Amy continues to make a difference!

7 05 2012

Our amazing Amy is still at it, even from the other side.  From Facebook postings, news articles, TV interviews and all the incredible comments from her blog readers, it’s a true testament to how many people love and support her and how she impacted so many lives.  Yesterday there were over 3200 hits to her website and today an astonishing 4900 and growing.  Yes, Amy…you made a difference!  We will keep your legacy going!

Detroit Free Press article today .

A story will also air on Fox 2 news tonight, May 7 at 5 or 5:30pm.

Amy Tina Rauch-Neilson Obituary 

Heeney-Sundquist Funeral Home
23720 Farmington Road
Farmington, MI 48336

Amy Tina Rauch-Neilson

November 29, 1968 – May 6, 2012


Age 43, of Belleville, died at home following a valiant battle with cancer.

Amy is the beloved wife of 12 years to Donald; devoted mother to Theo; and loving sister of Julie (Jim) Peace and Lisa (David) Sybert. Amy is also survived by many nieces, nephews, additional relatives and friends.

The family will receive guests at the funeral home on Wednesday, May 9th, from 4-8 pm, and Thursday, May 10th, from 12 Noon-8 pm.

Funeral Services are planned for Friday, May 11th, 11:00 am (in state at 10 am) at Northridge Church, 49555 North Territorial Road, (at Ridge Road), Plymouth, (734-414-7777).

Cemetery prayers will take place Friday afternoon at 2:30 pm at Parkview Memorial Cemetery, Livonia for immediate family only.

Memorial tributes are suggested to Beaumont Hospice or a fund to benefit Theo’s education.

Click link to make a donation to Theo’s College Fund via Paypal

Or Checks Payable to:

Amy Rauch Neilson Benefit

PO Box 580

Milford, MI 48381

Thank you for keeping Amy’s family in your thoughts and prayers.

Our Angel Amy

6 05 2012

Today, May 6, 2012 at 3:15pm, our extraordinary, amazing Amy traded in her Earthly wings for Angel wings.  She was in the comfort of her own home and was surrounded by loved ones.  Amy fought long and hard to battle this awful disease and she handled herself with magnificent beauty and poise.   She filled her home with love and laughter.  She touched so many people in her own unique way with an impact that will last a lifetime.  Amy will live on through each of us and though she is gone, she will never be forgotten. 

As some of you may recall reading Amy’s post from May 30, 2011 – “The Miracle of Cardinal Red When I’m Blue”, several of us witnessed first hand today the miracle of her story.  A beautiful, red cardinal perched himself on a branch in the tree just outside her bedroom window.  Without saying a word, we knew her Dad was there to help guide her to her new journey – the next chapter in her life.  Amy has been reunited with her mom and dad and many other loved ones.  Our loss today is truly Heaven’s gain. 

Funeral arrangements are being made and will be shared soon.

In lieu of flowers, a 529 College Education Fund has been established for Amy and Don’s son Theodore.  As most of you know, education is high on Amy’s list of accomplishments.  She received her Master of Arts Degree in 2008, and delivered an incredible speech to her graduating class.  Amy made a difference.

Click link to make a donation to Theo’s College Fund via Paypal

If you would like to donate to Theo’s college fund, checks can be made payable to:

Amy Rauch Neilson Benefit

PO Box 580

Milford, MI  48381

Thank you all for your love and support.  Amy was one of a kind and will be greatly missed.

A Steel Magnolia – Guest Blog by Maureen O’Connor

5 05 2012

For Amy,

                 First, I will say I love you. I am one of the many hundreds of lucky individuals to know you and to love you and be loved by you.

                I remember you saying once you don’t want to be remembered as ‘the girl who fought cancer and lost.’ And I remember thinking at the time no matter what happens, you will never have lost. You have brought more light, love and joy to the world than anyone I know.

