3rd Angelversary

Mom wrote a sweet letter to Ali today for her 3rd Angelversary. 3yrs..can’t even wrap my brain around that. Well written, Nonni!


Here we are again revisiting a day that changed all of our lives so drastically. Speaking solely for myself…life will never be the same…tears will always be a part of it now. Yet as I am on the receiving end of so many daily signs that you are next to me, I sometimes have to pause and laugh to tell you that “I get it” and “you can let up a little after 4 times in one day”! You promised if God allowed that you would inundate me with them so I would never be without you. Oh what a blessing and comfort they are but that hole in my heart is never to be healed, Allison. Would I ever dream of questioning the Good Lord???…never. He has His plan. We discussed that many times. We are here to do His work only and to go Home to Him and rejoice. I believe we are on loan to our families on earth. Could I ever believe that someone would want to come back here from Paradise?…never. But it is soooo hard without you. I just miss you soooo much. I sat and watched a courageous 19 year old today help change the world through her gift of sports and bring more people to The Lord. And the tears flowed. She reminded me so much of you, Ali. She also has an elevator waiting for her when she passes soon. Please be there to greet her and ask the Lord to wrap Himself tightly around her family, they have no idea how much harder it will become. I feel so totally blessed here with all our family around me, especially all the grandbabies, but heaven is enviable. Life isn’t easy. The kids keep me hopping and I truly love all the time spent with them. ( You better be there lots when those twin boys arrive tho!!!) While Olivia was with us this weekend I just watched her and saw how much she really is like you. She can’t help me enough and loves doing all the artsy/craftsy stuff too. She’s very sensitive and plays quietly by herself just like you used to and loves reading her books to me and vice-versa. Her dolls are her world too, changing outfits ten times an hour! You would absolutely love being with her, she such a girly-girl. One big difference is that she stands still while I’m doing the creative hairdos…never to move at all when a curling iron is near!!!! If I remember correctly, I wasn’t even allowed to get near you with a brush for one whole year, hence those great photographs that remain!!!! Olivia and Ben have such a great relationship and he has been bitten by your clothes buying bug so she will always be in style. I know you had your hand in his hiring Jaclyn too. What a gem nanny she is and how she loves O. She is doing everything that you talked of doing with Olivia as she grew up. Olivia loves her so much and all of us as well. Your daughter talks of you constantly and we share stories about you every chance we get. A day doesn’t go by that you are not mentioned. I promised you that and I can’t imagine how it could. I have to say tho that I still see her looking like Ben and his family but the words out of her mouth are yours. And the dramatic body and hand motions are definitely you too. Guess we’re going to be sitting as her audience soon watching her plays and dance steps too. She soooo inherited your love of dancing and she already has the moves! Ben started her in ballet classes so recitals are in the near future too. Yes, all of life keeps us busy and I haven’t changed in that department, but you are the missing link in all of our lives. I see something and my mind throws me back to when you did that, or how you did that…from a baby on to motherhood. It’s etched in my head. My memories are so clear that I think that you’re really being gone is impossible. How can it be three years already? When all of us are together we each secretly still wait for you to arrive, allowing us the moments to have a little peace of mind. But then that damn reality hits again. If it’s not me then someone has to bring your name up. We can’t exist without you, Allison. Then the funny stories begin to make us all laugh. I know that’s what you want us to do, laugh not cry. Just keep staying next to all of us and all of the signs help so much. Besides each of the family now, your friends can’t wait to tell us what happened to them. I don’t understand how some people can’t see what is put infront of them. I am so proud of you and God sure blessed me when He allowed me to carry you to birth. I have to keep concentrating on the fact that I will see you again someday because I sure miss seeing that beautiful face of yours daily. I find respite in all of the pictures and videos of you but the most peace is felt knowing that you are with God. No harm, no pain, no sadness and only paradise is yours. Thank you Lord. I love you Ali Burger.

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A Year Without You.


God, has it really been a year? I think back over the last 12 months and I can barely remember what Iʼve done. It feels like a blur, like a strange dream that I canʼt wake up from. There was a time when i didnʼt think I could make it to the next day and here we are a year later. And as weʼve been approaching your anniversary, I canʼt help but think about all the details of those final days. Most of it is torture to think about. Making those final decisions about your care and watching you in so much pain and listening to you calling out my name and looking into your eyes and holding you as you left this world. Itʼs too hard to think about and lately I canʼt stop. The one thing I try to focus on is our last night together before you went into the ICU. I was considering going home for the night and letting your mom stay at the hospital, but for some reason I felt like I needed to be there. I didnʼt think much of it, since spending the night in the hospital with you had become the new normal for me. We talked and laughed and laid on your hospital bed together and snuggled. It was our last night on this earth together and I remember how pleasant it was. We had a little movie night in the hospital room and you fell asleep looking very comfortable and pain free, which was a rare treat. We said “I love you” to each other that night before bed and had I known it was for the last time I would have said a lot more, but I take comfort in knowing that you went to sleep that night knowing that I loved you. Itʼs my last good memory of you.

The last time I wrote you a letter it was a few days after you left us and I was preparing a eulogy for your funeral. Then, just like now, I was alone in the dark letting the words pour out, trying not to let the tears get in my keyboard and for some reason, just like then, I felt like writing you a letter was the only way to tell you how I feel. Iʼve mostly kept my feelings and thoughts private throughout the year, but for some reason I feel an urge to post to the blog. Itʼs something I intended to do regularly but for some reason it just never felt right. You used to want me to write you love letters because you loved the way I write and if I had the chance, again, I would write you love letters every day of your life.

