Please take a moment to read Dad’s perfect words as you prepare to gather as a family at Thanksgiving this year. We could never have known this would be our last time to share in Thanksgiving in his presence. But, the powerful gift of his writings and his words reminds us that he is still here.
This is his message, and now our message, of peace. ————————————————————————–
I feel the winds of winter as November drifts slowly towards December. Already, I have witnessed snow drifting across the western hills, landing gently along the meadow. The last rusty leaves of a few oaks on nearby hills hold tight to the glory days of autumn, now almost vanished. I watch the deer, harder to distinguish now as they blend into the dull background of winter’s approach. The winds shake the skeletons of summer in the meadow. The afternoon dwindles into the night earlier as each day passes. A day of Thanksgiving has arrived, and with it, we know that winter’s cold, her howling storms, her bitter cold, will return some day without notice.
Thanksgiving, a time to gather with family and friends, a day of thanks for the blessings of the natural world, and most importantly our families and others we love. This is a time to remember the warm rainy days of summer, the sunshine, the simple things that make our life and this time possible for so many. I think of the labor of those who work the land, those who make sure that pumpkin and apples, milk and cream, turkeys and ham, or whatever your choices may be, are here for us to enjoy.
It is time to pause, to rest, to breathe deeply the aroma of the kitchen. It is also time to reflect on those less fortunate, despite the reasons, and to share the blessings of this land as much as possible in a manner of our choosing.
I take not a single day for granted, not an hour to waste, always thankful for what surrounds me.
I give thanks for the honor to be called an American, thanks for the honor to have served in our military, and thanks to those who still do.
There are many things I still do not understand, like the desire to squeeze the last dollar from a shopper in the name of the holiday season. I do not understand why it is necessary to open stores before their workers have the opportunity to enjoy the second piece of pie with their families. What is the difference if we put off the sale of the season for another day? Have we forgotten so easily, in our hurry, the importance of time together, doing little once in a while, like time to sit and talk around that table so full? When one of the seats is empty, how we will long for one more chance to have just another minute together.
In days, November will slip again into December and winter. The first serious snow of the season can arrive at any time. It is time to reflect as we ponder the winter sky, the quiet cold that lays ahead, our journey, and how long shall it last? December and winter will arrive, filled with holiday spirit, clear cold nights when the air sparkles with starlight, reflecting off the crunching snow.
It is time to rest more, to read more, to reflect, and most of all, time to grow closer to those we love, time to cherish the moments we are granted. It is time to know and live the messages we send, the message of the seasons which we enter, the message of peace.
If I had to pick one picture that captures the grace and love of my sister as she faced her last days on Earth, it might be this one.
I had rented a wheelchair for Kass because she was having trouble walking and could not get around as well as she used to. She was tired. Both her legs and her mind had grown weary. But, her heart? Her heart was fierce and strong.
It was a perfect Saturday in June 2012. The three of us, Kass, me and Josie; spent the entire day together. Kass wanted to go to the mall to “feel normal for a day.” She wanted to take Josie to the Gap to buy her some clothes. I pushed her around the mall and could not help but notice people watching us. I knew that everyone who looked must have made the connection to Josie, who walked beside us. They knew they were mother and daughter by the gentle way they interacted together. My hope that day was seeing Kass and Josie that day made them pause and appreciate their own blessings, if only for a moment.
We went to the Gap, but I had trouble maneuvering Kass’s wheelchair through the clothes racks, which were jammed so close together that a wheelchair could not pass. I ended up parking the chair in the middle of an aisle and asking Kass to tell me what to grab for her. Kass was so good at picking out cute outfits. She always had been. She was so stylish and beautiful all those years. Josie seemed excited. Kass smiled, which made me smile.
We left the mall and stopped for ice cream. And then, we went to the park. As Josie played close by, Kass and I talked about the future. It was in these moments that I forever changed as a person. Written words could never capture how a conversation like this affects you to the depths of your soul. Listening to Kass’s words that day made me realize there was no going back to life as normal. While we talked, Kass shared with me her hopes and her dreams for her daughter, and to this day the thought of it makes me weep.
When we left the park, we returned to Kass’s home. I asked if she wanted to go for a walk up the road. She looked at me perplexed. “We can’t use the wheelchair on the gravel road.” I said, “Wanna bet? Let’s try.” And, off the three of us went down the gravel road outside of her house. For the most part, our walk was quiet, as we both contemplated our conversation from earlier in the park.
On our way back to the house, I saw Josie grab her Mommy’s hand and keep on walking. I quickly and quietly took this picture. I’m not even sure I ever showed it to Kass. But, I know in my heart how much she would have loved it. They stayed like this for some time. I saw Kass wipe at her tears.
Today, I share this special moment to celebrate the huge heart, bright smile, charisma, grace, strength, and inner beauty of my dear, sweet sister whom I remember and miss with every breath. She remains my greatest example of grace. How did she ever make peace with letting go of her little girl, whom she loved so much?
