We will always remember Ellie for her love for others, her creativity, sensitivity, and delight in life! Ellie's light has spread far and wide... may it continue to shine in our hearts.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas! Thank you so much for the encouragement you've been to our family this season. We so appreciate the prayers and the love.

We are heading over to "the Big House" to have a Christmas Eve celebration with Loretta, Reni, Mike and Grandma. We'll have a nice quiet time with Ethan tomorrow morning, then head out to have a big family dinner with all of the family who live in this area. All in all, this promises to be a Christmas full of family and memories. We have lots of snow and cold temperatures (which is wonderful for us Florida folk). This is definitely a white Christmas! We do miss all of our family and friends who aren't with us this year, though.

So... from our family to yours - may you have a wonderful time of joy this Christmas!

Lots of love,
Sarah, John and Ethan

Kenny G - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ellie's been in Heaven for ONE YEAR

Thank you so much for participating in our week of giveaways! You've all been great. We drew the final name out of the hat this morning. The person who will be receiving the Ellie pillow is...

Amy Merrill from Davenport, Florida

This was her comment:

"You and your family have been a part of my life for more years than you realize. I have never met you or Ellie but my daughter, Lorenza, had lunch with Ellie when she was about 5. My mom met up with Stan for lunch somewhere on the outskirts of Orlando (Sanford I believe - it has been many years and my memory fails me). My mom knows him from church - she attends the chapel at NAS Mayport. Once Ellie was diagnosed, my mom told me about the blog and reminded me about Lorenza and Ellie having that meal. My daughter will be 10 in January (I have a wonderful son as well who turned 4 in July). I have read and kept up with your blog ever since. But you are more intertwined in my life than that lunch Lorenza had with Ellie or my mom knowing Stan. Lorenza's dad is Colombian. On our first family trip to Colombia my mom told me the story of a missionary that was taken from Panama by Colombian rebels and how the church was praying for him each week. She was petrified of my going to Colombia - especially with Lorenza who had just turned 2. It was through your blog I realized who that missionary was. The last little link was discovered last year. My husband of five years and I had started to get back in touch with people we had gone to high school with and my husband reconnected with one of his very good friends from high school who had married his high school girlfriend. As my family spent time with their family, my mom asked me if I knew the wife's maiden name - my mom thought maybe she could remember her from high school. I said 'her name was Hope Skees and my mom responded 'As in Ellie Skees???' I later confirmed with Hope that she is indeed related to John.

Your blog has made me smile. It has made me cry. There were times when I could not understand the magnitude or difficulty of the decisions you were making. I am, by nature, a very private person and have never commented before but I felt compelled to write this evening. Ellie has touched so many lives. I continue to marvel at your family’s ability to cope with this loss.

Now that I have said all that I find I am suddenly at a loss for words. I just want you to know that Ellie has touched so many peoples lives and I wanted to thank you for allowing us to share your life."

Congratulations, Amy! Thank you so much for your comment... it really is a small world. I am so thankful that you have chosen to walk this journey with us. Thank you for that. Please email me with your address and I will send you your pillow!

I will be mailing out all of the prizes on Monday. :-)

Edith "Mema" Tyler has so graciously agreed to share with us all on this very special day. I'm sure that you will be as touched and filled up to the brim with the love of God as I am! I just wanted to first say how blessed I have been by all of the incredible comments you have left. Mema mentions how she has also taken comfort from comments over the course of this journey that we have traveled together. That is the reason why I wanted to have a guest blogger on this day. We have all been knit together into a little community on this blog. You have gotten to know one another through the messages that you leave. I believe that nothing honors God more than when we love one another. And in that same spirit, it is the very thing that we can do to honor Ellie's memory as well! My Ellie girl's greatest desire in life was for those that she loved to live in harmony one with the other.

Please welcome our guest blogger, Mema!

Lamentations 3:21-26
"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeked him. It is good that a man (woman) should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."

Micah 7:8
"Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: for when I fall I shall arise; when I sit in darkness the Lord will be a light unto me."

Romans 8:18
"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

Yesterday as I thought about this special honor I did not know what to share, so let me start with Ellie. I first heard about Ellie from my daughter-in-law Laura Tyler (Wingo) whose parents are missionaries with New Tribes. She called and told me to pray for Ellie and sent the blog site. At that time I had no idea the impact Ellie and her family would have on my life. I shared with the adult Sunday School class I teach about Ellie and we put her on our prayer list. The girls at work have prayed for Ellie many times and have sat and cried with me as I have read and experienced the journey with you and others. From the first time I read the blog I was overwhelmed with sadness that a mother and father would probably lose their daughter to cancer. As I followed the journey I was always rejoicing when Ellie would bounce back after being in ICU. The pictures, thoughts and experiences that were shared spoke volumes of the Lord and the amazing grace and strength He put into your lives. Mostly I believe I have loved the pictures and videos of Ellie dancing. That is where I adopted the phrase, "I will sing when I do not feel like singing and dance when I do not feel like dancing." What a beautiful sight to behold as Ellie would swirl around to the music and at those moments I felt like she could feel hope, joy, and peace. Lost in the movement, the sound and rhythm of the music. That always is how I feel when I can sit back against the Lord and feel His heartbeat and drink from His cup. Well Ellie is doing just that. Only now her dance and song is one the Angels can not do because it is the dance of the "REDEEMED!" What a wonder she must be to the Lord as He watches her in His presence. Dance on Ellie!!!

