Friday, November 28, 2014

And then your knees buckle...

You seemingly traipse forward through this life, half convinced you are finally ok, and then, unknowingly, unsuspectingly, unexpectedly, it returns to sideswipe you, and suddenly you are thrust back into the deepest pit, spending the remainder of your day in bed, in tears again, sobbing as if today was the funeral, not 11 months and 1 week ago...

And you wonder what happened?  Just today you were "fine" and felt happy and joyful, pressing forth in Christmas activities and planning, trudging your way though the season.  You almost had yourself believing what you thought was a self-fufilling prophecy, that if you fake it you'll make it.

Subconsciously you decided that you wouldn't "go there" in your mind.  You wouldn't allow yourself to revisit the suffering of one year ago, that each and everytime you remembered a date or an experience you would put an immediate stop to it, and you had yourself convinced it was finally actually working...


You realized your birthday is coming and it was on your birthday last year that you heard the words "THE CANCER IS BACK." And then your brain returns to those final 2.5 weeks of his life and you let yourself go there, albeit slowly, and in an instant you are reliving the awfulness of the suffering.  Just the thought that he couldn't eat Thanksgiving dinner last year, because he had returned to being in his bed all the time, and we weren't sure why yet, we hadn't heard the bad news for the second time.  Turkey, and stuffing and mashed potatoes was the trigger this time.  The catalyst for the pain and angst of the grief flame flaring and burning bright again, and you are sent spiraling back into that dark place.

And you realize how lonely grief is.  Despite the empathy you receive from others, grief is isolating.  You are back on the island again, though you rationalize that you aren't, that other people get it, and they do, yet they don't and once again you are treading water out there in the ocean.  You realize you are afraid to open up, even to your husband, and you have yourself believing that no one cares anymore, and they are tired of hearing your woes.  You've even heard from those who have lost someone that a year is the turning point, and that time heals all wounds.  And you want to scream! And you wonder why that is not the case for your grief!  And what of those who hardly experience any grief at all?  Did they discover the magic ticket to escaping the most gut wrenching pain of mourning?  Or did they truly just not have a relationship so deep that grief was the only outlet for the love they felt?

And so you keep your mouth silent.  And people forget that like oil and water, the holidays and grief don't mix well.   And you try not to get swallowed up in it, and live alone in your quest to pretend you are ok.   You decide the best strategy is to be insanely busy and you try it and it works for awhile.  And as most plans do, that are not orchestrated by God, they fail and we are back at square one again.  And you wake up with that breathtaking anxiety you once had.  The kind that woke you up from dead sleep and left you gasping for air in the realization that he was really gone.  And in a blink of an eye, those moments are back once again.

Because that is just how Grief plays the game...

And you realize that the Holidays are the biggest suckage of your energy and emotionality.  He died ONE WEEK before Christmas last year.  And now, the  next two weeks of  THIS year are just taking me down those last two heartwrenching weeks of watching him fade away to nothing.   But perhaps by  keeping myself insanely busy with  the coming holiday season I am  doing myself a sincere disservice?  That perhaps the answer is to allow myself  to dig deep, hunker down and just muck around IN THE GRIEF.  To allow myself  to stay in it, to just be there, for a time, not forever, but for a time enough to experience it, and then move once again out of it and back into the world, never assuming that was the last visit, because true grief is never over.  Parts of it lessens truly, and part strengthens, but it is impossibly never ever over.

And you realize that you held on so deeply to that grief to hang on to the person you were grieving for.  And that allowing yourself to swim deep in that dark pit of grief allowed you to have some semblance of a connection with the departed.  And you believed that if you started to somehow lose your grip with grief, or if it somehow let you go back out into the world with some replacement, something even such as JOY, you would feel  guilty enough to return to the grief for the hope that you can again connect to your loved one...

"Grief is LOVE with no place to go"

And now as I spent the last 4 hours crying in such an unplanned plunge into the darkness, I poke my head out now and I realize that my  plans to attempt to avoid all this are thwarted by God Himself.   Not only does he want us to experience this wholly and fully,  but He uses our darkest times of grief to heal and strengthen us for His glory.   And He encourages us to revisit the muck, because it is during those bleakest of moments He does his very best work.  In the brokenness we become redeemed.  And our God, is in the weary business of redemption, yet He never grows tired of the work.  And it is ok to be in the pain, the muck, the deep, the dark of night.  Because soon, the sun will rise and with the morning comes the brightest light.

And Grief is the final act of Love you can give someone...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

December 9th...

