All posts by Paternostro Cancer Foundation

HHS Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – October 4, 2013

PlaqueIt was as if the sun was shining through the pouring rain.  Oh, what a night!  Our family was honored to participate in the 2013 Hughesville High School Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies performed at half-time during the Spartan Football game on October 4, 2013.  Kathleen was inducted for her amazing athletic accomplishments on the basketball and tennis courts!  My brothers and I proudly accepted the award on the field on behalf of our baby sister.

Kass's brothers and sister: (l to r) Tom, Krista, and Tim accept the plaque during the half-time ceremony.
Kass’s brothers and sister: (l to r) Tom, Krista, and Tim accept the plaque during the half-time ceremony.

Below are my remarks from the private induction ceremony held prior to the game.

“I was honored to be asked by our father to accept this award on behalf of Kathleen.  I am also honored to be able to try to represent our dear sister in this moment.  Oh, how proud she would be right now.  She was a phenomenal athlete, and we thank the committee for recognizing her athletic achievements in this way.  We also extend our congratulations to the other recipients who will be honored tonight.  

I would like to take a moment to recognize my two remarkable older brothers, Tom and Tim, who are joined by their wives and my cute-as-ever nieces and nephews.  And, of course, Jamie.  Finally, I would like to recognize our awesome parents.  No strangers to this district, that is for sure.  But, what you may not know is how truly blessed we have been to have these two amazing people steering our family’s ship for all of these years.  Sometimes, I wonder what the past few years would have been without their strength, faith, and love. For that, we will always be grateful, just as I know Kass was….

Our parents never missed one of our athletic events.  Between the four of us, that was a lot of seasons!  But, they were always there to catch our eye in the stands…

I also know that Kass would agree that it was our wonderful parents who provided her with a foundation of strength, courage, kindness, gratitude, integrity…..and all of the representations of goodness that an individual could hope to possess.  Kass possessed them all, and she showed us time and time again over the course of her life….her tenacity, her grace, and her strength.     

I am happy to say that these same traits were reinforced during Kass’s days at this school, most especially through her participation in sports.

Kass, #34, was captain of her championship basketball and tennis teams during her senior year.
Kass, #34, was captain of her championship basketball and tennis teams during her senior year.

I know this is true because of what we witnessed as Kass fought her battle with cancer. 

Kass was diagnosed on July 1, 2011 and left us for Heaven on July 2, 2012.  Over that year, a year of magical love, our sister fought a very private and a very personal battle against a powerful foe.

She loved to receive cards and letters from her friends and former teammates, and to read the posts on FB filled with inspiration! There were so many special moments of encouragement and inspiration along the way. But, during that year fought, she was only able to visit with four people in person outside of her own family.  Those four people are all here tonight.  Her sweet friend and tennis teammate Mindy Thomas Flick, and her two coaches: Beth Myers and Paula Fantaskey Farr, and Paula’s husband, Steve.  We thank them all for being a beautiful sparkle of light during a very dark and challenging time.

But, Kass wanted to see her coaches.  She wanted to hear their inspiring words.  She wanted to remember the teamwork, the trying and falling, getting up, and trying again.  She wanted to draw on their strength just like she drew from their strength on the basketball and tennis courts all of those years ago. She wanted to reconnect with a time when she was a warrior….filled with power, determination, grit, and victory.  She wanted to feel as though if she won those battles on the courts, she could win the battle that was ahead.  This is what participation in sports at Hughesville gave to our sister.  And, what her coaches gave her…….well, they may never truly understand the gift of inspiration and hope that they gave.  But, we know, and we thank you.

Kass's power serve, 1990.
Kass’s power serve, 1990.

Just before Kass was diagnosed, we took her baby girl Josephine, who was only 3 at the time, to play some tennis right here on the Hughesville courts.  What a great day!  Twenty years after she played on that number one court, there we were again.  She felt confidence there. I could see it on her face.  She was ready for whatever the future had in store.  We could never have guessed in that moment where life would take us.  Unfortunately, as we learned, we are not in control.  The only best hope we have is to carry on with her life as our guidepost….to carry her legacy forward….to provide hope for others.  If the meaning of a person’s life could be measured by the number of ripples formed as they cast their stone into a silent lake, then our baby sister Kass lived a beautiful and purposeful life. 

Thank you and God bless.”

The Happiest Day – September 13, 2011

This week has been filled with so many emotions! I am sharing this personal look inside the happiest day of Kass’s cancer journey. All of these videos and photographs were taken on September 13, 2011, exactly 2 years ago today, marking Kass’s last day of radiation treatment. Although it is still hard for us to watch because we cannot see through our tears, I am sharing it for a few reasons.

