I slept terrible last night. I remember waking up very suddenly around 11pm. It was very strange. It was if I had missed a call or thunder had crashed outside. I checked my phone, no call; I checked outside, no storm. I tried to fall back asleep but I tossed and turned for hours. I was so unsettled. I picked up my co-worker, and very close friend I might add, this morning and we head into the office. I immediately looked around for the Super Hero card I had bought two weeks prior yet had failed to send to Eddie. Today was the day! I had to get it to him ASAP. As I pulled it out I booted up my computer and logged into the usual suspects: the company network, my email and then Facebook to get the Livingston’s address. I looked up from the card and went numb. I turned around and my friend looked at and my face and said, “No!” She knew…she knew from my face and the sudden tears in my eyes that he was gone. The boy whose angelic face is the wallpaper on my computer as well as the lock screen on my phone…the super hero that saved me and changed my life from the moment I saw his first picture…the sweet boy that I say “Good Morning Buddy!” to every morning when my screen pops up…Eddie “Superman” Livingston, one of the strongest and most loved little boys I had the honor of crossing paths with on my crazy journey through life…the son of the most loving family and yet, in extension, a son to us all.
Flash back to March 2012 when I first contacted Eddie’s parents, Craig and Jeanine, about sending their family on a Disney cruise. I had been sent Eddie’s story with some accompanying photos and I was in love. Here was the most beautiful baby boy fighting the toughest of battles at just 3 years of age and you could see the old soul and strength in his eyes. Contrary to fighting for his life he seemed to be more full of life than any child I had ever seen. We got the trip booked and I got word a few weeks out that they had to cancel the cruise, Eddie’s cancer had spread so they wouldn’t be able to make it. I was devastated for them, this was such an exciting trip that they would have to miss. I was so angry and I knew at that point that I would do whatever it took to make sure this family had a special gifting.
A couple of months later, Eddie’s family: he and his parents, Jeanine and Craig, and his 3 beautiful siblings: Sarah, Stephen and CJ, had picked up and moved to New York from Florida to be closer to Eddie’s hospital and Jeanine’s family. Right after they moved there, Hurricane Sandy wiped out the home they were living in. “Seriously!?!” I remember thinking to myself. “How could this be and what can we do?” The family had moved back to Florida and Eddie and his mother were spending lots of time in NY for treatment and tests. Spider-Man was on Broadway and he was Eddie’s favorite. I told his mother to call me whenever they wanted to go and I worried she would never call me. “Why?” you may ask? Because Jeanine Livingston is the kindest, strongest, most humble, caring and loving mother in this world. I have never met a woman that so well exemplifies the true definition of a dedicated and loving mother. It was too much to ask for something. I was in awe of this. Then, finally, right before Thanksgiving last year (just this week last year) my phone rang. It was Jeanine…”Lauren, I hate to call and ask this, but the whole family will be in town for Thanksgiving and we really want to go to Spider-Man, it will be the Christmas gift for the kids.” Me: “When?” Jeanine: “Tomorrow?” DONE! I was ecstatic! The next night Super Eddie and his whole family had 4th row seats to Spider-Man and a private tour back stage from the man himself. Jeanine didn’t care how late it was, she made sure to text me afterwards. Her texts were so full of gratitude and the pictures made my entire night!
I wasn’t done and my CORE Board of Directors agreed. The first week in December my Chairman, Joe Smith, his wife and I went to the Livingston’s home in Florida with Santa in tow caring gifts for all! It was by far the best 2 hours of my life. I’ve never been more grateful for an opportunity. You see, I hadn’t had the opportunity yet to gift a child in person. What a rewarding experience, what a beautiful family. I left their home that day with the best Christmas present of all: the gift of giving. From that point on Eddie and his family were a part of MY family. I was forever changed by just a short few hours with a real life super hero who was fighting more than bad guys in Nintendo games, he was fighting for his life…the biggest fight of all! But instead of acting like he was in pain he was full of energy and youth and wisdom. It was in the moment I drove away and saw Eddie riding his new Spider-Man bike in the street through my rear-view mirror that life made sense to me. I learned that:
It takes the suffering to teach us the joy in this life.
Life is all about human connection. We all yearn for it and need it to complete us.
There is no better gift to receive than giving.
No matter how much time we get on this green earth we should live each day grateful to be in it.
Family support is so important and a mother and father’s love is like no other we will ever experience in this world. It teaches us about commitment, strength, loyalty, protection and true, unwavering love.
It was in that day that I realized my purpose in this life. People are my purpose and bringing joy to others, helping others, connecting with others is what I love to do and what I must do in this life..no matter to what degree I can do so.
Why did I wake up out of the blue at 11pm last night? Because, I learned today, it was just an hour before that that my Superman’s soul left his body while lying in the arms of his parents. The arms that first held him, held him through his last breaths, and this angelic boy was no longer in pain. He spent just 5 short years on this earth but, I can tell from the overwhelming amount of support across social media, he reached thousands across this world with his story, that beautiful, contagious smile and those wise eyes. He reached thousands of people he never met in person. THAT is influence! THAT is purpose! THAT is human connection! THAT is strength! THAT proves that we are not alone in this world, that we all have struggles and long to feel love and belonging. THAT my friends, although so short, is a life well lived!
Although I spent most of today in tears with a lump in my throat, while thinking about Eddie and his dear family, I was filled with love and warmth from phone calls, texts, messages and emails from friends to me personally and then all of the hundreds of messages, photos and love from thousands across Facebook to Eddie and his family. Thank you to all of you for your love and support of a boy and family that probably never realized the impact he and they had on so many. The family who, when I had knee surgery, sent ME a care package! Thank you, Livingstons, for being a piece of my puzzle, for sharing your story with me and my organization and for allowing me to be a small part of your family. You are sure as heck a part of mine. In the days ahead I hope that Eddie’s family gets the time and privacy they need to heal and that they learn from so many how special their little boy was in a world that longs for love and connection and hope. He is Jeanine and Craig’s son but he became a son to us all. We all lost a “son” last night but we will never lose what his beautiful soul taught us.,
May you rest in peace, sweet boy! Thank you for EVERY THING and I hope I see you again. Until then, kick butt! And if you find that you aren’t feeling well some days, yell out for Larry LaViola, he will be just the medicine you need XOXO