One of the most precious nights of my life was sitting alone, in the hospital Hospice room, in the peace and quiet of his breath.  I fought the urge to constantly update friends and family on my phone, and eventually put the devices away and realized the gift I was being given.  I felt God whisper to my heart "This is a gift.  This precious night will be one you won't soon forget.  I'm giving you the gift of your dad and you must cherish it."  I sat in silence listening to his breath, which was deep and even, and peaceful still.  The clock quietly ticked and I snuggled in my pull-out couch and just watched my Daddy.  I picked up my journal and penned 6 pages, that I would read to him only 2 days later.  Soon, the gentle rhythm of him, lulled me to sleep.  It was one of my most precious nights on this earth...

A tribute

This is what I read at my Daddy's funeral.  It was taken and re-written from what I wrote to him while he was in Hospice.   There was so much more I could have said.  Oh my Daddy, this is the tip of the iceberg...

Dear Daddy,
I was honored and privileged to spend a night with you at the Hospital Hospice and much time alone at home.  I soaked you in, and your calm and quiet breaths were music to my soul.  It was my greatest honor and blessing to care for you in your final days.  I prayed that you would go easily and comfortably without pain or fear.    I prayed that you would have no regrets or sadness from this life, and as you left this world you would only know and feel the pure and deep love we have for you.   And when heaven’s gates opened wide, I prayed that Jesus’ face would be all you saw and all you ever needed and that you would swim in His love.   I knew that all your pain would evaporate and joy would envelope you!  And I told you that once you settle in you will turn around and there we’ll be, right behind you, in merely a nanosecond and until then your memory will be forever etched into our minds and hearts.  

Daddy, I will miss so many wonderful things about you!  I will miss your crooked sweet smile, your laugh, your garage tinkering, your piles of “Stuff”. I will miss your stories about growing up at Girard College, and all of your antics and pranks.   I will miss hearing of your travels while serving overseas.  I will miss going to the Y with you and hearing you say “Take your time, I’ll finish my work out and have a cup of coffee and wait for you.”  I’ll miss our trips to Big Lots, not shopping for anything in particular, just sharing our mutual love of a goodbargain.  I’ll miss how we both wore socks to bed even in summer with our cold feet and how I inherited your way of rubbing my feet together.  I’ll miss crawling in bed between you and mom even as an adult to chat late at night, or laying next to you in bed to catch an episode of “Pickers.”  I’ll miss your pinball machine fixing, eating Braums with you, the mints you handed out weekly at church and how you loved your “greenies.”  I’ll miss how you saved everything to recycle and add to your garden compost I’ll always remember our hike up Camelback Mountain in Phoenix and how many times you came to Arizona to help me, move me, bring me a car or drive me home from graduate school for Christmas.  I’ll remember how you came up to my sorority for Dad’s day and moved me to different colleges.  I’ll miss your precious bond with my daughter, how much she adores you and talked about you all the time even when we were apart.  Don’t worry, she will never not know you!  You being gone gives me a greater sense of urgency to teach her all about Jesus so she, too, can one day join us in heaven!
I’ll cherish the lessons you taught me, like strength through adversity, your commitment to family and friends and your church, your strong work ethic, your constant generosity and gift for servitude.  I’ll miss your brilliant engineering mind and all the silly little contraptions you designed and constructed around the house.  

I’ll so miss you calling me “Sis.” I can count on my right hand the number of times you actually said my name, but Sis was so comforting because it was just for me.  

But what will remain most vivid in my memory dear Daddy isthat at the age of 62, I witnessed Christ take reign of your heart.  In you I saw the most radically changed human being of my life.  We were saved close together, so I watched your faith grow and with it, so did mine.  You taught me well and because of you, my faith is strong.  I will miss your scribbled up sermon notes and verses falling out of your Bible, the way you pouredover the Word for hours on end and our many discussions.  Through this journey you developed a sincere love for others and a gentle spirit.  I loved watching a wonderful example of the change that Christ can make in a human being to transform him to be more like Himself.  

I will miss how much you encouraged me.  You supported all of my God-given passions and ministries.  You told me I musttravel to Israel even when others warned me it was too dangerous to go.  You supported Lee and I in our quest to adopta child saying we must do what God called us to do!  (my one regret is that you will not meet your Ethiopian grandson this side of heaven.)

Oh my daddy, you fought so hard and though you have lost this battle, Jesus has won the WAR!  By now you are in the loving arms of your Savior and have heard Him utter “Well done my good and faithful servant” and your body is new, whole and free of pain and suffering!  
Jesus simply could not bear to be away from you any longer.  You are so loved and will be missed by so many.  I am so grateful that we were able to hold your hand until Jesus took it from us and walked you to your true home! I love you my precious little Daddy!  I cannot wait to one day be reunited!

