When I learned that today was planned as "Love Remembers Day" to celebrate and honor those lives lost to anaphylaxis from food allergies, my first reaction was, "How could I forget?"
When my son straps on his Epi-Pen belt in the morning, I remember that Sabrina Shannon left her Epis in her locker.
When he goes to school, I remember Ammaria Johnson ate a snack given to her on the playground.
When his class plans a party, I remember that Katelyn Carlson had Chinese carry out at a school celebration.
When I read an ingredient label, I remember that Jharrell Dillard ate a store bought cookie.
When we go shopping, I remember Emily Vonder Meulen's trip to the food court.
When we go out to eat, I remember BJ Hom's last meal was at a restaurant buffet.
When my son takes a bite of something and says his throat itches, I remember the delay in giving Natalie Giorgi epinephrine cost her life.
These children, and far too many others, haunt me every day. Thoughts of them are so painful that I actually avoid articles about and interviews with the families of someone lost to anaphylaxis. My own fears keep me from sharing their losses and acknowledging their amazing accomplishments.
Every time I see the parent of a child lost to food allergies publicly campaign to keep other children safe, I am astounded by their strength and love and dedication to their child's memory. I am not strong enough to survive a world that does not have my child in it, let alone improve it.
I still have not been able to make myself watch the documentary that Sabrina Shannon made herself about living with a food allergy. Yet her mother Sara Shannon advocated for Sabrina's Law and made all children with food allergies in Ontario safer.
When Emily Vonder Meulen's father, @GrievingDad, followed me on Twitter, I followed back, but was unable to make myself contact him. Paul, I am so sorry. My heart goes out to you and your family every day.
The 5K Memorial Run for BJ Hom organized by his family to raise funds for FARE is a tribute to them, as well as to him.
These families deserve all the love and support that we in the food allergy community can give them and their children deserve to be remembered as more than a cautionary tale.
Sabrina was a budding, talented film maker.
Ammaria loved school, her teachers and her friends.
Katelyn was a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and was often outdoors playing sports and going fishing.
Jharrell's family donated his organs and saved the lives of seven others with their selflessness.
Emily was planning a huge combination birthday and middle school graduation party for her and her friends.
BJ had just graduated high school and was getting ready for college.
Natalie loved to draw and wanted to be a neonatologist when she grew up.
They all deserved so much more. The very least we can do is remember.