It’s storming in Arizona tonight. The wind is howling, the rain is being finicky, but the lightning and thunder are playing a game of tag. Storms were our favorite. You used to love for me to take you outside so we could dance in the rain together. Tonight, Poppy was sleeping during the storm. I woke her up and carried her to the window while I nuzzled into the side of her neck. She smelled of wet hair and dewy flowers. I breathed her in before I set her down. “Take me outside, Mom.” She doesn’t call me “Mama” anymore, only Mom. I miss the days of mama so much. I grabbed her little hand and took her outside while we watched the storm for a few minutes. She thanked me for waking her up and then asked to go back to sleep so she could get back to the “best dream ever,” she was having. I tucked her into bed and she fell back asleep, where she is hopefully dreaming of puppies and alpacas; two of her favorite things.
Tomorrow is Nana’s birthday, and I am so sad that we aren’t with her. She is the best Nana. She is the best mom. I think a lot about that first month after you died and summer was approaching. We always split our summers between Coronado, California and Washington to be with my family. That summer after you died, we didn’t go back to Washington, instead we stayed in Coronado. I remember why and it made perfect sense at the time but it really didn’t because nothing during that time made any sense. I didn’t want to go back to Washington because I couldn’t bear the thought of looking my mom in the eyes. I didn’t want her to see me, her daughter, so beyond broken. I didn’t want to see my own mother, beyond broken due to the death of you AND the death of me because I was a shell of a human being. I now know that being back home was the only place I should have been. It would have saved me a lot of trauma and a lot of pain inflicted on me by other people. There is a lot to unpack here. A lot of things that I’ve never spoken about but now I’m finally ready to.
Somebody once asked me if I was ever going to stop blogging, and my response was, “I’ll stop blogging when I can no longer speak my truth.” I took a long break from writing on here for a lot of different reasons. I think I’ll come back now. I can write books AND blogs. This feels really, really good. And you know what else feels good? Healing. Honesty. Perspective. Growth. And love. Love has saved my life.
I’ve been writing all day little man, so this is all for tonight. Sweet dreams. I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe.
You are unequivocally everywhere, yet you are nowhere. My eyes still wander for you while making my morning coffee as a hummingbird appears outside my window. I still spend my days chasing glimpses of you in the grocery store as a little boy who looks to be about four years old crosses my path. I search for you in the impish eyes of Quinn, the stoicism of Liam, and the mischievous giggles from Poppy. I desperately beg for you to make an appearance in my dreams, but you never do. Instead, I find myself having the most vivid dreams about things like freeing the Orcas at SeaWorld, your old Oncologists, and situations in my life that feel very unresolved or out of control. My dreams are never about you, and I still don’t understand why when you are constantly on my mind. Last night I went to bed thinking about a phone call I received earlier in the day and the email that followed. Because the email was on my mind as I drifted off to sleep, I spent most of the night dreaming about our friend, Taylor Swift. I woke up the following day in disbelief at the reality of what had occurred the day before.
“A number I don’t recognize called my phone and left me a voicemail. From somebody named Tree. I don’t have any idea who that is.” I looked up at Mr. Sparkly Eyes, and yes, his eyes still sparkle. “My darling, call the number back.” This came from the man who answers every phone call from every unknown number that rings him up. “Ok. Maybe. I’ll call back in a bit; I’m going to look through my emails first to see if I was supposed to talk to someone that I have forgotten about.” He kissed the top of my head as I got up to get to the appointment I was running late for. I did a quick search in my emails, but nothing came up from anyone named Tree. Maybe it was a newly bereaved mom I was supposed to speak to? I’ve been doing a bit of that here and there for Dr. Jo, and a couple of them I hadn’t heard back from. I decided to call back the number from my car, and a woman’s voice answered the phone.
“Hi Tree, it’s Maya Thompson returning your call.”
“Maya! I’m so happy to hear from you; I wasn’t sure if this was still your number.”
My internal dialogue was running wild. Shit! This person knows me, yet I can’t place her. I decided to give it another few seconds to see if I could figure it out.
“It’s still my number; how are things?”
“Great! Taylor has an email she wants to send you, but before she sends it, I need to make sure your email address is still the same.”