In some respects itʼs been a long year of regrets, thinking back on our life together and everything that I should have done. But, mostly Iʼve looked back on our life together and I wouldnʼt change a thing. Even knowing the indescribable pain that I would eventually go through, I wouldnʼt change any of it. I am who I am because of you. You entered my life and changed me forever. You made me a better person, a better man, a better father, a better everything. I spent most of my single years believing that there was a girl out there for me that was meant only for me and I only for her. I knew in my heart that she was out there and that we were meant to be together. And I found her. And she found me. And I believe it stronger now more than ever that I was meant to be with you, if only for a short time. And in that short time you loved me and changed me in profound ways. . .ways that will stay with me for the rest of my life, no matter what lies ahead. And you have given me the most amazing gift that I could have ever received. Olivia is a true gift and there is no doubt in my mind that she saved my life and continues to push me forward in times when I didnʼt feel like I could keep going. She is the driving force in my life and the love I feel for her is matched only by the love I felt and still feel for you. Thank you, Ali. Thank you for giving me that sweet little girl. I know that you are helping me with her every day and I know that you are guiding both of us.

Olivia is getting so big and so smart. You would be so proud of her. And I think you would be proud of me too. Iʼve learned so much over the past year. . .things that I thought I would never know and things I thought I would never have to do. I remember the first time I tried to do some clothes shopping for her and I was so scared and nervous. I had no idea what I was doing and I just knew that you were watching and cringing at the stuff I was picking out. Those first few times were difficult but now Iʼve got the hang of it and I love shopping for her. . . a little too much I think. I especially like the looks that I get from mothers that are surprised to see a 33 year old man putting together cute outfits in the girl toddler section at Target. Iʼm definitely not on your level, yet, but Iʼm getting there. I think Iʼm surprising a lot of people with Oliviaʼs wardrobe. Of course, we still have all the clothes that you were buying online when you were in the hospital. Iʼm so glad you did that. I remember when you were starting to get sicker and sicker and I finally gave in and gave you the go-ahead to buy whatever you wanted and how happy that made you (not that you wanted or needed my permission). If I could do it again, I would have taken out all the credit I could to give you an unlimited shopping spree on zulilly.com. It would have been worth every penny.

She is doing so many new things. I wish the past year wasnʼt such a blur and I could remember everything. Sometimes I think about all the things I would tell you if I was able to see you again or even talk to you on the phone. Every now and then when something funny happens or I need some advice, I pull my phone out and start to call you. Even now, a year later, I still do it. I would tell you so many things. How Olivia loves little baby dolls and how she loves to go shopping. She is so smart and so advanced. Even Dr. W has been shocked at how far ahead she is. She is talking like crazy now and even talks about you a lot. She loves riding in your car because itʼs “Mommyʼs car!”. She points you out in pictures and constantly wants to grab my phone, which she can navigate perfectly, so she can look at pictures of Mommy. I sing “Three Little Birds” to her every night so she will grow up loving Bob Marley just like you. And she knows all the words. Sometimes when I put her in bed I tell her to say hi to Mommy for me in her dreams. I hope you visit her in her dreams and I hope you have fun times together. Everyone is so amazed at how well she sleeps and Iʼm convinced itʼs because you watch over her at night. . . and hopefully to take care of me too and let me get good sleep. We are potty training and sheʼs getting really good. Weʼre not quite there, yet, but sheʼs getting better and better. It makes me sad to think about all the things that you would be teaching her and showing her. You and I felt so strongly about keeping you home to raise our kids and my heart breaks every time I think about what life would be like with you being at home and greeting me every day after work. I can just picture you and Olivia playing dress up and having tea parties and reading all of your favorite childrenʼs books. She still goes to Library every Monday so hopefully she will have the same love for reading as you had. Maybe when she grows up she will even give me a hard time for buying books instead of checking them out just like you did. Weʼve been on several trips this year. I even took her on a plane by myself, which was an adventure to say the least. Planes and airports and connections and checked car seats and rental cars and strollers in the security check points. . . we went through it all. It was tough, but it was worth it. Even then I knew you were taking care of us. It had to be you when I got to the gate for our first flight and I was so scared and then our friend, Becca, appeared out of nowhere and just happened to have a stand by ticket for that flight. And when she made it on the flight, she got sat directly across the aisle from us and the only empty seat on the flight was right in between us. She was so helpful on that flight and I knew it was you helping me out.

There are so many other things. I guess when I think about it, life is going on. Olivia and I are moving forward and beginning to make it through life together on our own. Iʼm trying so hard and Olivia is such a good sport and makes things easier on me when she can and I hope you see all of it and are proud of us. I know there are times when Iʼm doing something that you would do differently, but I hope, for the most part, Iʼm doing a good job raising our daughter. Itʼs the most difficult thing Iʼve ever done and I have the most wonderful support system and I hope that you continue to guide me and teach me how to be a better father. And some day I hope you can give me the words to explain to Olivia how much her mother loved her and how hard you fought in your final months and weeks and days. I am crushed every time I think about her not knowing you as she gets older, but I also know that there are lots of people out there that will never let her grow up without knowing all the little stories about you. Thatʼs the beautiful thing about you, Ali. You had an impact on so many people and changed so many lives. Itʼs incalculable. And Olivia will know that.