It’s been five years since you went to Heaven, and I want to simply say:
Thank you for showing me the path to grace and love, Kass. Not one day has passed since the day we said goodbye that your life here on Earth has been forgotten. Not a single day. And, so shall it be for as long as those of us who loved you continue to share the gifts and lessons of love you left behind and to shine a light on the genuine goodness and kindness in your heart.
There will never be another you, and there will never be another us. My soul sister. My best friend, secret-keeper, holder of truth, bearer of hope, and vessel of love.
I’ll keep telling the world, especially Josie, that we lost one of life’s greatest treasures the day you had to go. I find peace in knowing that Dad is with you now, and that you both continue to watch over us from above. It’s for this reason that I spend so much time looking up….
I loved you in all of my yesterdays, I feel you in every today, and I will look for you with the dawn of every tomorrow….until I see you again, sweet Kass…..
It is hard to believe that December 2016 marks the end of my fourth year of running a monthly 5K for our Foundation! What started back in January 2013 between me and my friends Amy, Kelley, and Christine as a one year commitment to run a monthly 5K in memory of Kass, has grown into a monthly celebration of life. Of hope. Of love. Four years and going strong.
I am grateful to the people who have joined me along the way, most notably Amy, Kelley, Christine, Leslie, Kelly, Nora, Tina, Pete, my brothers and my Dad and Mom, and all of the countless others who have supported this effort. I am grateful most especially to Jamie who has been my rock and my biggest fan each and every step of the way. Dropping me off at most of the starting lines, waiting for me at countless finish lines, and always encouraging me to keep going no matter what. He is a treasure to me! Plainly and simply.
I share below some observations about what the last four years have meant to me:
I have completed races in 18 communities including Hughesville, Muncy, Unityville, Loyalsock, Williamsport, Jersey Shore, DuBoistown, South Williamsport, Warrensville, Lewisburg, Bloomsburg, Wilkes Barre, Millville, Milton, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Allentown, and Washington, D.C.
I have completed 48 5Ks and 3 half marathons, and an 8K since January 2013, comprising about 190 miles. Taken separately, these miles are the equivalent of running 7.25 full marathons in four years!
I have run in support of many important community causes, including: Lewisburg Rotary, Flight 800, St. Columba School, East Lycoming YMCA, Run for Your Heart, K’s for Cancer, East Lycoming Foundation, Little League, Crosscutters, Williamsport Schools, May Day, Rider Park, Home to Haiti, Muncy Schools, Country Store Kicks Cancer, Sheetz Color Run for Kids, YWCA, Race Against Addiction, and many more. I have learned so much about all of the good causes happening in our community.
After four years of running, I still get choked up when I cross the finish line. I always finish the same. Looking up, throwing a kiss to the sky, then a fist in the air in victory.
I have never won a race. I have never come close to winning. Not even my age group. But, I have never cared about my time. The victory for me is in the experience of waking up on race day, feeling proud that I have found a way to keep going, wearing my Foundation shirt, going to the race, running with my heart wide open, and crossing the finish line in memory of those I love. Winning a medal could never replace that feeling.
People have asked me when I am going to stop. I cannot imagine a time when I will say “that’s enough.” Iplan to keep running until I am unable to run. It is then that I will walk. When I can no longer walk, I will figure out what is next. Until that day, I will run.
I have never used this initiative as a fundraiser, but some very generous folks have donated to me along the way. I am grateful for every dollar we raise. If you are interested in supporting my running, please consider a donation to our Foundation in any amount. Each donation is considered a blessing!
When I run, I remember all of the times I ran with Kass. I think about what she would say about this initiative. I hope she would be proud to know that I have kept going, just like she wanted me to do. I wonder what my Dad would think? After we lost Kass, he would encourage me to work through my grief by doing whatever was best for me. He always told me he was proud of me after every race I ran. My Mom continues this sentiment today. After every race, I receive a text from her that says: “I am so proud of you, Krista. I love you.”
I cannot explain why I keep running. I guess it is the one thing I can do to feel some sense of control after the terrible toll the loss of my Dad and sister has had on me…and continues to have on me. Many will never understand my journey, and that’s okay. I run to find peace in my heart. I run to honor the life, legacy, and love of two people I loved most in the world. I run to build hope for tomorrow. I run for life. I run for love. Most of all, I run for all of those who can no longer run. Because I can. I run for Kass and my Dad. Because I love them and I miss them every single day.
I made this 3-minute video to highlight some of my runs over the past four years. The video is set to the beautiful voice of Alicia Keys and the most amazing lyrics….Not Even The King….
This post was written to remember the 2nd anniversary of our Dad’s passing on September 8, 2014. This is just one of 1,000 stories left to write about a man who was unique, loving, wise, and a pure treasure. His laughter, his life, his love will never be forgotten.
September 2013. It is Sunday afternoon. I step from the sidewalk onto the floorboards of the old front porch. The movement of my feet causes those aging boards to creak. The sound alerts the dogs sitting just inside of the door. Jeb, my parent’s German Shepard, has been the old guard on duty here for almost a decade. He is the chosen one of sorts, the keeper of the gate and the protector of his precious family living inside. Buddy, the rescue dog, is standing by supporting Jeb with a complementary yet alternating bark, providing extra cover just as any good second-in-command should do. The barking is intimidating, and if I did not know any better, I would turn around and try again on another day.
