The New Normal (Hell)



If you’re going through hell, keep going.  ~Winston Churchill                 

Here we are.  It’s been almost three months since my Gabby earned her wings. I can’t seem to remember most of those three months and that simple fact scares me. I keep trying to remember what Gabby sounded like, what her cheeks felt like, how her hair smelled.  But no matter how I try I just can’t seem to hear, feel or remember the smell.  I found one of her socks in the hamper, after all this time it missed getting washed. I put it aside, afraid to lose some piece of her. The other day I found little pink pillow in the shape of a princess tiara, Gabby laid on it in her stroller on the way to treatments. I raised it to my nose and could smell her. Carolynn did the same.  People talk about “The new normal” Well welcome to “new hell”.

Everywhere and her sisters          

One night we were all sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner, the girls were laughing. I looked around and smiled for a second just happy to hear them. Then it hit me again like a speeding train.  There are only four of us eating dinner; there will only ever be four of us. Gabby should be here giggling as well; she loved to laugh with her sisters. I looked over and saw Gabby’s empty chair…. It will always be empty. Think about that for a minute. Imagine a world where your child, your loved one will never be sitting with you again. There is nothing normal about that. So for the people that have said negative things about my family and how we are dealing with life, take a second and imagine these thoughts going through your head hourly.

A woman left a message after my last post saying she felt sorry for Maddie and Kate. She explained she lost people as well and couldn’t believe we would uproot the girls and why were we getting rid of everything that had to do with Gabby.  Obviously she was confused we haven’t and won’t get rid of anything. Her chair, clothes, toys, books. We have it all, we kept the minivan and everything else. We could never part from it, part from her. She’s everywhere, every place I look I see her.  She feels sorry for the girls? Well darling if you’re reading this so do I. Not for the same crazy reason you think but rather a real sane one.  I feel sorry because they are children missing their sister. Missing the piece that completes their sisterhood. Carolynn and I are adults, we can understand what happened (not accept). But Mad and Katie are lost trying to make sense of it.  Maddie won’t talk about it, Kate is angry all the time. We are there with them every day, we haven’t checked out. We put on our masks and guide them, hug them and love them.

No one should ever think these things

Before Gabby got sick I never thought about cancer. Never thought about sick children. When people asked for donations I didn’t always give. I thought I needed the money for my family. I hate that old me, the clueless me.

Whoever thinks their children will get sick and die? Not me. When each of our daughters was born people would ask: Do you want a boy or a girl? The answer was always the same: As long as their healthy it doesn’t matter. Well that answer has a whole new meaning. Now I would answer: As long as their healthy and stay cancer free for their entire life.  Cancer is real to me now, I can’t escape it. Like Gabby it’s everywhere as well. I look at my other two daughters daily and ask what if they have it, what if they get it? What if I or Carolynn gets it? Before it took Gabby we were untouchable, it could never happen to one of us, it only happened to others. Cancer didn’t exist in our world before May 31st. Now it’s a source of constant fear because it did happen to one of us and can happen again.  No one should have to live with that fear.  Katie asks either Carolynn or I to check her for a fever every hour. I think it’s because when Gabby was sick they knew how bad it would be if she had a fever. It would mean another trip to the ER, another stay on the oncology floor.  I would give anything to get her to not know these things. I would give anything to have her be a little 8 year old little girl who believed nothing could take her away. But the truth of the matter is that it can. Maddie is 9 and worried about dying. How F@#ked up is that?  Cancer didn’t just take Gabby; it took pieces of us as well.


Another thing that goes through my head is without a doubt horrible.  We have met a lot of families, a lot of sick children. We would never wish this or anything that happened to Gabby on them.  But late at night the mind wanders. I ask myself why did Gabby get under 3 ½ month and others get years? I know people will be upset with this but I ask myself it. People will say: she’s no longer in pain, she is happy now.  I hear this and think: really? What about us? I wanted more time with her! We were in Toys R us one day after she got sick. We bought her a few things, and she wanted another princess doll. It was $50.00 I said we couldn’t get it that day and we would get it next time. There wasn’t a next time. I should have gotten her everything she wanted during that time. Even then I was still living the life of that nothing could take her away from us. We would always have a next time. I have forgotten her smell, her voice and her touch but I remember every time I said no to her or didn’t play with her during that time.  Why was her time so short? I realize it’s selfish but I ask myself would I want her longer even if she was sick. And I’m ashamed to say yes, I would even for a minute just to run my hands through her hair to move it from her eyes.


I wrote something a while ago on how important pictures were. Now I look at them and am constantly looking for signs of her illness. DIPG takes away the ability to smile, or at least changes how the child smiles. There is a picture taken at my mother’s at Easter of Gabby and her sisters. I can see that her smile had changed then. The monster was in her. Another picture the week before the hospital, Gabby had her face painted like a Puppy. Her smile was slipping away then as well. I don’t know why I do it but I keep looking at old pictures looking for something that I know can’t help.