Iʼm not sure what lies ahead in the next year or the next 10 years or 20 years, but I know that I miss you like crazy, every second of every day. Itʼs impossible for me to describe how much I miss you. The only comfort I have is that you are watching over us and guiding us just as you did when you were here in the flesh. I love you so much and I always will. Your leaving has left such a massive hole and has crushed the ones that love you in such monumental ways. . . but we are all pulling together and pushing forward. We are surviving and I know you are watching us with a smile on your face and we all know that some day we will see you again. Some day Olivia and I will be able to hug you and kiss you and tell you all about the life weʼve led after you left us. Until then, keep watching and know that I, and all of us, miss you and love you with all our hearts.


**To see the rest of the pics of Olivia and Ben click HERE.

Saint Ali

Brother “Bro” Bob was a dear friend of Ali’s through Purcell Marian. She would always tell me about the ridiculous things she got him to do and through this entry, he will confirm that. Thanks for sharing Bro! I’m sure you miss her dearly. I love what you had to say and that wig pic of you two is by far my fav! You are such a good sport! Love, Mel.


Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints.  As we know, there are thousands of saints officially canonized in the Church…St. Francis of Assisi, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, insert-your-favorite-saint here.  They have special days appointed to them, and here in Rome you can even sometimes see their bodies (that might be more appropriate for the eve of All Saints Day – Halloween!)  But today and its accompanying feast tomorrow (All Soul’s Day) always turn my thoughts to those “other saints,” those who have not been (and probably never will be) officially recognized by the Church.  And yet, by knowing them, they have helped me and continue to help me on my journey towards holiness by the witness of their lives and the lessons they have taught me.

In a special way this year, my attention has turned to one of these “saints,” my dear friend Ali Nunery.  I first met Ali when I was working in Cincinnati.  Near this time last year, she lost her short but heroic battle with a rare form of lung cancer.  Today’s feast seems like a perfect opportunity to reflect on her life and some of the lessons she taught me.

My first real encounter with Ali was when I asked if she would be interested in taking a group of students to work in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Without hesitating, she said “Yes.”  I thought this is something we would think about and decide on later.  But, I quickly learned that we were going to make the trip, there wasn’t any hesitation.  I’m also not sure if the word “No” was a part of Ali’s vocabulary.  She would often come to my classroom to propose an idea that I thought was ludicrous – a luau in the library or taking students to Disney Land or donning a Santa suit.  My initial protestations were always met with Ali standing in the doorway looking at me until I gave in (and I always gave in.)
This was so typical of Ali’s constant “Yes” to life.  It is a “yes’ to the possibilities that are offered and a “yes” to embracing whatever (good and bad) is set in your path.  While in New Orleans, she was the constant cheer leader when the students were tired after a long day of difficult and hot work.  She was a positive and encouraging voice while we had to deal with a difficult student.  (Particularly, she promised a round of beers if I was the one to call the parents at midnight!)  She was able to organize a drive-through order at McDonald’s for 20 people without batting an eye.
In one of the last times I visited Ali, she was given picture of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Dayton.  Ali commented that during her illness, Mary kept “coming up” and she had developed a deep relationship with the Mother of Jesus.  This didn’t come to a surprise to me since Mary is the woman who made that first “Yes” for the life of the world.
As I got to know Ali better, she continually taught me to find joy in life, particularly in unexpected ways.  On the trip to New Orleans, we weren’t even out of the Cincinnati metro area and we were playing car-bingo.  When we finally found our winning piece (a corvette) you would have thought she had just won the lottery.  And then there were the countless dress-up days that she loved and in which she made me participate.  There was a group of teachers who all wore Santa suits the day before Christmas break.  (There was no need to ask why she had four Santa suits, it was just Ali.)  There is the famous walk-a-thon day when we promoted the Disney trip by dressing up as characters, and then sat in the dunk tank dressed in flippers and a life-vest.  When I finally went into the water, Ali couldn’t stop laughing because the black dye she had put in my hair for the Aladdin costume was running all over me.
All these things brought so much joy and happiness to her life, and she showed all those around her how to find this same joy, even when we hesitated.  Looking back now, I can only imagine that she was prophetically showing us a bit of the joy that she now experiences with all the saints.
Finally, Ali reminded me that we are never alone and never forgotten.  She had a way of bringing people together – after-school faculty get-togethers in the library (yes, we had a luau) and Thanksgiving dinner in the cafeteria.  When I moved to San Antonio, she would send me a thematic tie each month – among them are a turkey tie, an Easter Bunny tie, and of course a Jesus tie.  When Ali and our two friends Jen and Shannon were supposed to visit me in San Antonio, they made shirts that said “I’m with Bob” and of course I had one that said “I’m Bob.”   Ali understood what community was all about.
It was fitting, then, that perhaps the greatest lesson I have ever learned about community came from Ali.  At the end of her funeral liturgy, I noticed that a few friends of mine had come to the mass.  It struck me as being odd because I don’t think they really knew Ali at all.  They had only heard about her through me or through other mutual friends.  When I asked one why she had come, her response was simply, “To be with you.”  At the end of the Gospels, this is the promise that Jesus leaves with his disciples, and Ali continually reminds us that it is so very true in many unexpected ways.
We are surrounded by a great “cloud of witnesses,” and our faith reminds us (as difficult as it can be to believe some days) that for those who have gone before us “life is changed, not ended.”  In their own, unique ways, these saints continue to be present to us, just in new ways as we keep their memories alive and allow them to continue to walk with us on our own pilgrimages.  For my friend, Ali, this is so very true.  Let us, today, give thanks for the saints in our lives who continue to show us the joy of the resurrection and remind us that we are not alone.  And let us, ourselves, strive to become a great “spectacle of a people of saints.”
Saint Ali, pray for us.

“You’ll be a great nurse, Shannon.”