You can now proudly proclaim as it states in 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Coming Home Again

My mom asked me if I didn't want to come home anymore...because it had been 9 months since I'd come, and the last time was when we lost him...Of course, consciously I did and just hadn't found a good time to come, not to mention the astronomical prices of plane tickets, but maybe, deep down, subconsciously, I had avoided the trip.

About a week before I left, I began to think about it.  How different it would be.  That HE would not be there.  That he would not be waiting for me at the end of the ramp at the aiport, lifting my too-heavy, overstuffed bag into the back of their Camry.  That we wouldn't go to the Y together, or chat over breakfast.  That he wouldn't be out tinkering in his garage when we returned from lunch or shopping.  That we wouldn't watch "Pickers" together and I wouldn't stay up late chatting in their bed.

Those thoughts haunted me before the trip, but they paled in comparison to all of the small reminders that would floor me.  Even traveling up to Jewell county to see his grave didn't phase me.  Not one tear was shed there.  Perhaps because, to me that grave is irrelevant, other than a special marker to remind us, I know that he does not reside there, but is in heaven.

It was the precious inquiries of my 2 year old, time and time and time again, "Where's Grampy?" that brought the tears.  She was reminded of him, being in that place, even though he was gone before she turned 2, she remembered.  Looking at his picture on the wall one day she said "Grampy, wanna go swing?"  Several times while swinging she pointed to the bedroom window where he spent his final days in the guest room, specifically chosen so that we could raise his bed high enough to watch his precious girls swinging.  She said "Grampy is sleeping in there.  I'll see him in a little bit."  At church she even asked Pastor Dave "Hey! Where's Grampy?"  And we were taken aback that a two and a half year old would know that Grampy's presence was always strong at that church.  And still,  every time she would swing, she would say "Grampy say 'Booga Booga'!" When we went to the zoo, she said "I want Grampy to go to the zoo!  Where's Grampy?"  The fact that the last time we went to their zoo she was only 18 months old and Grampy went with us and she remembered can only be explained as a blessing from God.  Those things crushed me.  And blessed me.  The fact that God had answered my prayers about her having her own personal memories of him, memories I hadn't told her or reminded her of through pictures or videos.  

But it was the other reminders that send my knees quivering.  The top of his dresser, empty.  No more chapstick or loose change in the tray, or lotion, or hairbrush, or random things he took from his pockets.  All gone.  And his closet, empty of his clothes, all gone, his desk and piles of stuff totally cleaned off and gone, his writing on the dry erase white board in the garage, left there, unerased, his tools and organized drawers of nails and screws, still there.  Those small and simple reminders of him
 were the most excruciating.

I always love going home, I look forward to it each and everytime.  This time, however, there was a clear and tangible physical void in our home.  There was a distinct missing piece, one that I don't suspect will ever be unfelt...I suppose in time the going home will get easier, as has grief at almost 10 months of him being gone, but for now it was so painful.

I broke down to Mom one night.  I hadn't suspected I'd have such a terrible time with it, but being there was PAINFUL, and I was ready to go back "home" to Utah, before I usually am.  I realized it was a roller coaster ride of emotions.  Being away, I didn't see the day to day of his dying, I called in for a quick update from mom, but until I got back there in December, I just didn't know.  Being home again was transporting myself back into the end, the hospice, the pain, the agony of knowing what we were about to walk through and knowing I couldn't do it!  Being home again brought it all back again, and it was fresh and vivid again.  In Utah I could choose to stop my brain from traveling back to that dark time, but in Kansas, reliving it was unavoidable.

And so, I'm back to my life and the reality that comes with it, and I can again sweep the horror under the rug for a time.  I know my Daddy wouldn't want home to hold terrible memories, and so I choose to focus on only the good times, and picture him tinkering in the garage, and going to get ice cream, and recycling the bulletins at church, and hanging out and chatting, and being my dad.  What I wouldn't give to have one  hour with him, and to hug him a few more times.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I'll see you in the 'morrow...

It is not uncommon for Macie to wonder where Grampy is during our frequent Skype sessions with Grammy.  He would come downstairs and say "HI Macie." (I can still hear his voice, a blessing I'm thanking Jesus for...)

The other day was different.  She had been talking to Grammy for awhile and then suddenly she said, with a wrinkled brow, "Hey Grammy!  Where's Grampy???"  Grammy groaned and responded with "Oh sweetie, Grampy isn't here."  Macie then said "Grampy not der.  It's ok Grammy.  I see him in a 'morrow.  I see him in a 'ittle bit."  

It broke our hearts.  Truly heartwrenching pain that I hadn't felt so strongly in awhile.  I reminded her that Grampy is with Jesus.  