I would ask Gabby to give thumbs up. I look at those pictures from the beginning of her diagnosis to the end. The last one is driving to the ER when we cut her only vacation short. I asked her to give me a thumbs up and if she did,  I tolde her she would get an M&M Blizzard when we got to the hospital (by the way when we got there the ice cream machine was broke at CHOP).  She gave thumbs up. I look at that picture and see an extremely sick little girl. The light had left her eyes.  But she did it anyway because I asked her to. I sit here typing this in tears because I want my little girl back; I want to see that light. It should never have left and I was powerless to stop it. All I could do is ask Gabby to take a picture. When I should have held her hand and kissed her head.


Thanksgiving wasn’t easy, Christmas is harder.  Carolynn put up lights today, I couldn’t help her. I chose to cut the grass. Get lost in the sound of the engine. Every year we put up the tree it’s always the same. I put the tree in the stand, Carolynn does the lights and we hand the ornaments to the girls to hang as we unwrap them. Gabby always puts 5 to 10 ornaments on one branch always across the bottom two feet of the tree. Then I lift Gab up to put the star on the tree. After the girls go to bed, we fix the ornaments and then I hide the pickle ornament in the tree. The first one to find it gets a small prize. After that I hide it two more times so they all get a prize and usually have to help Gabby find it. She is always so happy and proud when she does. She screams “Maddie, Katie… I found the pickle!!”  But that was the last five years. This year I’ll only hide that pickle twice. How do we face even putting up a tree? When we saw Santa this year Katie would not tell him what she wanted. We already knew, it’s on her Christmas list at the top, Gabby! After St. Nicholas day Katie and Madison told Carolynn they didn’t want presents this year, they only wanted Gabby back.  I’ve never wished for a day not to come till now.

Fear and Forward

 3 months… seems like 3 days… We are here in a new place trying to cope. But the fear of the future followed us.  Neither Carolynn nor I have a job, we decided to take a month off during the holiday’s.  I’ve been looking in Bethany, Rehoboth, Lewes and Ocean City and still haven’t seen anything promissing. (If anyone knows anyone down here looking I would gladly talk to them, no matter what the job is.)  Carolynn is optimistic, she feels it will be alright and something has to go our way.  A few weeks ago I totaled my truck, in January it would have been our last payment then we owned it. Again welcome to the new Hell where nothing seems to ever go our way. So now we need to find another car which mean new payments. Just another thing for me to fear.  I know some will say stop pitying yourself and just deal. I’m not pitying myself, I’m sorry I just want to go a week or so with nothing bad happening. I don’t think that is too much to ask.

Even more Forward

A small portion of Gabby’s story will be on the American Giving awards on NBC on Saturday  December 10th from 8-10pm EST. It has to do with a great organization called Wish Upon a Hero and how they helped my family.

A friend has also talked to NBC producers about Gabby and her story and there are plans being put in place to discuss doing a one hour show on either NBC Dateline or Brian Williams’s new show about Gabby and Pediatric cancer.

Our main goal now is to help our two daughters,  also we are going to make sure Gabby’s foundation is up and running by the New Year. Our new focus in life is making sure her foundation grows and keeps growing. We won’t rest till the name is spread throughout the world. She isn’t a statistic, She will make a difference, she will help these  other fearless warriors fight this fight through raising money for research, awareness and helping other families in need.  We won’t rest until we live in a world where no children have to worry about fevers and death, we won’t rest until the word Cancer doesn’t exist in their world.

Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.  ~Victor Hugo

 Believe in yourself

Believe in your family

Believe in a cure

Believe in Gabby


52 thoughts on “The New Normal (Hell)

  1. I believe when I find even the smallest things around the house that are from a loved one who passed, that it is their way of saying hello and reminding you that they are still there with you. Last week my computer kept scrolling through pics by itself and it was annoying me to no end, I thought it was the batteries dying in my mouse. After the 3rd time, I let it go instead of stopping it and it scrolled through and stopped at my deceased stepbrother’s pictures. I dont look for things, they just pop up when I least expect it but you have to have an open mind. Sock, pictures, whatever it is, I see them as little blessings. Thinking of you all XOXO

  2. John and Family-
    Your posts bring tears to my eyes. I know so many of us wish they could help you with your pain and shoulder some burden, but we all know that sadly, this is your cross to bear and we can help and support, but in the end, it is yours. But, you have made me remember not to sweat the small not get angry all the time when my girls are being silly instead of serious…or not listening and begging to stay up just a little more! It is a horrible trade off….
    I attended the memorial service for our neighbor, Lexi Bailey, last month. Another angel wing earned too soon. This madness has to stop…please know we are praying for you every day….

