Saturday, March 17, 2018

Honor and Grief

Honor and Grief

Linda playing with chalk on her porch

“The Most You Can Do For Me Is To Be A Village And Help Each Other. Love You All” 
~Linda Sousa

Grief, I am learning, is a powerful force.  Grief is a force, for me, that interweaves, with perhaps the most powerful force there is; love.  I am told that grieving is a natural part of life, not something that needs to be fixed, but rather something that one must endure.  I can understand, and have felt myself, how grieving can be a hard but “natural” part of life.  However, losing your best friend at 44 years old after watching her suffer emotionally and physically in front of her family, especially her husband, parents, and young children, does not feel natural. Losing Linda is a devastating life altering loss for those that love her most.  Somehow through the heartache, we must find ways to persevere, help one another, give, find happiness, and live, because that is what Linda hoped and prayed for. 

Grief is different for everyone.  There are many wonderful ways that Linda’s friends and family are channeling their grief, including;  wearing anchor pins and MBC ribbons, planting gardens, running fundraisers, lighting candles, spreading painted kindness rocks around town, having masses in Linda’s honor, leaping, praying…and many more. All of these gestures, and countless more, are done out of loss for someone who loved passionately.  Linda took in the joy and sorrow of the world around her.  She had a huge heart that owned the hurts of those she loved and was greatly affected by the tragedies and sadness of strangers.

Linda's handwriting on a chalkboard in her basement

Inspired as a very little girl by the handicapped students in her elementary school, Linda knew at a young age that she wanted to be a special educator.  Linda was always looking for ways to give and help others. Thoughtfulness was organic to her, it was a big part of who she was.  It was how Linda was made, how she was hard wired.

“There Isn’t Anything So Bad That Nothing Good Can’t Come From It”
~ Linda quoting her Memere

This quote is a tough one for me lately, but I am working on it. I guess I cannot expect the good to ever match the heartache of living without Linda. However, through the devastating loss of Linda, good things are happening.   Since there is nothing we can do to change the past, we must choose to move forward and make the most of this life we have been given.
Out of our love and grief, in honor of our Linda;  Victor, Linda’s parents, and I have created a nonprofit, charity organization.                   
The Linda Sousa A Better Dream Foundation will:  Honor Linda’s love for education by annually awarding scholarships to area high schools seniors; Help to spread awareness and raise funds for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research because Linda had become passionate about the needs of the women (and men) dying from the disease and the others yet to be diagnosed;  Inspire and encourage others to spread kindness and live life to the fullest, as Linda did.

These are the current goals of the foundation.  This May, The Linda Sousa A Better Dream Foundation will award 4 scholarships to students from Attleboro High School and Dighton-Rehoboth High School.  There are MBC awareness events planned for this spring and funds from the foundation are already allocated for research. Victor, Ron, Jan, and I are hoping that with the help of those touched by Linda’s journey and the community we are able to continue to make a difference in memory of our Sweet Linda.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Words of remembrance

It is hard to believe that it has been nearly five months since Linda has passed.  In some ways it seems like it was just last week that we were laughing, taking walks, and doing our best to enjoy life. In other ways it feels like I have not had my best friend/soul sister to talk to, in a painfully long time. With Linda's example of perseverance and strength, we are all putting one foot in front of the other.  I am often asked how everyone is doing, especially Vic and the kids.  Well, this is certainly not easy for them, the loss of Linda is devastating to all of us, especially Vic and the kids, but I think it is safe to say that they are doing ok.  Linda was the most amazing momma I know, providing her children with the strong foundation they need to adjust to their new normal.  Vic is proving to be an awesome father amid the most difficult circumstances.  Linda is no doubt looking down on him with much pride.

Linda's services were beautiful.  At the funeral home, the continuous line of people that Linda's life touched is a testament to the impact she had on the world.  Linda's final wishes ensured that her special touch could be seen, felt, and heard, throughout her funeral mass.  The church was decorated with flowers from her own beautiful garden.  Linda asked that all of her scarves be adorned on the pews and left to be taken home by her loved ones.  Although she had enough scarves to fill both sides of the center aisle of St. Cecilia's Church from front to back, I know that Linda did not expect the enormous church to be standing room only.