So sad, but so indescribably wise.  It's so painful to mourn and grieve the memories we'll miss with him on this earth.  Yet, there is the hope of heaven.  Never in my life have I longed to be in heaven as much as I do now.  Never have I prayed Jesus to return faster than now.  I've never had a big enough reason to long for the freedom of heaven.  And after watching the suffering of a wonderful soul in a failing body, I see the reward that heaven is.

And so they say, "A day is but a thousand years and a thousand years is but a day in heaven."

And so, this little one is right.  We'll be see you in a 'morrow Grampy/Daddy.  We'll see you in a 'ittle bit.

We love you.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The "ONE YEARs" begin...

I remember the exact square on the sidewalk, the exact fencepost in front of my neighborhood elementary school where I was walking my beloved Daisie when the phone rang.  We had been waiting the news of whatever was going on with my Daddy's stomach.  Parasite?  Bum Gall Bladder? Ulcer?  Colitis?  All ideas from his doctor, who sent him away to see if things may improve after a couple weeks.  But they didn't and now he was in the hospital after countless scans and tests.  I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard "He has a mass on his pancreas Kylie.  Probably Pancreatic Cancer."  My knees buckled.  My whole world stopped turning.  The sky grew dark.  My arm shook as I tried to somehow hold onto the phone.  I don't remember what I said to my mom, I just remember the sobs.

I also don't recall the rest of the walk home, but I remember collapsing on the stairs in tears when I got back into the house.  Lee immediately met me at the door and knew what my tears meant.  When I told him the news I only remember saying through muffled sobs, "I'm not ready.  I'm just not ready. Lord Please.  Not yet.  I'm JUST.  NOT.  READY."  The rest of the night I lay in bed, crying until there were no more tears released.  I remember falling asleep and hoping I would wake up from a bad dream...the same way I'd feel for 4.5 more months.

And now, a year ago today, was the major surgery to remove the tumor.  I would later learn that only 15% of PC patients are "lucky" enough to even get to have the surgery.  Usually the cancer is too far gone and the surgery would be pointless.  But suddenly we were being told my Daddy would have to have it to even live a few more days, that a stent was not possible due to the mass being too large.  I would later learn that many have chemo and radiation to shrink the tumor first and even then don't know if the surgery would be an option, and still others would never make it to the surgery because they would succumb to the disease despite treatment.  Indeed, we were blessed.

I still don't understand why the "Whipple" surgery required a complete rearrangement of the organs in the gastrointestinal tract.  In my feeble mind I wondered why the surgeon couldn't just remove the tumor and part of the pancreas, and why the entire bile duct, gall bladder and section of the small intestine and duodenum would need removing, only to require a complete gastric bypass as well.  I still wouldn't know what would come for my dad in the future...a precarious tightrope walk between constipation and the opposite, as I would soon learn from my online "Whipple Warriors Support Group."  I would even learn so much as to "remind" his doctor to put him on Creon, a digestive enzyme Whipple Warriors need to digest fats without their pancreas.

All I would know is that I needed to get home for the surgery, and that the final night before his Whipple may be his last night on earth.  It was THAT MAJOR.  I would later learn that it is in fact, the MOST major surgery one could have, even over open heart surgery.  Something told me to gather the babies together with a picture with Grampy, just in case.  I wouldn't know then that that picture would become a treasured keepsake.

All I knew the next morning, when I arose early to go hospital and be there for surgery at 5 am, was my dad was at peace.  That we had no option, and that prayers were being lifted by hundreds.  All I knew as I watched countless episodes of "House Hunters" in the surgery waiting room, was that our surgeon was amazingly reputable, had a fun bedside manner, and that my Daddy was at ease.  The minutes would tick by until the doctors or nurses would call or come out to tell us things were going smoothly.  After two hours we'd learn the surgeon decided to proceed with the surgery after looking around.  Then the anesthesiologist would come out and say my dad was sailing through it like a champ, despite his age and history of A-fib heart issues.  In fact, he would say, my dad was "84 going on 60" and his job was boring that day since Dad's blood pressure and vitals were as stable as perfection. I had to force myself to choke down some lunch, the clock ticked by every so slowly, and after nearly 8 hours of waiting, the surgeon emerged, exhausted and the only words I would remember were "We got the tumor.  We got all the cancer."  I didn't know that the days ahead would bring more waiting and fear, as pathology reports would need to come back before we knew if the cancer had spread.  All I knew was that for a moment, we had hope.  I thanked Jesus and hugged my Mommy, then my hubby, then my brother and sister in law.  For a moment we had relief.  For a moment we had peace.

