Callum’s Garden

girl with sunflower

We created a new garden for Callum on Glencove Drive earlier this year.

Just before their Grade 12 graduation, his friends came out and helped us to fill the garden.


We also planted a lot of sunflower seeds.  The garden was overflowing with sunflowers all summer.

But what made it all more special was this photo that a friend sent today. And the offer to help plant the garden next year.  It has become, I hope, a special spot in our neighborhood.

And, for this little girl, Callum’s sunflowers were magical.

For me, too.

Love you Call-Call.

girl with sunflower

Four Years Later….

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The Thanksgiving weekend will, forever, be a challenging one for me.

The first photo remains my profile photo on Facebook.  It is sometimes painful to look at. But to change it?  How could I? It’s like the message on our answering machine. I’m not going to remove Callum’s name.  I can’t explain it. That’s just the way it is.

The second photo is the sunset this past Thanksgiving. Same place.  Four years later. Without Callum.

How many more times can I say it?  I miss him every minute of every day.  I looked at that sunset and I cried.  How was it possible that – a mere four years later – I am standing here without him?

There was a news story this week – a farm family where 3 girls died when they fell into a truck full of canola seed and were smothered. Tristan and I listened – horrified. We didn’t say anything but I knew what he was thinking.  We couldn’t even imagine their sadness.  Because just losing one person we loved was horrible enough.

On Thanksgiving Monday, I wrote that we are – and will always be – thankful for Callum.  Our time with him was not enough.  But someday, really, I just want to feel gratitude for having had him in our lives.

Until then, I have a 5 foot ten 180 pound hole in my heart.

I love you Callum. More than ever.

xo Mom

A Wonderful Day to Celebrate Sunflowers – and Callum!

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We were raising money today for Children’s Wish – an organization that brought great joy into Callum’s world with the delivery of that Laser Sailboat!  It is a day that none of us who were there will ever forget.

Thank you to everyone who helped us today…too many to name personally.  But special thanks to Ed and Anne – who have also been on this same journey.  And to all of my friends – I am truly blessed.  You are always there for me.  And thanks to the Yoga Girls and their families, who have become a very important part of my life.

And thanks to Tristan and Josh – who raised almost $150 at the Bake Table.  Tristan – you should be proud of the way you are putting what we learned in Kenya into action.  I am proud. Asante sana.

We still have lots of sunflowers (and baking) to sell.  So if anyone on P.E.I. would like to jump in and take orders for sunflowers, let’s keep raising money for this amazing organization.

And to everyone who talked about Callum today – he says thank you.

xo Nancy

Sunflowers for Children’s Wish – Saturday September 19th

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Sunflowers for a Wish

A field of sunflowers is a Stratford mom’s way of saying thanks to the Children’s Wish Foundation.

   In April 2012, 14-year-old Callum Russell MacLean was halfway through his treatment for a soft tissue cancer in his hand. An SUV pulled into the driveway with a boat on the roof rack. Callum’s wish had arrived.

   “It was truly the happiest I have seen him since his diagnosis in September,” his mother, Nancy Russell, wrote at the time, on a blog chronicling Callum’s journey. The caption of the blog said it all : The Happiest Kid on P.E.I.

     Beth Corney-Gauthier is the executive director of Children’s Wish on P.E.I. She works to raise the money for the wishes. But she also has the joy of seeing them delivered.

     Callum loved to sail so a sailboat was the obvious choice for his Children’s Wish.   He could have picked a sailing trip.   But the idea of owning his own Laser XD was even more exciting.

   “The process of applying for a wish is easy,” explains Callum’s mom, Nancy Russell. “And when you are already going through so much with your child’s illness, easy is good.”

   Callum’s pediatrician at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital helped with the application. And within weeks, the process of finding Callum a boat was in full swing.

     “We met with Beth and Julie at Children’s Wish who instantly got up to speed on sailboats and what Callum was looking for,” Russell continues.   “It was fun to watch Callum explaining to Beth about the boat and all the specifications.  She learned a lot really fast.”

   Angus Buchanan of North Sails, a sailing store in Halifax, also jumped in to help.   He called the Laser factory personally to place the order – and even travelled to the U.S. himself to pick up the boat and deliver it to Callum on P.E.I.

     “Getting the boat, with four months left in his treatment, was a great motivator for Callum—and for all of us,” says Nancy Russell. “We couldn’t wait to see Callum finish his treatment and get to try out his Laser for the first time.”

callum young with tillercallum sailing for book

   Callum had been a junior sailor at the Charlottetown Yacht Club since he was 8.   And so that’s where he headed on June 25, the day before his Grade 9 graduation. Still in treatment, he was determined to get his boat on the water.