Linda's brother, Ron, wrote and eloquently delivered a genuine, heart felt, beautiful eulogy, that I suspect did not leave a dry eye in the house.  Vic, Linda's parents, and I thought it would be nice to share his words on Linda's blog.

Ron's Words of Remembrance

We've all read Linda's writings.... usually in the first person... Linda sharing her challenges, her successes, her struggles, her life with all of us. We marveled at her strength, admired her will to battle, and stood in awe of her tenacity to keep moving forward. I'm sure, like me, you all have your own admirations for her and how she was able to do it all, both mentally and physically.

I'm hoping to give you an even deeper perspective. I have 'known' Linda my whole life of course. That makes 43years... 43 years having her as my big sister. I've had a lot of time to try to understand a great deal about our relationship, what it has meant to me, and what kind of impact it had on each of us. Throughout the years, Linda and I had been close... never really finding reasons not to be. Yes, we had arguments and I aggravated the heck out of her at times - I like to think that I'd helped her sense of humor along the way... 

I'll never forget the day in December 2011, when Linda was first diagnosed with the Big C..... as she chose to call it. Like Linda and the rest of the family, I was in shock, uncertain of what was to come and emotionally overwhelmed. I wouldn't believe that this was happening to someone so close to me. Progressively, through the strength of Linda's OWN words and actions, we... our family... our extended family of relatives and friends... saw light at the end of the tunnel. Linda herself would encourage US that she could conquer this. I just looked for ways to be supportive and follow HER lead in the battle. She fought amazingly and rid the junk that had entered her body. 

Just like that first time... when I found out in June 2015, that after some time being in remission, it was back... my heart dropped. I remember Linda being concerned at the possibility as strange symptoms were coming on...we talked on the phone about it as she canceled her plans to attend a concert with me and our friends.... then hearing the awful news days later, I couldn't stop crying for her. These moments, these hours, these days... so vivid STILL in my mind. 

With this diagnosis, more difficult than even the first, maybe you would crawl under a rock... maybe you throw in the towel... maybe you have continuous fits of rage... It's likely Linda had all of these thoughts then and even recently, but she more than embraced the positives - her husband, her children, her family, her friends... the many things in life that were once ordinary, but she has helped us all to realize... are extraordinary. She had learned to live in the moment... smile on the days she felt good...draw strength and have hope on the days she didn't.   

mention her will and her hope... and to say how great she
with her kids.... and hower husband, Victor, and her
best friend, Shanno
n, are amazing
human beings
... and how mom and dad selflessly
so much for them... and
especially how through all of her troubles and stress, she
the st
rength to be outwardly positive... and to live her
new normal
like it really was normal
amazing in its own right, a
ll of
this I've said
is probably old news to most of
. You've read
you've had your interactions;
you've heard the stories. You
see her strength
and determination along the way
I've read your comments of support and hope and your admirations at her
. All of these thoughts and
feelings of her are so true
and truly admirable standing on their own
But her legacy goes beyond that. Over the past
several month
s, it has been clear to me
that there is something deeper than this
... that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
, I've had some personal issues of my
I don't begin to think that my issues are even
close to
what Linda
battling, but
it hel
ps to understand her impact
I was going through some
surreal times in my
life. I will say
that the emotional roller coaster was never ending. The ups and downs that
of us
endure with personal struggles is
in a sense
and we seek out
comfort from those we trust the most.
I confided in Linda as many of you might
I spent a good amount of time chatting with Linda
on walks..
on her couch... at her dinner table
This time
in the last 7 months is
time I'll cherish

For the past couple of years, if friends would ask how Linda was doing, I would give the progress update and proceed to mention her will and her hope... and to say how great she was with her kids.... and how her husband, Victor, and her best friend, Shannon, are amazing human beings ... and how mom and dad selflessly did so much for them... and especially how through all of her troubles and stress, she found the strength to be outwardly positive... and to live her new normal like it really was normal.