First, to remember Kass’s courage, hope and determination.

We were all so happy that day. We thought we had turned a corner. We knew the fight had only just begun, but things were looking up. The first phase was over, and Kass did great! She looks happy, beautiful, and although she lost a lot of weight, she was fierce that day. She wanted to wear her LIVESTRONG shirt because it provided such inspiration to her. And, wear it she did. Proudly. When her treatment was over, she wanted to go to the Liberty Bell and then to the Rocky steps. She ran those steps and she cried. And, I cried. At the bottom of the steps before she ran, she mentioned our friend Casey. Casey had promised to run those steps with her when she was healed. Sadly, we never made it back there and to this day, I am not sure if I could ever go back there again.

Secondly, I share this with you to personalize the cancer journey.

For one full year, standing proudly next to Kass as she fought, our family lived every emotion of the human experience almost every single day. From the tears, sadness, frustration, and anger, to the daily smiles, love, happiness, stillness, laughter, joy, courage, faith, and hope (we can never forget the hope); cancer brings them all to the surface and forces you to stand in the truth and live. Right then…..Right there….Always looking forward…..Wrapping yourself in the love of family and friends, your faith in God and the doctors and nurses who will care for you, and in the HOPE that lives inside of you, where the reserves have been building over a lifetime of viewing the world through optimistic and loving eyes. What other choice does one truly have? Kass used to say, “Cancer has made my lens so crystal clear. I see things with an unbelievable clarity that I never had before.”

For anyone reading this who has been through cancer, either themselves or as a caregiver, you 100% absolutely understand this sentiment. For those who have not, please count your blessings! I beg you to count your blessings right now. Today. Cancer is a beast and a powerful one at that. Even with my parents’ reminders over the years for us to stand straight out of bed each morning and then fall to our knees to thank God for our lives, our health, and our family, I never really understood what those words meant until it was too late. Although I hope I never did, life is so easy to take for granted.

I share this story and this video with you because our family is no different from millions of other families out there right now, today, who are living this same journey. I share Kass’s example to let you know that even when the worst possible outcome comes to pass, there is still hope! Hope that someday, we will find a cure for this terrible disease. Hope that no other babies will have to lose their Mommies at 4 years old. Hope that we will never forget the lessons we learned as we witnessed the fight. Hope that our lives here on Earth have meaning and that our legacy will carry forward and inspire & help others. Hope that those of us who are left behind will live better lives, lives with more clarity, and lives steeped in a pursuit of giving, loving, and helping others.

That is what Kass would have wanted. To inspire or support or somehow help just one person who is standing where she stood and facing what she faced. And now, Kass is with God in Heaven living her eternal life, a life where there is no more pain, only peace and love.  And so must we carry on, too.  We live and we laugh and we love, but we never forget.  Our work with our foundation is how we will carry Kass’s legacy forward.  And just like the finest symphony, the Team Kass Foundation is the instrument, and Kass, our graceful and beautiful conductor!

God bless.

kassie (2)

2nd Annual Harnessing Hope 5K Run/Walk

TKhummingbirdRace Details:

WHAT:  2nd Annual Harnessing Hope 5K Run/Walk

PRESENTED BY:  Team Kass, The Kathleen Paternostro Morgan Foundation

WHEN:  Saturday, October 18, 2014

WHERE:  Hughesville High School

TIMES: 7:30 a.m. – Registration Opens

8:50 a.m. – Opening Remarks/Sponsor Recognition

9:00 a.m. – Race Begins!

10:15 a.m. – Awards Ceremony

—————————————————————————

Registration for the 2014 Race will open soon!  

2014 Race Sponsorship Opportunities – coming soon!

—————————————————————————

Registration Fees & Prizes:

INDIVIDUAL REGISTRATIONS (Early Bird Registration Ends 5:00 p.m. on October 17):

Individual Runner/Walker:  $25.00 – early bird*, $30.00 on-site

*An additional $1.60 processing fee will be added for on-line registrations.

Virtual Runners**:

  • Perseverance Support – $30.00
  • Hope Support – $20.00
  • Courage Support – $10.00

**As a virtual registrant, you are unable to attend the event in person but would like to make a donation to Team Kass to show your support of Kass, the Foundation, and this race.  This fee does not include any race amenities, but your generosity and team spirit is appreciated! 

