Thursday, September 3, 2015


It's September.
Time to wrap up the summer and get things started for a bright and shiny new school year.

New backpacks, new lunchboxes, new shoes, new haircuts, new friends, new teachers... new, new, new.

For years, to me, September represented a fresh start.

Summer was done.
Gone were those hot, sluggish, dog days and ahead were those cooler days of September that smelled like new books and freshly sharpened pencils.

September brought new beginnings.
September was filled with anticipation.
It always felt like anything was possible in September.

September ALSO meant that my most favorite month was right around the corner.


I can almost smell the word October.
It's crisp, it's pumpkin-y, it's gold and burnt orange and deep red, it's Halloween, it's jean wearin' weather... and it's what I look forward to ALL. YEAR. LONG.

Or, I used to.

That is, until my brother died.

While September used to feel like a new beginning to me... it now feels like the beginning of the end.

As soon as we get that first fall-ish night at the end of August... where the temperature drops and you can sleep comfortably with your bedroom windows open...some switch flips in my brain.
Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the smell, ... but 5 years ago suddenly feels like just yesterday.

You would think that after 5 years I would maybe feel a little bit... LESS.

Or maybe feel a little bit more... detached.

But the senses are funny that way, aren't they?

Take music, for instance.
Certain songs trigger specific memories...and you can see them so vividly in your head.
20 years feels like a split second ago, right?

The end of summer is like that for me.

It's melancholy.

It's the feeling of wanting to hold on a little bit longer... savor the final moments....

because your mind knows they won't last forever, and your heart, your poor heart is BEGGING these moments to just -- STAY.

I don't remember when it happened, but sometime after my brother died, September became Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.  In the past few years, every September we've been urged to, "GO GOLD" and "Spread awareness".... encouraged to share the facts and statistics about pediatric cancer.

Pediatric Cancer.
Go Gold.
Be Aware.

I'm aware...and here is how.

My brother's cancer took a turn at the end of August, 2010.
We knew it was coming, but we couldn't quite bring ourselves to admit it.
His cough had gotten bad.  He couldn't catch his breath a lot. Going up a flight of stairs was work.
We knew...but we didn't want to know.

We took a family photo in August - that was the last family photo taken.
Since then, it's really just unbearable and kind of unthinkable to take one of all of us without him.
We aren't us, without him.  Besides, it hurts too much.

September came and my brother was admitted to the hospital for the last time.
September 23rd.
He never came home.

I remember the night that I saw him alive for the last time.
Tuesday, October 19th.
I took the train from CT to Grand Central Station.  I met my older brother and a best friend from college at a bar just outside the train station.
We had a drink because.... I needed it.
My friend brought me an umbrella that he had stolen from a closet in his office.
It didn't look like rain but,
"You never know. I'm Jewish.", he said. "We do these things."

My brother and I walked to the hospital together.  We tried to talk, but what's to say when your little brother is dying?

I remember the morning that he died.
October 22nd.
My mother called me.
I was standing in my laundry room.
Before I answered the phone I knew.
I just knew.
Our babysitter was at our house and I went upstairs and choked out the news.
And my five year old daughter kept saying over and over again...
"Big Charles died?  Big Charles died!"
Over and over and over and over again.

It was like she didn't know what it meant.

OF COURSE she didn't know what it meant.

I didn't even know what it meant.

I remember driving to the funeral home with my parents and brother.
My cell phone rang and it was an old friend from grade school.
He was crying and so distraught about the news.
I remember thinking how strange it was that I was on the way to make arrangements for my brother's funeral and I was consoling someone on my cell phone.

I remember the wake... and standing next to my father as people came through the line to give their condolences.
The endless line.
My father did this weird thing that day...straightening people's collars while he spoke to them.
It was like he didn't know what to do with his hands.

I remember the funeral...and holding onto my mother as we walked down the aisle of the church, behind my brother's casket that was surrounded by his best friends, his pall bearers.

There are things that happen in your life and you have an imprint of them on your brain that you'll never forget.

These are the things I think about in September.

We talk about being aware... spreading awareness.

And most of us think that by changing our profile picture on Facebook or posting a meaningful quote about pediatric cancer that we're doing our part.
But really... is that enough?

No, not when only 4% of government funding is solely dedicated to childhood cancer research.

They say that pediatric cancer is rare.  RARE.

How rare is it really when my brother had the same cancer as three other young men...all in their early 20's... all at the same hospital?
All four of them are gone now.

This is unacceptable.

Every day - 43 children are diagnosed with cancer.
12% of the children diagnosed with cancer DO NOT SURVIVE.

If you have children, if you have nieces, nephews, grandchildren, students, friends(so basically ALL of us) ... THIS STATISTIC SHOULD FRIGHTEN YOU.

It frightens me. It keeps me awake at night sometimes.

Every year I try to do something in my brother's honor and memory.
I've run a few marathons, a half marathon, a Tough Mudder... .all in the name of raising funds for pediatric cancer research.

This year, I'm trying something a little bit new.
I've created a virtual fundraiser - through Alex's Lemonade Stand. (the link is at the bottom of this post)
Alex's Lemonade Stand is changing childhood cancer, one research grant at a time.
They have already donated millions of dollars to support life saving childhood cancer research.
If you want to be inspired - read Alex's story.  I couldn't get through it without crying.

So no, I won't be running, or getting muddy. You won't be getting lemonade or a cool shirt for donating.


I'm giving you all an opportunity to DO something you can feel good about.

September should be Pediatric Cancer ACTION month.
It's not enough to just be aware... We need to be DOING something.

Think about this -
Americans spend 20 times more on potato chips than on pediatric cancer research.

Um. What?
That can't be real.

Really, America?
We love our chips more than our kids?
Come on. We're better than that.

Maybe this month instead of that bag of chips - you put that money toward pediatric cancer research?
Or instead of stopping at Dunkin Donuts on your way to work - you put that $3 toward this cause.

Or maybe... $1 a day for the month of September... $30 in total.


I am hoping this post will motivate even just one person to help me make a difference -  because I can't let September pass me by without doing something.
And this may not be much, but I believe if we all do a little something - we'll achieve something really big.

We have to try.

I have to try.

For September.

For my brother.

Thank you for reading.

If you'd like to make a donation - please use the below link.  EVERY dollar counts.