Taylor. OMG. It’s Tree. As in Taylor’s everything, Tree. That Tree! I tried to keep my composure as if Taylor contacting me was a daily occurrence. We spoke for a few more minutes as she confirmed my email address, and we said goodbye.
I pulled my car over and called my everything, my New York City, Little Rachel. She picked up, which I was so thankful for because it was the middle of the day, and I knew she was more than likely having sessions with her patients.
“Taylor’s sending me an email,” I blurted out as soon as she picked up. “What?” She squealed with excitement. “What is happening over there?” I told her the back story, and we went over the endless possibilities of what the email could potentially say. I continued refreshing my emails, but nothing new had come through. We chatted giddily for a few more minutes, and I promised to call her as soon as I heard anything. I somehow made it to my destination safely, and as I pulled in, I checked my email.
Taylor’s email was there, but I won’t be sharing her entire email publicly. She is and will always be one of the things I hold dearest to my heart, and her beautiful words will remain private. I skimmed the email. Tears sprang to my eyes. I went back and reread her words, slowly this time as I tried to comprehend what I was reading.
Let’s back up for a bit. In 2019 it became public knowledge that Taylor was being screwed over in the worst way possible by Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records and the disgusting Scooter Braun, who must be from the pits of hell. I watched from afar as her life’s work, her blood, sweat, and tears, were stolen from her by vile men because, at the end of the day, when you have an unscrupulous soul, greed is the ultimate decision-maker. You can read Taylor’s public letter below as the cliff notes to the unraveling of the painful betrayal.
“For years, I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead, I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. Music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums. Some fun facts about today’s news: I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world. All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years. Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it. Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked. Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it. This is my worst-case scenario. This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term’ loyalty is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says, ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it. When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually, he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words’ Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever. Thankfully, I am now signed to a label that believes I should own anything I create. Thankfully, I left my past in Scott’s hands and not my future. And hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make. I will always be proud of my past work. But for a healthier option, Lover will be out August 23.”
Sad and grossed out, 💔 Taylor
I remember reading Taylor’s words and how nauseous I felt after. I had so many sleepless nights during the next few months. I worried about Taylor’s heart. I wondered what would happen to you. You are my life’s work. You are my blood, sweat, and tears, and now somebody other than Taylor “owned” you. I vented on my social media accounts about the unfairness of it all, not knowing if anyone was listening to what I was saying. There started to be chatter on the internet of Taylor re-recording all her old albums so she could own her OWN music again, which was such a bloody smart move. Taylor soon confirmed she was going to do so. I felt so proud of her upon hearing this news, and I let the happiness of that carry me through my grief of letting our song belong to people who didn’t deserve it. ‘Ronan’ was always going to be a charity single, never attached to an album of hers. In my mind, there was no way she was going to re-record it, and I understood why. Knowing that Taylor had taken the most horrific situation and had found a way to get her art back made my wounds hurt less. I was just thankful she had done the most incredible thing for us in the first place. That was more than enough. It was always going to be more than enough, and I had let go of wishing it could be any other way.
Now back to a part of her email that I received.
“I’ve recently completed the re-recording of my 4th album, Red. It’s really exceeded my expectations in so many ways, and one of those ways is that I thought it would be appropriate to add ‘Ronan’ to this album. Red was an album of heartbreak and healing, of rage and rawness, of tragedy and trauma, and of the loss of an imagined future alongside someone. I wrote Ronan while I was making Red and discovered your story as you so honestly and devastatingly told it. My genuine hope is that you’ll agree with me that this song should be included on this album. As my co-writer and the rightful owner of this story in its entirety, your opinion and approval of this idea really matters to me, and I’ll honor your wishes here.”
It took me an hour to absorb the words in front of me. I shared the news with your brothers, Poppy, your daddy, Mr. Sparkly eyes, and a couple of my dearest friends. I cried while sharing the news. I called Tree back and spoke to her for a few minutes about what had just occurred. I told her of course, Taylor had my permission to put ‘Ronan’ on Red. I tried my best to articulate how much this meant to me through my tears, but there are not enough words in the English language that will ever be able to appropriately convey my feelings about this. Taylor has anchored you to this world so you will never be lost, and now she has ensured you will forever be safe in a new, permanent home. She is once again giving a voice to the often voiceless, bereaved parents of the world as well as childhood cancer which deserves so much more funding than it gets.
