Wednesday, April 9, 2008

These past few weeks have been full of sadness, death, and illness. So, needless to say, this is a depressing post that you may not be interested in reading.

The daughter of Barnes and Noble CEO passed away on Monday. She was a young woman that spent the past year fighting Leukemia. She also had Down syndrome, and as you can see in this post from her blog, she is an inspiration for all people with disabilities.

It is with deep sadness that we have to tell you of the passing of Melissa Ann Riggio, 20-year old daughter of our CEO Steve and his wife, Laura, and sister to Laura and Christina. Melissa passed away peacefully this morning, Monday, April 7, at 6:00 a.m. at University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell in Manhattan. She was surrounded by her parents, sisters, aunts and uncles, and cousins. There will be a funeral service on Friday in New Jersey. Details will be forthcoming. As so many of you know, Melissa was diagnosed with leukemia last summer and since that time she fought long and hard to overcome the disease.

Last June, she graduated from Bernards High School in Bernardsville, New Jersey, where she was crowned Prom Queen. Melissa was so grateful to the many people who reached out to offer their support by donating blood, platelets, and sending cards and letters. Through it all, Melissa remained strong and optimistic. She was an inspiration to everyone who had the opportunity to know her.

Although Melissa was born with Down Syndrome, she lived a full and extraordinary life. Melissa worked at the YMCA in Bernardsville and recently talked about entering a post secondary program so that she could become a counselor at the YMCA. She loved to read and listen to music, and she loved to write. Melissa was a poet and songwriter. Melissa was taking voice, drama, and dance lessons as she also aspired to become a singer one day. Some of Melissa’s songs were recorded by singer/songwriter, Rachel Fuller. In her song entitled, "The Ring," Melissa expresses her thoughts on being a woman and her purpose:

I’m in the Ring outside
I’m following my belief
I’m looking at the sky I saw
God following my heart
I’m an ordinary woman
The Ring is falling down my way
The wind is blowing me away
The Ring is falling down, Down my way
The wind is blowing me away
And so I came back to The center of the Ring
Am I just a broken angel?
God has sent me here to heal
To be an ordinary woman.

Something that really stands out from her writing is "God has sent me here to heal". That is so true. I think on May 7, 2007 the lives of everyone around us changed when Bailey was born. She's made me look at life in a different way, other people in a different way, and look at myself in a different way. This is an article Melissa did for National Geographic.

Then there's Cody, who within the past two weeks found out his Cancer has spread to his lungs and liver. He has Ewing's Sarcoma and has been through a horrible chemo regimen that has made him so sick. His mom was informed of research that is being done and she's been told that Cody meets the requirements. His mom posted on her blog today that he was terribly sick, vomiting and tired, and it is so difficult to be unable to help.

Then there's Meredith and Michael. These are two amazing people Keith and I had the privilege of meeting at the Down syndrome conference last year. They have just adopted two adorable children with Down syndrome. The little girl they adopted, Emma, has an unrepaired AV Canal (the defect Bailey had repaired when she was 4 months old). Emma had a cardiac cath this week and the cardiologist has determined that it is in Emma's best interest not to have her heart repaired. As Meredith says, this is just one opinion and they will be talking to the surgeon and their local cardiologist. As of now, the doctor feels it is best to continue medicating Emma and hoping for the best life span and quality of life.

I guess before Bailey I lived my life with such ignorance. I've met so many people since we were blessed with Bailey, and with these people come different obstacles they have had to face in their lives. It makes all the times I complained of a little headache, cold, or stomach pains seem so silly.

Please keep all these families in your prayers. Also, some personal information. My mother-in-laws mom passed away last week. Please keep Molly and her family in your prayers. They've been through such a difficult time already with her mothers illness. Also, my dad has been going through so much lately. As many of you know, he's been having some undiagnosed medical problems and once again he seems to have hit a wall. Just when you think you'll get some news, whether good or bad, you find out the tests are inconclusive. It's so difficult watching him go through all this. I think he's had every possible test and procedure, I just can't see them having anything other tests to perform.

Well, enough here. Thanks to those that read this entire post. Sorry for such a downer. I've just had all these people floating around in my head and I thought a few extra prayers would help.


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