Friday, January 27, 2012

It's Time

Time is a strange thing. No matter what is happening, good or bad, it just keeps marching on. I have always thought of how unfair it is that as one person's world is crashing, everyone else's keeps going on.

I love the custom that was practiced in the "olden days" of how when someone died they stopped the clock. They covered it with a dark cloth. They pulled the curtains down. It was a perfect way to say, "Hey my world has stopped!" It symbolizes perfectly how it feels when someone you love dies or something tragic has happened or is happening to you.

Sadly I can't pull my shades, or stop time. There are moments that I want to shout from the rooftops "LEAVE US ALONE! WE ARE GRIEVING!" I was so mad that Aric was having to take phone calls and deal with people from work on the day GK died. He would answer his calls, solve the problems and no one on the other end had a clue that his world had stopped. On the other hand there are moments where I want to scream "CALL ME, STOP BY, BRING ME A MEAL! I NEED SOME LOVE!"

Thankfully we have the most incredible support system on the planet. We did have friends constantly calling, texting, and stopping by to offer their love and support.

We had homemade cinnamon rolls, cookies and bread show up which was exactly the thing our souls needed to be soothed.

Another night it was a five pound bag of gummy bears.

We had meals offered and brought over.

Whenever we needed a blessing we were able to ask wonderful friends and family to offer them.

We had many friends offer to take our kids so that Aric and I could have some quiet time to talk and grieve together.

My mom came up and dropped everything so that she could help with the kids and the house while A and I tried to process what had just happened.

When we needed to get out of the house and have a good laugh all we had to do was run across the street to have that need met. (Gotta love having good friends live that close by)

When we needed some space and didn't show up at a function we never had to explain.

When it was time to hit the road for our long trek to ND for the funeral, we had road trip survival bags dropped off.

Honestly the love was overwhelming.

The most amazing thing was the prayers we felt/feel over and over again. There were many days where my patience was non-existent and instead of flying off the handle I was not normal. Having extra patience with my children and have energy to keep up with life and not freak out, was a direct result of the prayers that were being said on my/our behalf.

I have been reminded once again, how prayer is sometimes the only thing we can do, but the best thing to do. I will listen and follow through with promptings I get from the spirit, as random as they can be, because now I know how much comfort can come from a plate of cinnamon rolls. I will always be humbled when I look back on this time and remember all of the love and support that we have been given and do my best to pay it forward.

I have learned that grief can suck the life out of you. During a normal day we all spend emotional and mental energy to not react to the things that annoy us. But when grief enters our life, then all that energy is now used to just keep going and not turn into a hot mess. So sadly, there is no energy left to be patient and slow to anger. At least this has been my experience. I have discovered that there is this thing that I call a "grief filter". Which is actually an oxymoron because in my everyday life I have a filter that keeps things from flying out of my mouth that shouldn't, well with my grief filter, pretty much if I think it, it comes out. I have realized that I have some pretty forgiving friends because my grief filter was in full effect for a few weeks but now, thankfully, I think I have it under control. I'm sure there are people that keep it all balled up inside and still manage to not have a grief filter, I am not one of those people.

*I make no promises that my grief filter is really gone, so be nice. Don't be annoying but be forgiving*

Please feel free to keep sending some our way because it's only been three weeks since GK passed away. It's still something I am trying to wrap my head around but I know it's time to start living our life again...our new normal has begun. It's weird. It's not normal at all. We go through the motions, we get up everyday and do our regular stuff, get kids off to school, go to work, clean, carpool, do callings (church) but it's different now. There is an underlying grief that is attached to everything we do. Some moments we forget that GK is gone. Eden says "It's like a dream, like it didn't really happen." Some days it feels like that. Other days it's like her absence is everywhere.

Yesterday I was driving Eden to piano and I saw someone drive by who looked like GK with her big sunglasses on, all of the sudden I was sad realizing I will never see her wearing those big ol' glasses again. I'm pretty sure there is no need for sunglasses in there it was again, reality, the reality that we will not see her again in this life. I felt sad but then Camden started break dancing and it was gone, mostly gone. I thought about her a lot yesterday as I was on day 2 of my 3 day detox. Eating only fruit and water sucks but it sure does make me appreciate that normally I get to eat what I want, when I want and GK didn't have that luxury at the end of her life and thinking about that made me sad. It also made me want to eat a giant turkey sandwich with chips and a soda in honor of her...but I didn't.

