Wednesday, January 26, 2011

D Day Plus 324: (January 26, 2011): Epilogue: Time and Appreciation – Here and There

Seventeen thousand and eight hundred and ninety seven days ago, part of me left you there. Three hundred and twenty four days ago, part of you left me here.  Today is my birthday.  I’m forty-nine—at least in reality years.  I’m not sure what that is in eternity years—probably a blip in time.   What do you think?

I can’t see everything like you now.  I’m not all omniscient.  How could I be? I’m not all put together like you are. You’re all there. Part of me is here and part of me is there. Talk about feeling scattered. Don’t you like my silly humor? Hey, at least I still have a sense of humor. By the way, will you let Hannah know I’d like better lenses so I can see what you two are doing up there? I AM AN ENQUIRING MIND.  I’ll cool it with the paparazzi. You won’t even know I’m looking.  Promise! I won’t sell the photos. Or even Photoshop them.
I do know you’re there, but sometimes it’s hard to find you from here.  That’s all I’m saying. Could you leave me a clue? I like scavenger hunts.  On second thought, you have left clues.  So I want to know:
  •  Did you wake me in the middle of the night to go check on Katie about a week after you went there?  I think you did. You woke me from a sound sleep to make sure your Katie was okay. I was dead-tired (no pun intended), but forced myself to go all the way up the stairs in Bassett, knock on her door, invade her privacy, and ask if she was okay.  There she was in bed. Awake and wanting something from you. How did you do that? I want to know.
  • Did you have anything to do with our Glo (who you met in Hawaii when you were three) coming all the way from Washington for your celebration? And staying at the same hotel as our dinner afterward?  I think so. You knew I needed my Glo after all these years.  You brought us back together after fifteen years. How did you do that? I want to know.
  • Did you send the butterfly to come visit on the patio last summer? I think so. It stayed for a couple of hours. Were you letting Dad and me know you were okay? How did you do that? I want to know.
Would you mind making it just a little easier to decipher the clues? Could you please make one exception for me? Come on, I brought you into this world.  Pretty please! Okay. I’ll stop haranguing you—for a minute.

So what did you think of the blog and your story?  I can take it. Wait. Never mind. Lie as long as you let me know it made you feel better. All lies aren’t bad.  Really, they’re not. Dad lies when he tells me I’m beautiful when I’m sick and crusty looking. I lied when I said I wasn’t drinking contraband. Remember?

Do you know who else lies? They do— whoever “they” are.  They say that time heals all wounds.  But it doesn’t. Appreciation does. 

Do you want to know why?  I'll tell you. If I focus on time, anniversaries, the "should haves" and "would haves," then my heart sinks because I'm missing you. Time drags and so do I. So, I'm guessing you don't like to hang out at Fifth and Sad. Right? Neither do I.
Now, I make it a point to find a way to appreciate everything.  Like— get this. Earlier this month, I was on hold with tech support to get the licensing fixed for my new embroidery software.  I waited and waited and waited.  No one came on the line for almost a half an hour.  I got so mad, I figured it out.  Now I appreciate that I got so mad because I figured it out for myself, felt empowered, and became a better problem solver. I was proud of myself for turning a negative into a positive. And my heart sang. Yes, it's something trivial.  It's the little things that count. Big time.
What does all this appreciation mean? It means that appreciation can change worlds —here and there.  At least that is what I'm thinking.  Since last year was kind of a downer as I figured things out, I decided to make 2011, my year of appreciation. 
I launched my own Mission Appreciation to let every person who has touched me know that I appreciate them. Remember all my hats.  That's part of it. I'm starting with them. The idea is to remind each recipient how much they are appreciated when they wear them.   On FaceBook, I'm posting something that I appreciate each day. Not the big things.  The small things.  Each day, I find at least one thing to appreciate. It's not that I'm so nice. I'm actually very selfish. I want to to feel good. Because the better I feel, then I can find you. So, I'll keep appreciating. And appreciating. And appreciating. From here to there
There's nothing else to say, except Aloha. 