But, I do know better. For this is my home. A place I left over 21 years ago in search of my own dreams. Straight out of college and into my first apartment that I shared with my little sister, Kass, who was still in college at the time. We only moved 30 minutes away, but for two kids new to living completely on their own, it felt like we had moved across the country. After that first move, chasing dreams took us both further down the road away from home and on to new jobs, new cities, and new experiences. My brothers stayed closer and settled into their own lives, filling up their days with activities and sports for their kids, work, and simply taking care of business. Two families with all of the trimmings.
But, no matter where our lives took us, we never forgot where we came from. Stillmeadow, the name given by my parents to their 16-acre domain, would always be our home. The safe haven. A soft place to land no matter what life was serving up at the time. And over the course of those years when the four of us were creating lives of our own, we gathered regularly in the kitchen at Stillmeadow for compelling conversation, great debates, outstanding food, laughter, and unconditional love.
Today, I know Mom and Dad are expecting us. Lately, this is a common occasion for most of our Sunday afternoons. The phone call would come in sometime before noon. “Kris, it’s Dad. I put a little something on the stove if you and Jamie want to come over for an early dinner today.” “Wow, Dad, yes. Of course. That sounds great.” I ask Jamie if he wants to go. There is never a doubt as to his answer. During the drive out to their house, his game is always the same as he tries to guess what will be on the menu on that particular day. My Dad is a phenomenal chef and he loves to create new dishes. One thing we learned over the years is that when Dad cooks it is always homemade, usually an amazing Italian creation he cooked up in his head, often incorporating items from his garden, and always delicious.
As the dogs continue to bark, we make our way to the front door. Somehow, the experience of my entry into the kitchen over all of these years never seems to change. It stays with me as a powerful memory of this place. It is pure perfection. Today is no exception. Dad is standing at the doorway, kitchen towel draped over this shoulder, spatula in his hand, his glass of wine close by. A huge smile comes over his face, he reaches for me to give me a hug and says, “Hello, my dear.”
Dad standing in the kitchen we still love with the old wood stove in the background. This photo was taken exactly six months before he left us for Heaven.
It is always the same. Same appearance. Same words. Same smile. Same hug. This greeting is not only offered when I see my Dad in person, but in almost every instance that I interact with him…on the phone, in his voice mail messages, in his email greeting, when I meet him for coffee or a drink, when he stops by my house to visit. It is always the same greeting filled with such warmth and love: “Hello, my dear.” I love being his daughter and his dear.
As I hug him tightly, I can smell his perfect scent through his work clothes. I smell the candles burning, I smell something delicious simmering on the stove, I hear the soft music playing in the family room, and feel a warmth in the air. I give him a kiss on the cheek and say, “Hi Dad.” Jamie follows me in and it is then that I see Mom coming into the kitchen. We all exchange greetings and I know that our afternoon is going to be filled with laughter, sharing old stories, and a few life lessons and casual advice for me. All of that and an exceptional meal.
It is moments like today that I will never forget.
September 2016. It is 8:00 a.m. on a clear Saturday morning. I step onto the front porch. The new floorboards do not creak like they used to. As I make my way to my car, my eyes are drawn skyward, as they usually are, and I catch a glimpse of the cloud formation overhead. White, puffy, cumulus clouds dominate my view.
It looks like it is going to be a beautiful day. The birds chirp happily in the trees and our farm kitty, Bella, makes a run for the barn. I cannot help but think that it has almost been two years since we lost Dad and a year since we purchased and moved to Stillmeadow to be with Mom. It is still hard to fathom that Dad passed just two years after we said goodbye to Kass. Life does not seem fair. Some days, in fact most days, I still have trouble wrapping my head around any of it. But, instead of trying to sort it all out today, I just keep moving. I keep moving forward one day at a time just as Kass and Dad would have wanted.
When I miss my Dad and the sound of his voice, I often picture his reunion with Kass in Heaven. His arms wide open, his huge smile dominating his expression, he looks at her and says simply, “Hello, my dear.”
It is the thought of this moment that brings me peace.
Post script: Sadly, we lost Buddy suddenly in April 2014. Dad and Mom then adopted Abbie and Jennie, two German Shepard/golden retriever sisters who still live at the farm along with their new brother, Kato.
We said goodbye to Jeb in January 2016. In early October 2014, Mom and I were reminiscing about Dad and re-playing family videos on the computer. When he heard Dad’s voice, Jeb whimpered softly for several minutes. I believe if dogs can cry that Jeb cried that day. He missed Dad. They were the best of friends. Forever faithful, Jeb was 11 years old.
Dad always loved his dogs so much. The puppies were only five months old when he passed away. They still miss him everyday. Just as we all do….