RACE REGISTRATION INCLUDES:

  • Race bib & timing chip
  • Team Kass race shirt  (*Guranteed for the first 150 registrants, please register early!)
  • Prizes awarded to the top finishers (see prizes, below)

PRIZES: Prizes will be awarded in the following categories:

  • Top Male Finisher
  • Top Female Finisher
  • Top Finisher 13 & Under – Male/Female
  • Top Finisher 14 – 25 – Male/Female
  • Top Finisher 26 – 40 – Male / Female
  • Top Finisher Over 40 – Male/Female

Why We Run:

Proceeds from this race will benefit the Team Kass Foundation and will be used to fulfill our mission of providing scholarships to student athletes at Hughesville High School who exemplify Kathleen’s values and work ethic, to provide support to mothers facing a cancer diagnosis who IMG_1103have young children, and to keep the memory and spirit of Kathleen alive for her daughter, friends, and family.

On July 2, 2012, our lives changed forever when we said goodbye to our beloved daughter, sister, mother, and friend, Kathleen, at the young age of 40.  Kass was a genuine, kind, thoughtful, loving and compassionate young woman who was just reaching her stride when cancer struck.  The mother of a baby girl, Josephine, who was only 3 at the time of Kass’s diagnosis, Kass was determined to live.  She fought a courageous and graceful battle against a very powerful foe.  Her family wrapped their loving arms tightly around her throughout this year of magical love, but in the end, we had no choice but to hold her as she left us for Heaven on that very sad day.

Life as we know it will never be the same.  Now, we are determined to keep Kass’s legacy of giving and kindness alive as we embark on this new endeavor.  We presented our first memorial scholarships in Kathleen’s name in May 2013.  Our hope is to continue to grow this effort and to eventually be able to offer financial and other support to other mothers of young children who are fighting their own cancer battle.  We ask for your financial support so that we can make our work sustainable and meaningful.

Kathleen’s light still shines on the world.  She is forever in our hearts.  We love you, sweet Kass!   “Everything will be okay……”

Race Day Experiences:

“Everything Will Be Okay” Tribute Wall

Sadly, we understand that so many people in our community have been touched by cancer in some way. It is in this spirit that we will offer our runners/walkers a chance to give a shout out to all of those fighters, survivors, caregivers, or loved ones in Heaven that we will run for on race day!  They are our inspiration to keep going.  Please take a moment to stop by to offer your words and inspiration.

Throughout her cancer journey, Kass always reminded us that no matter what, “everything will be okay”.  She was always upbeat and positive!  Even as she faced her final days, she would say, “I’m still fighting.”  She was a woman of immense strength and grace. This tribute wall will be dedicated in her memory.

50/50 Drawing

Participate and win!  We will be selling 50/50 chances on race day at 3 for $5.00 or 10 for $10.00.  Drawing will be held during the awards ceremony.  You must be present to win.

Event Photography

Pose for a picture and smile!  A photographer will be on hand to capture the moments and memories of race day.  Groups can pose for photos before the race at the tribute wall or simply enjoy the memories of crossing the finish line.  Photos will be posted on the Team Kass Foundation website following the race.

Support / FAQ:

How far is a 5K?

3.1 miles.

What is the race course?

Please click here for a copy for the race course:  tkracecourse

Will there be restrooms available?

Yes, restrooms will be available in the school for before and after the race.

Can I use my iPod?

To ensure a safe race, iPods and other listening device are not allowed on the race course.

Can I use a jogging stroller?

Yes, jogging strollers are allowed on the race course, but we ask that you start in the back of the race pack to ensure you do not impede other runners.

Is there parking available race day?

Yes, there is plenty of parking available at the Hughesville High School.

Do you need race day volunteers?

Absolutely!  If you are not a runner but are interested in offering your support of this run, please email Krista Paternostro at kpaternostro116@comcast.net.  We need help during registration, at the water station, at the finish line, at the tribute wall, etc.

Why do you use the hummingbird in your logo?

The hummingbird, a symbol of peace, love, and happiness, was Kass’s favorite bird!

“……And God Bless Those with This Disease”

At the end of each Inside the Actors Studio interview with James Lipton, he always asks the same 10 questions of the actor he is interviewing.  As I listened to this process just the other day, I was intrigued by the final question, which I obviously had never paid attention to before.  He said:  “What would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?”

The answer on that particular day was the same as I imagine he hears a lot, something to the effect of “You did a first-rate job!”  But, for me the words that came to mind were instantaneous and powerful: “Kass is here and she has been waiting for you.”  Just that thought on that random day, in that unexpected moment, brought tears of overwhelming sadness to my eyes.

This type of emotion has been a daily occurrence since Kass passed away.  I still find it difficult to watch commercials about cancer on television or to hear about yet another person who has been diagnosed with cancer.  I guess it is because I understand what that pronouncement means to families.  I understand the unimaginable emotions.  I understand the fight. And, I understand the consequences.