Saturday, January 22, 2011

D Day:(March 8, 2010): Transcending Time

This morning your body caught up with your soul.  You transcended time. Like magic! At least that’s what I like to think.  You became whole.  You became who you really are— a perfect soul.  A perfect soul who completed his mission.  A perfect soul who reminded me who I was, who we all were.  A perfect soul who is with me through all time and eternity.  At least that what I like think.  

We were all there, by your bedside.  Dad, Katie, Morgan, and me.  Just like you wanted.  I held you and cried.  And counted your fingers.  Just like I did when you were born.  

The Funeral Director came and got us before they wheeled you to the hearse.  You were swaddled in a gray blanket on a gurney. Looking peaceful and pain free.  At last!  I hugged you.  And well you know, I wondered if you knew how much I loved you and if you were still there. Somewhere?  

Now Dad, Morgan, and I are picking out a box for your ashes.  We’re at the funeral home.  I’m keeping my promise. I’m doing things just the way you asked. No grave! Too dark! Too scary!  A celebration! Comfort those who loved you.  The ones you left behind.  Take care of Katie! Take care of Morgan! Take care of Dad! Oh, and take care of myself.  I will try for you. I will be okay for you.  At least I think

We’re going to Hawaii to take you back to where you were born. Where Aloha has so many meanings – hello, goodbye, love.  Where I first met you— my loving, adventurous, and zany little man. You always wanted all of us to go back. Dad, Morgan, Katie and me.  But, not this way.  Somehow you always get your way – one way or another.  I’ll give you that!

We found a box we like.  I think you’ll like it too.  It’s made of wood – classic and elegant.  Simple, just the way you’d like it. No fuss.  Just your name, your dates, and “In Loving Memory of…” 

We’re sitting around the table going through flowers, registry books, and programs.  Looking for just the right way to celebrate your life.  

The Funeral Director stopped by.  She asks if we want to see you one last time.  My heart stops and I forget to breathe. Morgan blurts out “Yes.”
There you are. In a room all by yourself.  Almost on a pedestal.  Flowers in the corner for another person's service. Still swaddled in the gray blanket. I am calm. I am at peace. I am  not crying. At least not much.  Dad and Morgan hug you.  I soak in the moments of Dad and Morgan hugging you one last time.  Then its my turn. I walk toward you. I want to know you are okay. I want to know if you'll keep your promise. I want to know if there is something more. I bend to hug you. Then I look up. And you blinked. Not once. Not twice. But three times. I looked back at Dad and Morgan, but they didn't see. Dad was consoling Morgan. My body tingled from head to toe. And I just held you tight.  Then I knew. You did it. You kept your promise. Just like you said you would.
This morning you body caught up with your soul.  You transcended time. Like magic!  At least that’s what I KNOW.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

D Day Minus 1: (March 7, 2010): Saving Time

So here we are.  It’s my turn to be with you. I'm sitting in your tan brown recliner, writing your eulogy. Except I don't want to call it that.  I'm still trying to figure it out.  But, it will come.  I can't have someone who didn't know you give it.  Now that would break my heart.  Who knows your heart and soul better than I do? 

How did my annoying teenager of a son become more than a son to me? How did you become one of my best friends? I don't want to do this, but I don't want to forget. So I'll do my best.  And no, I'm not adding "Forget the Rest" ala Tony Horton.  Like I would do normally.  This isn't normal. You were supposed to write my eulogy.  We were both supposed to live to 121. I'd stop aging after sixty so you could catch up.  We had a plan. But I guess it's true, life happens, when you're making other plans. Ain't that the truth? And it sucks. Big time.

We've been taking shifts, so you haven't been alone. Never alone. Like I promised. The humidifier masks the other low voices in the house and it makes it easier for you to sleep. So you say. It's working, I guess. You're asleep.  But it's probably the good drugs. That is, I think you're asleep.  Now you're smiling and talking nonsense. And raising your hands up to the sky, seeing things I'm not supposed to see.  At least not yet. 

