The Backyard, Long Island—

“If you listen to the words, Mom, there’s no easy way out. I have to keep forging forward.” 

I Won’t Back Down by Johnny Cash will forever be your song. You were always ready with that gentle reminder, whenever I’d get frustrated or afraid that we had exhausted all of our options. I’ll bet you’re kickin’ it back with the Man in Black up in Heaven, maybe even teaching him how to forge knives. You were born an old soul, Chase. 

That’s why you were the head of our household. You kept us all in line—me, Daniel, Anthony, and Sophia. She’s taking it the hardest, which, I’m sure you know. Because when you passed, not only did she lose a brother; she lost her father figure, too. She’s started writing poetry though, to help navigate her grief. The collection is dedicated to you, and it’s so beautiful, even though reading them breaks my heart. 

I’m sure your ears are always ringing, because we talk about you all the time. You’re very much alive in this house, especially when we’re trying to plan something. We just shake our heads and laugh at ourselves and say, “Chase would have had this done already.” We’re a little lost without you, baby, but we’re forging forward. As we know you would want us to do. 

There isn’t a day, hardly a moment, in fact, that goes by that I don’t think of you and how proud I am to be your mother. You were simply too good for this life, Chase, but you made the lives of everyone you touched better in the brief eighteen years you were here. You were the embodiment of selflessness, putting everyone else’s needs before your own. Even when we found out that the tumor had moved to your third ventricle, and the doctor wanted to do surgery on Wednesday, I’ll never forget what you asked him: “Is there any way we could do the following week? I feel like I could go into this more positive if I could get my affairs in order.”

You had knife orders to fulfill, of course. 

And so it was scheduled the following week, and as they took you back to the OR, you said to me: “It’s okay, Mom.”

Even your final words were a sentiment to put me at ease. You spent the next sixteen months in the ICU and would undergo thirteen surgeries. Devastated doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. My entire world was upended. I lived at the hospital. I had to leave my job. 

During that time, whenever you were getting your 6 A.M. bath, I’d walk to Central Park and pray. Please God, help me know what my role is. What is my purpose?

I realized that, as dark as I was feeling, I had to be a beacon of hope. For your siblings. For the nurses and doctors who worked around the clock to care for you—they still proudly wear their “Chase’s Angels” jackets and bracelets to this day. But most importantly, I needed to be a beacon for you. There was so much sadness and gloom, I vowed that I was never going to have you or anyone look at me and for me not to be smiling. Smiling just makes the days so much better, so much brighter. You taught me that. 

Not only did you help me find my purpose, Chase, you helped me find love, too. Don’t even try to deny it; I know Lenny was your doing. You brought someone to me who could make me laugh in literally the darkest moments of my life. We got married this past June, and for that—among countless other things—I am eternally grateful.

Saying goodbye to you, my beautiful boy, has been an awful, awful, awful situation that, if I could, I would change in a second. And still, there are so many beautiful pieces of our journey that I will remember for the rest of my life. And people who will remember you. It’s just amazing how many people loved you, and most of them never heard you say a word. If that isn’t radiance, I don’t know what is. 

One of the most beautiful things to come from this is your Eterneva Diamond. A gift from your godmother, Gab, when she first told me about growing a diamond from your ashes, I had no idea how I was going to feel about it. But, it was an amazing experience. Everyone who worked on your diamond truly cared and appreciated being on the journey with us. Your diamond arrived home on your birthday, January 23, and it brings me so much peace. It’s so sparkly and shiny and whole and perfect. I could stare at it all day—and I do! 

It’s set in a ring, and it represents a break in the circle of life. Your Diamond is like a shooting star. The unique setting sparks a lot of attention, which means I get to talk about my son. 

  • My son the animal whisperer 
  • My son the knife forger
  • My son whose faith in the Lord outweighed his fears 
  • My son who chose to live happy, every day of his life 
  • My son who taught me to listen to the lyrics, and to never back down. 

I’m so proud of the legacy that you left behind. Even today, I run into people who talk about you with such kindness and joy. You touched a lot of lives, Chase. You gave people hope. One day we will meet again and I'm going to give you the biggest hug. Give Grandma a kiss for me. 

With you always,