“Red (Taylor’s version)” will be out November 19th and on that album, there will be you. It is the most perfect album for you to be on as it represents so much heartbreak, love, and pain.
I have so much more I want to talk about and so much more I want to write about, but I’m under a book writing deadline that I need to get back to.
I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe.
My dearest Taylor,
I love you.
My words of thank you will never be enough. Thank you for keeping Ronan safe. Thank you for never forgetting him. Thank you for breaking rules and breaking free. Thank you for that heart of yours that is made of pure gold. You are a constant source of inspiration to me in so many areas of my life, and there is nobody in the world I would rather have Ronan with than you. I’m going to write to you separately about this but for now, thank you.
Happy 18th birthday to my firstborn twin! My baby A. My LiLi. My gentle giant. I don’t know how this happened, how 18 years have gone by in the blink of an eye, and my little baby boy is so grown up. You were the easiest, sweetest baby who has turned into the kindest young man. I am forever in awe of the intelligence inside your head and the tenderness of your heart. I once told you that underdogs are the BEST people in life when you didn’t make the JV basketball team Freshman year. You were so devastated, so I took you outside, and we had a long talk. You took that life lesson of not making the JV team, and you let it light a fire within you to work harder. You became not only the hardest working player on that court but the smartest player out there. You know that game like the back of your hand, and I love seeing how passionate you are about it. It has been an honor to watch you claw and fight your way to the top, as you could have easily given up. Your determination is a testament to who you are. Underdogs are the ones who go on to change the world in the most impactful ways, and I have no doubt you are going to go on and do incredible things in your life.
Eighteen years with you feels like I’ve won the lottery of life, and I am so thankful to be your mom. Happy Birthday, baby boy. You are the love of my love, and I love you forever and always.
Q U I N N W O O D R O W
Happy 18th birthday to my second twin. You arrived ten minutes after Liam and surprised us all with how different you looked from him. For being twins, you two could not be any more different, and that has made this life so much fun. You have kept me on my toes from the beginning with the way you push boundaries and challenge everything with your endless questions and inquisitive mind. Your quick wit and ability to always have us all laughing is such a light in our lives which we so very much needed after the heaviness of not having our Ronan here. On my worst days, I would find you by my side, cuddled up next to me, entangled in our sloppy tears together. On my best days, you are still by my side, smiling your beautiful smile and still wanting to hold my hand. You are kind, intelligent, and brave. You are constantly searching for adventure and seeking out the ways of the world to help you evolve and grow. I am in awe every day of who you are and who you are becoming, and I also won the lottery in life by having you as my son. I can’t wait to watch where your free-spirited soul takes you, and I will forever be by your side, encouraging you to live your life by following your heart and your dreams.
Happy Birthday, Quinny. You are the love of my life, and I am so lucky to have you as my son.
May 12th is Ronan’s fourteen birthday. It is also Ronan’s Day of Love. Wear purple. Be brave. Do a random act of kindness. Laugh louder. Hug harder. Kiss longer. Explore nature. Have an adventure for him. Sprinkle his magic wherever you can. Tag me, and I’ll repost all the love.
Ten years ago today, you left this earth; you left me, you left us.
Prayers didn’t save you. Medicine didn’t save you. My primal screams didn’t save you. Love didn’t save you. I would have done anything to save you. I would have traded my life for yours in an instant, but unfortunately, that’s not the way life works.
You left me behind, and on most days, I am ok. I have learned to carry this grief and carry it well. And on the days where I cannot, like yesterday, I give in to this pain. I let myself weep for your touch, your voice, your mischievous laugh, and your smothering kisses. I let myself go to the darkest places where I end up saying things like, “I’m a bad mom. I’m a bad mom. I didn’t hold him after he died. I just let them take him away from me.” I watched them wheel you down the hallway on a gurney—your tiny, lifeless body. I should have gone with you. To wherever they were taking you. But I didn’t, and that guilt haunts me still. It is essential to my healing that I allow myself to go to the darkest places. I learned long ago not to fear the darkness of this. For as much as this pain hurts, I know I must allow myself to feel it as rawly as I can. My grief is a testament to my love for you; my grief is my superpower. It has taught me that my love has no limits and that empathy is what makes the world go round.