Ali and I worked together for five years at Purcell Marian High School.  One of my favorite years there was the last year that the Four Musketeers were all there together – Ali, Jen, Bob, and me.  We did pretty much everything together.  And if one of us was planning something, then it was expected that the rest of us would help out in some way – i.e. Turkey Bowl, Food and Clothing Drive, Kairos, Shantytown (sleeping outside to raise awareness for homelessness) – the list goes on and on.  We did our share of service projects together and, because of Ali, we made sure it was never dull when doing it.

In fact, that reminds me, no holiday went uncelebrated, no staff birthday unrecognized during Ali’s time at PM.  The library was always decorated for the seasons, which employed the free labor of students to pack and unpack her many containers of decorations.  And we always participated in the dress-up days (and she usually got others to do it too, just because she’s Ali).  I think my favorite dress-up outfit is a tie between our 80s wear and Disney outfits.  We were serious when it came to dressing up.  We searched Goodwills and local thrift stores together just to make sure we were the best dressed.  The year we took students to Disney World for Intersession (and yes, it was educational), we decided it would be fun to dress up as Disney characters for our station at the annual Purcell Marian Walk.  Yep, at the intersection of Erie and Marburg Aves, four adults dressed up to cheer on the students.  We got lots of stares, a lot of honks, and lots of people took our picture too.

After that year, Bob and Jen moved on to new adventures and Ali and I returned to PM the next year.  Things were different after that.  I had a baby boy over the summer and returned after maternity leave.  It was a difficult transition for me.  Coming to work with less than four hours of sleep wasn’t compatible with 7:50am homeroom.  Ali was also known for her tardiness to school – she just wasn’t a morning person.  During that year, there were actually several days when she made it to school before I did.  Somedays we both would be sprinting from our cars at 7:48am to make it before the bell.  Ok, I was the one sprinting, Ali was just walking briskly because she didn’t sprint or run or anything like that.  And I knew it was bad if I pulled into the parking lot and her car was there before me.

As many of us can attest, Ali was especially great at two things – celebrating birthdays and taking care of babies.  Since Jen and I both had a birthday in March, Ali would insist on making dinner for all of us to celebrate.  When Ali was in the hospital in March right after her cancer diagnosis, Jen and I decided that we still needed to celebrate our birthdays as we had done for years so we brought the cake to Ali’s room with candles (that we couldn’t light because of the fire hazard-oops).  It was difficult to celebrate considering the news we were all trying to grasp, but Ali didn’t allow her fear or pain ruin the moment.  And I witnessed her live that way into the fall.

Ali’s ability to take care of babies still amazes me.  My son, Liam, came to school with me on several occasions in that first year.  As soon as Ali found out that Liam was in the building, she would summon me to the library, which I gladly obliged.  It was hard for me to get any work done when he was there.  I just didn’t have the knack for typing with one hand and a baby in the other arm.  Whenever Ali cradled Liam in her arm, he would fall fast asleep.  Two hours later I’d receive a call from her saying I needed to send up a diaper and wipes and that he might be hungry too.  And can someone please tell me how she was able to clean up a really messy diaper with one measly wet wipe? Seriously.  It took me five or six wipes when I witnessed her manage one of those poops with one wipe.

Not only was sleep deprivation killing me that year, but it was also the year that I started prerequisite classes for nursing.  When I first broke the news to Ali and Jen, they were excited for me and Ali said, “you’ll be a great nurse, Shannon.”  Those words continue to ring throughout my head.  I heard them during my 13-month accelerated program at UC.  When I thought the intense classes and clinicals were almost too much to bear, her words echoed in the back of my mind.  I heard the words as I took my licensing exam in September.  As I sat in the testing cubicle, I said one last prayer to Ali and I sent up a silent thank you to her when I received the news that I had passed. I recently accepted an RN position at University Hospital and everyday I feel Ali’s presence with me as I’m caring for patients.  I know she is there to remind me to be patient, to be compassionate, and to give the best care possible no matter the circumstance.  Lastly, to honor Ali, I bought a pink stethoscope, and even though it’s not the most fashionable accessory, at least I’m rockin’ pink everyday.

Dress like a student day.

Dress 80’s day. Oh wait, maybe this one was “dress how you do on the weekends” day. 🙂

I love this picture of you three. I hope you both have it framed.


Thanks for sharing Shannon. I really enjoyed hearing those memories because I remember them so clearly. I can assure you that you are a great nurse. I know that Ali is SO proud of you for pursuing. I hope you continue to think of her often. Maybe you can channel her diaper changing skills while changing your future babes? Thanks for being such a good friend to her. Love, Melanie.

Missing a friend.

So often I lay awake at night and my mind turns to Ali… So often I see something pink, something frilly, something yummy, and I think about Ali…. So often I just have those moments where I’m left shaking my head in disbelief that Ali, my friend, is gone.  Today I had one of those moments and I just needed to write about her…

I have so many wonderful memories of Ali.  We were friends for a long time… through grade school, high school, college and then as wives and mommies.  I remember Ali’s grade school birthday parties (in particular her Naked Gun 2-1/2 party, which I was not allowed to go to because the movie was rated PG-13… thanks Mom and Dad).  I remember playing soccer with her at Victory and Seton –she always laughed while playing, which probably drove the opponents nuts.  She’d laugh and steal the ball from you at the same time!  I remember her dancing – she was such a naturally good dancer… kind of made me jealous.  I remember her waterbed and the weird hand sculpture in her room that held her jewelry!