Though amazing in its own right, all of this I've said is probably old news to most of you. You've read Linda's writings; you've had your interactions; you've heard the stories. You could see her strength and determination along the way. I've read your comments of support and hope and your admirations at her will and optimism. All of these thoughts and feelings of her are so true and truly admirable standing on their own. But her legacy goes beyond that. Over the past several months, it has been clear to me that there is something deeper than this ... that this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Recently, I've had some personal issues of my own. I don't begin to think that my issues are even close to what Linda was battling, but it helps to understand her impact... I was going through some surreal times in my own life. I will say that the emotional roller coaster was never ending. The ups and downs that any of us endure with personal struggles is comparable in a sense and we seek out comfort from those we trust the most. I confided in Linda as many of you might
have. I spent a good amount of time chatting with Linda on walks...on her her dinner table. This time with Linda in the last 7 months is time I'll cherish forever.

Often times with these personal struggles, we ask ourselves this question:  Why Me?  I'm sure this is something Linda asked herself often. This battle...this war she was dealing with I would not wish upon anyone and there has to be a reason it was Linda. 

Why Me?  There are some that will never be able to answer that question because they are stuck just feeling sorry, having regret, and dwelling on the negatives. 

Why Linda? 

Linda had always had a knack for helping others. She was the oldest of three siblings and always tried to steer my brother Jeff and I in the right direction. She became a teacher to countless endearing children, always making their growth her priority...Always willing to give and to provide to others...A kind, caring, and loving mom, wife, sister, daughter, grand - daughter, niece, cousin, colleague and friend. 

Even during her toughest days, she thought to buy flowers for Mom's birthday... and to run out for presents for Jordan's birthday and my birthday...and to get gifts for all the fathers in her life on Father's Day...and to make sure everyone ELSE was ok. 

Why Linda?  Well, maybe Linda...because she would not only have the strength to fight ...and the courage to carry on...and the hope to see better times ahead for herself, but because she could do ALL of that and still teach...still help OTHERS see the positives...and have the hope....and to see the light at the end of THEIR dark tunnels. 

When you are faced with a challenge, you have 2 choices: you can rise up to it...or you can back down and crumble. Over these last several months, Linda has TAUGHT ME to embrace the positives... to look at a challenge as an opportunity to prove yourself once again. We can dwell on the past. We could be immersed with regret. We could ​continue with the constant 'why me?'. Those have been my challenges... they were certainly her challenges...It's how we face these challenges, however, to move on and learn from them that counts. Linda always looked to take those steps forward...overcome those hurdles. 

If we can’t go back in time to prevent these issues, we know we have to channel them positively from the way we SEE them to the way we HANDLE them... and handle them she did... with unmatched grace. It is easier for us to feel resentment with all the bad going on than to do something about it.  Life is very short to not move forward no matter what your obstacles. She taught me that we need to live our lives and enjoy it as much as we can. There are ALWAYS positives: I've seen first hand even more over the last several months that Linda's husband and kids are amazing, that our mom and dad and her best friend and the rest of our family and friends are constant incredible support....   Linda had continuously reminded me of my own three great boys, and my hard earned career, and my good health, and my supportive family and my many great friends. That there is plenty to be thankful for no matter what your struggle. We can all reflect on this and find our positives no matter what your situation is. 

So, here it is... my big sister, who was suffering from a debilitating illness... whose struggles were far bigger than many of ours.... whose 'normal' was very different than what it ever was ... is teaching me how to live... how to enjoy what I have... how to put one foot in front of the other again. 

So Why Linda?  

Well... maybe she fought her own battle for her husband and children ... and as she tried to smile for my mom and dad...and as she attempted to keep things as consistent as possible under the most excruciating ever- changing circumstances, she could STILL teach me...teach all of us... all very powerful life lessons...and because her own struggles were so devastatingly real, those lessons.... those messages... those actions....were that much more impactful. 

So now, what would Linda want each of you... each of us... to learn from her today?  Because I'm fairly certain she won't ever stop teaching... what words of wisdom would she want us to carry on with?

To all of her family, her friends, her acquaintances:  an act of kindness goes a long way.  From the hundreds upon hundreds of greeting cards, to the flowers, to the balloons, to the meals provided, to the leaps, to the many gifts... there were and still are so many signs in the Sousa home of support, hope and love. Know that these things are appreciated and have meant so much. Linda would surely want you to know this...and to know that you need to continue to take care of each other and to continue to think of others.  Life is too precious and too short.

