“Tyler changed my life. He showed me the magic and the beauty within the most unexpected things. He gave me strength just by holding my hand. He gave me purpose and a sense of calm.” – Catrina Simbe
I recently went to a fundraising dinner. It was for a foundation called Tyler’s Grace, created by a friend of mine, Catrina, who suffered a tragedy in her own life four years ago. Her son, Tyler, was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was four years old. After a couple of years struggling to help their son survive, her husband learned he had Stage IV stomach cancer, and only months to live. About that time, her son, then just 6 1/2 years old, took a turn for the worse. Within days of each other, she lost her husband, and then her son.
Gone were two lives more precious than air to this woman. She was left to survive the pain of loss with their daughter, Samantha.
I first met Catrina Simbe when we did a small fundraiser for her family, less than a year before her husband and son passed. At that time, I was working with another massage therapist, and we donated a day of massage where the profits would go to this lovely family. From the moment we met, I was impressed with her as a woman, mother, and wife. She has a radiant energy and grounded strength, and she would definitely need it to endure what was coming. When I would even imagine putting myself in her shoes, I was overcome with emotion. The intense struggle of managing a sick son, and then husband, all while continuing to be a loving mother, seemed daunting, at best.
As a testament to her strength, and to the resolve of those supporting her through it all, within a year of the passing of her son and husband, she had conceptualized and created a non-profit foundation, called Tyler’s Grace. This foundation raises money to provide a week-long, all-expenses-paid get-away to a home in Lake Tahoe, or a beach-house in Aptos, to families suffering from terminal cancer, facilitating a way to leave behind the stress of the hospital environment, and enjoy a last vacation together in a “normal” setting. She and her family had the opportunity to be together like this one last time, to make happy memories away from the sights, sounds, and intensity of the hospital, and she wanted to be able to give that gift of time to others.
We gathered for the first fundraising event in August, 2014. The location was gorgeous, held at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. Emotions were incredibly raw. There were a lot of tears shed throughout the day and into the evening, but the overall theme was one of rising from the ashes, pressing on, turning tragedy into something productive, something good. It was mind-blowing that Catrina and her team had pulled this off just one year after such a sorrowful loss. I kept asking myself, could I have done this? Would I have had the strength? Only one year after losing my husband, or a son, would I even be alive, so to speak, or would I have succumb to the suffocating grip of loss and depression?
Fast forward three years, to the 3rd Annual “Best Day Ever” Tyler’s Grace fundraiser, on August 19, 2016. The event is still being held at the gorgeous Half Moon Bay Ritz Carlton. What a long way this foundation has already come! Many new faces have joined the group to support this incredible cause. Four years ago, two lives were lost. Now, more than 200 come together to celebrate Robert and Tyler, and to support Catrina and her daughter: new friends, donors, business partners, and the many families that have been helped through the foundation. I looked out across the crowd at dinner as Catrina’s pastor spoke that evening. He said something like, “We don’t know why these tragedies happened, but I look out tonight and see all the people that have come together because of it, and all the good that is happening for other families as a result.”
The emotions are still raw. When Catrina addressed the audience with a strong but quivering voice, for a third year, there was not a dry eye in the room.
This woman lost two precious family members, almost at the same moment in time. No one would have blamed her for wallowing in sorrow, for being bitter and angry, and for questioning why this happened to her. But, this woman chose to live, to honor the memory of her husband and son by fighting, to pull from the strength they gave her in this natural life, and continue to channel their love from the next. She resolved to turn her tragedy into something beautiful, and to give back to this hurting world.
For more information on Catrina’s journey, and the Tyler’s Grace Foundation, click here.
“I am a fighter, because my husband died fighting. The strength and courage he demonstrated throughout his life and in his last months, was an inspiration to all that knew him. Robert’s story has been written and fulfilled. It is through Tyler’s Grace Foundation, my husband’s footprint will continue to live.” – Catrina Simbe