In my darkest hours, I eventually find my way back because of words like, “You were the best mom to him. You are the most incredible mom still. I love you, and I’m not leaving you.” In those moments, I find my way back to your brothers: my gentle giant, Liam, who has the most brilliant mind and the heart of the fiercest lion. Your brother Quinn lights up a room with his infectious laugh and quick-witted banter. Your little sister, Poppy. The one you begged me for, and I will forever think you had a hand in giving to me. She is your twin flame, your wild ways with the most thoughtful soul. She fills me with so much peace and is the best thing to have happened to me since losing you. Often I find myself sobbing in my car over the love I have for you and the three of them. I wouldn’t have been able to go on if not for them, this I know.
Love didn’t save you, but it has saved me. My week has been filled with messages from people checking on me. Family and loved ones checking in. Friends sending messages things like, “How can I support you?” There have been so many messages about you. How much you are loved. How you will never be forgotten. How our love has changed lives. There is a constant acknowledgment of my pain. There is genuine concern for our family. There is no judgment, only unconditional love. My tears finally have the safest place to land. My days are filled with whispers of “do you know how much I love you?” And “you made me a better person.” I found my freedom and a love that has saved my life. My life is full of the kindest people. The most compassionate people. For as unlucky as I have been, I am also the luckiest.
Happy Mother’s Day? Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you to all of you who have checked in on us. Thank you for acknowledging the loss of Ronan, and thank you for forever carrying him in your hearts. Your words and your endless support means everything to me. It’s one of the reasons that I will not only get through today, but I will continue to get through this life.
I love you, Ro. I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe.
Ronan. I am walking the city streets of New York on the most perfect New York day except I seem to be the only who thinks it is perfect. Even though it’s the end of summer, it is gloomy and has been pouring down rain all morning long. All of the other human beings around me look annoyed by the torrential downpour that has currently taken over their city. I watch as a mother who has a small child but not an umbrella makes a beeline for the McDonalds around the corner to seek shelter. Umbrellas are everywhere and thankfully my little Rachel has provided me with one for the day. I have a meeting to go to, one that is very important and because of this I decide that you are the one who has made it rain just to show me that you are around and you believe in what I am doing. I set out to get lost in the city for a few hours before my meeting so I can clear my head and talk to you. I smile at every person and some random man yells as I walk past him, “You have the most beautiful smile!” I yell back, “Thank you!” as I remember back to a time not long ago when I hardly smiled at all and when I did, it was often forced. My “bullshit” smile as Mr. Sparkly Eyes calls it. He hates that smile, but nobody hates it more than I do.
I close up my umbrella and continue to walk the rainy streets. I want to feel your kisses on my face. They splatter on me and I am suddenly aware that I didn’t wear waterproof mascara today. I quickly push that narcissistic thought out of my head and decide that I don’t care if I end up looking like a raccoon because anything goes in this city. I once saw a man walking these streets wearing only a backpack, shoes, and a sock to cover up his penis. I figure if he could get away with that, I can certainly get away with looking like I’m embracing my inner goth puck rock I love everything from the 80’s and 90’s vibe that the rain was going to provide me with today. My thoughts turn back to that time a few years ago when I was sure I would forever be stuck in a place of not loving myself. One of the many side effects of your death was this thing called “goodbye, self-worth.” Everything about me had been destroyed in the aftermath of losing you. For many years, I blamed myself for your death. I should have done more. I should have taken you to a different hospital for treatment in the beginning. If we only could have found “this” doctor sooner you would still be alive and here today. It has taken me a lot of therapy and a lot of talking to other doctors to come to a place of understanding that I am not to blame for your death. Cancer is and there was nothing we could have to done differently to have changed your outcome. I do know that now, but there are still times when my fucked-up mind tries to convince me otherwise.
With that said I have had to do so much work to find my self-worth again. It is actually never ending work that I know I will be doing for the rest of my life. It is hard, but it is necessary as I don’t want to ever get to a place again of knowing what not loving myself feels like. But Ro, do you know what’s even more important to me than me? Your baby sister who is not so much of a baby anymore. She is 4 and I don’t even know how that happened but it did and she is the most incredible little thing. She is strong, feisty, independent, and full of so much love that at times she makes my whole heart want to explode. I have to love myself for her so that the only world she knows is one where she is capable of doing anything in life. Glass ceilings don’t even exist for her because she has a mother who has already shattered them all. And I will continue to shatter them all for the rest of my life for her. She is my everything.
