Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tributes--Part II

April 15, 2009

My mother spotted this Monday as we were leaving for the church. This morning on my Willie/Teddy walk, the same bird followed us along our path from about the half mile mark to about the three-quarters mile point.

Though not unheard of, these birds don't ordinarily hang out around here. I felt honored to be temporarily part of The Red-Headed League.

Anyway, after such a nice and lengthy newspaper piece about Erin last Saturday, I was stunned to see that The Eagle Editorial Board chose her as the subject of their Sunday editorial (on Easter Sunday, no less).

Erin Buenger had a zest for living life fully

Eagle Editorial Board

Erin Buenger spent her 11 years living life to the fullest. She had what most likely was a fatal illness, yet that didn't dampen her enthusiasm for life, her eagerness to try new things and, most importantly, her great love of people.

Erin lost her seven-year battle with neuroblastoma on Thursday, but she leaves behind a host of people who loved her and a community that will miss her.

Many people faced with a disease for which there is no known cure would shut themselves off from people, would wallow in their illness, but not Erin. She attacked life with a zest that was exhilarating and contagious. She played on a competitive soccer team. She rode horses. She took fencing lessons.

With one terrible exception, Erin was a normal school girl -- the way she wanted to be treated. A bright student, she was active in the Inquiry Academy for gifted and talented students at Jane Long Middle School. She made the honor role every six weeks and never earned less than a 96 on her report card. She was treasurer of the student council.

Erin was determined to beat the disease. She twice traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress and, really, anyone who would listen to her. She talked with U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards and garnered his support for a bill that would commit $150 million in federal money to finding a cure for neuroblastoma and other cancers. Her father said Edwards in turn convinced several other members of the House to vote for the measure, which finally passed the Congress and was signed into law by President George W. Bush last July. Now, the harder part is making sure the measure gets funded.

In addition to getting Edwards' support, she made him a special friend, one who called on her at home and who visited her only two weeks before her death.

Erin had that ability. She could connect and make friends with people of any age. She didn't ant people to be sad.

And she worked hard to raise money to fund research on neuroblastoma. She made lanyards for ID badges and sold them, raising some $2,000 for cancer research. She worked on a cookbook -- Erin Cook's -- using recipes she developed herself in the hospital. When it is available, proceeds from the book will go to research.

Some of us go through life never creating a ripple, leaving no legacy. Not Erin Buenger, though. She packed a lot in 11 years and this community is better because she lived among us.

I may eventually get a savable copy of the television news story that also aired on Sunday, but for now I can send you to this link (sorry, in advance, for the commerical that comes before the story):

Ashlea Sigman of KBTX News came out to the house on Sunday afternoon before the visitation/party/celebration to work on the story. I worried because she had forty-five minutes of tape that she had to edit down to 90 seconds (I told her I sympathized with the problem of needing to express Erin as a haiku, when she really was an epic poem). By the time this aired she had talked her boss into more than double the air time she had originally been given. I'm glad some of you who live out of town can catch a glimpse of Erin's bedroom. Just a glance shows the many directions her interests spread.


  1. That video was so great. What an amazing little girl!!

  2. Those were both beautiful articles. Erin touched so many lives and I can't imagine how you must be feeling. You and Walter are in my heart and thoughts.

  3. I can think of no one more deserving that to be the subject of the editorial. It is not surprising that The Eagle would notice and be impressed with Erin's wonderful life and the strong impact she has made on so many people.

    I love the redheaded bird you posted! Its beauty and flight remind me of Erin.


  4. I loved the video and the articles are wondeful. Beautiful tributes to an amazing girl! And the red-headed bird ... not just a coincidence :)

  5. Interesting that the bird is believed by many to be a way in which people who have passed on come back to visit and let us know they are still with us. I've never been one to believe such things, but in recent years more and more stories like this have been brought to my attention. Interesting that a red-headed woodpecker rare to your parts followed you on a walk with Erin's beloved dog. It makes you wonder. Thank you for sharing your story with us, for giving us the opportunity to get to know Erin, such a wonderful human being.

  6. I didn't know how to pronounce your last name or the sound of Erin's voice until the video...thanks for posting.

  7. What wonderful tributes! Just loved reading them.


  8. When a friend of mine's daughter died: Cheyenne, her father was soon followed by Mockingbirds. He hadnt seen many Mockingbirds before her death, but after Cheyenne passed, it was a common occurance. I have no doubt, your precious sweet Erin, is letting her Mama know she is ok.
    I know you miss her

  9. When I was out walking here in NJ at the time of Erin's Memorial Service, and thinking about Erin and you and your family I happened to see two bluebirds. The location was very wooded and not where I would expect to see bluebirds. After returning home I was studying the photos of Erin on the site (clicking on them to enlarge) and I noticed for the first time, you have a picture of two bluebirds on a wall near the kitchen I think. I was really struck by that occurrence so thought I would mention. The article and the editorial were beautiful.
    Remembering Erin...
    Mara Stiles
    angel Laura's mom

  10. Love the video and the article... she touched so many people, what a gift. Your family is in our hearts and prayers.

  11. Awesome video!! Erin would have liked it.

  12. Beautiful. Vickie, you and Walter are in our thoughts. Her voice is so precious! Believe in the signs like the bird: Right after Max died, we had a praying mantis hanging out on our front porch above the front door for a few days. Another appeared in "nana's" house (Melissa's mom), scaring the wits out of her (but then she understood). Nicky discovered a third in a very obscure corner of the playground at his preschool (where Max also attended). Praying Mantis' were his favorite bugs, and none of us have ever seen one before in San Diego, nor since.

  13. Your google news feed also picked up the article and news story and posted it on your site. I bet it shows up on others as well and Erin's wonderful life and family will be seen across the world.

  14. Red headed bird following you around the lake? Hmm. I wonder?

    Not really, I don't wonder,

    I KNOW!

    Love y'all. And thanks again for coming to the game. Everyone asked after you. I don't think the other parents knew what to say to you and Walter but they all wanted to know how your doing. I told them not to worry, that your moving forward. And you would be fine. And we will all carry on the fight to defeat the neuroblastoma monster.

  15. I'd say being "hugged out" is a pretty good way to wake up. Wishing you plenty of hugs every day, Jane

  16. If you google Erin's name you see lots of wonderful tributes to her. I posted one on my blog as well. Truly fitting and well deserved. She will not be forgotten and has truly left her mark on the world.

  17. I loved your haiku analogy. Erin clearly was an epic poem and everyone saw her that way. To have left such an indelible mark on humanity is a gift few can aspire to. You and your family are exceptional - may you know that Erin will never be forgotten even by the thousands who never met her in person.