My niece, Natalie, was profoundly affected by cerebral palsy – a “micro preemie” who defied countless odds in her 10 years and three months of life.

This month, she would have turned 11.

But Natalie died January 22nd, peacefully but unexpectedly, in her snug little bed at home.

She couldn’t walk or talk or see, but it didn’t matter. From the moment she was born, Natalie was a fighter who inspired everyone whose path was lucky enough to intersect with hers—and countless more who knew her only from afar. 

From her snazzy hot pink wheel chair, Natalie taught us how to live, how to persevere, and most importantly, how to love. 

Her whole-body smile inspired us to find joy in the simple things.

Her love of noisy kisses taught us to give love with reckless abandon.

Her therapies and surgeries and illnesses inspired us to summon courage we didn’t know we had, to surrender everything to the God who sees our pain and works all things for His glory, even when we don’t understand.

In the words of Natalie’s mom, Melissa Olson:

Over the years, we have been the recipient of so many acts of kindness, from meals delivered while I was on bed rest, to visits in the hospital while Natalie was sick — there are too many to list here.

We are challenging all of our friends and family—and complete strangers!—to carry out ELEVEN ACTS OF RANDOM KINDNESS this month. 

Make it big, make it small, make it special for you—but do it in Natalie’s honor. The thought of people all over finding ways to spread love in Natalie’s name helps to take the sting away from not being able to spend her birthday with her here on earth.

If you want to do something things that are “Natalie-themed,” here are some fun facts about her:

  • She was known for her beautiful, thick curly hair
  • She loved music and dancing
  • I often had her in hot pink or animal print (because she was awesome like that!)
  • She loved the sunshine 
  • She loved nature sounds (birds, the waves at the lake, etc.)
  • Chocolate was her favorite flavor
  • She loved riding the bus to school — and she loved school!
  • She was a world-class snuggler 
  • She enjoyed riding her therapy horse 
  • She had beautiful nails that I would often paint 
  • She loved having books read to her
  • She was on the Dream Catchers baseball team and Prairie Grit sled hockey team

Will you do it? 

Share Natalie’s joy. 

Shine Natalie’s light.

Love hard and be kind.

This is how we carry on without the angels who change the course of our lives. 

So from our family to yours, the challenge is set: continue Natalie’s legacy of love and do #11forNatalie

Carolyn Moore

Carolyn traded a career in local TV news for a gig as a stay-at-home mom, where the days are just as busy and the pay is only slightly worse. She lives in flyover country with her husband and four young kids, and occasionally writes about raising them at Assignment Mom