  3. Dear Vogel Family,

    My heart breaks for you daily. Every time I think about you two and the girls, I pray for you. Hugs and love to all of you to get thru this hell. I was a sister who lost her brother very young, so I know a little bit how the girls are feeling. The scare and pain of death. I, too, was scared I’d die. I still wonder what life would be like with my brother i he were here. I still miss him like crazy and would give anything for him to be here and hold my kids. Although I know what its like to be a sister who’s lost a sibling I have no idea what its like, or can even fathom what its like to be a parent who lost a child. My heart hurts for you and Carolynn. I will continue to pray for your family. You all have a piece of my heart.

    Much love,

    Becky Magdycz

    Becky Magdycz

  4. I just wanted to tell you that our family loves you. Our oldest, Lily, is a brain tumor (ependymoma) survivor. While we have had an outcome that is positive–so much of what you write rings true. The why’s, the rage, the sorrow. Cancer immediately robs our children of so much. We prayed for Gabby when she was fighting and we pray for your girls and your family everyday. You will always be in our hearts.
    And having a normal, non-dramatic day is never too much to ask for. You deserve it all–and more.
    Much love from the Adkins Family.

  5. I am praying hard for you both to find jobs soon. I am also sending a prayer request to the Upper Room. I believe. And I love you all very much.

  6. I have so much I want to say, yet to just sit here and cry for your family seems so much more appropriate. My grandmother (who was more like my mother) died 9 years ago, I have a sweater in a zip lock bag and I still smell it once or twice a year, I afraid if I open it too often the smell will be gone some day. Everything you, Carolyn and the girls are feeling is normal. Feelings can’t be wrong!!!!
    My dearest friends sister has a brain tumor, when diagnosted they gave her three months, that was five years ago, so you ask why some people die quickly and other don’t, who knows. She lives in Coatesville. Someone need to get rid of that steel mill.
    You are normal. BELIEVE. Continued Prayers.

  7. Oh my gosh! Your story has touched my heart!! My thoughts & prayers go out to you & your family! I have gotten to know Little Ella & her family (Miracles for Ella). I know they followed your story also! OMG, I cannot even imagine what you all must go through on a daily basis! I have looked at your pictures & see the BEAUTIFUL 3 girls! To lose one, is just horrible! My heart breaks for you all!!! I don’t know what else I can do for you, but will surely keep you all in my prayers!! Just know that you touched my heart deeply & I ache for you & the pain you must all be feeling! My thoughts & prayers are with you all!! ~Ella

  8. My heart goes out to you and your wonderful family. I cannot imagine how hard it was and still is every day. My greatest fear has always been something happening out of my control that would hurt my children. Never apologize for anything you feel or think, it is only human to want the people you love to stay forever. I truly believe that love never ends. Gabby is only as far as your heart. And yes, you may lose the smell, touch or sight memory, but your heart never forgets, and she will always be with each of you, every single second of every single day, forever. She is your family’s own special angel. Try to live each life for her, in her honor, and then you can never go wrong. My prayers and wishes are with you all!

  9. I just stood in my bedroom reading your blog with my 2 daughters playing on the computer, ages 13 and 4. We almost lost our oldest to a rare genetic liver disorder at 3 months. She received a transplant. Knock on wood, she is healthy now. I only say this because we were lucky and I have no idea why. I stand here with tears streaming down my face writing this because I have no idea why life is so cruel. Why people can be so cruel and my heart breaks for you, Carolyn, Maddie and Katie. I lie in bed some nights and have panic attacks because I’m afraid my 13 year old baby will go into rejection or develops lymphoma, a side effect sometimes of the anti rejection medication she’s been on for 13 years. I can not begin to imagine your pain. I know what the terror and fear of losing them but not your pain. No one has the right to tell you and your family how to cope. I have no idea how I would even survive without one of my babies. I’m not sure where I’m going with this other than i am thinking of you and your whole family. Gabby will never be forgotten or a statistic. Not if I have anything to with it. xoxo

  10. I read your stories all the time and cry. My heart truely goes to you and your family and Gabby as well. I have 3 children myself and everytime I read one of your stories or think about Gabby Igive my kids an extra hug and kiss and tell my children “I love you” just in case. Im sorry anyone has to go through an experience like this and I think what your family is going through is “normal” Do not allow ignorant people get in your way your much too busy for their negativity. God bless and thank you for having the courage to share your story with so many others. Awareness is a start.

  11. God Bless You!!!! Do not worry about what others think of you… very few have had to go through what you and your family have!!! No one in their right mind could ever judge you! I am praying for you guys and I hope with all my heart that things start looking up for you guys. It will never be ok about Gabby but I do hope that some of the day to day things straighten out for you all. I will be praying that God will send jobs for you.

    I have no idea what you are going through… but I am so sorry and I wish that I could do something to help! Contact me at any time if you think of anything that I could do that would make things easier for you. Even though I do not know what you are going through… and I pray I never do… I will be praying for you… and asking God to lift you up! God bless you all!!!!