What you have shared is to numerous to tell how it has impacted not just my life but others. I have lost my Dad to cancer, my grandmother (my friend and confidant) and my sister, Sarah who took her life 5 years ago. Of all these losses, Sarah was my greatest. She was my friend, a part of me that is now missing. After a long time of depression and being diagnosed with MS, she told me, "I will love you till I die." and the next day I got the call. As tragic as it is, I know that God has been merciful and kind and allowed me to stay sheltered in Him. I do not know how to grieve for her, but many times in reading your blog I have thought, that is how I feel. Your insight to what you feel and your honesty has helped me tremendously. Sharing your pain, grief, joys, the lows and highs, the posts of others, and your ability to write has increased my faith and trust in the Lord, my Savior.

Watching the last hours of Ellie's life, seeing them, and reading the post are forever imprinted in my mind. Not in a bad way, but a hopeful way. As I too want to see the Lord one day. Ellie will forever live in our hearts, with and without hair. Your honesty and insight with your son, Ethan and the way he related and still carries Ellie in his life, and the pain and strength of your husband will forever give us hope and strength. One of my favorite pictures is of Ellie lying on her Dad's back, and Ethan when he shaved his head. They are bonded and will one day get to dance together in Heaven.

So on the day of Ellie's death, there is life! She will forever live on in my heart, and I will always remember to dance. Thank you for allowing me the honor of sharing your daughter, your family and your life. May God bless you, John and Ethan with His unending love, peace and grace. May He give you comfort and peace on this day. May in your tears, you also have joy and in your pain, have healing in Christ. And one day you too will dance before the Lord.

With much love and Prayers,
Edith (Mema) Tyler
South Carolina

There is nothing more that I can add to that. But I would like to finish this post off by giving you one more message. This one is from Ellie.

Back in October, 2007, after we came back from NY where we discovered that the cancer was growing again, Ellie was having difficulty sleeping one night. I put some music on her little MP3 player and she lay there listening to it with headphones on. She was lying between John and me. Her dad was fast asleep, and I was desperately wishing to be. But Ellie kept wiggling and poking buttons on the player. And then she put the headphones on me and made me listen to two songs. She said "Mommy, I want you to put these on the blog." One of them was Celine Dion's "A New Day" and I gave that one to you just after she died. I promised Ellie that I would share the songs with you, and I have been saving this one for just the right moment.

It is Amy Grant's "Lead Me On." I found it of great interest that the song makes direct reference to the suffering of the Jews, God's chosen people. It talks about their years in slavery as well as the horrors of the Holocaust. Ellie really didn't understand all of that. But something in this song spoke to her little heart that night - I think that she identified with the suffering and fear of death, and looked to the hope of eventual freedom being offered.

So here it is, as I promised Ellie, her special message to you:

Written by Michael W. Smith

Shoulder to the wheel
For someone else's selfish gain
Here there is no choosing
Working the clay
Wearing their anger like a ball and chain.

Fire in the field
Underneath a blazing sun
But soon the sun was faded
And freedom was a song
I heard them singing when the day was done
Singing to the holy One.

Lead me on
Lead me on
To a place where the river runs
Into your keeping, oh.

Lead me on
Lead me on
The awaited deliverance
Comforts the seeking...lead on.

Waiting for the train
Labeled with a golden star
Heavy hearted boarding
Whispers in the dark
"Where are we going--is it very far?"

Bitter cold terrain
Echoes of a slamming door
In chambers made for sleeping, forever
Voices like thunder in a mighty roar
Cry to the Lord.

Lead me on
Lead me on
To a place where the river runs
Into your keeping, oh.

Lead me on
Lead me on
The awaited deliverance
Comforts the seeking...lead on.

Man hurts man
Time and time, time again
And we drown in the wake of our power
Somebody tell me why.

Lead me on
Lead me on
To a place where the river runs
Into your keeping, oh.

Lead me on
Lead me on
The awaited deliverance
Comforts the seeking...lead on.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Winner #2

Last night we lit our candle for Ellie and placed it next to the Elephant drawing as well as a tiny photo of Ellie signing "I love you" with her hand. Our family bought us some gorgeous lilies, which completed the grouping.

Here is Ethan doing the honors (with a little help).


And here is Ethan moving the little picture. Apparently we had creative differences...


Then Ethan reached into the box to draw a name. I don't have a photo of this because things were a little crazy. But he mixed up the names and pulled one out. (I have Ethan do it because he can't read yet so all is fair!)