In March this year, we started an initiative through the Team Kass Foundation called Harnessing Hope Bags. The concept for this program came from my Mom and was raised for the first time during our Foundation Board meeting in February 2014. The concept was simple and came from such a beautiful place. As my Mom recalled sitting next to Kass through numerous chemotherapy treatments, she remembered the items Kass liked to have close by to help with the environment, including snacks, hand cream, mouthwash, wet wipes, etc., each intended to provide a little comfort through the uncomfortable parts of the cancer journey. We also recall writing down moments of laughter, conversations worth noting, information about medications, ideas for the future, etc., and my Mom always had a little notebook handy.
It is in this spirit that once a quarter, we collect all of these items and place them in a harnessing hope bag with great care. We include information about our Foundation and what inspired us to do this…our courageous sister Kass who never lost hope throughout her journey! The expectation is that people who are new to this cancer journey may feel a little better, a little lighter, if only for a moment, because Kass’s beautiful light shines briefly in their space. Since March, we have delivered 85 bags to the Susquehanna Health Cancer Center to be distributed to newly-diagnosed cancer patients.
Our Dad was an integral part of this initiative. He helped with defining the final contents of the bag, and of course, he was a strong proponent of including the journal. Since his passing just 2.5 months ago from cancer, our hearts continue to beat; yet they are broken, battered and bruised by yet another terrible loss for our family. This time, we lost our patriarch, our strength, and our beacon of light and laughter. Beyond all measure, this is the time for us to dig deep and to regain our footing as we continue walking on the path toward hope. If we lose our hope, then what? We will never give up. We will continue walking forward until no other family has to endure using the word “cancer” as a part of their daily conversation.
In our most recent delivery to SH Cancer Center this afternoon, we were able to include special recognition of our Dad and his values, and we hope that he would be proud to see how his lessons continue to carry on through his kids and grand kids and
the other lives he touched. He was a gift from God and we were so lucky to stand in the light of his love for so many happy years. Please take a moment to read about his treasured possession, the Dixon Ticonderoga Number 2 pencil, and how we incorporated them into this round of bags.
This initiative has grown, thanks to the generous donations we have received in support of this effort. To date, we have raised almost $5,200.00 specifically to support this initiative, including an anonymous donation in support of the cause! We are grateful for every gift! In September, we were blown away by very generous gift made in memory of a loved one lost to cancer earlier this year. The gift was made to support the Harnessing Hope Bag initiative. In recognition of this gift,
we have included Cyndi Baker’s name in loving memory on our gift bags this round. Thank you to Deb B. for your generosity of spirit and for loving your friend Cyndi. May her memory long endure!
To see how you can help with this initiative, please contact us at email@example.com. To make a donation, please send your gift to Team Kass Foundation, PO Box 1862, Williamsport, PA 17703 and mention Harnessing Hope Bags in the memo!
Today is my birthday. I am a big fan of birthdays. I usually love my birthday and always find a way to stretch it out over the entire month of April.
I know that I am supposed to feel happy on my birthday. I know that I am supposed to live in the moment each and every day. I know that I am supposed to believe that there is a greater purpose to my life. I know I am supposed to be here and now, today. I know so many things, but all that I truly know is that I cannot stop thinking about my last birthday with Kass. Let me tell you why:
On Sunday, April 1, 2012, my Mom, Kass and I left for NIH for what we thought would be a routine week, if there is such a thing on a cancer journey. I packed enough clothes to be home by that Friday, April 6. However, we did not arrive home until the following Thursday, April 12. I will spare a lot of the details of this trip that I captured in my journal as it was all happening. Let’s just say that things took a bad turn during this trip to NIH. Kass had to undergo emergency surgery and we found ourselves in this new territory.
I stayed in Kass’s hospital room with her for almost every one of those 11 days. I slept on a chair in the corner of the room. Sometimes, I lay next to Kass in her bed. Other times, I sat with her and listened to her talk. I know she did not sleep. I know that I did not sleep. It wasn’t that we did not sleep because of the hospital noise; we did not sleep because we were both scared. For the first time over this period, I saw a new sadness in Kass’s eyes.
From my journal, Saturday, April 7, 2012: “When I come back to the room I realize that Kass is very sad. She says, “I want to cry but I can’t.” I sit with her in the bed and hold her hand and tell her it is going to be okay. “I will never leave you.” I say through the tears. “I don’t know why this is happening to you, and I feel so helpless. I am not sure what I can do except love you.” It is the look of sadness that is the most difficult to deal with. We talk about God’s plans for us and not understanding them now. I will never forget the look in her eyes, almost as if she was saying “why is this happening to me?”
I hear the nurses come in and do their checks throughout the night. I saw the look on their faces. I know Kass did, too. I would ask them questions “Is everything okay?” “How is she doing?” I was so emotionally drained. I remember leaving the room to go cry in the hallway, only to dry my tears and return to the room trying to be upbeat and positive. I knew I had to be strong, but I was way out of my league. Looking back, this is the first time I allowed myself to think, “I am going to lose my baby sister and I don’t know what to do.” Quite frankly, I was terrified.
So, I will never forget my birthday that year. And, I know that no matter how many years pass, I will always equate this day, my day, with this experience.
