the page to yet another obstacle. I’m sure Margo wished more than anyone she could just get away and run from the reality for a few days, but she couldn’t. I feel bad that I left, but I handle the situation the only way I knew how. Just like the morning she was first diagnosed the first and only person I told was Connor. He immediately told me I was welcome to come over. His house and his family were my safe haven; my home away from cancer. I spent the next few days running the boardwalk and sitting on the beach reading. It was early May and there were very few people around. It was the peace and time to myself that I so desperately needed. After a few days we headed back to Philly to be there for the surgery. Surgery went well and after recovering Margo was set to begin radiation. On the morning of her first treatment she stood in our kitchen and told my mom she felt a lump under her one incision. It was painful and causing her trouble sleeping. When they arrived at the hospital she showed the doctor. He wasn’t really sure what it was. They thought it could possibly be a hernia, gave her a shot, and decided to keep an eye on it. That first morning you could feel it below the surface of her skin, but within a week it visible to the naked eye. Something was clearly not right. After a few more scans the verdict was in. It was a large inoperable tumor. Before this the cancer was contained to her pelvis. This tumor meant the cancer had spread. This tumor was no longer in her doctors area of expertise. My mom and my aunts set out on a mission to find her the best doctor they could. After countless phone calls, research, and late nights they finally got Margo and appointment at Penn. She was set to begin intense chemotherapy three time a week every other week. It was brutal. Her appearance and her attitude drastically changed. The summer was difficult. I hated to see my sister so weak that walking to the bathroom was exhausting. For a few weeks I wondered if the trip to Punta Cana for the wedding was possible. I didn’t know how Margo would make the trip in such a weak state. She was bound and determined to make it and as long as the doctors told us it was ok we weren’t going to stop her. Margo wanted a week away from doctors and cancer. Thankfully she got that week. The wedding was beautiful and we got to spend the week with our family and closest friends. However, the break couldn’t last forever. After the wedding it was back to soccer for me and back to cancer for Margo. My biggest mistake was not seeing Margo after the wedding. On September 19 I got the call from my mom that she was back in the hospital. The next day I went down to visit and had a rude awakening. My sister was so sick. When I walked in the room I immediately knew how the story was going to end. My sister was never going to get better. On September 20th my dad, KT, and I visited with Margo for a few hours before we gave her a kiss goodbye told her we loved her and headed home. My dad was the first to finally say out loud what I had knows, but what KT was to naive to think. He told us your sister is never going to get better, this is not something she is going to beat. A few hours later the most difficult day of our lives began. The phone rang and we knew exactly what it meant. One by one we began filing into the hospital. The small ICU waiting room was packed. Margo was loved by so many. It was comforting to have so many close friends and family around for such a difficult time, but none of us knew what to say or do. For the most part we sat there in silence. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Hours went by and Margo continued to fight longer than the doctors expected. My mom, dad, sisters and I went into Margo’s room to be together as a family. One by one my mom ushered us to Margo’s bedside to hold her hand and say our goodbyes. We each told her it was ok to stop fighting and let go; we didn’t want her to suffer any longer. When we left the room I had to decide to stay with my family or leave to play in my soccer game. A few of you know I am an extremely indecisive person. I was faced with the most difficult decision of my life and I had to make it on my own. I knew if I left I would be leaving alone. Margo needed my family more than me. After a lot of thought I decided to leave. The person in that bed was not my sister. It was just a body. I had said my goodbyes and there was nothing else that I could do. I also wasn’t sure I could handle everyones reactions when she did pass. I entered her room one last time gave her a kiss and told her she was my hero. I walked out of the hospital that day at 21 years old all alone knowing very well I had just seen my sister for the last time. On the way to Lehigh I found out Margo had passed away. I knew it was coming, but it is something you can never prepare yourself for. Adrenaline took over and I played the entire game. When we won in overtime I knew I had made the right decision. A week later we celebrated Margo’s life in the church were Margo and Ambler had legally been married in a small private ceremony before the Dominican. I was not surprised by the amount of people that came to say goodbye to such an amazing person. While the day in the hospital is so clear in my memory, the funeral is a blur.
