I recently went on a podcast with my mom's oncologist Dr. Byer to discuss the Sugar Bloom project we founded in her office. During that conversation, we discussed how people can get involved with the Sugar Bloom Foundation.
The honest answer is:
The Sugar Bloom Foundation doesn't exist yet; right now, it's in its infancy, much like my grief. At the moment, the Sugar Bloom Foundation is one very sad woman showing up on the 23rd of each month to pay tribute to her mother, honor her grief, and offer solace to someone who is also hurting and grieving. I do this by bringing an orchid and a note and dropping it at the front desk of the oncology waiting room. I smile, hand it over and leave. It takes 45 seconds, and often no words are exchanged. Sometimes I cry in my car, and sometimes I throw the car in reverse and don't give it another thought, but I always show up to pay homage to the loss and hope that by showing up with a flower and note in hand, I can offer solace for a brief moment to someone. That the gesture conveys I am deeply acquainted with your sorrow, and I see you. You are not alone. That is all that I know to do.
So I keep doing it.
It now seems that others would like to join me. I'll confess I have been hesitant. I didn't want this special thing my mom, and I do together to begin to feel like a job. The thought of bank accounts and websites and paperwork overwhelm me. Also, the idea of sharing my sorrow on a more global scale is terrifying. I write about my grief, but mostly my brother and husband read it. The thought of putting my vulnerability out to more than my small audience is daunting but then came the video. A video where I share the Sugar Bloom story: I immediately felt uncomfortable with it. I looked so sad, so bloated, so grief-stricken. I looked like a woman barely holding it together. I didn't want that image out in the world.
In a world so allergic to death and, by extension, grief, maybe we need more examples of what it looks and feels like. A woman barely holding it together is what we need more of. It's honest, and it's real and unvarnished. No filters, no talking points, just grief.
The video is opening doors and pushing me to share Sugar Bloom's on a bigger platform.
So, after my disclaimer. Here is what you can do:
It's pretty simple. Write a note and gift an orchid, flowers, or a plant to someone who needs to have their pain acknowledged. It can be someone you know, or it can be a stranger. You can deliver your bloom on the 23rd of the month or any day you like.
If you would rather donate, e-mail me at email@example.com, and we can arrange a payment method until I get the aforementioned paperwork, bank account, and website sorted out.
I have been invited to speak at Survivor Day, June 9th, at Cleveland Clinic and have pledged to bring 75 Sugar Blooms that day, so if you are interested in donating, it would be appreciated.
You can follow us on Instagram @sugarbloomfoundation. I'll post updates on how we are coming with the bureaucracy side of things.
We talk about this on the podcast, which is airing soon, but I recently heard Rabbi Steve Leder say that if you have to go through hell, don't leave empty-handed. I thought about this for a long time. I wondered for days what I was coming out of hell with. The answer is community. One orchid at a time, we are creating a community that sees one another, acknowledges pain, and says it's safe to show up here bloated, grieving, barely holding it together. Show up, and we will not fix you, but we will love you just as you are.
As cancer began to chip away at my mother, taking away her hair, eyelashes, finger, and toenails, and ability to eat and walk unassisted, she told me she felt like she was disappearing. People no longer wanted to look at her; no one wanted to see her. I hope we can create a community where we promise not to look away from one another's pain.
I have settled on something else Rabbi Leder said in my quest to make meaning out of everything. When speaking of tragedy, death, and pain, He says, "Is it worth it? The answer is almost always no. But is it worthwhile? I sure hope so."
Losing my mom will never be worth it. But. I am hopeful that it will be worthwhile.
Thank you for considering being part of the Sugar Bloom Movement.
While we are on the subject of thank yous, I owe a big thank you to Florida Cancer Specialist & Research Institute who made the video and took such exquisite care in sharing my story. I owe a big thank you to Ginger from NCODA for allowing me to tell my story further on her podcast and to Dr. Byer, who keeps saying yes and treated my mom and me with the utmost compassion along our hard but loving journey. And a huge thank you to my family, but special thanks to my husband, whose love and patience know no bounds.
On January 23rd, the one year anniversary of Sugar's transition, we delivered 80 Sugar Bloom's thanks to the generosity of friends, family and a few individuals we did not know but loved the story.
Thank you for reading, sharing and helping us spread kindness. If you would like to donate and Venmo is easier than contacting me. The QR code is below.