Ali and I were probably closest in high school.  We spent every day of our senior year eating our lunch together in the balloon shop. I remember confiding in Ali with so many of my worries.  She always made me feel better… just by listening. We bonded in our faith in Christ.  We went to mass together before school started.  We prepared for Kairos together.  One of my strongest memories of Ali was when it was my turn to practice my talk before our retreat… I was nervous, but Ali was there.  She was first to hug me.  She was first to shed tears with me.  It was so comforting to see her face first.  And to see her tears… it meant she understood me and that my talk was worthwhile.

Ali and I went to Xavier together.  We commuted our first year and hung out together in the “Commuters Lounge” inbetween classes… it was kind of lame… which is why Ali decided to dorm the next year.  I transferred to the Mount.  We lost touch with each other.  Ali graduated from Xavier and moved out of state.  I graduated from the Mount and got married.

Just a few weeks before I got married, Ali’s Mom showed up at our house.  She had a wedding present for us… from the Tracy family… and from Ali who was still living out of town.  She told me Ali was disappointed that I didn’t invite her to our wedding.  I felt awful.  That has been one of my only regrets in life thus far.  Thankfully Ali came back home and we reconnected.  We began meeting for dinners.  She would talk about meeting a good man to marry.  I would talk about my infertility.  It was like old times.  I apologized for the wedding invitation.  She forgave me J

Fast forward a few years and Ali got married.  I had some kids.  We continued to meet every once in awhile for dinners, but not as often as I now wish.  We reconnected one last time when she was pregnant with Olivia.  I remember the day she decided to take a home gender test to see if she was having a boy or girl.  It said she was having a boy.  Her reaction was priceless… poor thing tried not to be upset!  Thankfully the test was wrong and Ali had a girl!  I had my third child just weeks after she had Olivia.  We began meeting for “play dates”… LaRosa’s pizza was always involved!  Ali always had to have a gumball out of my gumball jar after lunch… NO ONE ever took a gumball out of my gumball jar!  I think most people thought they were fake!  I love looking at my gumball jar now.

Ali made my day when she asked me to make Olivia’s first birthday cake… something that I will forever be honored to have done.  I prayed over that cake… I wanted it to be perfect in every way for her.

I miss Ali, but I am thankful for these memories.  I am so thankful for the constant reminder to cherish my husband and children.  I am just so thankful…


I want to make fun of Carrie’s shirt, but I’m pretty sure I saw the same one at Forever 21 last week. 😮

 Carrie bought a stone in memory of Ali in St. Jude’s prayer garden on the Westside. So thoughtful of you Carrie. Thanks for doing that sweet gesture. 🙂

Thanks for sharing Carrie. Xoxo. Love, Melanie.



The Running Tutu


“I will think of you and not give up the fight.”

Ali wrote that to me before I ran a 50 mile trail relay for her in June 2011.

My husband and I were married in November of 2009 and we were lucky enough to have Melanie and Adam as our photographers. We of course became true followers of their blog and the amazing pictures they produced. When they shared Ali’s story, it broke my heart.  I asked Mel if she thought Ali would like it if I dedicated the Flying Pig Relay to her to help raise her spirits so I started running for Ali in the 2011 Flying Pig Relay. This would be my first race after recovering from injuries of a car accident in 2011 which forced me to hang up my shoes. I was accustomed to running every morning in hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. The recovery over next year was one of the most difficult times in my life.  Race day finally came and in true Ali fashion, I found some pink socks and a tutu (child’s size was all I could find). I made a sign saying “Running For Ali” in pink glitter letters and tacked it to the front of my shirt. I thought over and over to myself “Do it for Ali”.

I wrote the following message to Mel on May 2nd, 2011 after the race…..

“Thinking about how to start a message like this is tough so I figure I will just go for it! After your last post I knew it would be important to let you know what a miracle Sunday’s run was for me. Although not to the extent of Ali’s suffering, I also know the frustration of feeling like you can’t control what is happening to your own body. To keep it short:, after 7 concussions including 1 severe injury my junior year of college, I dealt with Post Concussion Syndrome for nearly a year until it finally subsided. 1 year ago next month, I was involved in a car accident that seemingly left me fortunately unharmed. Due to the impact of the accident, all of my symptoms returned and then intensified. Daily functioning became a struggle and due to my symptoms I eventually had to stop running. I was always tired, anxious, depressed, trying to get rid of the migraines and just not myself. Now that my symptoms seem to be under control and my body on the mend, I started running…….but there seemed to be something still missing. Instead of feeling energized and excited to get my shoes on to go for a morning run, I was still struggling to get out the door and felt like I had lost my stride. It felt like something was not the same. When I was getting ready for the run on Sunday morning at 4:45AM, I was wide awake and excited but thought it has to be the coffee :)…….but as the rain came and the wind got a bit colder, I found that my smile just got bigger and bigger as I neared my start of the race. Keeping Ali not only on my shirt but also in my heart, I took my first strides across the timing line. As I climbed the first hill, I felt my legs getting stronger and my strides getting faster. Again, thinking it was the caffeine, I just kept going with the thought that it would eventually wear off……it didn’t. As people were cheering “Go Tutu”! and “Run for Ali”! I found myself on the verge of tears……..why you ask? Running for Ali gave me back my stride! I woke up this morning and felt whole again. I know this all might sound crazy but even if I don’t wear Ali’s sign on my shirt, I will always carry thoughts of her strength with me. I will “Run for Ali” in every race until she is well again in hopes that maybe she will think of what she has done for me and it will give her strength when she thinks she has none left.”