More on all of this later, little man. I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe.
I am a mother, a bereaved mother, a wife, a lover, a friend, a survivor, a warrior, a pissed off feminist, a rebel with a cause, an activist for many and loyal as fuck. My blood may bleed gold and childhood cancer will always be my number one cause in life, but I fight for many.
I will stand up and speak up when I think something is wrong. I will fight to my death for what I believe in. I believe in equal rights for all. I believe in human rights for everyone. I believe love is love and nobody should have the right to decide what that looks like. I stand by Planned Parenthood, always. I am an animal lover who thinks Sea World is one of the worst places on earth. I am work in progress vegan who just can’t seem to give up raw fish in sushi or cheese. I am a free spirit, tree hugging, half fancy, half hippie, total yogi wannabe who thinks Taylor Swift hung the moon. I believe in the underdogs and that a small group of determined people really can change the world.
If you believe differently than me, I will absolutely respect that. But if you are a racist, sexist, homophobic, bigot, misogynist, nazi, white supremacist asshole, I’m going to need to to unfollow all of my social media pages.
Please do not come on here and threaten me or my family because you see me holding up a sign at a protest for a President that I do not support. Disagree with me, great. Agree to disagree, absolutely. Let’s have a conversation. But to threaten me… oh hell no. I will not stand for that. I will not be bullied. Or called names behind a computer screen. Or have my life threatened. Your words will not make me back down. Or even hurt my feelings because for fucks sake YOU DO NOT EVEN KNOW ME.
I know me. I love me. And it has taken me a long time to get to a place where I love myself again after losing my son. So please, kindly go the fuck away. Your words have no place here. Go find something else to do besides harass a bereaved mother. Take all of that negative energy and channel it into doing some good in the world because I can promise you living a life typing out hateful words behind a computer screen isn’t going to change who I am.
Ronan. I miss you so much. I find myself thinking about your 10 year old self so much lately. What would you have been like at 10? What would your voice sound like? What sports would you be playing? Would you still be my little trouble maker? Would you still tell me that I was your very best friend? I would give anything to know these things… I still look for you everywhere. Six years later and I know I won’t ever stop looking for you. I know how ridiculous that sounds… but somewhere in the back of my delusional mind I still think one day you are going to come back home because this was some sick experiment gone wrong. Until that day comes, I’ll never stop looking for you everywhere and in everything that I do.
Things here are busy. Too busy. This book is still keeping me busy. I am trying my best to finish it up, but I won’t put it out into the world until I know it is my best work yet. It’s getting there and I am on a really good place as far as writing goes. I took a little break the past few days to get out of my head a bit. I have Rach and her boyfriend here and we took a little trip to the Grand Canyon to hike it. It was physically one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but as always I got through it because in the back of my mind I hear your little voice pushing me to go on. And I always remember how you will never get to do “hard things” anymore so it’s my job to do them for you. I take you everywhere with me. You are my constant motivation and guide in this fucking fucked up world.
Remember how I always say you left me surrounded by the best people possible? You truly did and one of them is our little Rachel who is here now. Last year when we were in Iceland together she had just started talking to this guy named Jordan. Well, they fell madly in love and in between their love affair full of dance parties and desserts they somehow found the time to build our foundation an entirely new website and it is incredible. We are launching it today and I am in awe of how it turned out. Everything is so easy to navigate and now donating to the foundation is so easy and even comes with an emailed receipt! Talk about LIFE CHANGING for us as an organization. The best part is they did all of this for FREE so we can continue to use our funds to actually help kids rather than spend it on overhead expenses. I am so excited to put this out into the world today. I know it is something you would be so proud of.
I’m not sure if I have any blog readers anymore, but if I do and you want to check it out here is the link to do so…
Ro baby, I have to run and pick up your brothers from basketball camp and then drive them to another basketball camp. I so wish I could be driving you, too. I’m forever sorry. I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe.