Note: This article was originally published May 22, 2016
I’ll always remember the photograph of Lindsay Gabrielle Plant.
Lindsay wears a sleeveless white shirt and a little kid’s cute smile. Strands of brown hair form a curl in the middle of her forehead. I’ve seen this picture dozens of times.
Looks like she’s ready for adventure. A caper for Lindsay could be running a make-believe restaurant, sitting at a family bonfire or making a peanut butter and Parmesan cheese sandwich.
“We always called her our nature child,” said Cathi Aloisi, Lindsay’s mother. “She loved being outdoors, she was a free spirit. I know that term gets used a lot, but she thought about things and she cared about people. She loved to talk.”
The chatty, giggly little girl with the curl has made frequent appearances in The Daily Gazette, on the obituary page. Aloisi often posts messages to Lindsay, who passed away at age 8 in 2006, as memoriams. The smiling photo is usually included.
Another photo will appear Monday, the 10th anniversary of Lindsay’s passing. I’ve always wondered about the stories behind this happy child and her mother — the author of so many heartfelt messages. Aloisi also remembers her daughter in print on Lindsay’s birthday, Oct. 3, and on holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and the 4th of July.
There are many memories, and Aloisi was gracious and courageous enough to share them with me. I say courageous because it’s not easy talking to a newspaper reporter about the loss of a child, especially when such personal stories will appear in print and online.
But here’s Lindsay, and the life and joy behind the photo people often see in our newspaper. Her nickname was “Lulu,” she loved the color purple and was in the third grade at St. Madeleine Sophie school in Guilderland.
In addition to peanut butter and Parmesan, she appreciated taquitos and pasta. She sang karaoke and loved Saturday nights at Barnes & Noble with her mother, where a slice of chocolate lava cake was always part of the trip.
Road trips to Vermont with Aunt Donna were on Lindsay’s list. So were tea parties with Mom, playing the clarinet and chasing butterflies. She also wrote about butterflies and even dressed as a butterfly for Halloween.
Swimming, reading and watching the teen exploits of “Lizzie McGuire” on TV were other diversions. She kept a journal and dressed as an elf every Christmas Eve with her sister Erica.
Things changed on Monday, May 22, 2006. Lindsay, Cathi and other family members were at a favorite restaurant, and stopped at another restaurant for dessert.
Everyone was home early — Tuesday was a school day. Aloisi and Lindsay could travel together, as Aloisi worked at St. Madeleine Sophie as an administrative assistant. During the evening, Lindsay packed her lunch for school and later went to bed.
The little girl woke at 1 a.m. on May 23, and told her mother she did not feel well. She threw up, and a stomach bug was suspected.
Later in the morning, arrangements were made for another family member to meet mother and daughter at school, and pick up Lindsay for the day.
“She went upstairs to get her shoes on and she didn’t come back down,” said Aloisi, 57, who lives in Rotterdam. “When I went up to get her, her lips were blue and she wasn’t breathing. I carried her downstairs and called 911 and they took her to Ellis.”
A diabetic coma was the initial diagnosis. Lindsay was then rushed to Albany Medical Center, where doctors tried to stabilize her. She passed away during the early afternoon.
Medical tests later found that Lindsay had suffered a strangulated small intestine, an intestinal blockage. Doctors would tell Cathi there was nothing she could have done; but this was the beginning of Aloisi’s grief, which continues 10 years later.
Last year, for the ninth anniversary of Lindsay’s passing, part of Aloisi’s memoriam read, “Faith says, through God and with God you have missed out on nothing. The mommy in me cries out, ‘We missed out on everything.’ ”
Last December, the message was, “Like the doll on the Island of Misfit Toys, I have no more dreams left, except for one: To wake up spending Christmas with you.”
Lindsay was religious. She believed in Jesus.
“A few weeks before she passed away, we were driving home from here (St. Madeleine Sophie) and she was in the back seat,” Aloisi said. “She said, ‘You know Mommy, I’m not afraid to die.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s good, but why would you say that?’ She said, ‘Well, when I die, I get to see Jesus and see the babies you lost.’ I had two miscarriages. . . . I said, ‘That’s a good thought, but I hope you’re not in a hurry.’”
The messages in the newspaper are reminders. For everyone.
“I have to make sure people don’t forget her,” Aloisi said. “She was so full of life, it’s important that people who knew her have the opportunity to remember her. I’ve had parents, I’ve had a lot of dads tell me they read the memorials and they seem to hold their children longer on that particular day. They have a newer appreciation of their children and the time they spend with them.”
Some people see Aloisi at the mausoleum at Saint Cyril’s Cemetery in Rotterdam, the site of Lindsay’s interment and a place Aloisi visits every day. Once, a total stranger approached her and produced a wallet that contained all of Lindsay’s memorials.
While the memorials are often heavy with sadness, there are other loves in Aloisi’s life. She has three other children, a grandchild, and sees small children every day at St. Madeleine Sophie.
“If the Lord is waking me up every day, then he wants me to be here and keep doing things, so I get up every day and I keep going,” Aloisi said. “Some days, it’s harder than others. Some days, I have a good laugh. It’s hard because sometimes it’s almost like grief has become who I am. And I try not to be that way but it hits from out of the blue sometimes.”
She also believes in the promise of the Christian faith, a promise of ultimate peace and comfort that exists beyond this world. She holds on to that, and holds onto Lindsay’s favorite stuffed animal, Leo the donkey, every night.
“Lindsay used to say to me, ‘Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever leave me,’ ” Aloisi said. “Sometimes, when I leave the cemetery I have this feeling that if I look back, she’s going to be standing there saying, ‘Don’t leave me.’ I feel I have to be there at least to read her a story, say good night and go through the whole ‘Good night, I love you, sweet dreams and God bless you,’ which is what we did every night.”
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter. His blog is at www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/wilkin.