Parents keep daughter’s memory alive by giving back
On Jan. 7, what would have been Madeline Brown’s first birthday, her family and friends will hold a celebration.
Madeline died before birth, but her life and memory are kept alive by her parents, Betsy and Matt Brown, brother Alex, her maternal grandparents, Susie and Tom Levine, and many others.
The Madeline Todd Brown Memorial Fund was created to keep this child a part of their lives always. Girls Hope of Pittsburgh is the recipient of the fund.
Girls Hope, which celebrated 25 years helping teenagers, has two group homes in the city. Each Hope house has eight girls. The organization provides daily necessities. And with the help of Madeline’s fund, they give the Girls Hope Scholars all the support for higher education including tuition, board, books, and other necessities.
“It was a perfect fit. Madeline’s Foundation helps these girls the same way we would help Madeline,” Betsy Levine Brown says.
“We want them to be productive, good citizens and to be happy.”
The Browns give of themselves, too. The young family, including Alex, who is now 3, joined the girls for a Chinese dinner.
“We wanted to find an outlet where Madeline can do good. We channel energy into challenging situations,” Betsy says.
The “advocacy piece” was an important component of dealing with the death of Madeline. It is a way of continuing her memory. There were many difficult times over this year.
“It’s a challenge every day living with the loss of a child,” Betsy says.
She compares it with the loss of a limb.
“I’m not sure I want it to get easier,” the young mother says.
As terrible as the event was, there were shining stars. People pitched in not only with the foundation but also with practical ways to help the family. Betsy says they had three months of home-cooked meals.
“The community support was remarkable.”
Also, Betsy received support from George Mason University, where she is an assistant professor of developmental psychology and child development on a tenure track. She continues to work part-time and commute to Virginia.
Betsy and Matt have taken turns commuting. They lived in Annapolis. Betsy worked in both Washington, D.C., and a rural community outside the capital. Then she was accepted into the University of Pittsburgh’s doctoral program. The Fox Chapel Area High School grad moved home with her parents and commuted south on weekends.
The Browns bought a house in O’Hara eventually, and Matt commuted for a while. Now it’s her turn. On Mondays the professor travels to Fairfax.
Sometimes the road time is sad and lonely. She shared an email with her university coworkers about what she would consider support. She wants to hear Madeline’s name.
“We can’t assume people know what we want. You will see me cry. It’s sad and it’s hard. You shouldn’t be frightened by it,” the petite blonde says.
Even through tears, it’s easy to see strength and resiliency which extends to keeping Madeline’s memory strong, too.
Sharon Drake is a Tribune-Review contributor.