                So let’s reminisce about what I love:

  • Getting to know you when you were only in your mid-to-late 20’s, even though I certainly knew you before that through our parents’ friendship.
  • Your generosity in sending mom and dad to Florida – until Sean finally kicked us in the butts and said, ‘Hey, why is Amy sending them when we can all jointly send them?”
  • Your higher score on the ACTs.  You know what I mean.  😉
  • Spending time in Florida with you, mom and dad, watching you exercise, laughing when you’d pinch dad’s butt, the wonderful meals you’d prepare, your non-stop chatter and energy!
  • At Sean and Cathy’s when you came around the pool carrying one of the infant twins and you saying, “I could do this, couldn’t I?” (You always would question your mothering ability, and I would always tell you you’d make a wonderful mother. I was right.)
  • Hibernian parties. New Year’s Eve parties. St. Patty’s Day parties. You always dressed for the occasion, no matter what!
  • Sparky Airport Transport. Driving around and around the terminal because we’re talkingtalkingtalking and you missed the stop. And no matter what time of day or night, you were always willing to make the drive.
  • Burning Kev’s French toast.  Talkingtalkingtalking.  LOL!
  • Your eternal optimism. (Are you sure you’re not Irish?)
  • Those damned dogs racing down your stairs to attack me!
  • John Edward!  (What will your sign be?  I’ll watch for it!)
  • One groovy chick.” And you are!!!
  • Allowing me to shave your head.
  • Elephant-fest!
  • Your precious relationship with my parents.
  • Our talks. I loved our talks. For someone with your IQ, it always amazed me how you would constantly question your abilities or second-guess yourself.
  • Your undying support of me in whatever my choices were.
  • Your unconditional love.
  • Your bravery in the face of so many difficulties! Losing one parent then another. That first ‘marriage.’ Learning who your real friends are. Finances. Health.
  • Your tremendous devotion to Theo and to Don.
  • Your quick wit and raucous laughter!

         You are the very bravest of women. A steel magnolia. A warrior. You have left an indelible mark on those you’ve touched and those you will touch in the future through your words.  Though you don’t see it now, you are one of the lucky ones. You filled your life with love, laughter, family and friends. I don’t personally know any other person who has the following you do. You have created a support group for Don and Theo that will see them through the difficulties ahead. You have fought bravely and ferociously. You have lived a long, full life in a mere 40+ years. And there is a time for every season. Your boys will be okay. You will be okay. The next chapter is ahead of you:  Your mom, your dad, Charlie – they’re all waiting for you with open arms!

 And I’ll be watching for you. I love you dearly.


Aka CP or Chicky-poo

More than a Teacher – Guest blog by Lindsay Kalter

3 05 2012

For the first few weeks I was enrolled in Amy Rauch Neilson’s composition course, our student-teacher relationship developed similarly to most others I’d had before: unsuccessfully.

Practically every teacher who had the misfortune of instructing me from ninth grade on expressed an instant aversion to me. It didn’t matter what approach I tried: quiet, funny, obsequious, vaguely interested. None of it worked. In retrospect, I can only guess that they could see past whatever shakily executed image I projected to what lay beneath it all—utter indifference.

I entered my freshman year at Washtenaw Community College with a bit more motivation than I had exhibited in high school, but I was still far from being academically engaged. For one, all the time I’d spent zoning out and skipping class had left me with a pretty pathetic base of knowledge and practically nonexistent study skills.

To top it off, my dad died about two years prior to that when I was a junior in high school. I was angry at life—even more-so than your average adolescent—and twice as angry at myself for demonstrating such apathy about my future before he passed away. I felt completely incapable of accomplishing anything of importance and was convinced that even if I did, it wouldn’t matter. I was emerging from a crash course in the realities of death. Everything was insignificant by comparison.

So, when I got the vibe from Amy that she wasn’t crazy about me, I was neither upset nor surprised.

To be fair, I wasn’t crazy about her either. I remember coming home from my first day of class and telling my mom that my seemingly lenient sociology instructor was cool, but my composition teacher…well, she was a little scary. It was hilarious to think about after she and I had become friends; Miss Sunshine Personified Amy deemed a fearsome force in any capacity. I had my reasons, though. It was clear on the first day of class that Amy was a stickler for rules. Meaning, she actually meant everything that she’d printed on the syllabus. The nerve.

She also expected us to work. Hard. And even though it was only the first day, you could tell in her face that she meant business. Over the next few weeks, she drilled into our heads a string of tedious grammar rules. Rules that should be taught extensively from kindergarten through 12th grade, but that scarcely even make it into the standard lessons. Rules that equipped me with basic communication skills that became the foundation for my journalism education years later.

The one thing I had going for me in Amy’s class was my passion for writing. I can’t remember exactly when it started, but I do remember forcing my family members to type up plotless stories riddled with excessive dialogue when I was too young to do so myself. My writing evolved over the years in direct correlation with my stages of development. Angsty poems read aloud in high school poetry slams. Short stories comprised of endless description; three pages dedicated to the colors and shapes of fall leaves, then a paragraph at the end contemplating the meaning of life.

