The Remembering Zachary Award
Zachary's family grew by 8 members tonight. Joann, Alishia, Kim, Jeanna, Ann, Traci, Brooke and JoAnne, the treatment teams at Marley's Mission. (picture to come!)
There are now 12 incredible people who have received the Remembering Zachary Award. This award is in memory of my Zachary and it recognizes the passionate and tireless efforts of individuals who bring greater awareness to child abuse and the protection of children. It is an honor each year to attend the Gala and walk up to the podium to help April and Gene, the founders of Marley's Mission, present this award. It is my proud mom moment and I know that Zachary is there with me to bless the awards as they are given out.
The treatment teams at Marley's Mission help children on a daily basis. They are instrumental in their discovery of finding a way to live their new normal. All of the children who attend the mission have their own story but it's that story that bonds them together. They start to feel a sense of healing and it couldn't happen without these wonderful women.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing such deserving people proudly hold onto this award. Not only is it meaningful because of the work that they have done but the plaque they will hang in their home is also a part of Zachary's legacy. I know he will be remembered, loved and shared by this years Remembering Zachary Award recipients.
Another Memorable Evening
The Gala has turned into a night that I look forward to all year long. I love the discussions about Zachary's award, buying a dress, getting fancied up, counting down to the big day, seeing my friends, celebrating my Meatball… the list goes on. Each year the Gala gets bigger and better and it never disappoints. I got a sneak peek at the decorations the night before the big event. It was a good thing too because it made me emotional. Zachary's Way was recreated at part of this year's decorations. Last year all of the benches were brought in, but this year the look and feeling of my home away from home, was brought to the Hilton. Pictures were hung of Zachary's Way, a barn backdrop was painted, the pathway recreated and decorations brought in. It was just so special. The one picture hanging was the same picture that is the background on my phone. It's been there for the last few months. Every time I see it I imagine sitting on Zachary's bench with him.
I think hidden in my tears is always some sadness for missing Zachary, but the tears I've cried in the past several years have turned more into tears of happiness, remembrance, and celebration. I looked at the decor and could feel Zachary's presence. I could feel the immense love that others have for him because such thought and so many details went into it. While standing in front of the Zachary's Way sign and pictures, I just felt lucky. Lucky is something I never thought I'd feel again. Several years ago I was in a job interview and I was thrown a random curve ball of a question. I was asked if I considered myself a lucky person or not. I was sure I was about to seal my fate in NOT getting the job because I couldn't fight back the tears that started rolling down my face. I felt like the farthest thing from a lucky person. I was the exact opposite of a lucky person. As I left and drove home from the interview in tears, I thought to myself how would I ever feel lucky again after my baby was violently taken from me. I'm 96 days away from the 10th anniversary of holding Zachary in my arms for the last time. In the last few years I have been able to grow in my grief. I've accepted that there's nothing I can do to take back time. I've accepted that there's nothing I can trade to have him back. This is the life I've been dealt and the only way to manage my broken heart is to move forward a day at a time and work on doing as many others things as I can to help mend my heart. I know my heart will never be the same, but it's okay for it to be different. Marley's Mission, Zachary's Way, Zachary's Law, The Remembering Zachary Moonlight Race, The Remembering Zachary Project, Liam and McKenzy, friends and family… all of these things and people have helped to mend my heart. It has been a heart wrenching and tiring yet incredible and heart warming ongoing journey.
With that said I still have my sad moments. The ones that when they tears come they are tears of hurt. Every year during the night of the Gala they debut a new video that tells more of the story of Marley's Mission. Each year the video pulls on my heartstrings. The video featured two incredible moms and their daughters journey of healing. It was a combination of their stories and a few images that were included that brought on the tears. One of the images was from Zachary's 10th birthday celebration and the other included my daughter along side two very brave kiddos. I had realized that it truly has been a "Journey of Hope" for all of us. I had my moment of sadness where I hurt because Zachary was gone. The mission or any place like it, never had the chance to help him. I cried it out, wiped those emotions away and realized I have come a long way in who I am today. The Mission has not only helped children who attend but it's helped many families who are connected to them through love. They have created a culture of giving, support and unconditional commitment. For that I will always be grateful.
I'd like to end by sharing one other memorable moment of the night. I had the opportunity to talk to some very special people, and I hope they don't mind me sharing. Many months ago I had learned about the passing of Jude, a sweet little baby boy who passed from S.I.D.S. Because of Zachary's loss, when I hear about the loss of other babies it always strikes a cord. This loss in particular weighed heavier on my heart because their family was connected to my Marley's Mission family. Jude's grandfather was a co-host for the evening. He had shared some very touching things and we had the opportunity to talk. I won't pretend to know how he was feeling but I saw something in his eyes that reminded me of my parents. Maybe it was the feeling of helplessness. As parents we want to do anything we can for our children, but with a loss like this they realize they can't just fix it. All they can do is be there to support our grief in any conceivable way. I could feel the pain that he carried was not only for him, but for his family. After talking for a little while he introduced me to his daughter and son-in-law, Jude's mom and dad. As a mom, my heart connects with other moms who have experienced a similar loss. I have been wanting to meet Jude's mom just to give her a hug and let her know that I care. I like to think that Jude and Zachary were looking down on their mommies with pride that night. I believe Zachary is always with me and he has guided me these past ten years. I want to make a difference for him and I want to do what I can to help other moms. A very special thank you to Jude's mom for taking the time to talk to me. I look forward to seeing you all again in April when my daughter and I come up to support your family for the Jog for Jude.
Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my words. It has played such an important part in my healing and it helps me capture so many special memories in honor of Zachary.