And the winner of Ellie's Elephant is:

Allison from Boone, Iowa

This was her comment:
"I stumbled onto your blog from a little picture of Ellie in someone else's blog that I had found and I have felt connected to your family ever since. I live in Boone, Iowa. You have really touched my family, I have 3 girls and at the time of when I found your blog a little over a year and 8 months ago, my daughter was almost 7 at the time and she was so close to the age Ellie was when she first got sick. My family still continues to pray for you guys. One of my favorite pictures of Ellie is the one when you guys went to the American girl store and she got the matching outfit to her doll, She looked so happy and excited. What an exciting giveaway, enjoy reading all the comments. We love you all and will keep praying for you."

Congratulations, Allison! And thank you for your sweet comment. Please email me with your address and I will send that out to you!

I've decided to hold the final drawing tomorrow morning instead of tonight. I finally have photos for you of the pillow! (Because I just finished it this morning.) I hope that the person who wins will enjoy it. It brought me great joy as I worked on it. I love touching her soft clothing and remembering Ellie in each outfit. Along with the pillow, I will be sending you a copy of the photos of Ellie from Monday's post.

The pillow is about 9 inches square. This is the front:


This is the back (which is a piece of Ellie's white sweatshirt):


Some details:




For those who have not yet entered to win, here's how:

Leave a comment. Please give your name, where you live (City and State, or Country - obviously for security reasons, do not leave your full address and you don't need to put your city if you're not comfortable with that. I just thought it would be fun to hear where people are visiting from.) and a description of how you know or have heard of Ellie.


Send an email to: seskees at hotmail dot com (replace at with "@" and dot with "." and run it all together). I know that some people have had trouble commenting, so I want to make sure that you have an alternate way of reaching me. When I receive your email, I will copy it and put it into the blog comments.

Everyone who has commented since Monday's post is eligible to win the pillow. You do not need to re-enter. But feel free to comment just for fun and remind me that your name's already in the hat! Thanks. :-)

The special treat that I have for you today is that you will be hearing from three of Ellie's special people!

My Mom, Nancy Hamm, has shared some wonderful thoughts and memories of Ellie.

Before you hear from Mom, I wanted to show you a few pictures...

This is a photo of Mom and Gary with their grandchildren (at the time). They have since added two from my brother, one from Gary's daughter Jenn, and one on the way from Gary's son, David. The kids from left to right: Ethan Ellie, Libby, Mady (these are the girls I told you about yesterday.)


This one was taken just before Mom and Gary were married. Baby Elijah in the foreground and from left to right: Libby, Ethan, Mady, Ellie


This is just one of the cutest pictures EVER. Ellie and Mady. Can you feel the love?


This is what Mom writes:
How do you summarize a life — even a short one? Ellie holds a special place in many hearts…because although her life was not long it had the depth of love that reached into the lives of those who knew her. I’ve often wondered whether we immortalize the dead and only remember their good — or whether Ellie was truly the extraordinary child that I remember. I believe she was extraordinary — not perfect, but truly amazing for her young years. What made her that way? There are her genetics, the environment in which she was raised, and also the fact that she accepted Christ as her personal Savior.

Other than the Lord, I believe that what impacted Ellie the most was all of the love that surrounded her from the day she was born. She blossomed from that first day in the warmth, love, and acceptance that encircled her. She had the undivided attention from parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles. She had a special “Grandma Jean” day to spend with her great grandmother. In return I believe that Ellie had a depth of love for all of her relatives and friends that is unusual for a child.

I used to pick Ellie up and drive her to school every morning. When we got to the school she always wanted me to get out of the car and go in with her — all the way to her classroom. It was a lot more work to turn the car off and go in, but I had a hard time saying no to Ellie. It seemed so important to her — or was she just wrapping me around her little finger? I really don’t know why she wanted me to escort her in — but it almost seemed like she wanted to share her school-life with me and me with her school friends and teacher. Ellie didn’t like to say good-bye, if she’d had her way I think all of her extended family would have lived in the same house and school would have had to come to her.

Ellie didn’t grow selfish and spoiled; instead she always wanted to give back. She was 100% with the person she was with and had a way of making that person seem like the most important person in her life. She was fun and enthusiastic, gentle and loving, kind and empathetic. Ellie was very observant — she noticed your clothes or new finger nail polish and she would compliment you on it. She was also very thankful and thoughtful. Ellie loved to snuggle close and hug you. Even after she died I would wake up and night and I could almost feel her snuggled next to me like on one of her over-night visits. It was fun to do things with and for Ellie. Ellie was not a “taker.” She always seemed to give back more — whether in appreciation, smiles & hugs, enthusiasm or thankfulness. I believe we all have a lot that we could learn from Ellie’s life.

We have an Ellie shaped hole in our hearts…but we need to fill it with love and contentment that Ellie is whole and happy and that someday we will see her again in heaven. I believe that is what Ellie wants! Happy 1st Birthday in Heaven my little sweetheart!


Thank you so much, Mom. Ellie loved you with all her heart and always enjoyed spending time with you. You had such a way of making Ellie feel special and completely loved!

I also want to share with you a comment I received yesterday from one of Ellie's friends. I just loved it!