I would soon feel guilty that the family in the waiting room began to weep.  Their loved one wasn't so lucky that August 17th.  They mourned and grieved together, and I felt sad that their sadness existed in a room where our joy took reign.  I would never have let my mind entertain the notion that in exactly 4 months, my daddy would be gone and our home would be filled with the same tears of grief...

The next days would be agony.  Due to the effects of a long day of intense anesthesia, and the pain medications, my dad would be quite delirious and aggressive at times.   We'd have to constantly tweak the meds with his doctors and he would need to be restrained to avoid pulling out his wires (and would eventually pull out a surgery draining tube).   Glassy eyed from morphine, he would say "Sis, they think I'm looney.  Help me get out of here!" and beg me constantly to help him escape.  It was like Groundhog's day, and I'd never be able to count how many times I would have to reassure him that he was safe. I never dreamed the stress of that part of our journey, of letting the nurses care for him as we left for the night and trust them when they promised he'd never remember any of it.

I would have never dreamed the pain he would experience post surgery, the balance of a tough man refusing pain meds and us explaining that the chase of pain would never be won if he didn't give in and take them.  I would never know the precious comfort of spending 7-8 hours a day with him, watching TV shows and walking him down the hall for walks and helping him into the bathroom.  The precious gift of time I'd know to just sit there while he slept.

I would have never known the joy I saw when 2 months later I came home and he was tinkering in the garage again, albeit short rounds of tinkering interspersed with many more hours of rest.  I'd never know the agony of calling everyday to hear that his pain was returning, chemo was too difficult, and the worry I felt at the scan results.  I would never have expected the frustration I felt at doctors that seemed to shrug off his returning pain, and keep reminding us "we got the cancer" despite the positive lymph nodes and our constant prodding to do something.

My birthday would be horrible this year too, as I would learn the cancer was back that same day.  I wouldn't have expected that while giving my child a bath I would take the second call of this horrible kind and would again retreat to my bed to cry and pray.

So as I begin the year of cancer anniversaries, I am thankful for what I didn't know.  I am so very grateful for what God kept from me, for what was revealed only in small increments through time.  For if I had known then what I know now, I am certain I would have died along with my Dad.  I would have given up long before he did, and never left my bed.

And so begins the countdown to the big one...The one year anniversary of losing my wonderful Daddy, the funeral, and life beyond.

The pain is real, tangible, and as I've read, like a phantom limb pain.  While you long for the aching heart to cease, you also clench onto it with all your might.  The fear creeps in and you think somehow if you let go of the pain, you are letting go of your loved one.  That keeping the pain around will  keep the memory alive, or honor your loved one somehow.  Somedays are obviously easier than others, mornings begin now without the breathlessness of reliving the realization that your loved one is actually gone.  Less often must you remind yourself of their death, it becomes more "normal."  Photographs and videos become less acutely painful and bring about smiles of remembrance more often than tears.

And yet, days like these make you re-live the pain and you realize you aren't quite as far along as you thought.  For me, today was about remembering the suffering.  From my last "fun" trip home in July, knowing Dad wasn't ok, yet not fully knowing the truth, to the weeks of post-operative pain and balance, to the suffering of chemo, the fatigue, the constant worry, to the final weeks and days and hours of suffering, knowing there isn't a damn thing I could do to help him, and finally, knowing that was God's way of preparing me to be ok to let him go.  Because I loved him so much that I could release him, because I couldn't stand one more millisecond of his suffering.  Today I relived the pain of begging God to take him, so that I selfishly wouldn't have to bear another moment.

So people may wonder why I need to remind others of these dates and events as they emerge on the calendar a year later.  Simply stated, it is a way to honor the man he was, the battle he fought, the story God wove, the redemption that would occur.  By talking about him and his journey, it validates the war we endured, the love we shared, and the memories we made.
The night before his Whipple surgery

A precious photo I will always treasure

And I would just recently realize that after a long and subconscious hiatus, I am finally again walking that same route, past that same sidewalk square and fencepost by my neighborhood elementary school.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Choice to Relinquish Control and Choose Forgiveness...

On a recent walk I realized I was harboring much anger, must resentment and much blaming.  Through a series of revelations, no doubt Holy Spirit ordained, I made a conscious decision to release this anger and forgive those to whom I was holding it against.   My Daddy’s doctors, who through no fault of their own, had failed to re-diagnose his returned tumor.   Basing their actions on “clear” CT scans, they claimed that there was no “new cancer” to be found.  They promised he was fine and suggested that Christmas would be great since he had elected to stop chemo and would be feeling so much better!  