I know that she is aware of those she loves and that makes me happy. I know that she is rejoicing and she wants us to live our lives to the fullest, so that is what we will do. Time did not stop for us, the world just kept going on and now I think we are finally ready to start to catching up with it.

So here's to "Time" really should be a bit more sensitive to those of us who need you to stop or at the very least slow down. But since you aren't capable of that, here's to the people that God sends to make the unbearable, bearable while you keep flying by.

To all of those who have prayed, offered and given service, given us hugs, or checked in on us...Thank You, with all of my heart, I thank you. Each of you are a blessing in my life.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

For GK...A Tribute

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

That is exactly how my mother in law, Kathy, lived her life.

I keep waiting to do this post because I just don't feel ready to do it. I'm afraid I'll never be ready so here it goes...

Kathy, died on Friday December 30. She has battled cancer for five years. She fought like a warrior. But she did it with such humility, giving the glory of every success to God. There were many times I wanted to blog in more depth about her fight but she was a very private person. I had to respect that, but I felt like the world was missing out on knowing such an amazing woman. Those who knew her closely and knew how hard she fought, could only be inspired by her. So today I paint you the picture of who she was so that you to can be inspired by a woman who truly shaped me and blessed my life.

She loved country music. She loved shopping and finding the best deals. She loved cooking for her family. She loved books. She loved the color red and hated the color yellow. She loved to exercise. She saw the beauty in nature and enjoyed being outside...when it was warm. She loved going to concerts. She stayed true to her beloved Minnesota Vikings even though they didn't deserve her devotion. She loved football. She loved playing cards and games. She loved her sons, Aric is oldest and his brother Micah is four years younger.

She adored her grandchildren Maya, Eden, Camden and Kohen who is 8 months old. She loved feeling the sunshine...spending almost all of her life in North Dakota she truly appreciated that warmth when it came.

I have loved her for over 13 years. We got to know each other quickly. Shortly after Aric and I were engaged I actually lived with Aric's parents during our engagement. I know this sounds weird, it was weird! But when we found the apartment would live in after we got married, we decided that it would be better for Aric to live there alone instead of me. So to save money I lived with his parents.

After we were married, Kathy and I taught at the same school. She taught first grade and I worked with Special Ed students.

I spent most of my time in her classroom with one of her students who was autistic. I got to see her teach first hand. Besides her children/grandchildren, teaching was her passion. It was her gift. For thirty years she taught children how to read and that was a great legacy she left.

When I got pregnant with Maya she was so thrilled. I remember her crying when I told her. I had a very strict birth plan in place when Maya was one in the room but me, Aric and my mom. Well that plan was pretty much shot to hell when Maya decided to come out of me. Thankfully I had a big birthing room because my grandparents, along with my mother and father in law, ended up joining the three of us. Like I said it was a big room and people were respectful and didn't go where they needn't go. What I remember most vividly was Kathy, standing a respectful distance behind me, praying out loud and then sobbing uncontrollably when I finally got Maya out. We named our baby girl Maya Kathryn, and I knew from that moment that part of that child wouldn't belong to me, because Grandma Kathy had claimed her too.

Watching Kathy with my children was like peeking into her soul. She loved children. Just under the  surface her inner child was always waiting to come out and it did every time she was around her grandchildren. She has four grandchildren, three of them were mine so I got to witness her love for them over and over again. She lived and breathed for them. There will never be a question of the place they held in her heart. They know they are loved by her, from the moment she found out that they existed, even when they were only the size of a peanut in my belly or in my heart, she loved them too.

When Camden was born she was undergoing chemo in Florida but she insisted on driving 24 hours round trip just to be with us for a day so that she could get her hands on that baby boy that she had been praying for. She loved him instantly and was so so happy to finally have a grandson. Her love and support during that time was tangible. Her grandmother prayers reached a part of heaven that no one else could touch.

Her childhood was hard. She was definitely scarred by her experiences but she was bound and determined to rise above her situation...and she did. She was the only one in her family that graduated from college and made something of her life. She made a decision to not let her dysfunctional and abusive family define her. In fact, it pushed her to become a better person. She was more than a survivor, she was a warrior.

