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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.