  12. This Christmas for us is terrible as well..our first real one with out my mom.she passed away on the 11th last year but you know as well as I ..The first few months are shock..i already had my shopping and decorating we just got through it last year. .But she was blessed to be 85..How would one put up a tree after losing a child? I haven’t put up a tree.Don’t want to..You have two children to keep moving you forward for them..I can just tell my grown kids if they want a tree in my house..put it grandchildren have trees in their own homes.I am sobbing after reading your blog..I know cancer as far as my parents, brother, grandmother ,a sister,cousins ,friends and myself..the monster needs to be stopped…I want to move myself.memories of both of my cancer treatments..the last one just three months ago….memories of my mom everywhere as she lived with us for seven years..I understand the moving…When you look in the bedroom in your new house it isn’t that you forget Gabby.that is impossible.There just isn’t the images of her playing in there..or looking in the yard.seeing her there.I get it totally…I haven’t moved my moms coffee creamer from where she left it…crazy isn’t it?I just can’t..but if we moved i wouldn’t have that spot to keep her coffee creamer.Some people just don’t relate the same..But to be rude…they should be ashamed..Maybe they have a diffrernt way to cope.I choose your way…praying and sending hugs to you and yours<3 Jill and family

  13. I won’t compare any of my lose to yours…I know it’s not what you want to hear..people lose people everyday..but those who have lost a child there is no comparison not even if you have lost a child yourself…because it is “your” loss…I know you probably don’t want to hear how others hurt like you…and please don’t get me wrong I just know people are trying to relate…but out of ALL the things that you hear on here and on facebook and in life general….PLEASE know this..I am a mother of six amazing children who up until I started following your story back in I think July..would ask me to play and I would tell them no I didn’t have the time, I didn’t read bed time stories I was trying to get everything ready for the hussle and bussle of the next day…Anyway I was always too busy to stop….but beings you shared with all of us your pain, all your raw emotion, everything that you went through..I like many others now stop and enjoy the things that we never did before…I know it may not seem like much..but you ARE making a difference just with your words…Gabby has made a difference, and maybe you might think it is crazy that complete strangers could think of your family throughout their daily routine but we do..I promise we do…and we say a prayer for you and hope that you will know happiness again without guilt, without a sad tear but a happy tear…So thank you both for sharing your life with us. You have made me a better mom for my children and that to them and myself is an amazing gift! Thank you!!

  14. Carolynn and John, people will say what they will. We can’t control the actions of others. But no matter WHAT, no matter who says it, please keep in mind. Others may have experienced the loss of a child, or a sister, but NO ONE ELSE has every had to lose Gabby. Each of you have a very unique relationship with her, very much one of a kind. Therefore, no one else can ever tell you what’s right or wrong. You needn’t even provide any explanation as to how you choose to grieve, or for that matter, help your family grieve. Nobody has the right to demand that from you, ever. The choice to move may have been one of the smartest you’ve ever made. There is nothing wrong with wanting peace and comfort. As for the search for work, have you ever considered turning the blog into something more? Writing helps release the emotions that can suffocate your heart. It also helps by spreading the word about pediatric cancer to others. I think you are already exactly where you need to be right now <3 And PS~ Never, ever regret any moment (or picture), good or bad. Sometimes, even the bad is better than nothing at all.

  15. I think about you guys and Gabby all of the time. Still praying for you daily. This past year and what Gabby and you all have been through has forever changed me, as well as other families I know who have been through this too. We have all we need this Christmas….a roof over our heads, food to eat, warm clothes, and our health. We are doing more this year to help others less fortunate. You are doing the same with the way you’ve been “paying it forward” and with Gabby’s foundation. It is an inspiration to us all. What a great way to honor her forever. No doubt she knows how much she is loved, and is smiling down on you, and painting the sky pink as a reminder she is always with you. I pray for some peace for you all this holiday season. We love you all!