Kass needed some new clothes to deal with the road ahead. So on that Wednesday, April 11, I went to Target to pick up some new clothes for her for the next few days and the trip back home in the morning. I told Kass I would stop by the Cheesecake Factory to pick up dinner.
When I got there, I walked up to the bar, looked at the menu, and placed our food order. While I waited, I asked the bartender for a drink. He and I started chatting, and he asked me if I was from around here. I told him that I was staying with my sister and my Mom at NIH. I told him about Kass. I could feel the tears well up in my eyes. We kept chatting. I had so many emotions bottled up inside, it was so nice to have someone that just wanted to listen to me talk. I eventually told him that it was my birthday. A few minutes later, he comes back with a cupcake and a candle and brought it to me at the bar. He and the other bartender sang “Happy Birthday”. He asked me if he could take my picture. “Birthdays are good days. You have to remember this one,” he said. Here is that picture…
When I came back to Kass’s room, my Mom and Kass were waiting with cards and gifts. They sang to me, too! I think we all cried. Of course, I had to take a selfie to capture the moment:
Kass gave me an NIH sweatshirt as my birthday gift that day. I wore it a lot after she left us for Heaven, but now I treat it as a treasured gift – the last one I ever received – from my beautiful sister.
But, it was her card that was most compelling. The words still haunt me to this day. At the bottom of the card, she wrote, “Next year, I hope that we will both be in a better place…I love you, Kass” I have no words for how this moved me then, and what reading her message still does to me today.
But, looking back, not everything that happened on this trip was sad. There were many amazing moments. Here are just a few: My Dad and both brothers (Tim & Tom) made a surprise visit to NIH on Easter morning. Kass was so happy. When they walked in the door, she just sat there in disbelief and cried. I was so happy that we pulled that off! It is a moment I will never forget.
Also, the quality time that the three of us were able to spend together during those weeks was amazing. Before we left to go home, we took Kass out to the courtyard in her wheelchair to get some fresh air for the first time in many days. As we sat there, she looked up and said, “Do you hear that bird?” Mom and I heard nothing. She turned her head and said, “There. It is over there.” And, sure enough, there was a bird in the tree.
It was a beautiful, red cardinal….my Mom’s favorite bird. I captured the moment. Although difficult to see, the cardinal is in the center of the tree. She said to us later, “It is like my filter is gone. I see life much clearer now.”
When we arrived home with Kass on that April 12, 2012, I slept in my bed for the first time in almost 2 weeks. I was drained. But, I missed Kass. We had spent so much time together, I was missing her and wondering if she was okay.
That was a Thursday. The following Monday, Kass and Josie came to my house and spent the entire week with me. I took care of Kass and played with Josephine. It was an amazing week filled with light and love. More time. More love. More memories.
So, this is why birthdays will never be the same for me. Last year, I tried to have a happy birthday. It was my first with Jamie, and we had a lot of fun. He took me for sushi, which is another of my favorite treats. The next night, he had arranged a get together with some friends, a fun night of celebration. Jamie is hands-down, the most amazing gift in my life. I treasure him and our time together. Every moment of it. I am not sure what I would do or where I would be without him?
But, I cannot seem to explain it in a way that seems adequate. Those who know grief will know. Even when I try to be happy, there is always a layer of loss, and sadness, and pain inside of me that never goes away. People say that I am having a hard time dealing with my grief. You know what? They are right. They are right and I make no apologies for it. Losing Kass is not something I ever want to “get over”. I am searching to understand a way to live without her, and I find that each day continues to be a struggle to see the best path forward.
I read this quote on Facebook just this week: “It has been said, “time heals all wounds”. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissues and the pain lessens. But, it is never gone.” –Rose Kennedy. Oh, how true. The pain is never gone. On that day in July, I lost a piece of myself when I said goodbye to my sister. Like losing my right arm, a piece of me has been taken away and it is never coming back. Life will just never be the same.
We were supposed to grow old together…sharing stories from the past and celebrating the moments yet to come. To this day, still none of it makes any sense to me. But, one thing is for certain. Kass is no longer in pain. She now walks with God in Heaven. And, just as she predicted on this very day just 2 years ago, she now finds herself in a better place. I miss you, my sweet sister! Oh, what I would do for just one more birthday hug from you.
As I recalled this story with my Mom just this afternoon, after we spoke, she sent me the most beautiful email. She reminded me of all of the things I already know about living my life, finding happiness, moving forward, and knowing in our hearts that Kass knew how much we loved her, and that she wants us to be happy. These things I know and accept, but it is sometimes difficult to reason with the sadness.
I know I will walk beside Kass again someday. But, today, on this night, I will take my Mom’s words and I will try to live them. I am headed out the door for another birthday dinner with the man I love. He is right here in front of me. Today. Now. And, I do not want to miss a moment with him.
It is hard to fathom that Dad will not be with us during the Raise the Region kick-off event this Wednesday. But, we know he would want us to keep going. He worked the room last year because he believed in our mission and in our purpose. We plan to carry forward in honor of his strength and Kass’s courage.
Giving, even just a little bit, makes your heart lighter. Please remember the Paternostro Family Foundation during this online fundraising event. We are forever grateful to all those who believe in our foundation, and in our desire to harness hope and live passionately.
