By: Liz Scott
Fifteen years ago today, my daughter Alexandra “Alex” Scott took her last few breaths after a seven and a half year battle with childhood cancer. She was 8 years old.
Every day, I go into work at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation—the organization that both bears her name and carries on her legacy of raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer research. Alex was just 4 years old when she hosted her first lemonade stand to help doctors find the medicines to make other children battling cancer feel better. (Lesson 1: Kids are smart and full of goodness.)
My daughter’s name is on our signs and her photos hang on the walls—she is ever present but I miss her in a way that is indescribable—Alex—my daughter.
I would like to say I remember everything about Alex, but the years have blurred so many of the memories. It is getting harder to remember all of our times together, but that is natural. I could say the same about my other children—Patrick, Eddie, and Joey—who are now almost grown. My memories of their childhoods are becoming too distant to recall all the details. I don’t lament the long lost days and memories I can’t recall, I know that these days happened and that’s enough for me. I do wish I had taken more video and photos though! (Lesson 2: Capture memories whenever you can.)
Fortunately, I can still hear Alex’s voice in my head at times, saying some of her most frequent expressions like “why’d you laugh?” or “I told you…” or just a sweet “Thank you.” I can still see her face in my mind, and her different expressions of happiness, sadness, or resting. I remember the big things that made Alex, Alex, like her sense of humor, and how her smile could light up a room. Alex was a fighter for sure and her strength in her daily battle with cancer and all that came with it cannot be quantified. She was smart too, very thoughtful and kind to those she cared about. (Lesson 3: Don’t underestimate the wisdom and strength of children.)
Don’t get me wrong, Alex was not perfect. She had her moments, as we all do. There were times when her stubbornness and honesty could be disarming and downright frustrating. She was an excellent arguer (hmm, does she get that from me or her dad, Jay?) and seldom would admit defeat even when it was apparent. When she wanted something badly, boy did she make it her focus to get it—like when she announced she wanted to raise $1 million for childhood cancer research. I often say, I can’t imagine what she would have been like as a teenager. I would have given anything to have the chance to find out. (Lesson 4: Embrace all the phases and ages of life; growing up and getting older is a gift.)
This was Alex. All of these parts of Alex—fun to be around at times and challenging at other times—make up who she was as a person and shaped her life. Her fight and grit got her through seven and a half years of treatment. Her sense of humor made the long days shorter. Her determination led her to change the future for children with cancer. Her stubbornness helped her hold on through the summer of 2004 to see her million dollar goal met and set the stage for her legacy to continue. (Lesson 5: What we see as challenging qualities in people we love are oftentimes the very qualities that we admire in them as well.)
As time goes by, it is harder to feel close to her. Our lives have continued, as they should. The years have created a divide between Alex and me—one that can’t be bridged by any legacy, as it is filled with lost years, lost smiles, and memories we might have created, with me on one side and Alex on the other.
But, there is something else about this divide. It represents the possibilities of what Alex might have become and I smile when I think of that. It also represents the opportunity Alex left for us—the chance to bridge the divide between cancer and cures—between lives cut short and long, healthy lives. (Lesson 6: You cannot un-do a loss. But you can find a different, fulfilling path forward.)
I wish I could end with some final words of wisdom that capture all that Alex was to me But I don’t have a closing thought—and I cannot simply wrap up the lessons and reflections. Those reflections are very much alive and growing—even across the divide. (Lesson 7: There are not really endings. Just new starts.)
Rest in peace, my sweet Alex, I love you and miss you.