Dear Isabella, Writing a Luminary Dedication to You is Impossible

A mother writes a letter to her daughter who should be turning 16-years old.  Instead, she lost her life to childhood cancer

ISF Newsletter, March 2021 (Don’t receive our newsletter in your inbox, sign up here)

Dear Isabella, 

Writing a luminary dedication to you is impossible.  Even as I sit here with a blank sheet in front of me, I find the words hard to form.  Instead…I  just sit here and cry.  Every year your birthday is the hardest one for me because I always feel it’s just about us.  I thank God today that my heartache won’t be on display the evening of your luminary event because as I get older, it’s just become too private.

In my life now,  I have found myself surrounded by teenagers.  My home is filled with high-school kids, their friends, and talk of all things that would have been your life.  At times it gives me peace because I no longer have to guess what conversations would be like with you if you were still here.  But at times, it rips my heart out because there is a voice missing.  Your voice. 

There is no one here to put Grant in his place or become friends with his new girlfriend, which he would hate.  You wouldn’t even recognize him. He has changed so much this year and he would have become your best friend.  He has matured and transformed into someone you would have found funny.  Yet at times, he still wants hugs and I think in private moments with him, you two would have built a connection that was unimaginable.  He would have been your best friend and you would have been one of his.  Maybe not publicly, but it would be a private thing you would share.  You are very missed in this house.  

There is no one here to stick up for Sophia, as she sometimes is the odd man out.  You would think about her when she retreats to her room and you would pull her up to be a part of the chaos.  You would be patient with her when I find myself struggling with her lack of focus.  You would sit and ask her about her day and act interested in Anime or some new book she was reading.  You would occasionally take her with you to run errands, although maybe not being super excited about it – but just to spend time with her because she craves it. I honestly think she misses you most because she is at the time in her life when she is changing. She wants to relate to older girls and with all the changes in her life has lost best friends. You would have been there for her. I try as hard as I can to be what she needs, but at the end of the day – I’m Mom.  And sometimes I just don’t get it.  I feel her needing you.

And as your mom, I need you every day.  I need you to calm me down when I get over-stressed.  I need you to do spontaneous things with me like putting our phones down and going for an impromptu walk.  I want to take care of you and help you prepare for some of the biggest years of your life as you think about college and your future.  I want to know what you wanted to become.  We always heard you say you wanted to be a nurse, a doctor, a vet, or even a rockstar.  But at 16 – what would you have been drawn to do?  Like most teens, you probably would be anxiety-ridden and go through periods of not wanting to hang with me at all.  But you would venture out to find me occasionally and we would talk about everything and I would give you the advice you wouldn’t take over coffee.  

I know it sounds crazy but I think I see you sometimes.  Pulling out of the garage, something will catch my eye or a shadow in the house makes me do a double-take. Honestly, it makes me feel like I’m losing my mind.  I’ve even had a couple of dreams about you lately – most of them scary where I wake up shaking or crying.  But I will even take those every night if it’s a chance to see you.  I don’t care how much I wake up hating them.  It’s the only way I have you.  They always come due to something at work so it makes me think I’m triggering them.  And like a drug, it makes me want to accomplish even more – and hoping it will bring a visit from you.  What a sick way to motivate success.  

I hate these birthdays.  Reminders of what I lost.  What you lost.  What we lost.  

I just wish I could see your face. Could snuggle with you.  I miss you so much baby.  I love you.  Happy Birthday.

Love, Mom

🌟Star Light Star Bright Luminary Dedication Event, March 9th

Isabella Santos lost her life to a rare pediatric cancer, neuroblastoma, at just 7 years old.  She should be turning 16-years old on March 9th. While she only lived seven years, Charlotte, the nation, and the world feel her astounding impact through the creation of a global rare pediatric cancer program at Levine Children’s.  This program is quickly becoming a national and international destination for healthcare for children with solid tumors, brain cancer, and rare cancers.

On the evening of what would have been Isabella’s 16th birthday, March 9th, ISF will light luminaries at a private event to signify the hope and change Isabella’s legacy has brought to the world.  Although our Star Light Star Bright event is not open to the public, you can participate by purchasing a luminary dedication in honor of someone you know who has been affected by cancer.  We have absolutely loved receiving dedications!  Tune in the evening of March 9th, we will stream on Facebook & Instagram Live.

Proceeds from the event will support the research of Dr. Giselle Sholler at Levine Children’s.  Learn about the clinical trial she is working on. Our goal is $100,000. Purchase luminary dedication

[Presented by Lake Norman Chrysler|Dodge|Jeep|Ram & Scott Clark Auto Group]

💜March Give Back Events in Honor of Isabella

Even almost 9 years later, Isabella remains at the heart of why we exist.  She is why ISF began and her three wishes are what our foundation is built on.  Thanks to your incredible support over all these years, we continue to help kids beat cancer, grow hair, and live their dreams in Isabella’s name.

We invite you to celebrate Isabella’s big legacy with us this month. During the entire month of March, we have many opportunities for you to make a difference in honor of and all that she continues to inspire for pediatric cancer. Learn about all the ways you can help pediatric cancer in March.