Jeff  - I know this too well... Linda would put her brothers on a pedestal.  She has always told us how proud she is of Jeff and I . So Jeff, what can we learn from this? Certainly that life is very delicate. Continue to be the person you are, do the things you love, and spend time with the people that matter most. Continue to be kind, caring, and loving. Continue to believe that you can accomplish whatever you set out to do. Continue to take care of Mom and Dad like they've taken care of all of us.  Move forward... one step at a time.

To Mom and Dad: the dynamic duo. Linda for sure would say that her thinking of others first comes from the both of you.  It would be the very rare occasion, if ever, that either of you would put yourself before anyone else. You are always the ones taking care of others, making sure everyone else is ok...  Mom, Dad... thank you for being the shoulders to cry on, the ears to listen, the arms to lift me, and the voice of hope. You were always there for me, for Ronnie, and for Jeff. Nobody is perfect, but you certainly are close. Now, what would make me happy? .... what would make me happy is if you found some time for yourselves- take advantage of retirement, smell the flowers, enjoy camping, play with your grandkids.   Stay Strong like the Rocks you have always been for me. Don't stop living.

To Victor. This came way sooner than anyone ever would have imagined. It has to be the hardest thing in the world to watch the one you love go through so much suffering and to feel so much pain yourself, but to show your strength to everyone on the outside.  The calmness and comfort you have always provided, and especially through these most painful times has been such an important piece to this battle.  You are a good man, Victor... a good husband, a good son, a good brother, a good uncle, a good father...  Continue to be that man. I know you'll take care of the children just fine.  And please be happy, smile a lot, and laugh - it is great when you laugh... infectious when you laugh.

Evan and Kaia ... well, what can I say.  You are the true miracles that made Mommy's life complete.  Do not ever stop challenging yourselves.  Keep reaching for the stars. Continue to make Mommy proud.  You are both destined for great things.  Be respectful to your dad, your relatives especially your Uncle Ron, and your teachers. Be kind to your friends and all those you meet.Work hard at everything you do. Mommy loves you more than anything in the world and will continue to look over you every minute of every day.

Friendship....  friendship is a combination of affection, loyalty, love, respect, and trust. The general traits of a friendship include similar interests, mutual respect and an attachment to each other. The emotional safety provided by friendship means not having to weigh your thoughts or measure your words.
True friendship is when someone knows you better than yourself and takes a position in your best interests in a crisis. Friendship goes beyond just sharing time together, and it is long lasting and even forever. Shannon, you are an unbelievable person, a trusted companion, a true friend. You will always be considered a member of our family. You have sacrificed so much for us. Please take some much needed time to be with your husband and your children and to get back to your own passions. You deserve that time for yourself.

One of my Memeres used to say that there is never anything so bad that something good can't come out of it. Memere, memere...
this is an extremely tough one to justify, but here it is...

Linda was chosen.             .  

Linda was chosen to teach teach me... to teach all of you...

to  appreciate more, laugh louder, love stronger,.... to live better, .... to think positively,....  to always be kind .... It is our responsibility now to carry these lessons on with us and pass them on to others along the way.  

Linda, we all love you and thank you for your guidance. Either directly or indirectly, you have made such an impact on so many people's lives. Your legacy is far reaching... so far reaching.  

You are forever in our minds, Linda ... you are forever in our
hearts. I love you my sister.

"The living owe it to those who no longer speak to tell their story of them."

-Czeslaw Milosz

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Beautiful Life

Linda Marie (Leclair) Sousa
September 23,1972-July 3,2017

My beautiful, brilliant, sweet, loving, full of life, Soul Sister received her angel wings one month ago on the night of July 3rd with fireworks exploding in the background.

Victor and I thought it was important to post news of Linda’s passing on her blog.  During the past few months, Linda hoped she would be well enough to update everyone in her own words, but she did not get that chance. Unlike Linda, sharing feelings does not come easily to me. I want everyone to know that Linda was a Rock Star long before her illness. She was extraordinary her whole life- those close to her already know this. I refuse to allow Stupid Cancer to take credit for anything good that Linda was.  She was inspirational, strong, kind, insightful, positive, and graceful long before December 2011. Linda spent over three decades filling my bucket. Since we were young girls, whenever I was feeling lost, I could count on Linda to point me in the right direction.  Although she is three weeks younger than me, I have always and will always look up to her.

