Chapter 6 Excerpt…

A remarkable step towards healing after Jackie’s death; Mickey Mouse and the New Bedford High School Marching Band!

I hope this excerpt encourages you to embrace those around you, who knew and loved your lost loved one, for they are the ones to help pave the road to healing.

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Please share your memories of your lost loved one with us…

Some of my fondest memories of Jackie are with the New Bedford High School Marching Band, where she was in the colorguard. She truly found her niche with those kids, instructors and band parents (my husband, Jay, and I were chaperones). One memory in particular is the night of NESBA Band Finals held at Boston University. Jackie was in the midst of treatment for her leukemia, but was in good enough health to go along with the kids. She wasn’t allowed to march, but she “dressed” for the competition and stood on the sidelines, watching her friends march their little hearts out in her honor. When the time came for their official group picture, Jackie proudly took her place among her friends with a smile from ear to ear. As Jackie later told me, once she returned to the hospital for continued treatment, “Band is my life, Mom, I love it!”

Three months later, at Jackie’s funeral, 100+ members of the marching band served as honor guard (a surprise to me!), in full dress uniform, along the stairs of our church in memory of Jackie, the girl they all loved and admired for her strength, her kindness, and her beautiful smile.

My Sweet Jackie 9/18/1973 – 2/18/1990

Just prior to the death of my sixteen-year-old daughter Jacqueline to leukemia in 1990, my brother, Tom Mello, had been busy raising money to help finance a trip I would have needed to make to accompany Jackie while she underwent a life-saving bone marrow transplant at the University of Kentucky. Unfortunately, Jackie became too ill to travel and the procedure was cancelled. Knowing she would never be able to use the money personally, she made a wish list of items the children on “7 North” of the Floating Hospital for Children so desperately needed and asked that we see to it that this wish was fulfilled. Sadly, Jackie passed two days later.

It was then we established The Friends of Jackie Memorial Fund, which distributes scholarships, charitable contributions, and gifts for local families in need of assistance, as well as New England Medical Center’s Floating Hospital for Children in Boston, MA.

If you knew Jackie, would you kindly share a memory of her with us?

Welcome!

Welcome!

This is our place to share updates on our reunion, booksignings and other events we are involved in, as well as a place for our readers to share their thoughts and comments about the book. If you are involved in an adoption search or reunion, or if you are a parent who has lost a child to cancer, this is the place to find hope and support. Post a comment or question, or email us at mama_mazenga@thesamesmile.com.

Here’s a recent picture of my girls that I wanted to share!

L – R: Kristine, Bethany, Joanne & Susan

Me and My Girls

How Joanne and I came about writing “The Same Smile”…

As each day of my reunion brought new and exciting discoveries about the little girl I had always loved, but never knew, I feared I would lose track of all that I was learning. Initially, I tried to keep a journal of all my thoughts and encounters with Joanne, but had difficulty finding the time or even the desire to write, missing days at a time, and then attempting to catch up all in one sitting. It was just too much. My search efforts had left me drained. Maybe, it was all too reminiscent of the daily journal I kept during the months before and after Jackie’s illness and death. But, talking with Joanne via email was fun and I had saved all of our correspondence. Between Joanne’s emails and those from my birth mother groups, there was enough material to fill a dozen folders.

Joanne and I had often joked about writing our story and it was my husband, Jay, who laughingly suggested we do so. Saying he wanted us to write a best seller so he could retire and live on the beach! Well, Joanne and I wanted to live at the beach, too, so we began writing a little each day. My first drafts were terrible. My second drafts were, at times, even worse. Joanne’s writing clearly put mine to shame. Still, I persisted. I was hooked, and not about to quit just because my writing talents were limited.

It was then I came to recognize my inability to properly express the various feelings I had experienced throughout my life and that surprised me, because I always have something to say. But these events in my life were extraordinary and the emotions they generated were powerful, leaving me to examine what I thought were capable writing abilities

Having attended Catholic schools for the majority of my education, with a curriculum that dictated strict writing disciplines, I consistently scored high in all aspects of writing and grammar. However, sophomore English at New Bedford High proved pointless, for it was the same course I had just studied as a freshman at Bishop Stang. I recall feeling quite clever passing in book reports from the previous year and enjoying the ease in which they produced high grades. Then, during the last half of my junior year, I was much too preoccupied with my pregnancy and the ordeal that lay ahead, to be concerned with such things as writing and grammar. Upon returning from St. Mary’s Home for Unwed Mothers, I quickly discovered I had lost any enthusiasm I may have had for school, dating, or life, for that matter. Never mind the finer points of writing. As a result, it was a daily struggle to accurately put my thoughts to paper. Without the help of my good friend and patient teacher, Rachel Jupin, I would still be laboring over my initial draft. And she thought raising her six kids was a tough job. It was nothing compared to teaching me how to punctuate!

As the months progressed, Joanne was barely writing, saying she didn’t have the time. So, as my pages grew, hers lagged behind. Finally, she confessed, “Susan, I can’t do this, it feels like homework and I just don’t have time for homework.” At first, I felt selfishly disappointed, I had so wanted to hear her side of our story. But then I realized she might not be ready to share her feelings, and told her so. She made no comment and, with all things considered, that was okay. I simply incorporated her already written pages in with mine. However, in the last months of editing, she realized I had been right. She hadn’t been ready to share, or to even admit to herself many of the feelings she had been experiencing. But now she was ready and wanted to add her thoughts, as well as writing an Afterword I will forever treasure.