If you are not familiar with Raise the Region, it is a unique, online giving event that provides a platform for the community to raise money for local non-profits within a 30-hour fundraising window. The event begins at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, March 12, 2015.
What is most amazing about Raise the Region is the generosity shown by the event sponsors to provide matching funds which truly extend the impact of your donation! We are fortunate to live in a region focused on supporting the community in which we all live, and we are proud to do our small part for the greater good.
It is in that regard that we ask you to consider making your annual donation to the Paternostro Family Foundation as part of the Raise the Region event. Each donation is fully tax-deductible!
Your donation may help to underwrite part of a memorial scholarship for select graduates of Hughesville High School, provide a bag of hope to a newly-diagnosed cancer patient at Susquehanna Health Cancer Center, or help a person fighting cancer to make a monthly utility payment. Each dollar invested in our Foundation has meaning for someone, and we are so thankful for each and every donor.
Every dollar raised is so special to us. We know that there are many wonderful organizations to support this week. But, as a newer non-profit with the passionate determination of a seasoned institution,the Paternostro Family Foundation is eager to grow and to expand our programs and partnerships. Your financial support will be of tremendous value to us. The minimum gift is $25.00, and any donation amount is truly meaningful and appreciated.
Thank you in advance for your continued generosity and support.
The Team Kass Foundation Board of Directors is pleased to announce the details of our 2014 Kathleen Paternostro Morgan Memorial Scholarship.
This year, the Board voted to increase the award amount to $1,000.00 to be granted to one deserving graduate as selected by the Board following the nominations and review process.
“Investing in our students, and our community, and honoring Kass’s memory in this way brings our family great happiness, as we know how much Kathleen loved her school, her participation in sports, and her community,” remarked Krista Paternostro, chairman of the Team Kass Board. “We are grateful to the Hughesville community for its support of our inaugural Team Kass Foundation events, and look forward to continuing to build this scholarship program in future years. We were raised in a family environment that recognized and focused on hard work, a strong work ethic, and an understanding of the value of service to others. Kass certainly exemplified these qualities and this scholarship given in her memory helps us to recognize and support these same qualities in our next generation of leaders.”
Please see the details for this year’s scholarship below:
Scholarship Amount: $1,000.00
Frequency: Presented annually during graduation ceremonies at Hughesville High School.
Purpose: To provide an annual scholarship to a deserving Hughesville High School senior who demonstrates Kathleen’s esteemed qualities and work ethic, including dedication to academics, sports, and the community in which he/she lives.
Applicants must be a member of the graduating class.
Applicants must have participated in sports, with preference given to basketball and tennis, during their senior year.
Applicants must have been accepted to attend college upon graduation.
Applicants must complete the scholarship application and write a 500-word essay.
Scholarship applications are available through Mr. Bower’s office at Hughesville High School.
Applications must be submitted by 1 May 2014.
Applications may be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or via direct mail to: Team Kass Foundation, PO Box 1862, Williamsport, PA 17703.
Finalists will be determined by the Team Kass Foundation Board of Directors.
Two members of Kathleen’s family may elect to meet briefly with the finalists to determine the final scholarship recipient.
About Kathleen: Kathleen Paternostro Morgan was a 1990 graduate of Hughesville High School. A standout athlete, she played the number one singles position in girls tennis and was a starting member of the 1990 District IV championship girls’ basketball team. Kathleen was posthumously inducted into the Hughesville High School Athletic Hall of Fame in October 2013.
In addition to her love for sports, Kathleen had a creative spirit and was an accomplished artist. She graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Technology in 1992 with a degree in Food & Hospitality Management and worked within the hospitality industry for 20 years before her journey to Heaven in July 2012 at the young age of 40. She was the proud mother of Josephine, whom she loved with all of her heart.
It is early Monday morning. I mean the before-the-dawn kind of early. I step outside into the cold and within the icy chill of the morning, my surroundings seem calm. Calm. Serene. Peaceful. There is hardly a noise except for the crunch of the snow underneath of my calculated steps as I carefully make my way to my car in my heels, my suitcase lagging behind. I have been here before. I remember the sound of the snow. I remember the moonlight. I remember seeing my breath in the air. I remember the stillness. I remember this same scene, sans the heels, only two short years ago. I wish I could go back, back to a time when life seemed within some semblance of my own control. Back to when Kass was still alive.
I have not written a lot over the past few months. In many ways, it continues to be a daunting time for us all. We are still wrapped up in sorting through the memories…the photographs, the cards, the letters, the paintings, the clothing, and all of the reminders of another time and place. I am convinced that the second year of grief is heavier than the first. The shock wears off a bit, but as it departs, reality is patiently waiting. Nights are filled with sleepless interludes of reliving that last day, the last week, the last birthday, the last Christmas, and sadly….the last words, the last smile, the last touch, the last moment. People say that time heals all wounds. I am certain that for me; I will never completely heal from the loss of my little sister. And, I am not sure I would ever want to. Part of Kass will live in me forever, way down deep inside my heart.