It has been exactly 365 days since I lovingly and humbly witnessed my beautiful sister Kass leave this world for Heaven.  Exactly one year since her sweet voice has spoken to me about her hopes and dreams for little Josie.  Exactly 12 months since we somehow survived the most difficult day of our lives.

But, over the past 12 months there have been many unexpected moments, too, moments that have taken my breath away.  I have shared some of these moments in other writings over the past year.  But, one that happened just last month is still fresh and needs to be shared.

I was visiting with my parents a few weeks ago when my Dad asked me to go upstairs to Kass’s old room with him.  He said he had found some more of her personal notes, cards, etc.  He showed me one of Kass’s unfinished paintings that he had found.  We talked for a moment about what a talented artist she was.  Then, he handed me her old order pad that she had used while she was working at Penn College at the Le Jeune Chef Restaurant.  The pad was filled with cards that apeared to be from her 28th birthday, which she celebrated in May of 2000.  As expected, there was a card from each of us there that she had saved:  one from Mom & Dad, one from me, one from Tim’s family, and one from Tom’s family.  They were all there.  There were also a few other random notes.  And, as I was flipping through, I saw it.  Written on St. Patrick’s Day in 2000 on the backside of one of the restaurant order cards:

kass2000

It reads:  “I watched a lady with cancer try to eat breakfast today.  God help her and God bless those with this disease.”  The tears welled up immediately.  I looked at my Dad and said, “Did you see this?” gesturing the card.  “What is it?” he asked.  I showed him and he read it and shook his head.  “Amazing.”  We both stood there in disbelief.  He said, “Your mother and I looked through this before you came over, and we never saw it.”  We went downstairs and showed my Mom.  “How could I have missed that?” she said.

I still have not quite figured out why things happen the way they do.  And, what the message is truly supposed to be….

Until cancer hit our family, we never really understood it and I do not recall talking about it a lot growing up.  Obviously, I do not recall Kass mentioning this particular moment from so many years ago.  But, the fact that we found this note so many years later and the sadly prophetic nature of the message haunts me.

Yet, I do find peace in witnessing this amazingly beautiful and loving side of my sister in full display.  I have written many stories over the past year about our life together…stories of love, sisters, siblings, family, children, memories, strength, grace, courage, kindness.  And, here is the living proof of the contents of her heart….more importantly, her heart when no one was looking.

Think about it: most people in the same situation might have just kept going on with their day on that morning, perhaps too wrapped up in what was happening in their own life to truly notice someone else.  And even if they did notice, it is likely that most people would not have taken the time to actually write down what they were thinking in that situation.  But, not Kass.  Kass was a genuinely compassionate, kind, loving, sweet, and amazingly grounded person.  We all need more of Kass’s sentiment and more people like her in this world!

So where does that leave us today?  Well, life will never be the same without my beautiful sister.  Even in the happiest of moments, there is still sadness.  Sadness for the moments not yet lived.  Sadness and longing for what was.  Sadness for what could have been.  I still find that at least once a day, I am overcome with this amazingly powerful feeling a grief when I am reminded at the core of my being that Kass is really gone.  It is sometimes too much to accept.  I know that I am not the only one.  I would never speak for anyone else in my family, but I know that they all suffer their own grief.  I know that they all hurt.  I know that they all long for just one more moment when we are all together:  Group photo!  Group hug!  Or a “hang out by the fire” session.  I miss those days.  I miss my sweet sister.

But, I have come to accept and to know for sure that she is still right here with us.  I feel her presence with me all of the time.  [For those who have lost someone special, I know that you understand these words.  For those who have not, you may be thinking exactly what I would have thought before we lost Kass:  “You feel her presence…..what does that really mean?”  I understand this completely and know that someday you will understand.]  I see her in the stars and in the moon, I sense her in the birds and the butterflies that now share my spaces, and I feel her in my heart every day.

And, sometimes her presence is much more visible.  I had an experience like this recently.  A few weeks ago, we had our first Team Kass Memorial Blood Drive for Kass.  My Mom organized everything and I am so glad that she did.  The day was filled with love and happy stories about Kass.  And on that day, I gave blood for the very first time.  It’s true.  I had never given blood before then.  It really was an easy process.  But, as they wrapped the gauze around my arm when it was all over, I was overcome with emotion.  I could not help but recall the hundreds of times I had witnessed the nurses doing the same exact thing to Kass.  Covering her PICC line.  Covering her bandage.  The same red gauze and the same white tape.

The next day, I took everything off of my arm, showered, and continued with my day.  I was at lunch with Jamie when I looked down at my arm.  I could not believe what the remnants of the tape had left behind.  A simple heart.  Silently telling me and our family, “Thank you.  I am here.  I love you so much.”