Katie is resting in Morgan’s old bedroom. It’s been tough on her. She's been by your side for the past three weeks. Hardly sleeping. Rarely going home, except for a change of clothes. Even then, her sisters or mom, bring over fresh ones.  All I can say, is she hasn't left your side.  She hasn't given up. For that, I appreciate. Because this is not easy.

Morgan is in the guest bedroom, seeking comfort from her cats, Abra and Eevee.  She's taking time off work without pay.  Because there is not other place she'd rather be. But It’s been tough on her, too. Did you see that neon blue cast? It's sure bright. She broke her wrist the other day riding her bike in Algonkian Park. Yeah, and she's having boy troubles. When it rains it pours. She needs someone to soften the edges and bring out the best in her.  Don't you think? Will you talk to her?

Dad is checking on arrangements on his laptop. You know, for when the time comes, which is soon.  It’s been tough on him, too. Only he doesn’t show it.  At least not as much as me.  But you already know all that. He has to be the rock.  My Rock.   

Neither one of us like to talk on the phone much.  Especially about you.  I put the word out, not to call, as soon as we got back from Houston. I didn't like the way the conversations went. It's like you're already gone. When you're not.  Staying off the phone, keeps the inevitable at bay. 

Dad just sent me some links to Funeral Homes on MSN chat. At least I had the sound muted, so I didn't bother you.  Did I?

Outside it is dreary and blustery. Much like it is in your room. It's woven into the fabric of this time. And of this space. It is deep forlorn sorrow.  It's invisible threads are in my heart. They are in my soul. Everywhere! Only we force cheerfulness, because we don't know what else to do.  

The only thing I want, I can't have -- more time, with you.

In the background, I hear the television, in the family room. It's the stupid Alice in Wonderland Trailer. It just came out a couple of days ago.  Maybe before all this happened, I'd jump to go see it.  Now I want to scream, when I see the rabbit or hear the Queen say, "Off with her head." I don't know why it bugs me so much. It just does.Could it be that life is passing us by?

How can the sun go on shining? Don't they know its the end of the world? The words are from a song, I heard when I was a little girl.  It was by Skeeter Davis. It transports me back in time. I'm six years hiding in the belly of big metal wheel on the playground at Hillsdale Elementary in Granger, Utah.  How could I have known then, that all the sadness of a six year old, was nothing. Nothing compared this. My worst fear coming true. To lose a child. To stand by helplessly. 

I want to shoot the person who said "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." But that is stupid, because I hate guns.  I'd be a weakling if it meant this wasn't happening.  I would. I really would. You know how driven I am. I have to take care of myself. I don't need anybody or anything. I'd give that up. I would. And you know needing and wanting are two different things.  Right.  I want you. I want Dad. I want Morgan. And .....
Since we came back from Houston, you keep saying, "I'm not dying." You said it earlier today, when you caught me looking sad.  If you're not dying, then why am I writing your eulogy?  Am I missing the point?  Do you know something I don't.  Is death another state of being? Only most people are not tuned into it? If that's true, how will I know? How can I go where you are? And not leave Dad and Morgan? How?

I know you can't answer now.  But when you can, will you? I'm not going anywhere. Funny thing you said that too, "I'm not going anywhere." Right after you said, "I'm not dying."  What does it mean?  I know you can't answer.  But I want to know. I want to know. Okay. I'll quit asking for now.  For real.

So far, this is what I have. I couldn't write a eulogy for the crowd for a third person, so I wrote it to you.  I included editorial comments in red.  I thought you'd like the color coding. So it was easy to follow. But be easy, I'm still working on it. Mostly, I'm trying to save time by capturing my memories. 