"This is Aubrey Myers here. I am 9 years old and live in Sanford,FL. I love Ellie, she was my BFF. I loved playing at her house with her. It was special to be able to visit her in the hospital when she first got sick. One time before Ellie got sick, we got stuck in my room and the door would not open. We had to wait for a looong time. Ellie stuck her fingers out of the bottom of the door and said " we are hungry, we need food." That was soo funny!!! I miss you Ellie!

Aubrey and Ellie:


Myers and Skees kids! (Myers have since added Ella - remember when I was visiting Vickie in the hospital when she was in labor with Ella, back in Nov. 2006 - when Ellie was diagnosed with the chickenox?) Clockwise from Baby Julia: Ethan, Aubrey, Nicholas, Ellie


I would like to introduce you to John's cousin, Neal. (Neal is Belinda's son.) When we got married, Neal was two years old, and was one of the ring-bearers in our wedding. From the very start, I fell in love with that little boy. He was the most loving little guy I'd ever met! Well, he's not so little anymore. He's about to graduate from high school, and when I look at him, I have to look WAY up. Over the years, Neal has grown in height and knowledge and wisdom. But the one thing that he has never grown out of is his loving heart. Both of my kids have loved Neal from the time they can remember. Just this week, Neal gave us a gift that John and I will always cherish. I would like to share it with you. He wrote the first just after Ellie died, and the second one as the first anniversary of her death approached.


by Neal Stanley
January 2, 2008

I believe there is nothing more devastating
than the death of a young child.
My sweet Ellie of nine years died of a merciless cancer.
Our once strong family tries to rise out of its own ashes
after the blazing inferno of grief caused by Ellie's departure.
There is no reasoning with death.
He comes when he wants, taking what he sought.
Death doesn't hear the cry of a mother
who knew how perfect her daughter was.
Death doesn't bat an eye at a father who is torn between
working to provide for his family
and spending precious time with his baby girl.
Ellie has left this world and if you didn't know how special she was
you need only look at the wake of devastation she left behind.
The faces in my family all wear the same broken look
of someone who lost something truly precious.
Ethan, Ellie's little brother,
even grasped this horrible event despite his youth.
"Where's my Ellie?" he'd say.
When ever he sees a picture of his sis he just gazes at it for minutes.
I felt much closer to Ethan when I found out that he too can't escape
the sadness of Ellie's memory in his dreams.
We were touched by an angel and then death ripped her away.


Why Was She Born
by Neal Stanley
December 4, 2008

A decade ago a sweet baby girl was born to a family of love
And an angel cried why was she born if only to die

As she grew, so did the family's admiration and love towards her
And an angel cried why was she born if only to die

A boy in that same loving family cherished
the friendship and good times he would share with her
And an angel cried why was she born if only to die

As time carried on so did her pain
and a helpless boy sunk with a heavy heart
And an agnel cried why was she born if only to die

At the age of nine men in white coats gave her news
she would never fully understand
And an angel cried why was she born if only to die

And so finally when the cancer extinguished Ellie's beautiful spark of life
The boy cried why was she born if only to die

And God replied she was born not to die.
But to show the grace and poise
of one touched by the eternal light of heaven.

Warning... high teardrop rating

I want to tell you up front that this entry is pretty heavy - particularly towards the end. I know that some people check this at work, and others just would like to have a little forewarning. I also wanted to let you know that you may want to preview this before showing your children. There will be a picture of Ellie after she died. It is not gory in any way, but it may effect people in different ways. It could be very appropriate for children, but you as the parents will need to decide how you want to deal with it. I promise you, I don't do this to torture you. (Although I have been accused of taking great pleasure in making people cry!) But you have been there with us through this, and on this anniversary, I would love to walk you through our footsteps.

So... John and I have been having this ongoing discussion of sorts. Today is only December 17, but technically it is the one year mark because Ellie died on a Wednesday. But when you get married on, say March 19 (which we did), you always celebrate your anniversary on March 19, not always on a Saturday. The real question is, what do you do when you each have a different preference? My love of special occasions leads me to say that you just have to celebrate it twice!

So, in honor of my sweet husband, and his weekly Wednesday reminder at 7:43 p.m... we have some special things going on today. When John and Ethan were out the door on their way to school, I slaved over my hot toaster oven and fixed cinnamon rolls. O.K., so I took the package out of the freezer and unwrapped it. (You know I don't bake!) We enjoyed our special treat while we watched the snow fall outside. It was so good of God to give us that today! We were sitting at our Christmasy table. (Do you recognize a couple of adorable little boys there in the background Aaron? Some of you may have read Aaron's comment. His son, Eli, the boy on the left, was diagnosed with stage IV NB and currently there is no evidence of disease. Yay!)


And then I spotted something. Do you see it?


Apparently Ethan thought the tree needed a little decorating. :-) I love that little boy!

This evening, at 7:43 p.m., we will light a special candle. I love the thought that even though her physical life stopped in that moment one year ago, her wonderfully unique Ellie light will burn for all eternity. I also love the symbolism of light as God's reflected glory. Your comments are all proof that my little girl reflected the glory of God in her short journey.

