The Pinwheel of an Angel

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Rod Spadinger

And the pinwheel was spinning. 

It was my first glimpse of Cloey Shelor, our Cystic Fibrosis Angel, whom I had met some seven years ago on Facebook. Such a vibrant young lady, I could already tell. She seemed to be a Cystic Fibrosis Warrior and celebrity from the very start, prior to even reaching the status of her teenage years. Her energy, her stamina, her talent. All were worthy of amazement.

In February 2015, we, in the CF Community, lost our Cloey. 

That was approximately a year after she received a fresh pair of lungs. I remember the relief and the joy of the day when Cloey received her new lungs, and I recall, too, the sadness and immense grief of the day when she left us. 

I was fortunate to have gained a Facebook relationship with Cloey’s parents, John and Robyn Ashby Shelor, subsequent to the passing of Cloey, and it became a mission of mine to one day meet with them both. On a Virginia evening in June 2019, I was able to finally get to know the people who raised this special person to be the Warrior that so many of us knew.

Arriving late, I was pleased to immediately engage in easy conversation with Cloey’s parents and grandmother in one of the tables on the far end of the restaurant in Winchester. The four of us familiarizing ourselves with each other and with the grievances Cystic Fibrosis had brought us all. 

Although the table was designed to seat four, there is no doubt that Cloey arranged the configuration so that it comfortably sat five. 

Ignoring all types of common decency and manners, while eating barbequed chicken pieces with my bare fingers, I dialoged with the family about CF. About my habits with this challenging ailment. The same that had concerned Cloey in her life.

When I communicated with Cloey’s mother prior to my journey to their town, Robyn asked me if I would like to visit Cloey. Her suggestion brought me great pause. I was stunned. My fingers froze over the keyboard. Emotions in check, I accepted.

As promised, once the meal was consumed, we made our way to Shenandoah Memorial Park. Cloey’s spot. Her new earthly home.

Excited to meet this precious angel who I only previously knew through the baby blue window of her social media account. As we neared Cloey, her mother pointed out her resting area, identifying it by the pinwheel which was actively spinning. 

I do not have recollection of how windy it might or might not have been at that moment, but the wheel was spinning as excitedly as it would have been if our CF Angel had been holding it while sprinting towards us in a spring meadow. It was as if the spin was her smile. Her laughter. Her happiness.

As we gathered at Cloey’s spot, I thought of the times when I would see her Facebook posts so many years back. 

The posts that were pre-transplant, wearing a nasal canula connecting her to oxygen, yet enjoying life as any pre-teen would.

Then the post from her hospital room post-transplant, when her father was encouraging her to walk, as she tightly clutched a pillow, looking pained and apprehensive. 

The post showing her doctor hugging Cloey in her bed, with the message saying that he was accepting his morning Cloey hug. 

The post from when she was in her final hospital stay prior to Christmas 2014, stating in joyful anticipation, that her father brought a present to her room, and told her that the remainder were at home waiting for her to return.

Then the final posts from Cloey’s family, not even two months after beginning a period that was supposed to be her year. Telling us that she had left.

Cloey was never able to receive her Christmas presents.

The limits of the digital image were gone for the moment, as I was then physically standing there with Cloey. Looking down at the beautiful plaque that commemorated this Warrior for visitors to view. 

Dropping to my knees, wiping aside the brown, gritty soil on Cloey’s plaque so as to allow my fingers to glide unobstructed along each raised letter and design. I was at last able to "meet" her, this person I had admired previously from some 5,000 miles away.

Dusk was quickly falling, yet it seemed so early. Surely the sky was using metaphor to proclaim Cloey’s brief, yet at the same time, full experience with life. It was not meant to be, nor was it fair, that after only 13 years, all the rest of us have left of her are memories.

Early the next morning, prior to my drive out, I felt the need to visit Cloey one last time. Kneeling at her plaque, resting my cane next to her, my fingers again slid along the characters. As my fingers rose and fell along the spaces between the letters of her name, it was my equivalent of a virtual hug.

My right index finger paused at the edge of the last design on her copper colored plate. Feeling as if that spot characterized the precipice of her brief time with us.

It was eventually time for me to continue my journey. I whispered a goodbye, promising that I’ll see her again, and turned to walk away.

As I did, I noticed the pinwheel was spinning.

 

  Help Others Live STRONGER and LONGER- 

    

 

Rod Spadinger, 47, has Cystic Fibrosis. Born and raised in Hawaii, he moved to Dallas, Texas, where he underwent a double lung and liver transplant in August 2017. From the age of four, until he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis as a junior in high school, he ran at least five miles a day, in order to keep his lungs clean. Rod’s exercise routine now consists nearly daily visits to the gym. He is on a continuing journey to connect with fellow Cystic Fibrosis patients throughout the United States, having driven over 24,000 miles in 2019 with these travels. Inspired by The Lord and his angel donor, Joni Marie, who provided him with her gifts of life, Rod published the memoirs of his post-transplant journey, and celebration of this second life, in the book “A Collection of 50 Stories Inspired by my Ange Donor, Joni Marie”. He is currently compiling a subsequent publication, primarily consisting of documenting his road trip encounters with fellow CF Warriors. Rod also founded a CF focused non-profit organization, Ashleigh’s Life Foundation (https://ashleighs.org/the-journey), and is currently establishing the non-profit organization, CF Vests for Life Foundation.  Connect with him on Facebook under his name, and on Facebook at Cystic Fibrosis Artists; Two New Lungs, One New Liver – A Year and Beyond with Cystic Fibrosis; Cystic Fibrosis Road Warrior – Ashleigh’s Life Foundation; and CF Vests for Life Foundation.

 

 

***Views expressed in the CFLF Blog are those of the bloggers themselves and not necessarily of the Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation*** 

***Please speak with your physician before making any changes to your CF management***

 

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