As we struggle to learn to live life without Linda, knowing that she touched so many lives is a large source of comfort. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to Linda’s family and mine. To honor her, I have humbly attempted to give a glimpse of Linda's beautiful heart from my perspective.

“With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love.”
           ~ Rumi
Linda began her life’s journey cherished, protected, and loved by her wonderful family.  She left this Earth with a full and grateful heart, humbly understanding that during her 44 years, she had made a beautiful imprint on more lives than she would ever come to know.  To feel love and to give love was most important in her life.  If measured in love, not in years, Linda led the fullest of lives.

Linda planted love passionately.

Linda loved teaching and became a very well respected and admired educator amongst her colleagues.  She was a fierce advocate for her students.  When Linda’s health forced her to retire from the job she dreamed of as a child, she continued to teach on an even larger scale.  Linda taught us all what courage looks like; what bravery sounds like; what strength feels like.  Linda showed us how to be fully alive in the wake of physical limitations.  Her example of moving forward with happiness, hope, grace, and purpose continues to inspire others to live better lives.

Linda loved to give.  She was always thinking of how to make others happy through her personal touch.  She had a talent for recognizing what others would like and creating her own gifts filled with her special magic.  Linda understood that gifts do not need to be expensive or fancy to touch people’s hearts. It was typical for Linda to bring flowers from her garden in a simple glass jar with a pretty ribbon and hand written tag, to cookouts, parties, or just because. Her hands were always moving. More than once, Linda would put together a special gift for me, right in front of my eyes, without me even knowing it.  Long ago, I stopped asking what she was up to when she was creating. My home and my studio are filled with special, meaningful (many handmade) gifts from Linda. I will treasure every one of them…always.


Linda loved photography.  Her unique perspective behind the lens captured nature’s beauty and life’s precious moments.  She preferred candids over posed photos and always caught genuine moments of loved ones and friends.  Family and friends could count on Linda to have her camera at every special event. Others recognized and admired Linda’s talent. She was often asked to photograph weddings, family photos, and other occasions. Lin and Vic’s home is filled with her beautiful photography. Even before she became ill, Linda was aware that every day was a gift.  You can see how she cherished every precious moment through her beautiful photographs.


Linda loved nature.  She and Victor spent two decades tending to their beautiful gardens.  Many of their plants, flowers, and shrubs came from the yards of her grandparents or other relatives.  Linda found solace on her front porch where she enjoyed watching birds nest in her hanging plants and following butterflies as they fluttered through her flowers.  She loved the change of the seasons and all of nature’s beauty.

Linda loved to go for walks outside with her children, her parents, and her friends.  She enjoyed the fresh air, conversation, and scenes from nature. Walks served as a good stress reliever for her. Linda and I walked together nearly every day for years...sometimes before the sun came up, sometimes very late at night, during snowstorms and rainstorms, sometimes running to prepare for 5Ks she was determined to do, and sometimes holding on to each other for support through life’s darkest times.
Linda loved old things. Antiquing with her mom was one of her favorite things to do. Linda spent years collecting, refurbishing and re-purposing treasures she received from her grandparents or even old gems she found on the side of the road.  She could make a rusty box, a broken ladder, or an old wheelbarrow look like a piece of art.


Linda loved her home.  She and Victor built a home filled deeply with love, history, and meaning.  Their home is a masterpiece of warmth and beauty where every corner is filled with Linda’s personal touch.  Linda and Victor made an awesome team. Linda had clever, creative ideas and Victor’s handiness helped make them happen.

Linda loved to write. Shy by nature, Linda bravely shared herself through written language.  She touched countless people through her blog.  She inspired many by exposing her vulnerability in hopes to help others.  She found her blog to be therapeutic as it served as an outlet for her feelings.  Her genuine thoughts are now a precious gift left to her children in her own words.


Linda loved music. She loved anything from John Denver to gospel to Sara Bareilles. Sometimes music gave her extra pep in her day and sometimes it helped ease her mind. Her music served as a source of comfort on stressful trips to Dana Farber. Although Linda was not a dancer, she had an ear like a choreographer. My iPod is full of music that Linda would send me for choreography ideas. She always felt proud when I used her suggestions for special pieces.

Linda loved God and her church, where generations of her family have gathered to pray, celebrate, and grieve.  Linda, Victor, and the kids attended weekly mass where she found comfort and peace.