We will hold the drawing for Ellie's elephant after we light her candle this evening.

Not long ago, I realized that I never gave you all the full story of how Ellie died. I was not intending to hold it back from you, but in the moment things were just so raw. A part of me was also unsure if it was even appropriate at that time... I think that perhaps I was just saving it for such a time as this.

On Wednesday, December 19, 2007 God chose not to grant Ellie’s request to die in her sleep. Even while my heart broke, God’s loving wisdom was clearly evident as He gave Ellie – and us – what none of us knew that we needed.

At one point, in the middle of that long day, Ellie began having trouble breathing. John and I had been hovering around Ellie for hours, stroking her and whispering words of love into her ears. This photo was from during that time. She used to always stroke her ear when she was tired.


It was hard to tell if she even knew what we were saying, but one time after John had whispered “I love you,” Ellie didn’t even open her eyes, but whispered right back “I love you too, Daddy.” We had been afraid of panicking her by telling her outright that she could let go, but as Ellie began to show signs of getting really uncomfortable, John and I told her how proud we were of her. We assured her that she had fought hard, but that she didn’t have to keep fighting. We told her that we would be o.k. We let her go.


But Ellie didn’t die. The drugs took hold, and Ellie fell asleep as her breathing evened out. As she slept, we noticed that one of her hands was opening and closing against her stomach. John slipped his fingers into her hand, and she gripped it tight.



After a couple of hours, Ellie awoke with a start. Her eyes were wild and she was hallucinating. We gave her a remedy, and Ellie’s eyes cleared. Then began the most unnerving, profound, and powerful phenomenon – Ellie let go. But she did it in typical Ellie style – with fight and with spirit. She would have bouts of screaming – not in pain, but almost in anger. She would give a mighty shriek and yell “I’m not going to do this for the rest of my life!!” or “this is torture, and I’M NOT GOING TO DO IT ANYMORE!” Her strength finally gave out, and Ellie lay on her side, facing her daddy. His was the first face that Ellie saw when she entered the world, and it was the last one that she saw as she left. I was exactly where I wanted to be – next to her ear. The last thing that Ellie heard was my voice telling her to run to Jesus. And she did. Ellie gave up her own heartbeat in exchange for the heartbeat of God.

You know, all along, I knew that even though we prayed that Ellie would live, it might not be what would happen. I understood the concept that we don't always get what we ask for. But when it came to Ellie's desire to die in her sleep, I could think of no reason why God shouldn't give her that. Once again, God whispered ever so gently to my broken heart that He truly does know what is best for us, and most importantly, for Ellie. The words He used, and the voice were in the form of Loretta. Something that she said during the Montana memorial service has reverberated through my being ever since. "Cancer did not steal Ellie’s life away from her while she slept." Wow. We had the privilege of watching our daughter release her own life.

John took this picture while she was resting:


This one was taken after she died. I'm sure you remember my entry on December 20, 2007 about John weeping over Ellie's feet.


Also found in the December 20 post is the description of Ethan's grief over Ellie's body.


We chose to have Ellie cremated. Before we took her body to the funeral home that night, I dressed her in this beautiful Chinese robe that my sweet step sister Jenn brought to us when they adopted their daughter Emma. We sent "Procedure Bunny" along for one final procedure...


That night, I called Jenn to tell her that Ellie had died and that we were having her cremated in the China robe. We talked and cried for a little while. Jenn was just leaving work and it was quite late at night in Florida. She went home that night and saw that her three little girls were sound asleep. When she tiptoed in to kiss them goodnight, Jenn found her older two, Mady and Libby, snuggled in their Chinese robes! Jenn asked her husband Jim why on earth they were sleeping in those robes because, in her words "they had to find them waded up in a corner somewhere since they hadn't even touched them in quite sometime." Jim said that after he gave them their bath, the girls found and put on those robes and would not take them off, even to sleep. He had no idea why. Jenn said that the next morning, the robes were tossed back into the nether reaches of the closet or wherever they had found them. That story just blew me away. God is so good to bind us to our loved ones with an invisible thread that has the ability to erase thousands of miles as if it was nothing. This story touched me to my very toes and will stay with me forever.

I don't want to leave you with that last picture of Ellie. It is how she looked when she left this earth. But we picked the photo on the header of this blog because it reminds us of Heaven. That is how we see Ellie in our mind's eye. Vibrant, glowing with joy, and more alive than she ever was in her nine short years in our arms.

This is how we see her now... on top of the world!


My life will forever be blessed by the time I had to hold her and love her.

