I always think of Naya. Not always with deep pain and grief. When I'm with people she and I care about, she's present and alive. I have no tears during those times. I am at peace. I can feel her presence, her kiss, her hug and her smile. I think "Naya will like ...this show, the crisp day, the pumpkins, the Pope, the funny work story, PaintJack's latest stories, the support from her school, Logan's progress against cancer, Nashville, receiving Outstanding Youth Philanthropist." I reach my hand out to hold hers. I can feel her around me. She send signs of her presence to me everyday.
I snap back into reality. She's not here. Reality hits when it's quiet. When I'm alone.
When it gets quiet, I feel the pain of losing Naya deep in my throat, my jaw, my entire body and in my heart. Tears well up, and I cry. Sometimes I cry hard, really hard. I'm crying now. I breathe, wipe my tears and try to get my disposition back. "Breathe, breathe", I tell myself.
The visit from the Pope awakened me (I'm not Catholic). I saw a man so powerful, so full of love and so giving to people who suffer the most. The sick, poor, imprisoned and dying. He shares their grief, pain and suffering. He sees them. And, by doing so, he uplifts them and gives them the gifts of self-worth, joy and hope.
Thousands of people shared in our pain as they followed Naya's journey. They also all shared in our loss. We all lost Naya - Naya's family, friends, her schoolmates, teachers, family, caregivers, doctors, nurses, supporters, our work colleagues, our friends, other children with cancer who knew Naya, friends of friends, and all of the parents, grandparents, relatives and siblings of children affected by cancer.
I'm not alone when it gets quiet. I am joined by many who have directly been touched by losing Naya. While it's still very painful, it gives me comfort to know others have not forgotten Naya. Far from it. They are inspired by her, and carry her torch. Thank you for not forgetting her.
Someday, hundreds of thousands will be touched by her story and feel her impact. I stopped crying, and I'm breathing now. Naya is with me, hugging me from above and feeling loved.