Claire's Favorite Things (and not so favorite things) by Susan and Jimmy Goudeau
Susan: This year marks the 20th anniversary of Claire’s birth to heaven and every year during our presentation time, we or someone close to Claire will tell a story about her. We do this so that you too can know something about her. Because it’s a special anniversary year, we thought we’d tell you about Claire’s favorite things and even a few things that were not her favorites. Jimmy: Claire absolutely loved making lists and checking off things accomplished. The first time we saw her doctors she had her list of questions. From the beginning Claire wanted to know what was going on with her treatment. One of her doctors failed to address her in a manner she considered appropriate. Her cancer doctor treated her as if she really didn’t understand what was going on. She let him know he should talk directly to her not just her parents. I’ll never forget the shocked look on his face. But from then on, he always spoke directly to her. We ran across some lists that included her daily activities written on its own index card. The entire week of index cards was placed in an envelope. Yes, she was organized. Susan: Claire was determined to complete her fourth-grade year – and with the help of her teachers and special friends she did it before she died. While she was a good student, she didn’t make straight A’s. She had to be reminded to do her homework because fun was the most important thing and most homework lacked a fun factor. She loved school and learning but would tell you lunch, recess, and riding the bus were her favorite “subjects”. Her favorite lunch was pizza with milk to drink. We know all of this because she had a list. Jimmy: We mentioned fun was the main criteria for worthy activities. That included girl scouts, family camping and scout camping, cheerleading, and Han Mu Do, a type of martial arts. She loved wearing hats and gathered quite a collection as she began to lose her hair from radiation and chemotherapy. She wasn’t always good natured during those last seven months. Sometimes she was angry and resentful, but her daily reminders on her lists usually included SMILE and BE NICE. Susan: She also loved writing notes and letters. Many never mailed or delivered. I suspect it was her way of venting her frustration about a situation or some person in particular. I recently had a morning with one of Claire’s friends Kaitlyn. She had a “Claire” box that contained little notes. One such note had been attached to some pictures from some event. A simple note just saying, “I hope you enjoy.” Another letter about their friendship. Just simple little notes. One letter written to me from Girl Scout camp the summer between 3rd and 4th grade read like this:
Jimmy: One of our Sunday rituals was to receive anointing of the sick after mass. Only Father Blanchard, our pastor at the time, could do this. Substitutes were just not the same. She enjoyed music. She loved playing piano but hated doing her scales, but did them anyway. Her favorite groups were The Spice Girls and Back Street Boys. She loved our church band Refuge who played during 5:30 pm mass on Sunday evenings. When she and I were together, it was listening to rhythm and blues – especially Etta James. Susan knew when we were coming home because the truck’s windows were down, the music loud and we were singing loud to Etta’s music. Susan: She loved to pray at night with her dad but sometimes when sleep would evade her, she asked me to sing her favorite song Hail Mary, Gentle Woman until she could go to sleep. She wanted to be a mom. She didn’t want sympathy. She enjoyed attention but often wished no one knew about her illness. On bad days when she wasn’t feeling well, she just wanted to be a regular kid. Jimmy: But when faced with her illness, she was determined to live the life she was given. She wanted to go to school be with her friends and teachers and be with her family.
Afterthoughts: At the time we prepared this we forgot to include a couple of important favorites. Claire loved shoes. We called Claire and her Aunt Beth "Sole" Sisters because they both couldn't pass up checking out a great pair of shoes. The other favorite of Claire's was a slip.....but we'll save that story for another day.