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     “He was still very tired from the chemo,” recalls Russell. “But the pride of owning that boat carried him through any pain and fatigue.”

   The video and photos from that day show a young man doing what he did best – out on the water where he grew up.

callum sailing laser

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   “It was magical,” says his mother. “Not perfect. But it was his boat. That was all that mattered. And I will never forget watching him sail it that day.”

   Sadly, Callum Russell MacLean only got to sail his boat twice. He returned to Grade 10 in the fall of 2012, and the Laser went into storage with hopes for many more sails in the future. But the cancer returned in February 2013 and Callum passed away in April.

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   Now Nancy Russell wants to raise awareness and money for the organization that gave Callum motivation – and some good memories – amidst days and weeks of time in hospital being treated and harsh side-effects.

   “I want to thank Children’s Wish for the hope that they gave us with that sailboat,” explains Russell. “And that’s why the money raised from this year’s field of sunflowers will be donated to them.”

   Last year, Russell grew a field of sunflowers in Callum’s honour for the first time. The project was suggested by Della Wood, of Wood’s Farms. She remembered that Callum’s mom had encouraged his friends to plant sunflower seeds in his memory, because they bloom around the time of his birthday.   And so, Wood contacted Russell with the idea of growing a field of sunflowers for Callum, with the proceeds going to charity. Last year, the money raised was sent to Kenya through Farmers Helping Farmers, where three classrooms were built in Callum’s honour.

     “I love the sunflowers because for me they have become a symbol of Callum for many people in the community,” says Russell. “Even better, that we can grow them and sell them and put the money towards something that reflects his courage and kindness.”

Callum’s Sunflower Sale for Children’s Wish will take place Saturday September 19th, between 9 :00 a.m. and 2 :00 p.m. at Wood’s Farms, 177 Georgetown Road in Tea Hill.

After that, you can drive out to Wood’s Farms during regular business hours and pick your own. (closed on Sundays) The sunflowers will also be available for sale at Now n Zen Coffee Shop on Glen Stewart Drive in Stratford, until they run out.

They are $5 for 5 blooms.

The Kenya Youth Tour will also be doing a bake sale on Saturday September 19th with the money raised going towards purchasing books for a school in Kenya.

For more information, you can contact The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada | Prince Edward Island Chapter | 375 University Avenue, Unit 7 | Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island | C1A 4N4

t: 902-566-5526

Della at Wood’s Farms at 902-569-4215

Nancy Russell at 902-569-1771


“We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.”

Happy Birthday Callum

callum trist new years callum hammock smile callum sailboat baby callum sailing sunset 2There is No Finish Line for Grief

I’m learning that one of the most difficult parts of grief is that it doesn’t end.   There is no finish line. Yes, it changes. But it’s always going to be there. And that’s hard on the head and on the soul.

When we returned from Kenya, the grief hit again, in a different way. Tristan and I had done what we said we were going to do : we built the classrooms in Kenya. Now it felt as if, in return, we should get Callum back. But, as you know, it doesn’t work that way. It is still like being stabbed in the heart to stop and think that I am never going to see him again. That is such a painful thought, that I can only still let it in for a few nanoseconds at a time. Then I have to shut those thoughts away and find something else to busy my mind.

I’m a « doer ». I like to get things done. So it’s very hard for me to have something that can’t be fixed, no matter how hard I work. Grief is very humbling that way.   There is no escaping it. I read that somewhere : you can’t go around grief, you just have to go through it. It is sometimes a very bumpy road.

Yes, the grief does change. I would never have been able to travel to Kenya 2 years ago. I could hardly get out of bed some days. So to go halfway around the world was unimaginable.

But, somehow, with the help of a lot of people, I have been able to pull myself together to the point that I was able to make the trip, and see Callum’s classrooms in person. He was there with us, and so in spirit was every person who was with us on this journey.



I still find that I can’t adequately explain how grief feels as it evolves.   Like a dull ache? Always there but you occasionally are distracted by something else. But when something reminds me of Callum, that sadness is still there.

I like walking by our garden that we have collectively created for him. But that makes me sad. Again, I was trying to deal with how I was feeling about his friends graduating by « doing something ». I’m glad we did. But it still hurts.

And then there is his birthday. Again.   The third birthday without him.

He would have been 18. He became an adult, in my eyes, so we got a glimpse of what he would have been like. He was the most mature 15 year old I ever met, because of what he went through.   He would have been a kind and compassionate and thoughtful man, because that’s what he was like all of his life.

I miss him every second of every day. But I am learning to treasure second that we had with him. Yes, I would trade all the pain, but not ever any moment that I got to spend with him.

Please think of him, and share a story or look at a photo of him on his birthday.   He will feel our love, as I promised him he would.

Love you Call-Call!
August 12, 2015