Today is Jena Cassalina’s 19th birthday. A little over five years ago, at the age of thirteen, she took her last breath while waiting for a double lung transplant and fighting cystic fibrosis. I never had the honor of knowing beautiful Jena, but I do have the honor of calling her amazing mother, Margarete, my friend. Instead of giving up after losing Jena to CF, Margarete wrote a book about it. She became a national advocate for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, increasing awareness and raising millions of dollars to fund research for a cure for her son and everyone else with CF, so that one day CF will stand for “Cure Found.” As a mother, I can’t even begin to comprehend living what has become Margarete’s normal: hospitals and medications and lots of very tough decisions; let alone being inspired to make a difference because of that normal. Of all the women I have met in my life, Margarete is the strongest, most generous and loving, the most driven, and a thousand other wonderful things.
Today, across the country, people have been leaving 19 lucky pennies for others to find in celebration of Jena’s birthday and to show our love for Jena’s family. My penny pictures are below; today, I carried Jena through the fog, from one end of the island to the other and just about everywhere in between, and the final penny was tossed by Chris into the biggest wishing well we could find: the ocean.
Marc, Margarete, Eric and all of Mahoney Road, we love you and we’re thinking about you. Happy birthday, Jena, breathe easy.
At Nora’s favorite hangout:Right in the middle of Main Street:For a friend:For a stranger:In a forgotten place:At the end of the road:Overlooking luxury:On a bridge:At Sankaty Head:In a historic place:On a doorstep:For a bicyclist:At Alter Rock:And tossed with a wish for a cure:
To learn more about Margarete, please visit her website. To see more penny pictures visit Beyond Breathing’s Facebook page. You can read why pennies are significant here and you can donate to the Cassalina’s CF fundraising efforts here.