A few days later I returned to school and soccer. It was not an easy adjustment. While everyone knows what you’re going through and has sympathy no one understands it. As a 21 year old college student I was dealing with a lot more than most kids. While everyone was worrying about what party they were gonna go to that night my family and I were making funeral arrangements for my sister. My view on life changed. Suddenly the partying wasn’t so important. It has been difficult to be around people that don’t see life the way I do. Whats important to so many of them is no longer important to me, and I don’t think people really get that. Everyone worries about the little things, but I have been through more than most people my age and don’t see things the way they do. Being at school with no one that understands has probably been the most difficult part for me.
In the end of October I played my final game on Hawk Hill. My entire family was there to support me. Although Margo was not physically there she was with me the entire time. We won the game to qualify for the conference tournament for the first time in my four years. It was an incredible feeling. We lost in the first round to VCU and just like that I had lost another thing in my life. I had been a competitive soccer player since age 7 and suddenly it was over. After Margo’s death the soccer field was my escape; my chance to let go of all my anger and frustration and play the game I love. Just like that it was gone. November and December were difficult. I had so much time and nothing to do with it. I did a lot of thinking and re-evaluating. The holidays were extremely difficult. It was impossible not to think about who was missing. At Christmas Aunt Tish said a beautiful toast for Margo as well as her brother Frankie who passed away from cancer earlier this year.
2012 was a year full of ups and downs. It was life changing and difficult, so incredibly difficult. In 2013 I look ahead to graduating and moving on with life. Goodbye 2012. I can’t say that I will miss you.
In light of the recent tragic events in Newtown Connecticut as well as the death of yet another young person from home I figured maybe a less serious post was necessary. It is unfortunate that it takes tragedy for many of us to stop and think. I know that it took my sisters death and some time after for me to finally stop and reevaluate life. While I am glad that I have found the good in the bad I wish that I had known these things long ago. Appreciate each day. Know who is important in your life and who’s not. Love the people that love you back. Tomorrow is never a guarantee. My thoughts are with those who have lost a loved one. It is one of the most difficult things we experience as humans. Now on to the good stuff….
As I’ve said before growing up with three sisters always made for some good entertainment. There was never a dull moment in our house. I knew my sisters in and out and I became a pro at pushing their buttons. From an early age I didn’t tolerate being bossed around as the younger sister. Maybe this was payback for when the three of us would sit in the backseat of the car, Margo and Blaine on either side of me, both pulling on my legs and “loving” but yet tormenting their baby sister. My mom often tells the story of Blaine and Margo not letting me play with them. As they both sat on the couch I came up behind them and whacked each them on the head with a video (yea remember those big bulky things we used to watch?!? crazy how times have changed). As they both ran upstairs crying to my mom she simply told them I told you she would get you back.
There were many fights….girl fights. Margo’s signature move was slapping. You always knew when she was about to hit you because she always stuck her tongue out as she wound up. She still did until the day she died. There was hair pulling, scratching, and pinching. To this day my family knows my weakness….the ponytail grab. To this day mom claims she could take me down. I have a good four inches and 20 lbs on her, but she knows all she has to do is grab my ponytail and I will surrender (I always tell her its a cheap way to fight, but she says its all about knowing your opponents weaknesses). We may have fought often, but that was just part of growing up. When it came down to it the four of us were always incredibly close. When we were young we were best friends. Margo was always a bit different. For some reason she always wanted the african american barbie dolls and african american girl doll. When we played “house” and chose names to go by Margo chose the name Simanie….the name of our african american neighbor. We never did quite figure out what this fascination was about.