Please scroll down to the previous post for details of our on-going blog giveaway. For those of you who have already left comments, feel free to comment on this post again... just remind me that you already entered the giveaway. Thanks. :-)

Also... please keep checking back. There will be at least one new post everyday through Friday. I have something very special planned for tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winner #1

I just have to tell you all, this giveaway started for me as a fun way to involve everyone in the one year anniversary of Ellie's death. (O.K, I just re-read that sentence and had to laugh because I'm not really sure that a person is supposed to pick a "fun" way to commemorate someone's death. I do know how wrong that sounds. Still, I have to stand by that statement.) I simply wanted to do something "Ellie" - not only for her and about her, but something she would have truly been excited about. Giving stuff away is probably the best way that there is to remember that funny little girl. But in true Ellie spirit, it's killing me that I can't give something to everyone!

Do you know what has happened? What was supposed to be something that I wanted to do for you, turned into the very thing that I didn't know I needed. As this sad and difficult day is approaching, what I needed was to hear from you. So thank you. Thank you for being there for me during this time. For telling me what you love and miss about my sweet Ellie. For sharing who you are and where you're from. (I sometimes look at the stats of the hundreds of people who check in daily and wonder who you are. What your story is. I can even tell where people are logging in from. There are a few that I can guess at, but often I have to ask "who is that?") And of course I love hearing how this journey of ours has touched your lives. This gift that you have given me, and are giving me, is one that I will never forget. It is the perfect balm to this sad mommy's heart. THANK YOU.

We will now pick a name from the box to be our guest blogger on Friday, December 19. Before we pick, I want to let you know what I've decided to do. I have a little something to give this person. I have a copy of the pictures from yesterday's post to send to them as well as a small, unframed drawing of Ellie's. Should you decide for any reason that you are not comfortable with being the guest blogger, I will still send you your little gift. But instead of re-drawing a name to be the guest blogger, I will have you choose one from yesterday's commenters. If you read the comments and felt like you would like to hear more from a certain person, you may choose that person to be the guest blogger. Of course, I do hope that you will want to write something yourself, but I also understand that not everyone will enjoy doing that.

Ethan is holding the box of names. He is now stirring it all around. He is about to choose one. Picking...

Drum roll please... and the winner is...

Edith "Mema" Tyler, from South Carolina

Congratulations, Mema. Please email me with your address and let me know if you accept this mission! (see below for my email) I so loved your comment - it really touched my heart. I would have posted it here, but I didn't want to steal your thunder for Friday. Should you decide not to be the guest blogger on Friday, I will definitely post it for all to read!

For those of you who are just now joining us, there are two more drawings. On Wednesday evening, we will be drawing a name out of the box to win this 5x7" framed and signed piece of Ellie's art. (It is a high quality color copy of the original.)


On Thursday evening, we will be drawing a name out of the box to win a small quilted pillow made out of Ellie's clothing. (See previous post for photos of Ellie in those clothes.)

Please keep checking back. There will even be other special things happening on this blog tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday!

How to enter:

Leave a comment. Please give your name, where you live (City and State, or Country - obviously for security reasons, do not leave your full address and you don't need to put your city if you're not comfortable with that. I just thought it would be fun to hear where people are visiting from.) and a brief description of how you know or have heard of Ellie.


Send an email to: seskees at hotmail dot com (replace "at" with "@" and "dot" with "." and run it all together). I know that some people have had trouble commenting, so I want to make sure that you have an alternate way of reaching me. When I receive your email, I will copy it and put it into the blog comments.


Please do not leave anymore comments on the previous post. Please leave your comments on this and/or future posts. It will keep me from getting confused.

All of the previous commenters' names have been left in the box for the next drawings, so you do not need to comment more than once to be in the running for a prize. But if you really want to leave another comment to say something, just remind me that your name is already in. :-)

And finally, remember everyone is eligible: family, friends, foes, countrymen, as well as out-of-the-countrymen and other-countrymen.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Ellie's blog giveaway has officially begun!

How to enter:

Leave a comment. Please give your name, where you live (City and State, or Country - obviously for security reasons, do not leave your full address and you don't need to put your city if you're not comfortable with that. I just thought it would be fun to hear where people are visiting from.) and a brief description of how you know or have heard of Ellie.


Send an email to: seskees at hotmail dot com (replace at with "@" and dot with "." and run it all together). I know that some people have had trouble commenting, so I want to make sure that you have an alternate way of reaching me. When I receive your email, I will copy it and put it into the blog comments.

How it works:

This will be a three-part giveaway.

1. On Tuesday afternoon, we will draw from all of the names we have gathered so far, and the winner will be asked to be the guest blogger on December 19. The winner will have until Thursday to send me, via email, something that they would like to say on this blog. If the winner does not wish to participate, we will continue to draw names until we find someone who does want to. (Which is why we are holding this drawing so early in the week.) This is your opportunity to share how Ellie and her journey have touched your life in some way, or memories that you have of Ellie, or whatever you feel pertains to Ellie. It can be as long or as short as you would like. I will post the winner on Tuesday night in order to give plenty of time to correspond with the person.

2. On Wednesday night, we will draw from all of the names we have gathered so far (including all names in the hat from Tuesday's drawing, but not including Tuesday's winner) and the winner will receive a 4x6" framed piece of Ellie's art (it will actually be a high quality color copy, as we prefer to keep all of Ellie's original art for obvious reasons). I will post a photo of the art on Wednesday morning, and the winner will be announced late that night.