Heart

I read this quote just the other day and I could not believe how true it is:

“When you lose a parent, you lose a part of your past.

When you lose a child, you lose part of your future. 

When you lose a sibling….you lose both.”

There are no words to truly capture how it feels to lose a sibling that you cherished and adored. As this quote implies, it is almost like losing a piece of you.  I had always thought that Kass and I would grow old together, sharing stories, laughter, and love.  I could never have known that life would turn out this way.  The future will always be a little bit heavier without her by my side.  And, our past can now only be told through the stories behind the pictures we all cherish.  But, despite all of this….hope remains.  Hope that the beautiful moments will outshine the sad; hope that with time our hearts will heal from this sadness; and hope in the knowledge that the love we share will never die.

June 17, 2013 Blood Drive: In Loving Memory of Kass

American Red Cross Blood DriveKass, 2010.

Monday, June 17, 2013

1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Hughesville Fire Hall

Railroad & Water Street (click to see a map)

Hughesville, PA  17737

During Kass’s year-long battle against cancer, she endured over 39 blood transfusions, made possible by many generous donors from around the country.  We will never forget watching this process and knowing that Kass always felt so much better after these transfusions!  It has been so gratifying to know that people actually take the time to donate blood.  It is such an important part of the battle.

Now, in the spirit of giving back, we invite you to help us to honor Kass’s fight by donating a pint of blood to the American Red Cross.  Your involvement and participation would mean so much to our family, as we know it would to Kass!

Did you know:

  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
  • More than 44,000 blood donations are needed every day.
  • More than 1 million new people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
  • The number one reason donors say they give blood is because they “want to help others.”
  • One donation can help save the lives of up to three people.

Source:  American Red Cross

 TKhires

THANK YOU FOR HELPING OTHERS IN THIS FIGHT! 

Team Kass Foundation Presents Inaugural Memorial Scholarships

(L to R):  Marty Paternostro, Kyle Bomby, Tom Paternostro.  Not pictured:  Kaylora Thompson
(L to R): Marty Paternostro, Kyle Bomboy, Tom Paternostro. Not pictured: Kaylora Thompson

Representatives of the Thomas & Marthalie Paternostro family were pleased to present checks to the first recipients of the Kathleen Paternostro Morgan Memorial Scholarship on Thursday during a visit to the East Lycoming School District. The 2013 recipients are Kaylora Thompson (who was unable to attend today’s presentation) and Kyle Bomboy, both seniors at Hughesville High School.

Two scholarships will be presented annually to deserving high school seniors who demonstrate Kathleen’s esteemed qualities and work ethic, including dedication to academics, sports and the community in which they live.  Founded in January 2013, the Team Kass Foundation, in addition to presenting scholarships, will provide support to mothers diagnosed with cancer who are also raising young children.

About the 2013 recipients:

Kaylora Thompson will be attending Millersville University to study Elementary Education/Special Education in the fall.  During her time at Hughesville, she played softball and, like Kass, held the number one singles position on the girls tennis team.  Kaylora is a member of various school clubs / organizations including the Varsity Club, Chorus, and the National Honor Society.

Kyle Bomboy plans to attend the Pennsylvania College of Technology in the Physician Assistant course of study.  While at Hughesville, Kyle played golf and baseball and was a member of many school clubs / organizations including Student Council and Varsity Club, while also serving as president of the National Honor Society.  Kyle is on target to graduate number two in his class on June 7, 2013.

About Kathleen Paternostro Morgan:

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.  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.  During her college experience, she spent time working at Walt Disney World.  Kathleen 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.

Kathleen exemplified tremendous courage, fierce determination, and amazing grace in every facet of her life: during her time playing tennis and basketball, caring for her garden, showing her creativity through her paintings and art, raising her daughter, and most especially as she battled cancer.  Kathleen never willingly accepted defeat and she never, ever, accepted mediocrity.  Both recipients have demonstrated life experiences similar in manner to the way Kathleen lived her life.

No More Regrets…Take Nothing for Granted

Editor’s Note:  The following blog entry was written by Kathleen’s first cousin, Kelly Ryan Collins. Kelly and her husband Steve, daughter Emily, and son Ryan live in Minnesota.  Among other special guests, Kelly and her brother Shannon joined my Uncle Bob, Aunt Raelene, and my Aunt Sharon for Kass’s 40th birthday party at my house last May.  This was the first time we had all seen each other in many, many years.  What follows are Kelly’s thoughts about that visit and some of the lessons she learned from Kass that she still holds close to her heart.  We were so fortunate to have all of them by our side through Kass’s battle.  I share this piece with you because it offers a unique perspective that I do not have, as it is written through the eyes of a fellow young mother.  Her perspective provides yet another reminder about the power of “now”, one of several beautiful lessons from Kass’s life and legacy that will never be forgotten.