Over the next few months, I came to know Ali and the wonderful things she did for so many people.  Ali and I communicated over facebook with small posts and comments, and Mel would send me updates on how Ali was doing and how she was feeling. I followed the blog and facebook posts daily and was continuously amazed with Ali’s strength and faith.  She kept me going when I thought I couldn’t go any further.  She taught me it’s OK to be girly…..and embrace it! (I never wore pink before….I wear it all of the time now).  She taught me it’s OK to wear tutu’s……anytime. (my husband has come home on more than one occasion to find me cleaning the house while dancing around, blasting music and wearing a tutu). She reminded me to cherish every single moment and make it special, no matter how small. She reminded me that no matter has happened or what is to come, to always have faith.  She taught me that you don’t need to meet someone to love them.

I was never able to meet in Ali person.

There are so many small moments I want to share and so many wonderful things I could say about each race, every kind word and every smile made possible by the bright pink tutu running around the country all because of Ali…..but that is for another blog. 🙂 When she was called home I promised Ali I would continue to run for her and to raise awareness until there is a cure for lung cancer……every race…..in a pink tutu. Runners and walkers in The Run and Rock Pink For Ali Team will be participating in the Flying Pig weekend this year and I invite anyone who would like to participate to rock a pink tutu for Ali (or cheer us on!) in the Flying Pig and any race to come.

This year when I am running the marathon (and through any difficult time in life), should I feel like my legs can go no further and my feet can’t take another step, she will be right there with me telling me she is thinking of me…..and I will tell her, I will not give up the fight.

love, laura.


laura is a pretty amazing gal. i’ve never met someone so dedicated to a cause, for a person she’s never even met. how selfless she is to spend HOURS running, making tutus, making contacts in the lung cancer research world, all for ali! and on top of all that, she’s never asked for anything in return. i asked her to write this blogpost so i can show the world how sweet she really is. thanks for always being there to support me, and running for ali! i’d love to say i would join you one day…but i wouldn’t lie to you like that. i despise long distance running. like, i need to ice my knees just thinking about it. yuck.

below are some images i pulled from the RUN AND ROCK PINK FOR ALI fb page. i swear there was a point she was racing every single weekend…in a tutu and all kinds of pink. not only did she run, but she has gotten all sorts of others to run with her! she’s even run in several different states. you crazy, girl!

she even caught the attention of the newspaper one of the races! XU (where ali went as well) even wore pink tutus at their alumni soccer game! love it!

anyone can join the group! right now they are training for the marathon and running sunday mornings. next sunday is 16miles. (sounds terrible if you ask me! but good for you guys!)

yep, the two middle photos are adam, my husband, his twin eric, and also our friend ryan who runs with the group every weekend. ain’t no shame in their game to wear tutus! and chris in the bottom left has been seen a few times sporting as well! 🙂 i was about 28 wks in the top right. laura made me the tutu, but heck if i was runnin!!


on saturday, laura had a handful of us over to make tutus for current oncology patients up at UC hospital. she wants to spread ali’s legacy in tutu’s as well as books! great idea! hopefully it’ll bring a smile to their faces. she went all out, as you can see!

we had a great time, nico included!

like father like son! ok, so we went a step farther and added the flower headband! but seriously, wouldn’t he make a pretty little girl?? YES.

thanks laura and everyone else who has joined the group!

peace, melanie.

i thought of you… *kelly*

 Kel and her family have been a steady part of my family’s lives since…forever. Kelly and Ali remained close through all the years sharing some of the funniest memories. a couple years ago adam and i had the pleasure of photographing kelly and pat’s wedding. Ali was starting to dabble in wedding planning at the time and helped kelly plan a beautiful event. well, kelly got to return the favor in august when she spent countless hours helping us with ali’s rock pink fundraiser. thanks so much for helping with everything kel, we are very thankful for all your time and effort. i know ali was so happy to have you close again the last couple years. i’m sure she will always be close to your heart. thanks for reminiscing the times that seem like just yesterday. and ps. when the hell did you hear Escapades on the radio?? jealous. xoxo. mel


So there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of you in something that I do.

…When I listen to the radio and I hear the song Escapades by Janet Jackson and it makes me think of grade school when you and Julie practiced your routine in the east wing at victory for some talent show.

…Passing the big brown barrels in the back of church thinking of unloading the barrels every week and our trips to the soup kitchen with Mrs. Muldoon and starting the clothing drive.

…When I see a station wagon (they do still exist) I am immediately thrown back to grade school and the many car rides with your mom and all of us piled in the car on the way to the Elder game or home from someone’s house and how much fun we had talking about who was going with who, and the latest grade school or high school drama and singing at the top of our lungs and me driving your mom crazy with mom questions! ha ha, sorry Denise.

…During Christmas I was watching a SNL special and they had Letters from Jack Handy. You came to my head instantly because you had a Jack Handy calendar and we would sit in your bed and read them and laugh hysterically and think they were so funny. Now that I think about it we probably did not get half of what they meant.

…Being at your parent’s house over the past few months and remembering all the parties and sleep overs and cutting through the backyards to meet up with everyone aka the boys. You know we had a nice little set up between my house and yours with Adam living on my street, Julie right down the street,  Jamie and Lindsay in between house and Andrew next to you. We had it pretty good. Your house was where I went to my first girl boy party. We always could talk your mom into letting us have people over. Either we were good negotiators or she was just tired of listening to us.

…When Pat begs me to scratch his arm at night and It makes me think of all the sleepovers at your house laying in your water bed, yep a water bed (I was always so jealous you had a water bed) and somehow making me scratch YOUR arm or back because it was the ONLY way you swear you could fall asleep. I would always put up a fight but somehow always ended up doing it for you.

…Or every time I go into or pass Homegoods because while planning my wedding you introduced me to this fabulous place and I have been addicted ever since. (Pat thanks you for that one by the way.)