That warrior instinct came in handy when she got diagnosed with cancer. She had a five pound tumor on her uterus removed the weekend Maya was blessed. That tumor traveled the world as doctors tried to give it an official diagnosis. We never got one. A few years later a tumor the size of a 2 liter bottle was discovered in her left chest cavity. It had completely crushed her left lung. The doctors were baffled at how she could possibly be living a normal life...even going to Curves three times a week with that in her body. She was sent to the U of W to have the very intensive surgery where we were told she had a 50/50 chance of surviving the surgery. Thankfully she did. At that point she was given an official diagnosis. Some abdominal cancer that is in only 1% of the cancer population. It doesn't ever go away. It just keeps coming back.

Sure enough another tumor grew, this time it grew into her ribs and back. After a horrific two week round of chemo it still grew. She ended up at the Mayo clinic in Minnesota where a specialist there very reluctantly did the surgery that took out six of her ribs along with that tumor. After all three of these very invasive surgeries she recovered in record time. She continued on with her Curves, Bible Study, and she also volunteered during the week in a first grade classroom, teaching kids how to read.

The past two years have been the most trying. She had three tumors, one her stomach, one by her liver and the other by her heart. There was nothing left for her to do but start a trial drug. It was only offered in Florida and Post Falls, ID, a small town fifteen minutes from our house. So every four weeks she would come to our house and receive her treatment. Which was basically her getting hooked up to a bag of chemo that she wore for 24 hours and then when she was unhooked she had maybe a day before she would start puking and being sick. Sometimes she would have to have a cat scan which meant she had to drink nasty stuff that made her sick too. Her sickness after treatments would last a good week. For seven months she would come here for that, the other five months she would do it in Florida. My in-laws have two in North Dakota and one in Florida. So while in North Dakota my father in law would usually drive the 18-20 hours ONE WAY for her treatment. It was so awful for her, but a great blessing for us. We got to host her and love her while she was here.

Over the years of treatment...(treatment means: needles, barium, nausea, puking, aches, special diets, pains, fatigue, etc..) She was always an attentive grandma. She would play on the floor with Camden. She would play countless hours of cards and sorry with the girls. She would read book after book or listen to the girls read book after book. She would go on walks with them. The girls knew their grandma had cancer but they had know idea how sick she really was, because GK never let it on.

She was able to speak at Eden's baptism. She gave the spotlight on Eden, she did a great job. It is such a  special memory that we will always cherish.

Kathy loved God. She loved him wholly and trusted him. We didn't practice the same religion, but our faith in God as our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as our Savior was the same. She never doubted. She put her trust in him and held his hand every minute of every day. That is the legacy she wanted to leave for me, Aric, our children, and all those that knew her...her faith. She didn't want the world to know her as a victim of cancer. Although she knew she was a fighter, she was very humble about it. She would shrug her shoulders, put her hands in the air and say "All I can do is pray and trust God, so that's what I do."

I love Kathy. I have always had a hard time figuring out what to call her. Just plain Kathy wasn't endearing enough but I had a hard time calling her mom because she wasn't my mom. She was the mother who raised an incredible son who I get to have as my husband. I felt like she belonged to Aric and Micah. She was their mom. I just wasn't sure that I was a daughter to her. She wasn't one for words, but if she loved you, you knew it. I knew that she loved me, and that was enough. She was the perfect grandmother to my children, she was my sister in faith. She was someone I admired and wanted approval from. So after awhile I ended up calling her GK...(Grandma Kathy). It sounds more like a street name than an affectionate name but that's what I came up with. I know now that she loved me like a daughter. I just wish I would have picked up on that sooner but I know we will see each other again and we will enjoy that relationship in a way we didn't while she was here.

I hope I have sufficiently painted the portrait of GK that she deserves. Because of this beautiful person I do not take my health for granted. I take my faith more seriously. I try harder not to let the little moments get lost in the busy-ness of my life. I love deeper and cherish more. I fight harder for what's right and don't waste my life, I use it. That is how she lived and that is how I want my children to know me, so that someday my legacy mirrors hers.

"Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it." -Harold S. Kushner

The world is a better place because you were in it GK...Especially my world. xoxo