No More Regrets….Take Nothing for Granted….Just Love

By:  Kelly R. Collins

Has it really been one year? One year since I saw her last? It feels like just days have passed. Yet, not a day goes by where I do not think about her. Not a day goes by that I do not remember the last moments I had with her. Watching her drive away and each of us mouthing the words “I love you” to each other. I should have done that more often. The “I love you” part, that is. But then again, I have so many regrets. That is quite possibly the most valuable lesson that I have learned from Kass’ passing.

When I came out to visit last May and attend her birthday party, I was excited. It had been years since I had seen her. I was prepared for what to expect. I knew she was very sick. But mostly I just wanted to see her for myself. To hug her. To kiss her. To tell her I love her. All those things I regret not having done more before. Wondering why it took something like her illness to get me to come out there to visit.

happy40I really, really loved being there. I loved being a part of her day. I loved talking to her and catching up as if no time had passed. Seeing all the love and support she had. It was amazing. And all I could wish was that my whole family was there. Another regret. I will never get over the fact that she did not meet my children. To this day, it still haunts me.

I remember hearing of Kass’ passing from my dad. A simple message: Kass passed away early this afternoon. I think for both of us, there wasn’t anything left to say. We knew this was coming. But it was hard to speak of it. I was at work. I went into the closest restroom, in the last stall, and cried. I am not sure how long I was there.

When I got home that night, my family and I sat down to dinner. I had always been honest with Ryan (our 8 year old) about Kass’ health. I felt he was old enough to learn and understand about the death of a loved one. He was so sweet. He prayed for her often. He cried for me when I told him. Emily (our 3 year old), of course, was too young to understand. So when we sat down to that dinner, as if the world just kept right on going, it was so surreal to me. When we prayed before our meal, I started crying again.

Kass was laid to rest on Emily’s 3rd birthday. We were up at Steve’s parent’s cabin for the celebration. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I tried my very hardest to pay attention to what I had right in front of me. My daughter, healthy as could be, happy and celebrating. When I put her to bed, I kissed her forehead and then couldn’t leave. The thought of not seeing her grow up took my breath away. To wonder what Kass went through, knowing she was leaving her baby girl…I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Still, to this day, it devastates me.

I am not what one would call a “religious” person. It was not part of my childhood. It was not part of my adult life. When I met Steve, I had a bit of a re-introduction to Catholicism. And when Steve suggested we send the kids to Catholic school, I was in support of it. I saw how important this part of his life was to him and how much it meant to him to raise his children as Catholics. We visited the parish and school and I was definitely onboard. I saw a great community of family and hope. However, I continue to struggle with my faith. Kass’ passing has been a huge part of this struggle. After Kass passed away, I heard from so many family and friends “God had a plan. It was part of His plan. We don’t know what that plan is, but it is part of His plan.” But I am a black and white person I guess. I just don’t see what that plan could possibly have been. I just don’t see it. But I am not giving up on it.

I saw this post awhile back on Facebook:

Prayers are prophesies! They predict our future. Weak prayers create a weak life. Be relentless! Wrestle with God! He can handle it! #bemore

Maybe I need to wrestle with God more? But there is that black and white factor again. How can I wrestle with him if I am not going to get my answers? I want to know “why Kass?” And I know I will never know the answer to that.

And so here I am. A year later. A whole year since I saw her last. Since we talked about our family coming out that July. When our kids could play together outside while we sat on her porch, drank wine, and chatted about all we had been given in our life.

May 2012 064
Aunt Sharon, Kass, and Kelly
May 5, 2012

I know that one should not live with regrets. I just don’t understand how that can at all be possible. However, what I can do is, try not to have any going forward. I will never again take for granted the most important thing in this world. My life. I have a healthy husband that I love so much. That I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with every day. That I wake up and see next to me every morning and it makes me smile. I have two healthy children that I cannot imagine my life without. Who every night I kiss before bed and silently say to myself “Kass, I am sending a kiss to Josie too.”

Sometimes it is hard for me to put into words the way I am feeling. I have been very fortunate to have an understanding husband who listens so well. There are still days that I cry out of the blue because I am sad. Sad that Aunt Marty and Uncle Tom do not have their daughter with them. Sad that Krista, Tom, and Tim do not have their sister with them. Sad that Josie does not have her mom. So very sad that she does not have that beautiful spirit to teach her to dance, sing, read, get ready for her first day of school, find a dress for her first prom, share the moment with her when she meets the man of her dreams, give her something old, new, borrowed, and blue on her wedding day, be a grandmother to her children.