3. On Thursday night, we will draw from all of the names we have gathered from all of the previous days (not including the winners from Tuesday and Wednesday) and the winner will receive a hand sewn pillow made from Ellie's clothing. I will post a photo of the pillow on Thursday morning, and the winner will be posted on Friday morning, along with the guest blogger's entry.

So... here's a little teaser...
I looked back over many of the photos that I have posted on the blog and picked clothing for the pillow that I thought you would recognize. There will be a square on the pillow from the following outfits:

November, 2006 - in the hospital
Tinker Bell P.J.'s

January, 2007 - the day Ellie let go of the rest of her hair and Ethan shaved his to support her
Butterfly shirt

February, 2007 - photo shoot by Cece Glover
Teal blouse

April, 2007 - after being released from the ICU
Ellie's most comfy blue sweater that she wore ALL the time

Early June, 2007 - goofing off in a little tea shop after our trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Adorable blue and green silky print top

Mid-June, 2007 - On vacation to Montana
Aqua sweatshirt

June, 2007 - Vacation in Montana
White sweatshirt

September, 2007 - Playing with Eliana in the driveway after moving to Montana (Ellie was at her all time healthiest during this time)
- Heart top and jean skirt

November, 2007 - Ellie's last Thanksgiving.
Peach top (this shirt was given to Ellie by her friend Lia, at the Ronald McDonald House in NY. The last time I talked with Lia's mom, she said that the doctors had done all that they could for Lia and the cancer was still there. I haven't heard any more, but am not sure if she is still alive...)

December, 2007 - resting with Daddy in front of the fire
Satin butterfly P.J.'s

Thank you in advance for participating in this! I've been so looking forward to it, and hope that you all enjoy this. I guess there's nothing more to say, other than - let the commenting begin! :-) Everyone is welcome - friends, family, strangers, people overseas... Come one, come all!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Shades of things to come...

John and I have been talking today about something special we want to do with you all for December 19. We've decided to do a "give away." I've seen this on other blogs, and very recently one of my new blog friends named Tonya did one on her son's birthday. Her son, Brent, died of NB nearly a year before Ellie, at the age of 11. I was so touched by how she included her blog family in Brent's special day. I thought that it was a wonderful way for everyone to remember Brent!

This is just a teaser. I wanted to give you fair warning that something fun is coming! On Monday, December 15, I will be sharing more details. There will be photos and instructions, and all will be revealed. What about a hint, you ask? Ummmm... it's Ellie-related and VERY special! And I really wish that I could give something away to everyone, but alas, there can only be one fortunate winner. Oh, and everyone - in every country - will be eligible. How's that? :-)

So be sure to come back on Monday!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Heaven's where the heart is...

Ethan had a wonderful birthday! We let him open a couple of presents first thing because his party wasn't going to be until after supper. He got a remote controlled truck (just like Papa's actual truck) from Mom and Gary (Papa). He also got a tee shirt, and a matching one for Daddy. Those two gifts made his day!


The new guy had to be introduced to Lightning McQueen. As you can see, Lightning was not exactly impressed.


In the evening, we went over to Mike and Reni's house and my friend Jen came over with her two kids, Bailey and Codey, as well as Bailey's friend Abby. Ethan opened more gifts and we had cake. Then the kids ran around the house playing with the truck. They took turns driving the thing and whoever wasn't driving was chasing the truck and jumping over it. I don't think I've ever seen kids have so much fun all together with one toy! Even though all three kids were much older than Ethan, they played with him so nicely. I think that part of the evening was more fun for Ethan than the presents.

In the background, from left to right: Abby, Bailey, Codey, Mike. Ethan's "new sister" Josie (La's golden retriever) is on the far left. :-)

Although, speaking of presents... over a month ago, Ethan was watching me sew a pillow out of Ellie's clothes and he asked me if he could have one for his birthday. I made one for him, and today I heard him tell someone that the pillow was his favorite gift! That truly spoke volumes to me about where his heart is at these days.

Ethan's pillow:

A closer view...

Inside the pocket I put the one fabric that Ethan specifically requested. It was from a blouse that Ellie looked so cute in. (It was the same blouse that I saw in the store on a rack when we were back in FL for her memorial service.)


The back is from a pair of Ellie's sweat pants. The satin stripe was down the side of the leg.

After the party was over, just before bedtime, Ethan was very quiet. (If you have ever met Ethan, you know that's unusual.) When we questioned him, Ethan said "I just miss Ellie" and walked out of the room. I was so glad that we had a small family party instead of a big "kid" party with just kids his own age. Bailey and Codey have such an ability to fill in those empty places that Ellie left.

So, Ethan's birthday was special. But those special days tend to highlight the ache... How much we miss stands out in such sharp contrast against the happiness. Also, as we experience some "highs", an equal and opposite "low" tends to follow. I have felt this principle at work in my own life, and now I am observing it in Ethan. Because of this, and because Ethan seemed like he might be coming down with something, we let him sleep in and stay home from school today. The sickness didn't develop, so he will go tomorrow. I'm not sorry we kept him. I think we all needed to just hang out around the house today.