  16. Dear Vogel Family,

    I have read everything about your family and you beautiful Gabby. I wont’ say sorry for your loss , those words hold no compassion in them… I will say I have celebrated your daughters life with you and I will miss seeing her updates everyday on her progress… I am a strong believer in destiny.. and she (even though its the last thing you want to hear or feel right now) has and will accept her destiny… I as a mom of 4 kids and 1 grandchiild, cannot even think of the pain this has brought your heart… I have cried the same tears , pain unimaginable.. but never because I lost my child… that pain is something I don’t think many can deal with … I am a christian, I believe in God, heart , mind , body and soul.. I read everything you have written, even those words asking and saying God has to be evil to do this to a child… That’s the most profound thing I have had to face reading your story.. Yes! why would God allow this suffering? What can be done to show you, God has no part in the suffering of people.. Our lives are blessed in so many wonderful ways and then tragedy hits and it seems almost fitting to blame the man in charge! I have blamed him myself many many times… Things have happened to me in my life (rape, beatings, loss) and I saw no other way to be then say WHY ME GOD??? It took a very long time for me to see the big picture, the master plan if you can call it that.. that has made me the amazing woman I am today.. I have turned tragedy into triumph, I have become the person God truly wants me to be… My story has helped so many people , find peace, in a otherwise terrible time in their life… I wont sit here and say God is going to make it all better, I know he will, but you dont feel that now.. and THAT IS OK! everyone deals with things on their OWN time… How anyone could say anything negative to you is beyond me BTW.. your doing better then most in the situation your words can heal your heart, nothing can bring your child back.. but I wanted you to know that in time.. you will see and feel the purpose behind what has happened in your life… I have a fb group I started , because I am a writer… and its a inspirational page.. I included the link.. stop by the page on days you feel down, I hope you find some healing or inspiration in the words I write… Sometimes I stay up late, reading your blog… and then I find the most incredible things you write and I post them… YOU have changed my life so much.. Gabby has changed my life soooo much… I was by no means the perfect mom. but now I strive for it everyday… not by having the best of things, or the cleanest house.. but because I never want to regret having lost precious time with my child… Your life is and will be a GREAT INSPIRATION to MANY!! I know for this moment in time, you don’t wan’t that.. you want your old life back.. with Gabby in it.. but please know this is a calling and it does serve the greater good… I will continue to pray everyday for your family, that this burden you carry is somehow lifted and you and your girls have joy placed back in your hearts!!! I say this even though I know how you really feel, because I feel its what I need to say.. Jesus was hung, beaten and died on the cross, for our sins… the ultimate , sacrifice of love for us… suffering is part of life… (sad as that is) but it is never in VAIN…Hold you head high, know that your child lived a great life, served a great purpose and you and your family can and will help many !!!!!!! i have felt pain, that has killed many, and I can say 100% I feel only joy , thinking that I serve a purpose in this world, I have been called and choosen to do mighty things… so has Gabby… just your blog alone has made others think about how they are in their own family! Gabby will help many kids have a better life… that is AMAZING! THE HUMAN SIDE OF YOU, REJECTS ALL LOGIC IN THIS , SAYS IT IS NOT FAIR… THIS IS TRUE AND FOR NOW IS YOUR REALITY…BUT I ENCOURAGE YOU , LOVE YOU AND PRAY THAT IN THE END YOU SEE THE SITUATION FROM DIFFERENT EYES… MAY THE PEACE, LOVE AND JOY OF GOD’S PRECIOUS LOVE .. HEAL YOU AND YOUR FAMILY!!!!

      • I find your post incredibly self-serving! This isn’t about you, this is all about Gabby & the Vogel family! What they need is unity among those who have shared their journey and flourish them with love & understanding! Narcissistic personalities don’t seem very fitting in this forum!

        • Thank you and well put. I’m a Christian – I don’t know what kind of Christian she is. She says she is a writer, John is an amazing writer. I BELIEVE that some day he will write a book with Carolyn.

    • Whoa! Did you ever read the verse- “with MANY words, sin is unavoidable,” ? Perhaps you should have prayed before you wrote this. God will draw them to His people who will not flaunt their own prideful assumptions of being in a self appointed “ministry.”

      • Oh My … I must say I am re reading my post and my Lord , I think you are right, I def needed to pray first… I did not mean to go into what I actually wrote, I lost my mom and felt the exact same emotions as John, and after reading his blog, I really just wanted to share that I felt that same way and God brought me through.. I can say I am sooo sorry it came out like it did, its not about me and I sure didnt mean for it to be either,.. I can say I am wrong when I am.. thanks for telling me, your post rang true in my heart… “with MANY words, sin is unavoidable,” wow powerful and true in this moment… I wish I could erase it, take it back or reword it, but I cant ,.. lesson learned… thank you I just wanted to be supportive to the family…

  17. Your post is heartfelt and moving. Don’t let ANYONE make you feel that you are wrong. Gabby is in a better place and pain free, but that doesn’t mean it is easy for the four of you left on earth. I can’t imagine, and I won’t pretend to know what you are going through. My grandson had leukemia and my husband has lung cancer, but they are still both here. You are in my prayers. God bless you in your job search. I am glad your wife is optimistic. You need to catch her bug!

  18. I’m so sorry for your loss. I know its hard. I may only be 17 but I know what its like to lose a loved one. I lost my dad almost 3 years ago. It’s not easy and I wont say it is. But all the negative things people say to me are just proof I’m stronger than them. Good luck! I wish there was a way I could help.