Yet, while all of this is happening around you, life keeps moving forward. There are bills to pay, there is work to do, there are papers to write, there are trips to plan, there are friends to see, and there are walks to take. Life does not give time off for those who are grieving. And, that has been the hardest part of the journey for me. I find myself living in the present with one foot planted firmly in the past. Wondering how we got to be in this place, at this time. Thinking about how it all happened so fast. The day the phone call came from my Dad and then almost exactly one year later gently rubbing my sister’s feet on that sad, sad day as she left us for Heaven. What sense did it all make? Why our family? Why Kass? Why cancer? Why any of it?
I remember this moment in the wee hours of the morning; on my way to link up with Mom and Kass to begin one of our numerous journeys to Philadelphia or Bethesda. On every one of those mornings, which was sometimes the middle of the night, we never lost hope that something good would come. We were going to beat this cancer foe. We were going to win the fight. And, as the months passed, and the news never seemed to get better, we had to narrow the focus and view hope from a more simple space.
We had to believe that if the worst outcome were to happen, that somehow, just somehow….everything would be okay. Not because we accepted what was happening to our family, but because we had no other choice. We had to believe this because it was the constant sentiment from Kass throughout her fight. She said it frequently, but most vividly I remember her saying it after yet another meeting with the team of doctors who held her in their care. “The drug is not working as we had hoped.” “The cancer has spread.” “We were hopeful to see better results.” “There is one more option we may want to try.” These were the moments that the conversations were occurring when I would have to leave the room. I was not strong enough to accept what was happening. I did not have the courage to endure the commentary. I guess I was somehow thinking that if I did not hear the words, then none of it was true. Yet, it was all true. Every word of it. And Kass, whenever the news would come from her doctors, would simply look at our Mom and me and say, “It’s okay. Everything will be okay.” It was almost as if she knew and had somehow had found the strength to make peace with the road ahead.
My most vivid memory of this occurred in Chicago, only two weeks before Kass left us for Heaven. It is not a time that I have had the strength to write about until now. We had driven two days to Chicago’s Cancer Treatment Centers of America. It was our last shot. Kass wanted to make the trip. She did not want to give up. “For Josie,” she would say. “I want to keep fighting for Josie.” “Maybe they can help me?” she said with tears in her eyes. So, we journeyed there for a consult and once again, the news was bad. There was little, if anything, they could do. I will never forget the moment as long as I live. The doctor came in and sat on a stool directly across from Kass and looked her in the eyes. I was seated to Kass’s right. As the doctor spoke it was as if time stood still. The cancer had spread, this time to her brain, and was extensive throughout her abdomen and on her liver. I stood up and said, “No, please God, no.” And, I started pacing the room. Then I felt her hand on my arm. I turned and Kass was holding a tissue out for me. No tears. No sadness. Just strength. “It’s okay. It’s okay. I knew it was going to be bad news. But, everything will be okay. I promise.” I reached down and hugged her and kissed her and took her tissue. I sat back down and held her hand. I will never forget the doctor’s words. She said “that is amazing, I wonder who is comforting whom here today.” And, that was our strong and brave sister. In the end, it was she who comforted us. We left that consult and I pushed her in her wheelchair to the chapel. We prayed. She wanted to call our Mom and Dad and our brothers. She wanted to call home to speak to Josephine. Not to tell her, but just to hear her voice. She wanted to go home.
And then two weeks later, on that beautiful, sunshine-filled Monday in July, we were there surrounding her with our love as she left this world for a better place in Heaven. And, then it was over. There was no going back. There were no more chances. There were no more words. No do-overs. The end of a beautiful life. The finality of death is powerful and painful. All of the sudden, the world seems softer and quieter, and more confusing. That was 17 months ago and to this day, still none of it makes any sense to me.
But, on this morning, I am headed in a different direction. I am driving to another week of work. Driving gives me plenty of time to think. I think about my own life. I think about my family. I think about Kass. I think about Josephine. I think about Jamie and our future. I think about what I want my legacy to be in this world. I think about gratitude and goodness and kindness and love. I think about all that has happened in our family over the past 2.5 years and I think about the lessons I have learned and how they have changed me for the better.
One of the things that I notice on my long drive to work is the sunrise. I look forward to it. I anticipate it. I always know by the time I make it to a certain spot along the river, it will have raised enough to shine brightly across the water. I am not sure if I just notice the sunrise and sunset more readily these days, but I am drawn to look towards the sky more frequently. I look there for connection with Kass. I talk to her in the stars, I look for her in the snowflakes, I see her in the morning light, and I remember her in the moon’s reflection of the sun’s light.
I accept that I must continue to live my life to the fullest as a tribute to Kass, and all of those we have lost. To shine a light on her life and to turn her courage, the courage that I witnessed time and time again, into my inspiration to not be afraid to live. Today. Here. Now. I know and accept that one day I, too, will be called to Heaven. On that day, whenever it may be, I will have to reconcile my life and how I used my time here to create goodness and kindness and love. I work each day to make peace with all that is still left in my heart after losing Kass. It has not been easy. Anyone who has lost someone they love understands this sentiment. But, I know that it is the only way I will truly be free.
