This was Maggie a few weeks before she died. She had just gotten out of Stony Brook Hospital to help manage the dehydration and severe pain she was experiencing. As soon as we arrived at the Stony Brook ER, the nurses used a pain medication to spray up her nose. That seemed to help her greatly. They also upped the meds she had been getting via her double lumen port and bag she carried around for the last few months of life. One bag held fluids, one held pain meds. She came home calm and wanting to have company for the first time in a long time. We suppose she felt her time here was coming to an end.
In this photo which some of you have seen before, she is holding baby Alexa, born just 12 days earlier. Alexa brought Maggie a peace none of us could provide. These images are haunting. As her parents, we can almost see into her thoughts. It feels as if she was contemplating her own death and everything she would never get to do, like having children and so much more. Maggie loved babies and children. Despite watching our only daughter slowly die, it’s hard imagining what she must have felt like.
You have all read Maggie’s bucket list by now, this trip is meant to honor her list. After she died, family and friends got together and did a clothing drive for a local homeless shelter. Maggie would have been proud. This road trip across the US was one we felt we could do now.
The Peak to Sky Music Festival was always our ultimate goal. Some members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers were there, amongst many other talented and well known musicians. Josh Klinghoffer and the band met Maggie during their Get Away tour in Madison Square Garden in NYC. The band invited her to any concert she could attend on the tour and sought to connect with her after the meeting, inviting her back the next night. We couldn’t go as we had other plans to ‘get away’. The song “Don’t Forget Me” was sung by Anthony Kiedis and dedicated to Maggie. Maggie got to see the band two more times in Florida while she was very sick. In fact, she had already been told she wouldn’t survive long. But Maggie was strong! She exhibited incredible determination making it to these two shows.
Josh Klinghoffer visited our home on Long Island. We shared dinner. He also took Maggie out for ice cream after dinner. Maggie explained to Josh that she was dying and told him she worried about us all after she was gone. She was right to worry. Living without her has proven to be something akin to a living nightmare - one from which you never awake.
When Maggie died, Josh was present for the wake and funeral. He has been like a guardian angel to our family. In fact, the entire band has been extraordinary.
On the way to Big Sky, we stopped along the Gallatin River to release some of Maggie’s ashes. We cried and prayed. Praying that she is somehow with us and that we will see her again. Maggie Schmidt forever…
Josh, always the gentleman and friend, had some time before the concert to reach out and spend some quality time with us. It is healing to be with friends and family who knew her and to share our love of Maggie. Those connections are like a lifeline for us.
The concert and evening in Big Sky was a blast! Legendary artists gathered to perform classic covers.
Music is healing. Nature too.
The day after the concert, we took a day trip from Bozeman, MT (where we have been staying in the Airbnb RV affectionately named “Harvey” to Yellowstone National Park. The park was crowded on what must have been one of the busiest summer weekends. Thankfully, we found a knowledgable young Ranger in the visitor center who directed us off the beaten path to a quiet trail that led to a spectacular waterfall. We ran 3 miles in on what was a mostly flat trail, then descended down into a gorge to the waterfall.
Altogether the hike was over 9 miles. It was challenging but breath taking. We hadn’t planned ahead and brought very little water and nothing to eat. However, the weather was kind to us and we arrived back to our car tired and contented.
Today, we are heading out to extend our trip. Technically, Maggie’s bucket list included “to drive cross country in a car.” We’ve come to feel it wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Pacific Ocean.
Our trip has been financed with the money Steve earns as a teacher, as well as Donna’s savings from the money she earns as a freelance graphic designer.
We have met old friends and some new on this trip. Donna belongs to Facebook Bereavement groups online. It helps her to connect with others. Jessica Breeze is one of those moms. She lives in Spokane, WA. Jessica’s daughter, Caitlin, was killed by a boater (Dennis Magner) who had been drinking all day and lied about being the driver that day on Lake Coeur d’Alene in 2016. Two of Caitlin’s friends Justin Honken and Justin Luhr were also killed. It is an awful story and hard to comprehend truly unless you have been through it. Tonight, we arrive in Spokane where we will meet Jessica and share memories and stories of our beautiful daughters and journeys.
There will be tears. How can there not be? We’ve lost something so precious to all of us. Our child.