Nothing could be further than the truth!  There beneath the surface, the tumor was again growing, in the exact location from which it had been removed, and no one found it until it was too late. 
A sudden realization was that I’d been angry for months about their inability to order the correct test, weighing all the “what ifs” possible for treatment had they indeed found the new tumor sooner.  Perhaps they could have done Cyber knife, or a different type of chemo, more surgery, radiation. 

All throughout our journey was a reckless intent to control a circumstance.   I cannot even begin to describe the countless occasions in which my mom, brother and I tried to make some sort of decision for my dad.  It began last summer when we discussed him traveling “back East” to look up old friends and visit his daughter.  We knew at 84, he was in no condition to drive from Kansas to New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, nor could he navigate the busy freeways, and we worried about him eating enough and finding a hotel.  Not that he was incapable, but we wanted someone to travel with him.  It was my dream to do a trip like this with my sweet Daddy, and I prayed about a way to go with him, even suggesting it, and even though he desired to go alone, he didn’t seem so opposed to me going.   It was so worrisome to us that he may travel alone, that I began to pray for a way for him to realize he needed to go with someone, a way for the issue to fix itself.  Well, God answered.  With two words I never would have imagined. 
He would be unable to travel on that desired trip, or ever again for that matter. 
And all throughout his treatment there was a common theme.  Our attempt to grasp hold of shifting sand, our attempt to control that which was never meant to be under our control.  We struggled to decide if we should take him to Mayo Clinic or other cities for “better” surgeons.  We agonized many a night, finally realizing Dad wanted to be home, near his support system at church.  God brought us Dr. Osborn, his famous and very capable surgeon, who in fact had done more Whipple surgeries than most doctors at big hospitals and had even been courted by the likes of MD Anderson, Mayo, and Johns Hopkins, yet chose to stay at home in Wichita near family.
Later, it was the decision of whether or not he should stop chemo.  It was wrecking his body, in essence killing him as much as the cancer itself, and yet was our only guard against more cancer spreading.  Despite our agonizing and worry, my dad ultimately made the decision, with his oncologist to stop the chemo.
It was our attempt to control that called the doctor’s nurse multiple times to ask for more scans, to get the results quicker, for more meds, for less meds, FOR SOMEONE TO HELP HIS PAIN!  And although the CTs were clear, we knew deep down that something was most definitely wrong.   Pain is a tremendous blessing, in that it allows the body to signal us to something not working properly and yet, my Daddy’s back and stomach pain was continually ignored.  I prayed it was simply post surgical pain, scar tissue forming, or pain from lying around more than my daddy is used to.  I wrote into boards and asked others who had survived the Whipple surgery if they too had experienced pain.  I called my Daddy’s oncologist office and requested they draw blood work to indicate pancreatitis, requested more CTs, asked for common post surgical digestive enzymes that they had failed to prescribe, and even suggested he visit a chiropractor.   All in an attempt to control the uncontrollable, to prevent the inevitable.  To play God.  All in vain.
And the agony over deciding where he should go at the end.  Was he really ready for Hospice or would a Skilled Nursing facility be better?  We tried to count his days and determine how close he was to the end to determine the course of care.  Ultimately we decided to try the Skilled Nursing unit, which eventually was the poorest choice and where he was most depressed.  The next decision was when and if to remove him from there and we agonized yet again.  The decision was made when he went un-responsive there and then was taken back to the ER.  We easily made the decision to put him into Hospital Hospice.  But how do we decide whether or not to bring him home? Is that even possible with just mom and me trying to lift him to the bathroom?  Well the decision was made by the Hospice team.  Yes, he could go home, and he would get a catheter and wear adult diapers.  DONE.
Do you see a pattern here?  Throughout our agonizing, God made EVERY DECISION.  The more we clung to the pressure of deciding, the less control we actually had.  God answered each and every prayer in a way we never expected, in a way we never could have orchestrated.  And in all of that reality we were assured again, that we have ZERO control.
As I walked down the sidewalk I said out loud “Lord, I forgive the doctors!  And forgive me for MY anger, for MY unforgiveness Lord” I heard God quietly whisper to my heart “Forgive them Kylie, for they know not what they do!”  Jesus uttered those words as he died on the cross and they had never rung more true than in this very moment.   How can I not forgive others when Jesus had forgiven me of EVERY SINGLE THING I’ve ever done wrong?    I immediately felt the biggest load lifted from my shoulders.  A burden I had held for nearly six months was eliminated in an instant.  I realized clearly, that forgiveness doesn’t come naturally or easily.  It is less about freeing someone else from wrongdoing as it is about freeing oneself from personal bondage.  I was free!
And then I had another epiphany.  Those doctors didn’t really need to be forgiven.  They are just human.  They are not miracle workers or saviors. 
They meant well, they did their jobs as well as they could in that situation.  They made mistakes, they missed things, and they didn’t really listen.  Yes, indeed, despite their training, despite their “superhuman” status in our culture today, they were simply human beings playing the guessing game that is Medicine.  Had God wanted to use them to heal my Dad, He would have.  Perhaps their supposed negligence was allowed by God to further His will to take my Daddy at that time.   In fact, there was nothing to forgive.  In all my attempts to control, this was in fact another situation where God’s will prevailed, and although my selfish heart longed to spend one more Christmas with my Daddy in his sweatpants, opening another tool and smiling at the gifts we got, eating a big turkey dinner, and watching “A Christmas Story” for the millionth time, alas, it was not to be.  “Forgive them.  For they know not what they do.”  God got me, it was His will and nothing I or the doctors did or didn’t do would override that will.   And although I will spend the rest of my life wishing it wasn’t so, that God could have given us more time as promised, and I will ache every day until I join him in heaven, there was absolutely
And so I forgave.  I forgave when there was nothing to forgive.  I realized I wasn’t angry at the doctors as much as I was angry at God.  And I told him, and He can take it!  The anger is not gone, nor is the pain, but I can now direct that to God and not to the sinful humans that I somehow expected to fix my Daddy!  And I felt my anger begin to dissipate.
As I near 6 months since I lost my Daddy, much healing has occurred.  I have noticed the acute breathlessness and anxiety I previously felt at the mere thought that he was gone has lessened.  A picture more often brings a smile than a tear.  I picture my Daddy in heaven running free, healthy, eating fresh fish and ice cream, chatting with his brothers and sisters in Christ, and spending eternal hours in praise of  his beloved Jesus.  
The lessons I am learning are immense.  The microscope God has used to dissect my heart has been intensely focused.
I pray daily that my will in this uncertain life would ultimately align with God’s own will.  I have come to understand that this is not always possible.   Never would I have chosen to have my vibrant, serving, loving daddy be crippled by this horrific disease, and die a gruesome death.  That will never change nor will my inept human brain ever be capable of grasping His purposes this side of heaven.   And yet, my lesson learned is that our job here on earth is to relinquish our control to the One who controls all, to submit to His will, and chose to forgive those we perceive as a threat to our selfish plans for our life.  Love and forgiveness are a choice we’ve been allowed to make in our lives to move us forward, to propel us one step further on our path that God ordains. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My healing place

