...while this guy tried to cheer me up...
As I mentioned yesterday, Natasha - our TNT Tri Team Honored Teammate in '07, '08, and '09 went to Heaven on March 31st, 2009 after a long battle with leukemia. Tonight, her BFF Shannon (one of our teammates) is putting on the 2nd Annual Natasha's Run on the waterfront. We'll be releasing purple balloons (one of two of any little girls favorite colors) into the sky up to her and then running as a very large group.
I wanted to share Shannon's Eulogy today in remembrance of one special and tough little girl. Shannon shared this again this week on her Facebook page.
I just ran across the Eulogy and I wanted to post again because reading it reminded me of so many things...but most of all, to be honest, brave, and kind...and above all...to love unconditionally.
Hello, my name is Shannon Flanagan and Natasha was…is my best friend. I will never forget the day I met Natasha…I was matched with Natasha through the Children’s Cancer Associations chemopal program. As I was brought up to Natasha’s hospital room I was overwhelmed with excitement. I had heard so much about this little 5 year old (at the time) girl and her amazing spirit. When I walked in the room to meet Natasha and her mother, Natasha said to me,” Hey! Are you my Chemopal? I have been waiting for you all day!” She handed me a hello kitty sucker and said, “I bought you a present…but my mom had to pay for it because I don’t have a job.” I didn’t know then that that day would change my life forever. Even now, I can’t really remember what I was like before I met Natasha. To be honest, I don’t really want to either.
Just like most of you, I learned from Natasha every day. I think we can all agree that she had some very special gifts, gifts that she shared with each and every one of us every chance she could. One of the gifts she shared with me was her ability to be so honest….no matter what the subject. If she was upset with me…or Gramma….or Aunt Tina…well, we knew it! She made sure to explain exactly what we did to upset her and what we could do to make it better….like buy her a ds game. If she felt I needed breath mints she would not hesitate in saying, “Shannon, did you brush your teeth today? Because if you forgot, you might want to do it now” As a matter of fact, she sent Gramma to the vending machine to get me a pack of altoids to keep at the hospital for me. Now that is honesty. She also gave me very honest dating advice. You wouldn’t think that an 8 year old would really have any good advice for a 30 something but ….Natasha did. One evening I was at the hospital with Aunt Tina keeping Natasha company during the time she was having her transplant. I was filling Aunt Tina in on my most recent dates that I had been on. I was explaining to Aunt Tina (while Natasha was “sleeping”) that I didn’t really get the feeling that this particular boy wanted to go on another date with me. Natasha piped up and said, “Well, that’s easy to fix! Why don’t you try wearing a little makeup?” You don’t get much more honest than that.
Bravery was another gift that Natasha had and shared with us. You couldn’t spend more then a few minutes with Natasha without truly and deeply feeling how brave this little girl was. Even though Natasha was battling Leukemia, taking countless medications every day, she worried most about others. During one of my phone conversations with Natasha she was filling me in about her day like she usually did and at the end of our conversation; I asked to speak with Gramma…as I usually did. When Gramma got on the phone I asked her how she was doing, she said, “I am okay but that was quite the scare this morning” I had no idea what she was talking about and Rena said, “Well didn’t Natasha tell you we spent the day in the hospital? She collapsed and we had to rush her up there, they think it was a minor stroke” I said, “Put her back on the phone please” When I had Natasha again, I said “Muffin (my nickname for her) we talked for over 10 minutes, how come you didn’t tell me you spent the day in the hospital because you collapsed?” She replied ever so calmly “Well, I just didn’t want you to worry about me”
Most of you know that Natasha spent a good majority of her life up at Doernbecher. Even though she was missing out on school and sleepovers and other things normal little 8 year olds do, she still had a smile on her face. To go through what she went through with a smile on her face, fighting cancer for 5 years…was a true testament to her bravery. She was interviewed on 105.1 the buzz last year and when she was asked if there was anything she wanted people to know about cancer she shared, “Sometimes cancer might kill you, but you have to believe in Miracles” She was honest and brave in her answer and I will take those qualities with me forever.
She was an honored teammate for the Team in Training Triathlon teams 3 years in a row. Even though she was tired and not feeling well, she still woke up early and came out to cheer us on in our trainings. We as teammates pull from this bravery and strength each time we go out to swim, bike or run. If you ask them, most of them will tell you they could not have crossed the finish line if it wasn’t for Natasha.
Natasha also had the most beautiful gift of all, to love and allow others to love her so unconditionally. One of my favorite things in the world was to sit back and watch how Natasha was with her sisters. She loved her sisters so much. Just the other day I picked up some specialty hot chocolate mixes for her when I was an away on a trip. When I brought them to her the first thing she said was, “Oooooh Marissa would love this raspberry one and I will give Lala the vanilla one.” They had their moments like all siblings do but the loving bond between these girls was undeniable. Natasha absolutely loved to love and be loved.
My most favorite memory of all of my Natasha memories was the day I knew that I truly had received this gift of her unconditional love. We were at the hospital and it was during her stay for the transplant. Natasha was suffering from horrible headaches and as a result we had to keep the lights off, the TV off, we talked in whispers and she slept and slept. One afternoon I was with her, I think she had been sleeping for a couple days at this point…no talking or anything. I was sitting there in the dark with her while she was sleeping…I was coloring pictures for her. I had been there a couple of hours, just sitting there coloring in the dark. When out of nowhere I heard her quite little voice say, “Shannon?” I said, “I am here muffin” she said, “I love you” I replied “I love you too.” I had never before experienced such unconditional love from someone who didn’t “have” to love me, like my parents/siblings. Natasha gave me that gift as I know she did most of you as well.
Speaking of unconditional love, when you look at the Curtis family words can’t begin to describe the amount of unconditional love they all felt for Natasha and Natasha for them. When it came to Natasha, Lorena, Marissa and Olivia…everything else came second. The sleepless nights, the all day trips to and from the hospital, the endless chicken nuggets, tortilla’s and rice….not one member of this family complained….because it’s unconditional love and that’s what you do. Unconditional love is what they taught Natasha and that is how she lived her life…with unconditional love for everyone else.
Today as we celebrate the life of Natasha, we remember the gifts she gave to us. Those gifts of honesty, bravery, unconditional love and so many more. Gifts of Courage, Inspiration, devotion and Hope. We remember these gifts and we will keep them with us in our hearts forever. Today we remember that we are better people for having had the pleasure to know such a life as Natasha Curtis. When we go out into the world, we will carry her spirit with us and through her we can continue her wish to make the world a better place. A cancer free place. Natasha touched so many lives in more ways that I can begin to express here with you today…but you already know that. She was…..is my very best friend.