But for today, I am going to focus on what is right in front of me: another blessed Christmas celebration with family and friends. There is an empty seat at the table again this year, but Kass is always in our hearts. I know she is with us. During 2014, I hope to turn a corner in my life. I want to use the lessons that Kass taught me in her life to do something truly meaningful for others. We will continue the work of the Team Kass Foundation; and we hope to develop some new initiatives that present real opportunities for us to make an impact on people’s lives. There is always more work to be done.
In the meantime, I have learned that love is the only gift that truly lasts for eternity. So this year, all of my gifts will be wrapped up in the little moments and in the love that we all deserve and treasure. Because no matter what life brings we know that everything will be okay.
(Editor’s Note: We had issues uploading pictures to this post. We linked a photo at the bottom of the page. We apologize for this inconvenience, as we had many wonderful pictures from the event to share!)
As the sun rose over the football stadium at the Hughesville High School in the early morning hours of October 19, we just knew that no matter what, it was going to be a great day! We had arrived before first light, after starting to plan this race only 8 weeks earlier. But, we were ready for whatever came our way that morning. Certain things, like the weather, were beyond our control. We stayed focus on the things we could control….our purpose, our mission, and our desire to create an atmosphere of hope and inspiration.
When all was said and done, the weather was gorgeous and over 125 participants (including our virtual runners) were with us on this beautiful day. In addition to the 85 or so people who participated in person, 40+ people joined us from all over the country as virtual runners. States represented in the virtual portion of our race included: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. That was very cool and very inspiring! We offer very special thanks to all of our virtual runners!
We surpassed our fundraising goal, and through the generosity of our corporate sponsors and race participants, we raised over $6K for the Foundation! We are grateful beyond measure!
We are happy to share the list of our inaugural Harnessing Hope 5K winners and their winning times:
Overall Male: Joshua Gavitt, 17:48
Overall Female: Amy McCoy, 20:19
Over 40 (Male): Mike Rieder, 20:15
Over 40 (Female): Tara Holdren, 26:21
Under 13 (Male): Tonny Temple, 19:55
Under 13 (Female): Valerie Ammar-Khodja, 28:05**
**There was a mix-up in this category on race day. We were sorry not to be able to recognize the amazing performance of Miss Valerie on Saturday in front of the other race participants. We are happy to report that she will receive her prize and medal this week. Congratulations Valerie!
Congratulations to all of our winners! Thank you for running in our inaugural race! You are all an inspiration! Keep going! Keep inspiring! Next year, we plan to have more age categories providing for more chances to recognize the awesome performances we saw on Saturday.
We also offer our special thanks to all of our race sponsors, including our HOPE Corporate Sponsors: Elite Feet, Inc., Frozen Run Bottling Company, Inc., and Susquehanna Valley Sportswear. We are grateful to all of the many companies and individuals who provided extra monetary support to our event. Please click this link for a listing of all of our generous race sponsors: https://teamkass.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/5k-sponsor-thank-you1.jpg
Away from the race clock, many other amazing stories surfaced on our tribute wall and in our conversations with the race participants. The truth is that we all have a story. We all have a journey ahead…we all have a past that has shaped who we are today….we all walk into each day with no guarantees about what the future has in store, but with an appreciation of the gift of having another chance to love. The most rewarding aspect of the day for me was hearing the stories of hope and love and the motivation to just keep going.
I share below just a few of the touching stories we heard and saw on Saturday ….
Holly ran for her sister Rachel who lost her battle with cancer last December!
Kidney cancer survivor, Amber, ran in honor of her own courageous fight!
Carla ran after losing her husband unexpectedly in a car accident just four months ago!
Beth and Laurie ran in loving memory of their Dad!
My niece Katie ran her first 5K in loving memory of her Aunt Kass!
After not being able to walk on her own just a few months ago, Bonnie was there determined to finish the 3.1 mile course as she continues to battle cancer!
Beth was there to run in loving memory of her husband Dave!
Mindy ran in loving memory of her brother Sean and her dear friend Kass!
Judy participated in her first 5K in loving memory of her Ma!
Michelle was there to run in loving memory of her friend James, who lost his battle with cancer in May!
Kelly was walking in memory of Kass and her father-in-law, both of whom lost their battles with cancer!
Many of Kass’s teammates and friends were there to show their support for Kass!
Several participants were running their first 5K that day, and picked our race to do it!
And, there were countless other stories making their way through the crowd that day….
These are the stories that made this event a success! Kass taught us that no matter what our circumstances, we should never lose hope. Hope that things will get better. Hope that there is a reason for every single thing that happens to us, and that someday we will understand and find peace. Hope that love is eternal. Hope that no matter what, everything will be okay.
We are already gearing up for next year’s race! Please plan to join us on Saturday, October 18, 2014 at the same time and location! Please invite your friends and colleagues to join us, too! We know there are so many inspiring stories out there. We want to capture them all and wrap ourselves up in the anticipation of and hope for a brighter tomorrow. Thank you, and God bless!