Her death did have an impact on me. I did take a lesson from it. I did learn about what is important in life. She will never, ever be far from my thoughts. She is my daily reminder that life is too short. She is my reminder to live simply, speak kindly, care deeply, and love generously. For we never know when that will be taken away…

cabinet
We keep this picture of Kass and Josie on top of a china hutch left to me by my Uncle Joe, who passed away last November. They sit in the middle of our home where they remind us every day of our angels, and that life should never be taken for granted. Her smile is completely contagious.

Your Light Still Shines

IMG_1103
My favorite picture of you! Beautiful Kass! 2010

There are no words that can ever be spoken

That truly capture how our hearts feel so broken.

Birthday party 001
Just the four of us….

You had to go…we now do understand

But we all miss the touch of holding your hand

Your light still shines and your love still grows

Your beauty still radiates and our hearts overflow

For one more minute to hold you so tight

We admire your brave and courageous fight

We know you are better now and feeling no more pain

Yet each day seems a lifetime without saying your name.

I find myself lost listening to the birds

Wondering if it is you singing those soft and sweet words

“It is okay,  I promise. I am doing just fine.”

“When you get here with me we will drink some more wine.”

Precious moments….

“I miss your laughter,” I say with a smile. “But, I am glad to know that you are okay.”

“I miss you so much and it won’t go away.”

“Especially today, it’s your birthday, you know.  After all of these years I have never missed one.”

“But, this year is no different, as I stand, my face towards the sun.”

“I know you can hear me, and I feel you here, too.”

“Just like it’s always been……forever me and you.”

And, as it always was, so shall it always be.

Until we meet again, I will imagine eternity.

And spend the rest of this life keeping your love fresh and new.

“I love you, sweet sister….happy birthday to you!”

kass birthday
Each day is a gift!

I Run to Savor the Past and Hope for the Future

In just a matter of days, I will join my cousin Tina and her friend Nora to run in the St. Luke’s Half Marathon in Allentown, PA.

Kass Running
Running the Harrisburg Half, 2002.

I have only run one half marathon in my life.  I finished the Harrisburg Half in 2002 with Kass at my side.  We wore matching outfits and the same necklace as we ran that day.  Along the route, we talked, we laughed, and we enjoyed every step.  In fact, as the race photographer went to take this picture our natural inclination was to reach for each other in this embrace as we ran.  This image I will treasure always.

Kass was mentally-tough and a much better runner than me.  She motivated me more than I could ever have done for her. I remember as we approached the finish line together that day, she slowed down, reached back, and pushed me across that line first with a big smile on her face.  Since I had gotten her into it, she knew that doing that race was my dream, and she wanted me to savor it.  I will never forget that moment as long as I live.  Our parents were there, too, to cheer us on at the finish line.

Marine Corps Marathon_0001
Warming up at the Marine Corps Marathon, 2003.

We did the Marine Corps Marathon the next year with my brother Tim, and although we did not race together that day (she was so much faster than me), she was the first one I saw as I crossed the finish line.  Big smiles abounded!  We were both so happy to have finished and just thrilled to check this off of our bucket list.  Our parents were there for that finish line, too.  Just as they have always been.  We celebrated that night during dinner in DC.  The sore legs, the tired muscles, the aching body could not dim the light that was shining from within us.  We had accomplished something amazing.  Together.

After all that has happened in the past 20 months, I would never have anticipated running more than a 10K again.  It just seems too hard, too sad, too daunting.  Whenever I run, I think back to all of these races I ran with Kass.  In fact, the last race we ran together was on Thanksgiving Day in 2010.  We ran the Run for the Diamonds, a grueling 9-mile course in Berwick.  Looking back, I could never have known it would have been our last run together.

Running
Running for Kass

My running since Kass became sick has all been in honor of her fight.  My friend Kate and I ran the LIVESTRONG 10K in Philly in August 2011.  Then, I ran with other girlfriends in the National Race to End Women’s Cancer in DC in November 2011.  And just this past January, three of my girlfriends from high school – Amy, Kelley and Christine – signed on to run a 5K every month during 2013 in loving memory of Kass.  We call this undertaking Friends Running for Hope.  With four runs already completed, we continue to run each month for Kass. While we run, we carry Kass’s picture on our backs and her determination and grace in our hearts.