When I need to heal, process, talk to God, write or just
This is where I go.  Hiking until I can find just the perfect spot to converse with God, I can escape the world just long enough to fill that emptiness my heart feels, and satisfy that craving my soul requires.
I used to go away and rent a cabin for a night, just to escape while living in Phoenix.  Or hike down into Oak Creek Canyon with all my textbooks to study while in graduate school in Flagstaff.
Nature, and more specifically, mountains are where my soul resides...
The cool crisp air, the bright warm sun, the pine smell, the rushing streams and waterfall beckon me to them.  It is where I do my best writing, it is where I feel closer to my creator.

In counseling we had agreed that Lee would give me 2 hours a week to use how ever I like.  Away from home, so as not to be distracted by motherly duties or housework.  Instead, I would deliberately escape for awhile and write or just be.  Something that would help me process through my grief.
This was the first week it actually worked out. 
The weather is improving and beautiful and the mountains called for me to trek their passes.
Today I was overwhelmed by God's beauty.  It is then that a song came on my Ipod, that I had never heard.   It is called "Stranger Here" by Tenth Avenue North.  It tells that we are only strangers on this earth, and soon we will touch God's face and all sorrow will cease.
Today I was overwhelmed at the sheer beauty of God's creation and tears spilled forth from my eyes.  Not that this had never happened previously, but this time was different.  God's artistry was just exceptionally more beautiful, more colorful, more vivid to my eyes and heart today.  It had truly been my first hike since losing my sweet Daddy and he would have loved this hike, and even joined me.  I knew that if God could orchestrate the divine construction of such an unparalleled adult playground, could he not just blow our minds with the artistry that we will find when we get to heaven?  The architecture and colors, and mountains in their majesty that will exist in heaven!  And at what a magnitude they will be there, just blowing these out of the water?
This realization made me think of my Daddy.  How he is already playing in his heavenly playground.  He loved the mountains and just like me, always said his heaven would have them. 
I can't wait to run without bad knees and a bad neck and back, through the mountain passes with my Daddy in heaven!  And with Jesus too! 