There are endless funny stories, but one of my favorite happened during a snowstorm. The four of us were in our backyard building a snowman when we turned and saw a deer standing next to us. We ran off screaming…I ran so fast I ran right out of my boots and left them behind to run barefoot the rest of the way into the house. I still laugh thinking about it. As we got older the drama was a bit more serious. Margo and Blaine were seniors in high school when I was a freshman. Margo drove the three of us to school each morning. It was always an eventful car ride at 7 in the morning. There was one time when our neighbors crazy dog (the same one that attacked Margo when she was walking home one night) was running next to the car barking and jumping. Margo just rolled down the window and kept screaming at him about how much she hated him and what a dumb dog he was…if you’ve ever read Marley and me you might remember how the author questions whether dogs can be mentally retarded. Well I think they can…and our neighbors dog was definitely special. Later that year we were sitting in the long line of cars outside of school waiting to pull into the parking lot. Margo and Blaine were fighting about something and and began physically fighting. As they were busy slapping each other Margo stuck her foot on the gas and we shot forward at the car in front of us. I screamed stop just before we rear ended them. Then the screaming continued. I can’t tell you how many time I went to buy food in the cafeteria only to be told I had no money left in my lunch account…thanks to my older sisters always using it…mostly Margo! Cant say I didn’t do that to K.T. though once she got to high school…
One of my favorite memories happened when Blaine and Margo were about 20 years old. I don’t really remember how my mom, K.T., and I knew something was up but we were trying to catch Blaine and Margo in a lie. At the time Margo was living in a house with 5 girls in West Chester and Blaine was living in the dorms. Margo was supposed to be working at a tanning salon that day. When my mom went inside to find Margo she wasn’t there. As we drove my mom told K.T. and I to keep an eye on the other side of the road to see if we saw Margo. Sure enough we did. Funny thing was Blaine was in the car too. We had to turn around so that cost us some time. My mom once again entered the tanning salon. The look on Margos face was priceless. She asked her where Blaine was and she said in West Chester. My mom then told her we had seen them driving. The gig was up. Blaine had dropped Margo at work and taken the car back to west chester…the thing was Blaine had never gotten her drivers license. Margo gave her hers in case she were to ever get pulled over…guess you have to give them so credit for that. My mom called Blaine and told her to turn the car around immediately. Blaine came back to the shopping center. My mom told K.T. and I to drive the car home while Blaine had the pleasure of riding home with my mom. I’m sure she got an earful all the way home while K.T. and I got a good laugh.
The stories are endless. They truly will last a lifetime. While I am sad that we will not be able to make more memories with Margo I will cherish every single one that I have. Hopefully this post has brought a bit of joy to your day. We could all always use some.
Its been a year since my families nightmare began, and I think the reality of it all is just now beginning to sink in. One day life was normal, and the next our world was turned upside down. There was no time to process what was happening. A week after Margo’s diagnosis she was having major surgery, and two weeks after that she was beginning chemo. It all happened so fast. There were days, and still are days, when I just didn’t think it can be true. I kept waiting to wake up from this nightmare, but unfortunately I never did and I never will.
The pattern seemed to repeat itself. Anytime we received any form of news things happened so quickly. We knew from the beginning that Margo had a rare and aggressive form of cancer, but I don’t think any of us ever expected it to end so soon. How could we? I can attempt to explain to you what its like, but unless you’ve lived through it you will never fully understand. To wake up one morning and be told that your 24 year old sister has cancer is not something anyone is prepared for. There is no manual on how to handle these situations. All we can do is handle it to the best of our ability and learn as we go. For me, the most difficult part was accepting this reality. Instead I tried to run from it. I figured if I could avoid it all and distract myself I could push it out of my mind. As long as I could stay busy maybe I could burry it. In the beginning I was forced to face it all. While most families were busy celebrating the holidays mine was in a hospital busy concentrating on my sister. The doctors gave Margo time to recover after surgery and enjoy Christmas and New Years with all of us, but it was difficult to ignore the elephant in the room. The material things about the holidays suddenly didn’t mean so much. You could open present after present but what was in the box was never what you wanted. None of us could give my sister the gift of life. The future was unknown and it was a scary thing for us all.
When I returned to school I tried to push it out of my mind. My mom and Margo always invited me to spend some time with them while Margo received treatment around the corner, but the thought of it terrified me. I didn’t want to watch my sister go through that. I handle things very different than most people. I don’t ever like to let people see me upset. My sisters know this better than anyone. I was afraid if I got upset in front of her I would only add to her fear. Cancer was never something I could talk to Margo in person about, instead I had to find my own ways of showing my support and letting her know how much I care. As much as I hate to show my soft side I do really have one and those who i care most about always seem to bring it out. I sent Margo funny pictures on the mornings she had chemo hoping I could make her laugh and put a smile on her face, and I sent her the following email before she began her first chemotherapy treatment.