  19. Hi. I’ve been following your family since you started your webpage for Gabby. I have a 6 year old born a few weeks after your beautiful daughter. I think of you all the time. I think of your pain, your loss, and your strength and courage through a Hell I don’t want to know. I want you to know that your Gabby is making a difference… I try to take an extra minute to hug, kiss, and play with my daughter now. Not because I can, but because I know it is your deepest wish. My family prays for you often, and we aren’t super religious, just think there has to be something more that can heal… I’ve suffered for the past year with a deep sadness from the revelation that my husband had been having an affair almost since our daughter was born. I tend to question most everything now myself, and I’m trying to find forgiveness within myself. I’m not sure it really exists within our minds and hearts. The thoughts can make you feel crazy. This much I can understand. I do not compare your tragedies, just share my story because I believe that knowing others care helps. So, I live in Delaware and know a lot of people that might be able to help you in your job search. I know you aren’t looking to start just yet, but if ypu would like to contact me for some recommendations, I will help in any way I can. Your family deserves a break from some of the stressors life is throwing your way. You have my email address if you are interested in any assistance in your new community. I also know a wonderful realtor who lives there as well, and I know he could help you find the home you need. With thoughts for care, comfort, and healing through this extremely difficult Holiday Season.

  20. No words I could ever say can take all your pain, hurt, anger and saddness away. All I can do is pray for all of you. God Bless you and give you strength to carry on. My heart and love goes out to you. With Blessings and Love. <3

  21. John you may feel lost and like you are not moving. I see something different, something I admire. Often after a tragic loss people are stuck and unable to make changes. They leave a room as it was, and they struggle with moving forward. You and Carolynn have not stood still and let the world pass you by. You took a huge step by moving- and you knew something so many others don’t learn for months or even years- Gabby will always be with you no matter where you go- Maddie and Katie know that too. You also realized that your job was not allowing you to heal the way you need- so you took a step that some people may call reckless- I call it brave and bold, and I know where Gabby got the strength to face her battle.

    There is something wonderful waiting for you and your family on the Delaware coast. I am certain of that and cannot wait to see what the future holds for all of you. I know you will make incredible things happen in honor of Gabby and to help other families avoid traveling this painful road.

    As to regrets…………..Gabby was loved and she clearly knew that. And she is watching you now and she does not want you to have regrets. She wants you to remember her with a smile.

  22. Will be watching the show about your family tonight. We had friends who lost all 4 sons in a fire 30 years ago in Cherry Hill. They adopted a baby right away and the mom gave birth to 3 more. The boys were best little buddies with our boys and it was a total nightmare. The parents are now in their early 70’s and the kids are grown up. The boys are buried right near my parents and we go there all the time. Just kep putting one foot in front of the other and you and carolyn are doing a marvelous undertaking with the girls and keep thinking gabby is watching over all of you. Think of you all the time. If you ever come to Cherry Hill I want to meet all of you and do something special. We have 5 grandchildren and they are our lives. Bev Hersh

  23. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about you and your family and what a horrible loss that you are experiencing. I have never lost a child but my husband’s family has to a horrific accident and I remember oh so well the pain, the tears, the emptiness, the nightmare that we all felt. What you are going through no one can truly help except to be there to lend a shoulder and to do their best to console. I know that you have heard this time and time again, but in time it does get easier. When my mother passed away all I wanted was to hear her voice and after a few years I sat down and watched videos of different events that were filmed with her being present. To hear that laugh, that voice, made me cry beyond control but I knew I was starting to heal. I was so afraid to watch them, but afterwards was glad I did because it brought her back into my life, my heart and my love. One day you will be able to watch those videos that you took with Gabby in them and yes you will cry like “hell” until you think you can’t cry any longer but still can. You will find that she isn’t gone in your life, your heart and the love will always be right there, you will start to heal. Gabby was brought to this life for a reason and maybe with her foundation giving people hope and someday maybe a cure for that beast called “Cancer” the shining star that she is will be the reason she came into everyones life. It’s totally understanding that the holiday season is going to hurt. Many more will hurt too. Put that shining star on the tree for Gabby because she is “shining”.

  24. Hi John,
    I’ve been following Gabby and your family’s story since the beginning. I’m so bad with words, I wish I had something to say other than I think of your family daily and am so sorry that this all has happened. You have such a strong and beautiful family and Gabby will never be forgotten-my daughter and I still wear our Gabby bracelets and talk about her (and we never met you all). I’m looking forward to helping out when I see information about the foundation. Sending hope, strength, and hugs.

  25. I would like to thank you for posting this….as i couldn’t find it earlier…..i don’t know you and have never met you but i am so thankful that you have shared Gabby with me and everyone….She has chanded the way I look at my children and the way I look at life….things that i may have had a fit over I no longer let them bother me… them sneeking something in the living room and spilling it on the sofa….I now realize that it is washable and replacable…..I love reading your updates/blogs…..they are so deep and make me come to tears for you and your family….I have seen you speak of some of the remarks that come from people and realize that some people just dont know any better, but i am so glad that you can move past them and i hope you don’t put much thought into them…..I would feel the exact same way you do……so dont feel bad or guilty for still wanting her to be here, even sick….she is so beautiful and precious…..looking at her pics you post, I (and others i’m sure) would love to reach in and hug her… Thank You so much for sharing her with the world, she is one very special little girl who was extremely lucky to have such a loving family……Hugs to you and yours…..and prayers always to your family…..