I was just so simply overwhelmed with this beauty today that it overtook me and led me to a waterfall and rushing stream where I rested and just shut off my brain and my phone and just sat still.  Talking to God about my fears and needs and asking him for divine healing of my body.  But more than that, just being still, asking him to open up my eyes and ears and heart to hear Him speak to me. 
Although today I didn't hear anything, just taking the practice to be still for 30 minutes of NOTHING but rushing water and quiet was nourishing for my soul.
God has seemed so distant to me lately, despite my intense clinging to Him as my greatest source of comfort.  And yet, I know that the Bible says this happens.  There are times He wants you to cling, and he will take a step back, to ensure your faithful dependence.  I long for him to speak to me again, loudly, boldly, clearly.  Or to do something mighty and miraculous like heal my tired aching body and thyroid.  So far, nothing, but I feel I am on the brink with him.
And so I will wait some more and just today be blessed by this amazing earth he created and that I am blessed enough to live 7 minutes away from enjoying it!!!
Today I cried in overwhelming Awe of my God, this amazing artist.  I felt my dad for the first time since I lost him.  Not his actual presence per say but more the feeling that he was with me in the wind and trees, and that he would love where I was.  Almost the feeling that he was saying "Sis, you can't even BELIEVE what you're gonna get up here!  Just wait Sis!" in a playful way.

 They weren't just the painful heart wrenching tears that symbolize the unbearable pain we must go through in grief.  No, instead these tears were cleansing.  Still painful, but cleansing.  That God is good and beautiful despite all my dad went through.  That if the God of creation made this area of Utah so lovely, then what else has he done magnificently.  And how extraordinary will heaven be?  I was baffled by his Greatness today.  And that was enough.

Awwwwwwww I miss him.  I cried many tears today but I noticed something.
The cleansing tears meant I love a God who is still remembering me.  And that I am beginning, to ever so slowly, allow God's healing hand to touch me, and glue the pieces of my broken heart back together. 
Cleansing Tears of Relief

The Bond They Share

Today after dinner Macie grabbed this necklace and wanted to see Grampy.  Not an uncommon occurrence, but tonight brought a twist.
She pulled his picture to her and said "I miss you Grampy.  I lub you Grampy."
And then she kissed his face. 
I lost it.  Somehow, she gets it.  She misses him too. 
As my brain sifted through the coming memories of our lives that she would miss sharing with him, I wept.  She said "Mommy Cry."
"Yes Baby Girl.  Mommy cries.  She misses Grampy too.  Everyday."
They have a special bond.  They just always did.  I am not sure how, or why, but I believe he and God speaks to me through her. 
We prayed for him daily after he was diagnosed.  Towards the end, even when we didn't know yet that the tumor was back, she started saying "Pray Grampy.  Bye Bye Grampy."  I knew in my heart of hearts that she knew what I was denying.  That his time left with us was short.
She loved him and called him "Googa googa" after he always said "Booga Booga" to her when she would swing at his house. 
At the time of this video, he was about a week from being diagnosed.  We knew he was in pain but hoped for an ulcer or bum gallbladder.  Little did we know...
But in my heart I knew this video would become my most precious and favorite...I knew the very moment I was recording it, it would become priceless.


I cannot even begin to think of all the things she has said and knows, but here are a few that stand out.
When he was home on hospice, a dear friend brought him a big happy face balloon.  Macie and her cousins loved it.  One day recently while we were shopping at the dollar store she saw one.  She suddenly yelled out "Gampy bawoooon!  Mommy! looka!  At's Gampy bawooon!"
Of course I bought it. 
Next at the grocery store, another balloon and again she said "Ooooooh!  Gampy bawoon!"  I still wonder what the lady in the deli thought when she saw me weep.
At TGI Fridays eating when mom was here with us a couple of weeks ago,  there was a happy face above our table.  I would have never seen it, it was up so high.  But Macie did.  "Oooooh Grampy bawoon!" Reminding us that he was with us there too. 
It has become a comforting thing whenever she says "Gampy Bawooooon!" when she sees a happy face anywhere, her little stamper, a happy face top toy from Maddie and Hannah's birthday party,  a book, anywhere.  I believe God has used her little eye for those happy faces to remind me that my Daddy is OK. 
And he is HAPPY.
Many times she has also said "Gampy with Jewus.  Gampy eat ice cream!" 


She instantly adored him...
She made Grampy build something with ALL the legos. 

She wanted him to pick her up so badly.  But by the end of October when we visited he was too weak from Chemo and the tumor returning.  She settled for laying her head on his leg. 
Their indescribably special bond reminds me that he is ok.  And is most definitely eating ice cream with Jesus. 

And we will be ok too.