A Holiday Update from Elena xoxo
Dear Family, Friends, Friends of Friends, and Friends of Family,
As the holidays quickly approach, the kids and I continue to feel wrapped closely in all of the incredible love and support that has been spread our way. Some days can feel unbearable, but we have learned in so many ways, that the more you remember to thank life, you find that life gives you a little more to be thankful for.
As Thanksgiving approached, the kids and I united forces with our neighbor, Amy Shaw, who has joined Team in Training, to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We organized a “Neal Garton First Annual Cornhole Tournament”
fundraiser which took place in our court. It was a huge success, thanks to all of the goodness, generousity, and kindness of the community. We met her fundraising goal and raised over $5,824 from the cornhole tourney, the silent auction, the raffle, and the cash donations. What a blessing to know that we can now at least help others who are suffering or who have a loved one suffering from this terrible disease.
For the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, the kids, mom and I are heading to New Hampshire to join my sister and her wonderful family and friends. Not a day goes by that we are not reminded of the huge loss we have suffered, but being surrounded by our close friends and family is what is carrying us through the tough days and helping us each time we get hit by another wave. As always, we are thankful more than ever for all of you and we are grateful for the gift of another day.
We wish you all a very happy and merry holiday. This year we will take a pass on sending out a holiday photo, but we will post some of our favorite holiday memories. May your New Year be blessed with love and good health.
An Update from Elena xo
Dear Family, Friends, Friends of Friends, and Friends of Family,
I am struggling to find words to express the amount of deep and overflowing gratitude that is in my heart for all of you (close friends, friends of friends, and the many people who we have never even met before). The love, thoughtfulness and support that has been wrapping itself around the children and me, as we move through this very difficult loss, has been unbelievable. Your acts of kindness are enormous. It is this showering of love and kindness that is keeping us afloat as we try to settle into life as it is now. Thank you for all that you have done to remind us that we are not alone in our grief. Thank you for showing us empathy for what we are going through. Thank you for giving us something to hang on to and to keep us above the stormy waters. We have been enveloped with love and support. We have never felt alone.
I have experienced loss before, but I have never felt grief and heartbreak as profound and deep. Neal was such an amazing human being and role model, and his absence from our lives has left the largest void and hole that can’t be expressed. He was a great dad, husband, friend, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, coach and most of all, a family man. Neal was the center of our world, he was my rock, and he is our hero.
While fighting a tough battle for 19 years, he continued to live his life to the fullest and didn’t sweat the small stuff. He was so brave, courageous and strong. Many people who met Neal for the first time, and didn’t know about his health issues, would be surprised to hear about his struggles. Through it all, he worked hard, never complained and made being a dad his most important job. All of us have learned so much from how he lived his life.
Now, I am trying to learn how to heal after this loss. I have been surrounded by so many strong and wonderful people, who have helped me understand the grief process. After 40 very long and painful days in the hospital, I am now realizing that I have two areas to heal from. The first was the traumatic event of watching Neal struggle with his hospitalization, and the second is the process of healing after losing him. The waves of grief can be overwhelming on some days, and then more gentle on other days. Not knowing when they are going to hit causes me anxiety that I know I will have to become accustom to.
Last week I joined the children in New Hampshire. I was so grateful for this time to be with them, to watch them laugh, play, and be kids again. School will be starting soon, and I know that getting back to doing what I have loved for so many years, with the little people who fill my heart with so much love, will be a good and healthy step for me. I will see many of you whom I have not yet seen in person, and It will be difficult and painful for me to give “updates” right now. I have learned that it can feel somewhat overwhelming for me when I’m seeing people for the first time since Neal’s passing. Please understand that I 100% feel your support, your love, and your compassion, but it will be easier for me to avoid involved conversations about how the kids and I are doing, etc. People ask how to support us—we couldn’t feel more love or support right now. But, please know that the first time I see you, a knowing smile or pat on the shoulder says it all. You need not say anything more. Thank you for understanding this.
I can’t thank all of you enough for your donations to the children’s fund, the delicious meals, the loving cards, plants, and all of the gestures that are keeping our sweet Neal’s memory alive. I would love to thank all of you individually, but right now I am looking at things very sparingly. Having you all by our sides has helped guide our healing and acceptance. I know that it is going to be one tough journey ahead, but the kids and I together will do all we can to make Neal proud. Day and night, night and day, we will think of him. We will miss him more than he could ever have imagined.
*** Please note the visiting dragonfly on Ally's hand. Hope and Love in those wings.
Sadly, our dearly beloved Neal passed peacefully this morning , with his loving family by his side. The last 3 days were a glorious celebration of Neal’s life, with dozens of loving friends and family spending truly meaningful time with him. It was a weekend that will be indelibly etched in the minds of all those who were fortunate enough to have seen our hero face these last days the same way that he lived his life: with courage, humility, love and selflessness. May our best friend, husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and hero rest peacefully in the next life, awaiting reunion. His children will carry his legacy forward with Elena, and his memory will be eternal.
Continued thanks to all who have supported this beautiful family through this difficult journey. There are too many good people to name here.
And thank you for supporting our efforts to raise funds for these beautiful 13-year old quadruplets, themselves the result of a miracle that we continue to believe in. Amen.
After a heroic 19-year battle with leukemia, Neal Garton has finally succumbed to this horrific disease. Neal and Elena have decided to leave UCSF with the help of Hospice, so that Neal may spend his last days with his family by his side in the home in which they have always lived and loved.
Neal’s primary focus – throughout the two decades-long journey which included two bone marrow transplants and many rounds of chemotherapy – has always been the well-being of his best friend and wife, Elena and their four beautiful quadruplet children: Wesley, Walker, Woody and Ally Sue (collectively known as the Quad Squad.) The Quad Squad came into this world in a miraculous way 5 years after Neal’s first bone marrow transplant, and have been the greatest joy of their lives for these past 13 beautiful years. Neal actively coached or attended hundreds of sports team activities, dance performances or school events, even while undergoing countless cancer treatments and procedures.
Elena, a beloved kindergarten teacher at Tam Valley School continued teaching and nurturing hundreds of little people with smiles and ever ready hugs, even while supporting Neal and her own kids through the physical and emotional trials of aggressive cancer protocols. Elena’s ability to devote herself fully to Neal as his wife and caretaker, as a Marin schoolteacher, and as the mother of the Quad Squad is legendary among those who know the Garton Family.
Neal endured more brutal chemo treatments than any human should, in order to provide for and savor every possible minute with his amazing family. He did this without complaining or self-pity as he continued to work, to be involved in every aspect of their lives, and to support them in all ways imaginable. And sadly now, Elena will be left to raise four amazing thirteen year-old kids alone on a kindergarten teacher salary. The kids will start 8thgrade this fall in Mill Valley.
We are reaching out to you, this amazing community who so loves Neal, Elena, Wesley, Walker, Woody and Ally Sue to please help in any financial way you can. As any parent knows, the costs of raising kids through college can be astronomical. All funds will go directly to Elena Garton via an account set up by her brother, Andrew Patrinellis, and will be used solely to support the education and financial needs of these precious kids.
On behalf of the Garton Family, words alone cannot express the gratitude they have for every ounce of support and every single prayer.
- Tom Santillan
- Tom Santillan
- Tom Santillan
Organizer and beneficiary
Mill Valley, CA