  26. One more thing, please don’t ever feel bad for any of your thoughts. AND PLEASE don’t listen to anyone’s opinions/negative comments, I can’t believe anyone would say some of the things you have mentioned. You all have to be going through the most painful thing imaginable and need to be able to vent and lean on others, etc. I’m so sorry again and I hope cherishing your memories with Gabby gives you some happiness.

  27. I read this LITERALLY about two minutes after I JUST got done typing the EXACT same thing about my own son; not being able to remember him – his smile, his smell, our times together – the normal times. My son was sixteen months old when he passed – I miss him ever second of every day – that was almost three years ago now – it does not get better and time does not heal everything. Anyone who has ever said one negative word to anyone in your family for your way of dealing with such an indescribable loss should be ashamed of themselves, and should hope & pray they never have to experience something like this for themselves – they haven’t A CLUE on what’s right, what’s wrong, etc – NOT AN INKLING of a clue…. I really needed to read this I feel – I feel as though it was SENT to me, that it was meant to be. I am sending you and your entire family all of my love, and I hope Gabby & Kayden get to meet each other up there in Heaven – At some point, I will say it does get a little easier to feel as though you’re happy they’re not suffering – I know how you’re feeling now – but I just want to tell you that if I were given the option to have Kayden back, but the only way I could have him back would be to go back to him being sick with cancer again, dealing with all the chemo, radiation, PIC lines, infections, fevers, hospital stays, not being able to have a normal childhood… I wouldn’t ask for him to come back to me – I think at some point you will feel the same – no parent want their child to suffer… and we ALL would take their lace in a heart beat if we were given the choice – unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. I want you to know – that you shouldnt feel, and NO ONE should try to MAKE you feel selfish for your feelings of wanting her back until you make that transition – how you feel is OKAY – and it is RIGHT! Everyone deals with this HELL in their own way. I want to share something with you that helped me a little – her name is Cindy Bullens. My sister bought me her CD the year my son died for Christmas – It took me over a year after that to ever even put it in the player… She bought me the CD because my son died at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, ME and so did Cindy’s daughter – both to cancer – but at the time I just wasn’t ready to hear someone trying to “uplift” my spirit – I still WANTED to be angry – sometimes I still am… but I promise you, when I did listen to her – wow – she honest to God hits the nail right on the head – she had been a God sent for me – and I share her name with everyone I can who I think it may help in some small way. I am not by any means saying its going to be some cure all – or that she’s a miracle worker with her lyrics, but they do find a way to heal in some way. If you would EVER like to talk – please feel free to get a hold of me through here or through my carepage website provided above. Thank you for sharing Gabby’s story as hard as I know it was for you – she is a glorious Angel looking over you, Carolynn, Maddie, and Katie EVERYDAY – and SHE will be the one to give you the strength you need to get through – just ask her for help – Kayden helps me every minute. All my love, Kate McGibney (Farmingdale, ME)

  28. John, what is your line of work? I am a well connected HR professional and would love to help you find a new job. Something I read tells me you might be in banking? My boyfriend works for TD Bank and knows all the branches in Delaware. Please feel free to email me directly

  29. Your honestly always amazes me- you talk about how things really are for you and your family. I know that I can’t fully understand because I’m not you- but I am able to understand in part because of your willingness to be so open.
    Anytime I read an update on your family and find a thought drifting into my head- “Is that a good idea?”- that thought is quickly tempered by the realization that I have no idea what I would do to cope and eventually try to heal from such a horrible loss. So I sincerely send you nothing but love, hope & prayers.
    I often think about how your girls have lost a sister…and my heart aches for them. As a mom of 3, my heart aches for you and Carolynn as parents.
    All of these scattered thoughts and all I want to tell you is that I hope things settle down for your family & that a little bit of comfort finds it’s way to your hearts.

  30. My heart is breaking for you John and your family.The pain that you are feeling is like no other pain,and all your feelings, i know them all to well . I sleep with a little monkey and a hat that belong to my Granddaughter,i wake during the night and grab for them if they aren’t in my hand.They are all i have left of her,i smell them hoping to smell her also. Everything you write all your feelings is like you are looking in my soul and can see my pain . I always wonder how, how do people handle this kind of pain.The feeling you have of wishing for one more day with Gabby or wishing you did this or that or got her that one more toy .The biggest of all is Why,Why didn’t she get that chance. I know all those feeling,don’t let any one tell you to move on, your loss is BIG and it isn’t one that you will get over ,we will just learn to live with our pain and with our broken hearts.I do believe in Angels , i have one who i know is with me helping me to deal with this. I wish you and your family the best and hope you keep on writing . Try and stay strong <3

  31. My heart aches for you, Carolyn, and the girls. I know your pain of losing a child, although my daughter was 28 when she passed but the death of a child no matter what the age is horrible. Please know that I keep you all in my thoughts and prayers every day. I wish there was something more that I could do for you all, but I will continue to pray.

