Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Tony Conway '01 Memorial Scholarship

Not too long ago, I wrote about trying to be the steward of Tony's legacy. That's a job that has many parts. First, I always try to talk to the girls about Tony.... memories I made with him, thinks he liked or said, things he did. I am also creating a collection of memories to give them when they are older.

Second is the Conway Cup. I love the Cup and I hope to build on its past success while modifying it for a world without Tony in it. Hopefully, it'll go on for years and years.

I have worked for nearly a year on something more lasting though. I aimed high, because to me Tony deserves parades and speeches and grand monuments. But I had to wade through the bureaucracy of VMI, and they just didn't want to rename the place after Tony. Instead, we created the Tony Conway '01 Memorial Scholarship that will support the VMI Men's Soccer team. Tony was a scholarship athlete at VMI, a team captain, and later a coach. VMI brought him to me, and our connection with our VMI family runs deep. This endowed scholarship will be there long after the last games of the Conway Cup are played, and long after all our soccer boys have moved on. It's something I am very proud of, and something that Cora and Louise can show their children. It will keep Tony's name forever associated with VMI Men's Soccer.

The program has been in transition in the past years, and I am also hoping this scholarship helps to rebuild it. Tony always worked to give the program as much support as possible, because he wanted the best for the players. This is my way of continuing that.

Thank you to everyone who has already donated to the fund! If you would like to contribute to Tony's scholarship fund, you can use the link below, or contact Doug Bartlett at the Keydet Club.

Tony Conway '01 Memorial Scholarship

Friday, May 20, 2016

Another Goodbye

I think I have a tendency to post when I am struggling. I don't know if that is because posting is a way of reaffirming my thoughts and getting them off my chest... or maybe I just think struggles make for more interesting reading. Either way, I haven't been struggling as much lately... who knows why, and it might not last, but I'm going to appreciate it while it does.

I did have a moment this week that completely wiped me out. It was VMI graduation, and we were immersed in parties and ceremonies and fun. It was fun, and I couldn't be prouder of all the cadets we know who graduated. They are awesome guys, and I have waxed on about them many times before.

Their graduation was naturally a very exciting time for them and their families, especially since VMI is not the average college. But every time I really thought about them leaving, I couldn't stop crying. When I walked away from the families after the commencement ceremony, I was crying so hard it was hard to breathe.

It's the nature of these things that they were going to leave someday, and I know we'll see them again. They have really been there for us, and I mean that in the simplest way. They were just here. Here to hang out, here to talk to, here to play with the girls, here to eat my cooking. And I know now that that is one of the best gifts, just being there.

I'm not feeling sorry for myself on this occasion, I'm just so thankful for them and their families.

What's my point? I don't know really... it's another rite of passage. It was tough to see them go, but we'll keep in touch. I am proud to know them. And I love this picture... aren't I a lucky lady?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Texts to Heaven

Our kids are growing up in a digital age, and there's no way to escape that. They see people all the time on their phones (I am guilty of this too, of course), and they copy it. The girls have several old phones that they play with, along with countless toy versions of cell phones. They pretend to text, they take pretend pictures, and they ask me to post things on Facebook. It's different, but that's their world.

The other day we were driving somewhere, and the girls were in the back seat talking about their phones. Cora told Louise that she had a "new app" (she knows the lingo) that could send texts to you in heaven. She explained it in some detail to Louise, who completely accepted it.

That's the technology she imagines... it warms my heart and breaks it at the same time.

Love you, babe.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Inside Out

Sometimes I can't believe this is my life, and usually it feels pretty surreal. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, but I can't let that last long. We always said that we felt lucky and that it could be worse, so I shouldn't feel sorry for myself. I genuinely believe those things. My brain has been full of contradictions.

Core memory A: My husband died from a horrible disease at the age of 36. That is awful.

Core memory B: We were able to do amazing things because of that illness. And we were able to put aside all (nearly all) the pettiness and bickering that comes with marriage, and life, and life with small kids, and just be together in an incredible way.

How can those two coexist? Would I rather have more time with Tony? Absolutely. But would I give up the quality of time that ALS gave us? Nope. Trying to solve that paradox was making me a little crazy.

In the end, it's not a choice I had to make. Why pester myself about it? There is no "fair" in life, there is only the life you get. And it's up to you to make the best of that life, every day. A really shitty thing happened to me, but mixed up in that were some incredibly wonderful things too. They don't cancel each other out or conflict with each other, they are both part of my experience.

I miss Tony, and I always will. I feel incredibly lucky to have loved him and have his love in return. I'll keep that joy and sadness together in my heart. I am stronger when Joy and Sadness work together. And I'll keep making new core memories.

P.S. If you haven't watched the movie Inside Out, you really really should.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Avoiding the Spotlight

I have never liked being the center of attention. I am quite happy to work away in the background and let someone else stand in the spotlight.

When Tony made the decision to share his journey with ALS with the world, I'll admit I was apprehensive. I wouldn't have told people until we had too... he wanted to be completely open. He was right, of course. Sharing our journey brought so much goodness into our lives, and hopefully raised awareness of ALS (this was 3 years before the Ice Bucket Challenge). Even though I hadn't agreed, I supported Tony's decision and entered the whirlwind with him. At first, he managed everything, and I was just occasional support staff. As his ALS progressed, I started helping more... I helped with the Conway Cup, he dictated blog posts to me, I wrote thank you notes, etc.

The when his voice began to go, I had to step up again. I had to speak for him in public, and the best example is when I read his speech at the 2014 VMI Men's Soccer senior banquet. He peppered the speech with French phrases, because he knew I have horrible French pronunciation... a classic example of Tony's humor.

So, I gradually had to come out of the background to support Tony. I was happy to be able to help.

But now, it's just me. I am the main organizer of the Conway Cup, but I certainly couldn't stand up and make a speech when the trophy was presented. I was hit with an unexpected flood of tears when someone mentioned being lucky enough to play with Tony. But I know it probably should be me... I should stand up and talk about how much soccer and the day of the Cup meant to him and how thankful we are for everyone's support. Maybe next year...

I am now the author of this blog, which was Tony's communication with the world for years. I don't know how many of Tony's readers still come back... but my posts often get more than 200 views.

And I am the steward of his legacy... and that means I cannot just work away in the background any more.

There are lots of ways life changes you... and many of us might not even recognize the 20 year old version of us. Certainly, many things in my life have changed me... Tony, motherhood, and ALS being the biggest. I'm going to work on my public persona... get better at standing up and speaking out. For me and for Tony. If you are a future victim of my pathetic attempts at small talk... I apologize in advance!

(So watch this space for an announcement soon!)