If you'd like to view the mass and presentation click here. Disciples of Christ presentation begins at 46:00 Claire awards begin at 55:00
Kelsie and her parents and sisters have been part of our journey since our children’s early elementary school days. They have always offered prayerful and loving support and genuine caring for us. Kelsie graciously gave us permission to print the following letter we received about a year ago as part of a memory book presented to us during the scholarship awards presentation. Kelsie, We're sending hugs, love, and prayers to you and your family. Love, Susan and Jimmy ================================================================================== Dear Mr. Jimmy and Mrs. Susan,
Gus and I met when we were 15 & 16 years old. We fell in love instantly, and it didn’t take long for me to share the “Claire” part of my life with him. I told him about my friend Claire that passed away when we were only 9. He felt sad for me but then asked, “I mean, did you guys really know each other for that long….?” He was curious about how, at 16 years old, I was still crying so hard over a girl that was in my life only a few short years. I then began to tell him about Claire. About her family. About the kind of person she was all the time. About the kind of person she made each of us. And about everything we did that 4th grade year and the impact that it made on all of us. By the end of all my stories Gus was sobbing. “Wow…what a beautiful person.” Through the years, Gus has continued to ask me stories about Claire. Eight years later, when I was pregnant for our second child, it was actually Gus who asked if we could use “Claire” as a middle name to honor your daughter. Claire’s death did not stop her from living on inside all of us. And my story is to show that Claire, and your whole family, continue to impact other people’s lives after all these years. Even ones you don’t know. Sounds like an angel to me.
Tom and his wife Karolyn are special friends we’ve known for many years. They helped us begin the Claire Renee’ Goudeau Memorial Fund and along with others, worked to help build it to what it is today. We are grateful God sent us friends to help us on this journey. We are thankful for Tom and Karolyn - their caring and kindness, their patience and empathy, and their love of Claire. The following appears in The Advocate Human Condition special feature
---------------------------------------------------------------------------- She was a beautiful, vivacious fourth grader with occasional bouts of shyness quickly liberated by an enchanting smile and sparkling eyes. Her life was a happy song that brought joy to her parents, family and friends.
That melody was shattered by the devastating diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor that would, despite prayers and valiant medical care, cause her death. Claire Goudeau died when she was but 9 years old.
However, Claire’s life transcended death, and therein lies the rest of the story. In many ways, the miracle of Claire’s life began with her death.
Claire’s journey to death was heroic and truly inspirational. She faced death with fierce opposition while accepting her mortality with honesty and integrity. She was the calm presence amidst the pain and anguish experienced by all who surrounded her. Claire was steeped in faith befitting a saint and wisdom well beyond her tender years. Her faith allowed her to see her pending death with the clarity of God’s vision — that measures worldly life against eternity.
The final verse of Claire’s life remains unwritten. The reason is that, Claire, in death, stirred the hearts of many who witnessed or later learned, the greatness of her life. Claire touched many lives and then, most importantly, that gentle touch forever changed those lives. This world is a better place because of a little 9-year-old girl who died oh so young. A foundation was formed to memorialize Claire. “Pancakes for Claire” was started to raise funds to support scholarships for students attending Claire’s school, St. Jean Vianney. The project was and remains an overwhelming success with multiple scholarships awarded over the years to worthy students. Some of those initial students are now adults who proudly give Claire, via her example in life and financial support in death, credit for being a contributing factor in their great accomplishments. Claire’s death had a special impact on her fellow fourth-grade students. They prayed for her; they visited her; and they faithfully stayed by her during her fateful sojourn. All were indelibly linked together by her death. Those dear friends still cherish Claire and keep her memory close to their hearts. Claire’s legacy has been manifested by the simple act of naming a child after her. Or, the classmate inspired to become a pediatrician. Others, many others, openly acknowledge to this day, the significant impact Claire had on their formation into adults. The message is clear. God cast Claire upon his waters, and the ripples of her life seeking an eternal shore still touch this mortal world. While the sad death of a young child is inexplicable, Claire is proof to all, that life by her words, her actions, her example, no matter how shortened, has meaning and purpose to us, even beyond death. The great poet once wrote: “ No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Those words resonate especially at this moment in time where a person in some distant land may impact you or your neighbor. We must recognize we are each singular, unique but an intertwined part of the whole of mankind. Your words, your actions have an impact and consequences far beyond human comprehension. Claire’s life is a cogent example of that fact. “We are all in this together” is our mantra. Choices we make, actions we take, verily have consequences. Let us therefore resolve to be ever mindful of the example we set, the choices and actions we make each moment of each day. We can and must each make a difference, today and beyond, just like Claire.