Linda loved her friends.  She held her friends close, enjoyed their company, and kept them dear to her heart.  A number of times, Linda expressed to me that until she got sick, she never realized just how many people considered her a friend. She was very touched by the overwhelming support of all of her friends.  The love of Linda's friends helped to lift her in very tough times.

Most of all, Linda loved her family.  Family gatherings with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were the highlights of her childhood.  Linda had a strong sense of where she came from and spoke often of her Memere and Pepere Tetreault and Memere and Pepere LeClair.  Linda had the fondest memories of family vacations to places like Maine and Disney.  As an adult, Linda opened up her home to be the common gathering place for her family. She and Vic hosted cousins, aunts and uncles and other extended family for holidays, birthdays, and summer cookouts.  Linda was fortunate to have a large family that expressed to her how much she meant to them. We often talked about what a blessing it is to know how loved you are.  Linda was very aware of the gift of her family.

Linda loved Victor’s family.  Sunday family dinners were filled with food, drink, laughter, and love.  She respected their strong sense of family and felt honored to be a part of it.  Linda hoped to someday travel to Portugal to meet Victor’s relatives and see where he was born.

Linda loved her nephews.  She embraced each one of them with wonder and joy as they entered the world and then celebrated every milestone with them since.  She made time out of her busy life for them and planned fun, special things to do with them.  There were always fun things to do at Auntie Linda’s house.

Linda loved me and my family.  Not only have Linda and I been through quite a lot together, but our families have as well. Linda often commented that our children acted more like siblings than friends. Long before boyfriends, husbands, children, and selfies, Linda and I began to develop a bond that would grow into something truly beautiful and rare.  Our hearts are connected in a way that I cannot put into words.  We understood each other without the need for language. A few years ago Linda decided that “BFF” was not enough to describe us and she started to call us “Soul Sisters”... I am profoundly grateful for the time we shared here on Earth and I pray that her beautiful soul will be eternally connected with mine.


Linda loved being a big sister to her brothers Ron and Jeff.  She was wildly protective of them and was their confidant, adviser and loving friend. Linda thought the world of her brothers and always kept a special place in her heart for them.  Linda was proud of the men they have become and spoke fondly of them to others. She prayed for their happiness and was thankful that Jeff has Michelle and Ronnie has his three boys.


Linda loved her parents Ron and Jan.  Jan was Linda’s best friend, confidant, and biggest ally.  Linda was painfully shy as a child and often had trouble separating from her mother.  Even as an adult, Linda felt most secure when her mom was nearby.  Linda absolutely adored her father.  At 44 years old, Linda was still very much Daddy’s little girl.  Linda's parents moved into the house next door (which they own) less than a month before she passed. Linda's face lit up anytime her parents’ new living situation was mentioned. She found peace knowing that her mom and dad would now be so close to her and her family. Linda knew that she had the most amazing, wonderful parents. She was beyond grateful for her happy childhood and all the love and support that she had received from her mom and dad for her entire life.

Linda loved being a mom.  She entered motherhood through much heartache and struggle.  She understood that often times, out of our greatest struggle comes our largest rewards.  Evan and Kaia were by far the largest rewards in Linda’s life.  She selflessly gave her children all of herself.  Linda was profoundly thankful to Evan and Kaia’s birthparents.  Linda understood that through their sacrifice came the greatest gifts that Linda would ever receive.  Linda was immensely proud of E and Little Miss for the bright, beautiful, loving children that they are.  God made Linda the perfect momma for E and Little Miss.

Linda loved her Victor.  He was her rock, her light and her love.  Linda’s love for Victor stood the test of the hardest of times.  During their nearly 21 years of marriage, Victor filled Linda’s heart and gave her closeness, comfort, and security only his love could provide. Despite hardship that no young couple should ever have to endure, Linda and Victor had a happy joyous life filled with much laughter and love.

Linda’s greatest legacy is the lives she touched with her loving, giving heart.  The ripples of her profound influence on others is infinite.  Linda left the Earthly world feeling loved, making others feel loved, and understanding that she made a meaningful, beautiful difference.

"There are those rare moments in life when you are touched by so much love that you begin to realize how beautiful life really is."