…Going to Christ hospital the other day passing Planned Parenthood seeing the people protesting made me think of our trip to Washington to the pro-life march, man that was a long bus ride but we had so much fun and saw some crazy things.

…Every time I see a peacock feather or some kind of crazy flower it makes think of you planning my wedding and how much I drove you crazy with all of my 1000 different ideas from week to week sometimes day to day and how I could not make a decision to save my life.  No matter how much I threw at you and how I knew you and mel wanted to strangle me, you would always smile and give me that look and put me back on the right path and say, “now KEL let’s pick a theme and stay with it please.”

…Or every time a Zulily add pops up on my screen.

…every time I see a pink sky.  Anything pink these days really my mind automatically goes to you, I mean how could it not.

…But mostly when I rock Carter at night I think of you and how excited we were to become moms. How we talked about how we drove Pat and Ben crazy and wanting to stay home and have lots of babies. We would talk about going on play dates to the park or museum center. We’d talk about all the crazy things we thought they would do just like us when they got older and sigh realizing we were in trouble if they did half the stuff we did! ha ha.

…i miss hearing you giggle at something stupid I say or some off the wall story I would tell you.

…I really just miss you.

love, kelly

i thought of you…*lindsey*

this post was written by ali’s sister inlaw (ben’s bro’s wife), lindsey. they live a few hours away so unfortunately we don’t get to hang out in person often, but i feel like i know her through ali. the cool thing about living somewhere else though, is that she, along with ben’s family, is continuing to carry on ali’s name in a different state. 🙂 ali always told me she loved being around lindsey because she was way into doing all the girly stuff that brittany and i aren’t. things like, makeup, (intense) decorating, DIY projects, SHOPPING, or anything frilly and flowery. it’s not that i don’t like that stuff, i just never had the time to get into with her, like lindsey did. and i don’t have their patience for perfection. 🙂 (so thanks for picking up our slack, lady!) the store lindsey refers to is probably the one store ali talked about the most, second to zulily. the two of them brought home so many personalized items, you’d think everything in their homes had their names embroidered or painted on it. 🙂

thanks for sharing lindsey. i invite anyone to share thoughts about ali, or share something that you think would bring a smile to all of our faces. you can email me at pace@loft3pd.com. let’s keep her alive through our words.  peace, melanie.


I thought of you….

When I looked out of my window this morning and the sky was pink, the feeling that God is up there, allowing you to personally paint it that way floods my thoughts. Everytime there is a pink sunrise or sunset, if someone is near, I always say, “Look, Ali painted the sky pink for us.”

When I had to walk into Magnolia Alley (our fav store) without you for the first time. As I looked around at all the cute shiny dishes that you would have loved, my heart dropped, and it dropped more and more with each room I entered, until before I knew it, I was in tears right there in the middle of the store. (This also happened in Cracker Barrell, which would make you laugh, since it’s the “old time country store”, but you had really grown to love it, and would always find something you just had to have!)

When I see a child with no shoes on or pajamas on in public, my mind flashes back to you having serious meltdowns over the fact that Olivia may be one of those children when she came to stay in C-ville, and how you would send me texts to make sure she was dressed the way you speciflcally grouped the outfits together. I never wanted to tell you that when I walked into the bedroom, Olivia’s bag was dumped and all the clothes were all mixed together… didn’t want to cause you any mental stress!  Or when Olivia had a run in her hose that turned into a hole that her whole foot ended up sticking out of at Sarah’s graduation, you weren’t able to be there, so I texted you a picture. I’m pretty sure Ben got in big trouble for that one!

When we played dirty santa this year…and I thought back to how inevidibly you would end up with something like the John Deere mug, and become distraught. I can still see you now holding that thing, making sure everyone knew how great it was so they would steal it from you. You ended up with a heated car scraper instead, and stated, “Oh, this will be great when Ben has to get up in the morning and go scrape my car for me!” 🙂

Or how about the fact that I had your name in the Christmas drawing this year…shew, I still can’t even really talk about it. We always got so excited when we drew eachother’s names. Last year, we had eachother’s names and ended up getting eachother the same thing…flannel pjs and I got you comfy socks and you got me house shoe boots…funny how that worked out, I loved that we enjoyed the same stuff:)

I thought of you when I decorated my house for Valentine’s this year, and while in my storage room I came across the Easter mug and dishtowel you got me last year just because you thought I would like it. I love feeling like I’m really channeling your energy/spirit when I’m being super festive :))

I think of you EVERY time I buy books for my boys. And this Christmas we went book crazy, just for you.

When I listen to my Alison Krauss station on Pandora, and every single time Three Little Birds by Bob Marley comes on….ugh, makes me want to cry, smile, sing and go to Florida – all at the same time!

Speaking of Florida, Destin vacation without you is gonna be a kicker….I’m sure I’ll think of you when I go to the beach and pull out my mixture of decorating/junk-filled celebrity magazines to read. And when I am the only one getting ready and putting on my make-up just to go shopping at the outlet mall. Or when I go into a store and it only takes me 30 mins to look around, instead of an HOUR, because you’re not with me. Or when I even SEE an airbrushed t-shirt…or when the fireworks get set off on the beach….ugh…

I miss the fact that you’re not here to show us up when we go somewhere, it never failed when we would go somewhere, you would come out of the bedroom last minute, all dressed up, with your hair fixed in some cute updo, and matching jewelry. Even if everyone else was just loungin around. You did your fair share of lounging, but when it was time to get out of the house, you went all out! So now, thanks to you, everytime I see a cute blonde in a sundress and matching jewelry, I will think of you and say, “That is so Ali.” Actually, I catch myself saying, “That is so Ali” about a lot of things.

