The Best Fireworks

By Carrie Leising, Guest Blogger

Extraordinarily, I saw the best fireworks the summer that I was diagnosed with cancer. I was in and out of the hospital, and my parents were staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Orange County, CA. The week before 4th of July, I went through a round of chemo, and my teenage crabbiness escalated. Just in time for 4th of July, my doctor discharged me from the hospital. But I wasn’t 100%.  Going home, four hours away was out of the question. My only option was to stay at the Ron Don, my nickname for the Ronald McDonald House, with my parents.

That's me at the Ronald McDonald House in Orange County in the summer of 1995.

In honor of the 4th of July, the Ron Don volunteers barbequed for families staying at the House and went all out to make it an amazing feast. But I wanted to see fireworks!

Taking a recommendation from a Ronald McDonald House volunteer, my parents drove us to the hills to see fireworks. I remember sitting on a lawn-chair in awe: oohing, ahhing and clapping. I kept saying, “That was my favorite!” or “No, now, that one was my favorite!” These were not ordinary fireworks, but awesome fireworks of color, with the biggest disks of sparkly gold, white and purple that I loved.

The best fireworks!

Focused on fireworks, and not the hospital, not the unknown and not the cancer, I decided that they were the best fireworks. Maybe because they gave me a slice of normalcy, something I craved in my world of darkness. The radiance of the fireworks reassured me, just like the Ron Don did for my parents. The House provided a home away from home. They gave us the best 4th of July.

When and where did you seen the best fireworks?

My best,
Carrie Leising

Carrie Leising moved to Austin in 2007 with her husband and dog and has been cancer-free for 16 years. She spent a lot of time at the Orange County Ronald McDonald House when she was a teenager. She has visited five “Ron Don” Houses, including volunteering for and supporting Orange County, San Diego and Austin RMHC and Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times. Her motto: Pay It Forward.

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18 Responses to The Best Fireworks

  1. Jani says:

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  2. Pingback: Christmas Eve at the Ron Don House | RMHC Austin

  3. Janina says:

    The best of times come when you are usually coming through the worst of times. I’ve noticed that. What a blessing Ron Don has been in your life and how you have helped them later, it shows you are a blessing too! Great article, Carrie!

  4. Kendra Kofron says:

    Great article! It reminds us that go through difficult illnessess to never take “normal” moments for granted. The best fireworks I have ever seen were from a deck over looking the ocean. The fireworks exploded right over the water.

    • Carrie says:

      Oh yes, I can imagine how the ocean provides the best mirror to enhance fireworks as does the sound of the waves against the sand. It’s amazing how much of the senses go into “seeing” fireworks.

  5. Kaity says:

    I always thought the best fireworks were the ones our familes used to light off on our own. There’s nothing like holding a sparkler in your hand when your 10 years old. We had some great 4th of Julys together at Crowley as well watching the fireworks go off over the lake.

    I loved reading your story and remember what a special place the Rondald McDonald House was to the family. Im so proud of all your accomplishments and you are truly an inspiration when things get tough! Keep blogging I love it!

    • Jan Gunter says:

      You’re so right! The best fireworks memories I have are of lighting bottle rockets as a kid with my family – especially my uncle who always loved to buy them for us!

      • Carrie says:

        Oh my gosh, I do remember those sparklers and the way we would dance with them. I’m proud of you too, Kaity, and hope you get a chance to see the Ron Don House in your neck of the woods.

  6. Amanda W says:

    What a wonderful story! I think it’s important for anyone going through difficult times to remember not only to do “the normal” things in life, but to also to remember to stop and smell the flowers along the way; it’s rejuvenating but it also reminds us how God is in control if we put our trust in him.
    Very well written!

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks, Amanda, for commenting and for your special post. I know how much you love flowers. Thanks for the smile.

  7. Jenny says:

    Beautifully written entry, Carrie. Your message is so powerful–it is so important to attach meaning to the “normal” special things at times like that. I can’t believe it has been 16 years! Woot-woot! It is so encouraging to read your story and take hope that bad times like that can be over-come, but the process of trying to find beauty and hope along the way is part of the fight!

  8. Darci says:

    I love how you capture the importance of glorious distraction from hospitals and illness. And you are also so right about the comfort and security that Ron Don’s provide to families during such a difficult time.

    I would have to say that my favorite fireworks show was in Tahoe, watching the lights over the beautiful lake on a clear night. I would also argue that the fireworks at your wedding were pretty good too….

  9. Carrie says:

    Thanks, Jan and Ann. I liked hearing where you saw your favorites…it seems that fireworks are attached to very special memories. I shared the blog with my husband and he said that I still do the same thing today when we watch fireworks, I can’t decide which ones are my favorite and I love them all. –Carrie

  10. Jan Gunter says:

    Hmmm…. don’t know that I have a favorite fireworks show. We saw a great one last year at Krause Springs in Spicewood, Texas, actually! We were super close because it’s a small place, so I think that increased the WOW factor.

    I agree with Ann – how cool to see the thread of your story from your teen age years to your volunteering at several Houses to your 16 years of being cancer-free!! Thanks for sharing your story.
    -Jan

  11. ann jerome says:

    This was such a great post Carrie! My favorite fireworks were at disney’s Epcot Center when we were there with my older son about 15 years ago – AMAZING and so memorable…but, I guess that’s Disney for you. I loved reading your story and seeing your connection to 5 Ron Don’s and sent your post to friends at the OC House and San Diego. So happy you are healthy and here in Austin!!!

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