  32. Hey guys,

    Your family never leaves our minds. John, I was watching a video I took on oncology 3rd floor- that week Gabby and Calli were first diagnosed, & Calli’s bell choir came and played… You and I were both standing in the doorway- tearing up. They were ringing “mighty to save.”. It was surreal to me that it has been 6 months, since that day. My heart grieves for your family. I know what you mean a liitle bit about everything going wrong all at once- first Calli, then My mother in law- just got diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, my dad was just told he is dying, & I am in the ER with Aidan right now who has severe pneumonia….but, I can’t ask why… I just can’t. For some reason, God’s grace has surrounded me. I dont get it either- because I am a wretch- I don’t deserve the Grace and mercy and love of God…but He is yet surrounding me, us in the midst of this all. Please
    know that Calli and I pray Each night for your precious family.

  33. Like so many here, my heart is broken for you. But because of you, I now take the time to play and listen and just be with my girls. I have a step daughter who’s mom died of pancreatic cancer when she was four, she is now nine and not one day goes by that I don’t just stop and hug her with all my might. Love is healing her broken heart. Gabby makes a difference in this house every single day. God Bless you

  34. John & Carolynn,
    You are right about loosing a piece of you! I lost my brother when I was a teenager, and sadly that is by far one of the worst pains I have ever come to know. You don’t forget, it doesn’t get easier, you just learn how to cope a little better. there is no new normal, you unfortunately have to make due with what is laid in front of you at this point. It took me six years to be at peace with his passing, I was so angry and so sad. It wasn’t fair, nothing was fair. I would die if my baby girl was taken from me, I commend your strength, and I hope for your future. I like to think they are waiting for us you know, I will ask my brother to take Gabby for some ice cream, I am sure he would like the company…and ask him to watch over her and that before she knows it you will all be together again! I wish I could tell you something you havent heard or want to hear, but truth is I cant it sucks, its not fair,and its going to take a long time, and just when you think you are out of tears and the pain can not get any worse; it does! Stay strong and stay focused and one day, not sure when or if anytime soon, but one day you will find a different kind of peace that only you will understand, sending my thoughts and prayers your way. xoxo rebecca

  35. I just wanted to let you know that ever since hearing Gabby and your family’s story, i pause in my everyday life any time i get the urge to whine, complain, or think i’m having a tough time, i immediately think of Gabby an your family and say to myself “stop complaining, this isnt so bad, Gabby was stronger than this, so you can be too!” Her story has made me Believe. 🙂

    also, every year as a christmas eve tradition, my mom usually works the late ER shift, so its just me and my dad at home. we always watch ‘its a wonderful life’ on tv together. my favorite part is at the end when the bell on the christmas tree rings and the little girl says. “look daddy! teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings!” …i will be thinking of Gabby this year when the bell rings <3

  36. John,
    After reading your posts, my heart just ached for you and your family. Your daughter, Katie will take time to heal. It is normal for her to feel anger and such despair. I am hoping that she is able to talk with someone about her grief, but mostly, it will just take time and lots of love, and hugs, even when she says things that she really does not mean. I will continue to pray for your family, to have strength to get through the most difficult of times. There is nothing anyone can say to make it better, but please know that you all are loved.
    Amy Halterman

  37. I was shocked to hear that someone thought you should get rid of your daughter’s items. Everyone grieves differently and it is not mine or anyone’s place to tell you how to handle this. I admire you and your family for being so candid about your experience.

    I will be thinking of you and your family and praying that you find comfort during this difficult time.

  38. John (and Family),
    In all the pain and heartbreak and loss and sorrow, you have truly inspired me. Thank You!

    Now for the shout:

    Love from London, UK


  39. Dear John and Family, I really feel the need to write to you. I just want you to know I know there are no words ever to comfort you. The loss of your beautiful gabby will stay with you forever. Time will never heal this wound, but know that in time you will find peace with it. You are a wonderful father and husband so brave and strong. Your wife and children need you. I know you will always keep her memory alive, one day you will look back and be thankful for the time you had with her. I know it takes all the courage and strength you have to find peace but you will and you will get that from those beautiful children you have and you will find joy…love…and happiness again..Know that Gabby will always live in your hearts. I am praying for you that each new day brings you closer to finding peace.

  40. I believe that God does not give us more then we can handle. The trick is to find our way. As my Dad once told me You can turn anything and everything around to be a good thing so please don’t sit in the pit too long Get up and look for help which is all around each of us. I never heard anything about you and your family going to therapy then you each would have somebody to chat with and can help you find the peace.
    It was her time to go back to our Lord and we shall never question why.
    As you know I lost my sister and her daughter in a house fire, never had the chance to see then or say goodbye . They was nothing left.. Nothing !! Hard very much so but I made sure to get back up and get my children help to understand and to find the peace within. My heart and prayers are with you all Find the help and take it heal !!