Saturday, March 29, 2014

Katie Mappin, a life of love, laughter and dreams

Three years ago today a special, funny beautiful girl left her family behind. Unwittingly, unwillingly and way too early, you went on a journey that we have yet come to understand.

Two days earlier (on the 27th), my sweet niece Katie Mappin was found passed out, lying on the floor of her shower.

She had been ill for the past few months and this final event was but the opening of the door that would take her from her fiance 
Brian, her parents--my brother Bryan and wife Dawn, and Katie's sisters Brittany and Tonya and her brother Levi. 

While in the hospital, Katie's doctors prescribed a course of action that we would later learn run contrary to her illness. Little did we know that Katie had a rare genetic disorder that would lead to her passing. 

We would learn that one in two million people suffer the condition that Katie did. The staff at the hospital told us they had not seen someone with her condition in more than 15 years.

On this day in 2011, I was at work. It was a partly sunny and warm spring day. By all rights, it should have been a perfect day but for those of us in the family,no--we were all on pins and needles. We knew Katie was fighting the battle of her life and when I received the call at work, I think I felt the world had come to an end.

But I am not writing to lament Katie's loss. We would shed more tears in the coming days, but now I want to remember her for the little girl who, like her sister Tonya, would run to sit in my lap when I came to visit. The girl who always had a smile on her face and quick to laugh or to show me her newest toy and to give me the biggest hug when I had to leave for home after a visit.

Katie was the girl who loved life and had big plans. After she graduated from high school, she moved to South Bend to attend Indiana University. Originally, her course of study was anthropology, a fascinating if not a bit useless degree. But who was I to decide her future? 

We all must follow our dreams. I have long ago given up on telling young people they must study for a high paying career in favor of pursuing what makes us soar--what makes us happy.

Somewhere along the line her passions led her in other directions. She loved to cook and she decided to pursue a career in culinary arts. 

And about this time, she would meet a wonderful young man, Brian. Brian, who would become her fiance. These two were so good together and anyone could see how much they were in love.

A side I did not often get to see was of Katie, Katie the aunt. Katie's older sister Brittany had a daughter--and later a little boy... and Katie LOVED the earth that those two walked upon. 

Katie spoiled them, played with them, loved them and they loved her. It saddens me that Katie passed when Merc, her nephew was barely out of infancy. I doubt he will remember the great Aunt Katie he had but oh, how Aunt Katie loved them both. 

Katie loved to have fun. Looking through her photo albums and one cannot help but laugh. She could be such a goof!

In the years since her passing, Brian created a foundation to raise money to study the rare genetic condition that took her from us---and especially to raise an awareness.

I think of Katie's parents. I remember Bryan and Dawn living the unfairness of  those last days. I remember Bryan, at her funeral, telling us solemnly of the sadness he and Dawn felt... and how a parent should never outlive a grown children.

Katie, I miss you but not just for me but for Tonya, for Brittany and Levi and for your Dad and especially for your Mom. I sometime think that your Mom looked at you as one of her closest and dearest friends. AND your Dad,  who under his gruff exterior, one could always tell just how much he loves/loved his kids.

Today, we wonder (and mourn) about the could have beens, the would haves and the should have beens.

Katie, you should know, every person you touched is a better person for it. If anything good can come from something so sad, so unfair, is that with your passing you have inspired all who knew you. 

Your passing reminds us to hug our our children, our loved ones, our parents and friends and tell them we are proud of them and that we love them. 

Katie, wherever you are, I know you are smiling down on us. I love you... I always will and so will the rest of us.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Love and affirmation

People are pretty amazing!

Last night I posted a line on my Facebook page that apparently confused some people... and I guess I played a part in that. I basically wrote "I'm coming out (and yes, I just heard Diana Ross in my head and if you are gay, you probably heard it too)."

The support I received was astounding.

Mind you now, folks, I have been an out gay man since 1982 after my wife of seven years and I divorced. I became a little less open, officially anyway after joining the Navy in 1994. When the government abolished the military's policy "Don't Ask Don't Tell," I think I came out again, pretty much full force... and with a vengeance.

The line that started this whole thing was a joke. Here's how it goes. One of your friends posts a line and if you "like" or post a comment you get a private message instructing you to pick one of the 14 somewhat outrageous choices and post it on your page and then sit back and wait for the fun to begin. To entice us to continue this viral thread's instructions mention that the joke is meant to raise support for women's cancer victims. How? I don't know.

One of my favorite Navy Chiefs posted a line last night and I fell for it hook, line and stinker.

For mine in turn, I chose the most obvious one (but I really wanted to post the one that said "I am out of tampons! Help!" I think that really would have confused the hell out of some people. LoL!).

What I did not envision was all of the wonderful reaffirming messages I received.

I want received some pretty wonderful things, some humorous, some endearing, some hilariously naughty. And all were welcome--all but one. Hold on, I will explain in a bit.

Some responses made a lot of sense and mentioned things I had not considered.

My friend David Gerrold--and one of my favorite authors, fell for the joke too and I privated him. I already knew he would not play the game and he kindly responded he doesn't play games like this. I do understand his feelings on the matter. Another favorite science fiction author, Robert Sawyer, brought up a great point. He wanted proof that this joke could help the cause... a similar comment came from a few other friends.

I do understand their concerns. I had them too, but I decided to go with it, just for the heck of it.

In the aftermath, what I appreciated most was the outpouring of love and support. A few of my friends who fell for it responded in kind when they passed along this viral joke.

But I do have to admit, I was a bit taken a-back when one FB friend unexpectedly unfriended me over this with nothing other than "sorry, I have to unfriend you."

Frankly, I am still scratching my head over that. I wrote back, apologized and waited for the explanation that never came. *sigh* I could be flippant and say "Oh well, it's his loss." But it was mine too.

This all goes to prove, and woe be to us all, if we do not recognize that not all FB friends are really friends. For me, in the case of this friend, I did think he was more than just a FB friend and was saddened by his actions since I don't understand them.

But back to the point of this posting. I really want to thank those who wrote warm words of support. A good deal of those were Navy folk, which to me was great seeing too. We, those who serve, have always referred to ourselves "as family."

The responses I received last night made me feel exactly like that... family

I greatly appreciated it! Big hug!