by Jade Gaudet Gautam, Lieutenant JAG Corp, US Navy
Jade was one of Claire’s special childhood friends who lived just down the street from us. We have kept in touch and follow her adventures around the world. In 2013 we invited her to share some memories about Claire at the annual awards presentation which usually takes place in early May after the school mass. The presentation took place this morning via video conference until a more formal presentation can take place in the fall. We so pleased that this year we are announcing six awards to deserving students who exemplify personal characteristics including love of school, love of others, and commitment to excellence in school and personal life, doing what you have to do even when you don’t feel like it and doing it the best you are able. Thank you, Jade for allowing us to share your memories from your talk in 2013. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ When Mrs. Susan first asked me to do this, well at first, I thought I couldn’t talk about something so dear in front of a crowd. But then I started to think about what special memory I should share so that you could get a glimpse of the cheerful girl I spent my childhood with. I started to think about the time we decided it would be a good idea to turn my parents’ bathroom into a swimming pool room. We actually flooded then entire bottom floor of their house and ruined all the wood floors.
I also thought about our embarrassing front yard Spice Girls concerts and our day long go cart rides where we would just ride and talk all day. We loved to play the board game Life, watch the movie Clue, and dress up as each other trying to fool our parents into thinking we were the other.
But the memory of Claire that stands out to me above all of that – and at this point I can’t even remember if I was there or was told about it – is an encounter Claire had with another girl. A girl came to the Goudeau’s front door, and Claire noticed this girl seemed just really down, timid, struggling with something, and then she noticed she either didn’t have hair or was losing her hair. Claire just smiled at the girl, pulled off her hat and wig and said, “Don’t worry; I don’t have hair either.”
Despite her discomfort, her hardship, her pain, at such a young age, Claire always found a way to reach out to another person in the silly, child-like way that was her. A part of my childhood was taken when Claire died, but I think I was given the most beautiful gift – I call it the gift of life. With this came not only the ability to understand the value of life and to never take a day for granted, but most importantly it made me understand the impact we have on other’s lives - and what we choose to do with this is up to us. So, it is in this spirit of Claire that I have described, that I hope the recipients receive this award and try to embody the beautiful person that was Claire, choose to have a positive effect on others, and encourage all those around them to do the same.
Present. I had a conversation with Claire’s Uncle Mark about the several meanings of that word. The conversation took place after she died. I often think about its meanings and would like to share those thoughts with you.
Present. Gift. Claire was a present that arrived on May 31, 1991. A beautiful gift that was received by Susan and I and her brother Kelly. A wonderful gift that gave us all great joy. Her smile and her caring for others were gifts to all who met her. Her handling of her physical and mental suffering gave all who met her a gift. A gift of a smile. A gift of hope that there would be a cure. A gift of acceptance when it was realized that there wasn’t. When she knew she was going to leave this world and gain heaven, she gave us the gift of concern for others who had burdens to bear.
Present. Presence. A Divine presence was felt in our home during Claire’s last hours. There was this awesome feeling of someone there to bring Claire to her new home. I believe that all who came to visit her then, also felt their presence. Her presence has never left us. It’s here in memorabilia around the house and school. It is here in the recipients of the scholarships given in her name. It is here in the hearts of those that were especially close to her during her battle. It’s here in the community of St. Jean Vianney Catholic Parish and School.
Present. Today. That brings us to now/today, the present, May 2 will be the 19th anniversary of Claire going to her heavenly Father. How fortunate we are to be her family ……mother, father, brother, friends. Certainly, I feel loss and always will, but concerning Claire, I can only live in the present and not dwell on what could have been in the future or if things would have been different in the past. She is with me today as I write this and I am happy knowing she made an impact. Present.