But it was my cousin Tina, with whom I reconnected after losing Kass, who encouraged me to do the St. Luke’s Half Marathon.  We had started working out together in January.  A few weeks later, she called me and told me about this race.  Tina is a nurse at the Susquehanna Health System and another nurse in her unit, Nora, had been inspired by Kass’s story and now they both wanted to run for Kass. How awesome is that?  How could I possibly say no?  I was reluctant at first – this distance is still intimidating to me – but I registered a week later.  I am so thankful that they encouraged me to do this.  I know they will help to see me through.  My body is in no way ready for this run.  But, my heart is fully engaged.

Losing my sister has been the most difficult experience of my life.  She was not only my sister, she was my best friend.  My rock.  My soul sister.  A part of me.  And, a piece of me that is now gone forever.  The hole is my heart is huge.

In fact, I have come to understand that only those who have looked through this side of sadness and loss can truly understand the challenge of what lies ahead:  How do I continue?  Where do I go from here?  What can I do?  How will I make it without her?

Just a few months back, instead of focusing on how I felt, I began to think about how the world must have looked through Kass’s eyes over that year she fought.  If I was looking from there, what would I see?

It was through this experience that I found the courage to run again.

I know that early in her fight, I would have seen this gutsy determination, this tremendous courage, and this willful strength to beat this disease.  And fight, she did.  She fought for her little girl, she fought for her family, and she fought for her life.  It was unlike anything I have ever witnessed.

But, I believe in her final months, if I had looked, I would have seen an overwhelming sense of love, acceptance, gratitude, and peace.  There was no bitterness, there was no “why me?”  There was only profound acceptance, layered in a soft mist of faith, hope, and love.  With this knowledge, I ask myself:  how can I see what she saw and ever give up?

So this Sunday, when I am weary and tired, I will just keep going.  Just like all of those who have ever experienced the pain of losing someone they love.  We know loss and we know love and we understand the impossible task of trying to make any sense of these two contrasting emotions.  Yet, somehow we just keep moving forward.

We do this to honor and remember those we love.  We do this in appreciation of all of those roads we have walked that have not been so kind to us.  We do this to remind ourselves of the healing power of pushing ourselves to our limits.  We do this for others who cannot.  We do this because we can.  And, we will.

I have learned that we only get one chance at this life and in a moment, it can all be taken away.  Just hearing the daily news reminds us that this is true.  Watching the events unfold at the Boston Marathon last week was difficult and sad, as I have been both a spectator and a participant in this type of event.  Amidst the celebration and accomplishment, there is tragedy.  So senseless, so unfair.

Yet, every day when we wake up we are given a new chance to forgive, to dream, to hope, and to love.  So as long as I am able, I will continue to shine a light on Kass’s life and will attempt to live my life from that same tender lens that she looked through as she prepared to say goodbye.

As I read during Kass’s funeral mass, one of her favorite sayings from Helen Keller was “Keep your face to the sun, for you will not see the shadows there….”  I know that Kass’s amazing grace and awesome courage will be with me on Sunday.  And as I cross that finish line, I will look toward the sun and I already know that she will be there, helping me across that line just as she did that day in Harrisburg all those years ago.

For you, Kass…I shall run.  Here we go!

Josie's 2nd Birthday Party 2010 059
The three amigos, 2010.

Scholarship Program to Celebrate & Remember Kass’s Achievements

TKhires

We are pleased to announce the creation of the Kathleen Paternostro Morgan Memorial Scholarship Program!  During 2013, we will recognize two deserving graduates from Hughesville High School who exemplify Kass’s spirit and dedication to sports, academics, and her community.  With your help, we plan to expand this program in the future.

Please read below for the 2013 scholarship guidelines and criteria.

Kass loved life!  She held many fond memories of her time spent in school close in her heart.  So we are very pleased to be able to provide financial support to aspiring student athletes in this small way.

=========================================================================

Purpose: To provide annual scholarships to deserving high school seniors who demonstrate Kathleen’s esteemed qualities and work ethic, including dedication to academics, sports, and the community in which they live.

Scholarship Amount:   $300.00 (2 awards to be presented)

Frequency:  Presented annually during graduation ceremonies at Hughesville High School.

Criteria: 

  • 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 be attending college upon graduation.
  • Applicants must complete the scholarship application and write a 500-word essay.

 Process:

  • Applications are available from Hughesville High School officials, and must be submitted by 15 May.
  • Applications may be submitted via direct mail to:  Team Kass Foundation, PO Box 1862, Williamsport, PA  17703.
  • Two members of Kathleen’s family may elect to meet briefly with the nominees to determine the final scholarship recipient(s).

 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.  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.

To learn more about Kathleen, please visit our website at http://teamkass.com.

Summer 2011 128