Image0626Another new trail. What is Tony trying to do to me? I have this knee-jerk reaction every time he says “Hey, why don’t we try a different trail today?”, I instantly freeze. I don’t know what it is, I am fine once I get out there and start running, but it does throw me off at first. I think it’s fear of the unknown, not knowing the trail, wondering what’s coming up ahead, if it will be hard- not believing in my body, my spirit…can I do it, will I want to.

I was under-dressed, cold and tired, not yet caffeinated. The wind was fierce and I lost my hat twice. I know, but my hat is like an appendage these days. I quickly proclaimed “this sucks“. But wait, there is  beauty in this moment. It is the realization that I never once said, “Let’s just go home“. It never even crossed my mind not to run. This is a big moment for me. I pushed through the wind, at times I couldn’t even catch my breathe, it was horrible by my standards, but I kept going. I thought of Liz.

Today was my day for Gracie and Liz (Elizabeth), dynamic mother-daughter duo, extraordinaire. When I think of Gracie and Liz my heart feels a little squeeze, my body softens into itself and emotions race through me from head to toe leaving me tingly, as if my whole body had just fallen asleep.

As Tony and I were running we came upon two different paths, one leading on flat ground, the other what seemed like, straight up. Image0627Tony stopped, looked at me and said “So which way will it be?“, it almost sounded like a dare. Surprisingly, without hesitation I said “The hill“. I thought of Liz.

We were going up the hill when I noticed a women running on the very top, across the ridge and I mumbled, ‘Well that just sucks“. (I mean that in the nicest way, of course she doesn’t suck, but when you are at the bottom looking up at someone doing it so effortlessly, it conjures up some emotions, not always pleasant). We passed each other and I smiled. I genuinely admire her ability, though secretly loathed my own at that moment.

As I neared the top, I thought of Gracie. At that moment I was overcome with joy. It startled me right out of my loathing. Where did this come from? Gracie. Definitely Gracie. I was surprised and delighted at the same time. I pictured her at the top on the ridge, dancing, singing, yelling down at me giggling…”Come on, get up here!“.

I could hear Katy Perry singing in the background of my mind, “Cause baby you’re a firework, Come on show ’em what your worth…“. Gracie was nothing less than a firework. When I got to the top, I turned around and saw the view. I thought of Liz. My eyes swelled with tears.

Image0628My entire run was filled with thoughts of Gracie and Liz, from start to finish. I thought about pushing through the wind, feeling the resistance, not being able to catch my breath. How sometimes we have to make difficult choices, and take a path that has been given to us.

I stood there for a moment, taking it all in. It was beautiful up there, it wasn’t easy, I was still breathing hard, but it felt good.  I said a quick prayer for Gracie, Liz and their family. I thought to myself, “Trust, have faith, there is love everywhere“.

I also thought of a bond that will never be broken. Gracie and Liz shared a mother-daughter relationship that would leave many of us wondering “How do I  get one of those?”.

On September 21, 2011 Gracie died of a rare, inoperable brain tumor. GracieHer joyful spirit, optimism and pure love of life continues to find us and inspire us.

I started following Gracie’s story through my friend, Jenni, who is a beautiful force in her own right. After Gracie’s passing we exchanged a few e-mails, wrestling with the emotions of losing such an amazing, generous, loving child, though grateful to have shared in her spirit. We also talked about the similarity’s between Gracie and Jack (Bartosz), their tenacity for life, a knowing and inner wisdom that they shared, one that only seems to come with experience from someone beyond their years. I smile today remembering Jenni’s mention of Gracie and Jack finding each other, two peas in a pod, laughing until their sides hurt.

DSCN0129Gracie’s spirit shines  on and shows us the way. A way to live life to the fullest and to find  joy in everything. She reminds us to face life with courage, faith, trust, and of course, laughter and a lot of dancing. Gracie took this life and stretched it beyond its boundaries.

We are blessed to have this moment with you, Gracie, and to keep you in our hearts forever.  May we all live life as you did.  Please know that we will always be by your Mother’s side, in life, in spirit and in prayer. She is strong, beautiful and courageous, just like you.

I invite you to take a few minutes to honor Gracie, and fall in love with a little girl that touched so many peoples lives with joy.

Please consider making a memorial donation in honor of Gracie Joles today at Make-A-Wish Foundation- Thank you!


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Rachel Eagleton


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