Talk about tedious.

This is what Amy had to work with when I entered her class. Because writing had always been something that I loved and did willingly, I never considered it a skill that could be honed. It was an exercise in self-indulgence. Frankly, it embarrassed me a little. I didn’t know why I felt compelled to regularly purge the contents of my psyche onto paper, yet couldn’t for the life of me sit down to complete my biology homework.

But as the semester progressed, I began to value what I had previously dubbed a useless compulsion. As the assignments became more involved, I also realized that what I had been doing until that point was the equivalent of written finger-painting. It was fun, but took no technical skill whatsoever. That’s where Amy came in.

I began to stay after class and get one-on-one feedback from her. I didn’t do it to suck up or feign interest to gain bonus points, to even my own surprise. I did it because I felt myself improving, and I wanted it to continue. And I genuinely loved this class.

For the most part, Amy’s stringent first-day demeanor began to soften during class number two, when she didn’t have to focus as much on defining expectations and garnering respect from a classroom primarily of teens. But there was still a chill in the air during our interactions. She told me later as we stood in her kitchen making applesauce, during what I’ve come to call “Amy’s domestic goddess lessons,” that I wasn’t the only one who started out with a negative first impression. “I just thought you seemed entitled, like you were used to getting whatever you wanted on a silver platter,” she said, almost apologetically. It wasn’t until I met with her one day after class to discuss an assignment that our Mexican standoff ended for good.

We sat across from one another in the otherwise empty classroom after the night course ended. The fluorescent overhead lights and the dusk that crept through the windows cast a sort of institutional glow that you only see in classrooms, offices and hospitals during evening hours. Somehow, we got on the topic of parents, and in that oddly lit room I told her all about the rough two years I’d had after losing my dad.

Whenever I disclosed this piece of personal history, people usually reacted in one of two ways: They either offered their genuine but disconnected sympathy, or they treated the subject like a fragile house of cards to be cautiously circumvented. Amy did neither. She told me about her mother who passed away after battling breast cancer, and her father who died of ALS. She had endured plenty of devastating diagnoses and premature loss. She wasn’t a tourist in this territory.

She spoke to me with a mixture of empathy and practicality, and not the far-away kind of empathy that draws solely from faded memories. It’s not just that she knew where I was coming from. She met me there, and she helped pull me out.

I took more composition classes from Amy, and we became closer with each semester. Another student, Lisa, Amy and I became a composition triumvirate. One of the first times I saw Amy outside of class, Lisa and I went to her house to bake pies. My mother was shocked, pleased and quite skeptical when I told her I was skipping my usual Friday-night debauchery to bake with my teacher. I’m not sure she was entirely convinced that I had told the truth about my plans until I returned completely sober with a pie in hand. A delicious one, at that.

Throughout my 11-year friendship with Amy, I have come to reconcile the once-puzzling discrepancy between my draconian first impression of her and the warmth she has brought to my life since. It turned out Amy is not only Miss Sunshine Personified, but she is also the fearsome force I had seen at the beginning. This dichotomy has become evident in every facet of her life: her delicate and beautiful use of words, and her bullish, driven approach to the schooling and career that bolstered her writing; her unwavering emotional support in her friendships and marriage, and her propensity to exercise brutal honesty; her gentle encouragement and pedagogy, and her steadfast commitment to pushing one’s mind and abilities to the very limit.

And when little Theo came along it could be seen in her daily, effervescent “good morning” serenades to the smiling boy, and her firm, guiding hand that continues to teach him the values that will mold him into a great man. And in her battle with cancer, it has become evident through the constant humor and grace she has maintained while exerting the fierceness of a true warrior.

My friendship with Amy may not seem exceptional from an outsider’s perspective. I wasn’t the first kid to experience a death in the family. Amy’s not the first woman to fight breast cancer. I wasn’t the first wayward student to excel academically with the help of a teacher, and our relationship wasn’t the first to be salvaged by second impressions. But Amy Rauch Neilson is the only person who has taught me—and I suspect many others—the precise balance required to live the most productive and fulfilling life one could possibly imagine. Amy has shown me how to fight with grace. And I will forever be grateful.

Lindsay Kalter

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