I think about you when I’m on pinterest…and how you would have LOVED it. I wish you were here to pin a bunch of cute ideas with me, lots of cupcake recipes too! I even have a board on pinterest that is specifically things I have pinned that remind me of you.

I miss catching up on the phone, and tellng you that I love you. And I have to confess that I often browse through old email messages, texts, voicemails, and I scroll way back through your fb page and mobile uploads, just to feel like you’re still here. I think I may just keep on writing on your fb page too, whenever the urge arises.

Here’s my very favorite though…when I’m having a really bad day, or something terrible happens, like a couple weeks ago when I was already having a bad day and then I backed into grandmother’s car in my driveway, and for the moment I feel like the world is ending and I want to scream – I swear I see your face, and truly can feel you telling me, “It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. Be thankful for today, for your health, for your family…breathe…and be thankful just to be alive.”

I also in those moments feel like I need a little retail therapy, and of course, need to go eat something sweet — I’m pretty sure that’s you too…stop that! 🙂

Fact of the matter is, as long as I’m breathing, I’m sure there will be things that make me think of you…and that’s okay. I WANT to think of you, I want to remember you, and these things…well, they keep you alive to me. So until we can see you again, keep on painting that sky pink….it comforts us to know you’re still here, with us always.

xoxo, lindsey.

i thought of you…*julie*

this post was written by ali’s bff, julie. i asked her to gather some thoughts for me to post here so blogreaders can hear someone else’s voice for once. 🙂

i have literally known julie my whole life, she has always been and will continue to be a part of our family. a few yrs ago julie up and moved to the west coast and we don’t get to see her often anymore. i was thankful that julie was able to make it home a few times during ali’s battle, cause even at opposite ends of the US, they were still very close. you know, the kind of relationship you can not see each other for months, then pick up right where you left off. she was able to spend a week with ali a month or two prior to nov 3. she stayed up at the hospital each night, just as ali would have done for her helping her do all the things (everything) that ali simply didn’t have the energy to do on her own. when i would come up during those days, she would laugh and tell me about the evening before spent with julie. the inner librarian in ali made up this hilarious game to make julie entertain her. really, it just a way to try and make julie feel awkward which is next to impossible when they had done almost every imaginable thing together in life. she made julie tell her a bedtime story to help her fall asleep, with no prepration. i’m pretty sure just like giddy little school girls, the stories had the opposite effect. ali gave her the topic, genre and a “ready, go!” then she was forced to spew out a story on the spot. there was “true crime and friendship.” julie talked about 2 friends stealing back michael jackson’s red leather jacket from someone. on another night, the story had to involve the lochness monster. then a story with a red blinking light (like her finger with the monitor on it), but julie could only use the word “red” 3 times in the story. oy vey, where did she come up with this stuff?

the night everything happened i had to make a couple phone calls that, to this day, were the hardest of my life. with everything happening so quick that day, two of ali’s closest friends weren’t even aware she was in the ICU, much less in her final hours. i knew how much it would pain them to not speak to her one last time. so i did what i would hope someone would do for me (if in either position), and i called them. there really wasn’t an easy way to tell julie that the girl you’ve been bff’s with for almost 25 yrs would be taking her final breaths any moment. i told jules i would hold the phone to ali’s ear as long as she needed, to tell her anything and everything she wanted. i know ali could hear her and i’m sure desperately wanted to talk back.

needless to say, though trapped in a hospital, they were able to have a good time together. after all their years of dancing, playing sports, and theatrics, i wish their last sleepover wasn’t in the hospital. 🙁

thank you for sharing julie. i appreciate your words, “despite the terrible pain we are going through, we are in this together.” you’re damn right we are. xoxo. peace, smelli


…when I heard there was someone new at work named Dorcas. My Cabbage Patch Kid when we were growing up was named Clarissa Dorcas. And I didn’t want to tell anyone her middle name. It was the first secret I ever told you and you kept it so I (and my Cabbage Patch Kid) wouldn’t be embarrassed.
…when I picked up my cell phone. You are still the first person in my contact list. I’m not sure how long to keep your number in there.
…when I celebrated my birthday. I can’t even count how many bday’s we celebrated together in how many different ways. As we got older, we would make each other dinner to celebrate. I still remember when you bragged to me about the non-fat delish brownies you made me and then proceeded to pile on two tons of frosting.
…when I was in a meeting at work. I work on hair color now and I kept thinking back to the time when we thought it was a good idea to dye your hair red…with cranberry juice. The color didn’t quite work out as we planned and your hair was SO stiff!
…when I opened my email because my first 4 folders are “Ali”, “Ali’s Baby Shower”, “Ali’s Engagement Party”, and “Ali’s Wedding”.
…when I drove home from work. My commute is my quiet time when I reflect back on our 24 years of friendship and think that “best friends forever” should have meant longer than 24 years.
…when I heard a Michael Jackson song. It doesn’t matter what song it is, I think of you. And I think back how to we (and Sarah) used to make cupcakes on Michael Jackson’s birthday. I keep thinking that you are in heaven hanging out with him (that is, if he is in heaven).
…when I needed to put a cap on our bottle of wine. You gave us a cute wine stopper with a W on it (for “Wolf”). I still haven’t changed my last name and you hated that!!!
…when I took Jesse for a walk and gazed at the big open sky. Are you there looking down at me? I still have trouble believing you are not a phone call or text away.
…just because. I always do.

ben and ali were dressed as anchorman characters. 🙂