I leave you with a photo of my two great loves:

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Ethan's big day!

My baby boy turns six today! And since he can't read yet, I figure I can still get away with calling him my baby boy. I guess this will be the last birthday I can do that. :-) He was so excited that he could hardly fall asleep last night. I assured him that when he woke up, he would be six. I think that my assurances were counterproductive. The only thing that really worked in the end was a "don't you dare get out of this bed again" from Daddy.

John's work is requiring more forced time off to keep from laying additional people off, so he's able to stay home on Ethan's birthday. That was a nice surprise! There will be a Christmas parade in the evening, and when we get home from that, we will have a little party for Ethan.

Because Ethan's birthday fell on a Saturday, he was able to celebrate it at school yesterday. His teacher does a wonderful job of making the kids feel special on their birthdays, and she has some really fun ways to incorporate learning into the festivities.

Since it was Ethan's special day, we got to bring a fun, non-healthy snack. I don't have a real oven, and I didn't relish the thought of making teeny batches of cupcakes in the toaster oven, so I came up with an alternate plan. (Who am I kidding? I could have gone down to the other house to bake, but I find baking labor intensive and messy. The alternate plan was actually plan A.) I had seen this really cute idea on TV, I think, of making little bitty birds nests out of chocolate. All you do is mix melted chocolate (I used almond bark - thanks Tricia! It was much easier than the melted chocolate chips I had been planning on using) with chow mein noodles. Plop out spoon fulls onto cookie sheets and place a couple of jelly bean "eggs" in the center. Viola - birds nests! So easy and so cute. When Ethan went to pass out snacks in class, this is what each kid got:


You should have heard the kids oooooh and ahhhhh. Ethan was tickled pink!

While the kids ate their snack, Mrs. Stevens placed a little candle on a chair and had Ethan stand next to the chair, holding a globe. She then held up a picture of Ethan as a baby. Did you know that even a bunch of five and six year olds will go "awwwwww" when they see baby pictures? She had Ethan walk all the way around the chair with the globe, signifying the earth rotating once around the sun (candle). Ethan's first year. Then she showed a picture of Ethan at one, and told the class that Ethan learned to walk and talk when he was one. Another trip around the candle, and the class learned that Ethan loved to jump off of furniture when he was two. Another rotation of the earth divulged that not only was Ethan as cute as a button at three, but he loved to dance and play with his sister. By the "earth's" fourth trip around the "sun", the class found out that Ethan spent lots of time that year with his grandparents. The final picture was shown and we told the kids that Ethan moved to Montana and loved to hike and rock climb with his daddy. Then the class sang a series of three or four birthday songs (the traditional "Happy Birthday" plus some educational birthday-related songs). And the birthday boy got to blow out the "sun".

Once snack time was finished, the kids gathered into a bunch on the floor and Ethan and I told them all about Ellie. When Ethan found out that he was supposed to bring pictures for his birthday, he really wanted to bring one of he and Ellie together. Because Ellie was bald, I knew that it would bring up some questions, plus I knew that Ethan was liable to blurt out "that's my sister and she's dead." Weeks ago, Mrs. Stevens and I had talked about me coming to the class and telling them about Ellie, but we hadn't set anything up. This was the perfect opportunity to share the story. Ethan was so proud to be able to tell his friends all about his sister. I started it out by showing them the picture, and asking if they noticed something "different" about Ethan's sister. One little boy said "yeah, she's bald just like Ethan." I thought that was so sweet - Ethan's baldness was normal to this class, and his sister was just like him, not the other way around. I was able to tell the class how Ethan wanted to shave his head so that Ellie would not feel badly about losing her hair. Then we talked about cancer and why she lost her hair. Together, Mrs. Stevens and I answered questions about cancer and death, and Ethan interjected his own comments from time to time. The kids were great. They had all kinds of wonderful questions, from how she died to how we found out she was sick. At one point there was quite a lively rabbit trail about pirates and eye patches once they learned that Ellie was blind in one eye. (Of course they needed to find out if that eye still looked and moved like the one that could see.) A couple of the kids got distracted with the location of one's heart, after Mrs. Stevens talked about how we carry love and memories in our hearts after a person has died. The whole experience was delightful in every way. We sent home a handout from Ellie's memorial service and a letter for their parents explaining what we talked about. (I could just imagine the parent's reactions when their children came home saying "Ethan's sister died!")

Loretta came with me to the school and was able to sit in class and watch the fun. We had such a great time getting to observe Ethan in his classroom and get a glimpse of how his days are spent at school. We came away with two very strong feelings: Mrs. Stevens is a saint; and teachers, particularly kindergarten teachers, are WAY underpaid. May I just say, "God bless them, every one!"

I will have many more birthday stories to share after tomorrow. Thank you so much for taking Ethan into your hearts! The surest way to a mother's heart is when you love her little ones.