 Dear Greg,
I know you already know what I’m about to say because we had time to talk things to death, but I wanted to let you know this one last time with my own editorials and no interruptions. 
First, I want to reiterate the three things that have torqued me off during the past six months: Dad can’t win the lottery; Skittles don’t work anymore, and you can’t share your physical pain.
  1. On the lottery.  Dad keeps on trying to win it every trip to Bassett. We stop on I-81 on exit 73 – you know the Mount Jackson exit.  I try not to erode his confidence, but frankly he couldn’t win the lottery and I mean the big one if he tried.  He is totally worthless.  It is a good thing I love him just the way he is.  I only wanted him to win, so I didn’t have to work, so I could only focus on getting you better.  I know how you hated being alone when you didn’t feel well.  You taught me things don’t matter, people do. 
  2. On Skittles. I just don’t understand why they don’t work anymore. What happened?  They solved everything when you and Morgan were little.  You fell down, I gave you Skittles: tears gone, problem solved.  They must have changed the formula like Coke did to the New Skittles or something.   We tried the Skittles treatment several times as you fought your battle, but it didn’t work.  I will forever remember Skittles and how the silliness of it curing cancer made us laugh.  You taught me to enjoy simpler things and to live in the moment.
  3. On your physical pain.  Katie, Morgan, Dad, and I pleaded with you to share but you just wouldn’t give it up.  You were so stingy with sharing it was maddening.  You kept saying you wouldn’t wish the pain on anyone. You never complained or played the victim.  You taught me the importance of grace, dignity, acceptance, and surrender.
Now I want to remind you of things I remember about you -- in random order (of course).   I promise not the meander too much and do too much of my normal yada yada talking.  I want to remind you of about thirty or so things and provide my unsolicited feedback and recollection of the event from my nearly unbiased perspective
  1. Remember when you tried to overdose on Sudafed when I took you and Morgan to Disneyland with Aunt Sue and her family.  You were four and Morgan was a year and half.  The whole trip was exhausting. We lost the car at Disney Land. I had a rental and they all looked the same.  Anyway, I was giving Aunt Sue and her family a hug. You managed to unscrew the Sudafed bottle I had in the console and started eating them like red hot candies.  You even shared  them with your baby sister.  We ended up at the ER outside of Los Angeles getting your stomach pumped – fortunately Morgan didn’t have time to swallow the pills.  Man you moved fast, I was only out of the car for three minutes.  Sometimes I wish you wouldn’t have shared so much.  After that, I was militant about keeping any medicines out of your reach.  I’m sorry I wasn’t paying attention.  
  2. Remember March of 2007, before you graduated from George Mason, you said you had a lump in your groin about the size of a goose egg. I was having an endoscope procedure that day and couldn’t go to the doctor with you, but made the appointment on the spot.  I knew how much you hated going, so I didn’t give you a choice.  You said it was probably cancer.  I said, “Don’t be so negative.  You don’t know anything for sure.”  I was wrong.  I’m sorry. I wish I could have been with you at the doctor.  
  3. Remember when you knocked on my bedroom door around midnight the night before you were supposed to register for your first classes at NOVA. Your midnight knocks on the door meant bad news to follow.  You had a hair-brain idea to take some time off before you started college.  Like you needed time off.  It was one of the few times I said “No.” I said “you would regret the delay and you wouldn’t be insured.”  I was right and you admitted it. 
  4. Remember when you tried to start the house when you were five or six by putting a key in the outlet.  Dad saw an arc of electricity out of the corner of his eye and ran to get you.   Morgan kept chanting, “Greggy tried to burn the house down.” You hopped around and said, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”  Fortunately, you only singed your fingers and got a little shock.  You never did that again.  Did you?
  5. Remember this past January when we were talking to the clinical psychologist at MD Anderson about cancer and dying.  You said you weren’t afraid of dying. You were afraid of leaving your Dad, Katie, Morgan and me.  I told you we would be fine.  I'm still not sure about that, but I'll come back to this before I actually read this to all of your followers. 
  6. Remember how long it took me to find April from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when you were four or five -- Almost three months.  We still have April and the other turtles in the attic and Morgan plans to share them with her kids when she has them.    
  7. Remember when you lost your license for racing for six months and you started driving like a grandpa after that.  You learned your lesson, didn’t you?  
  8. Remember the first time I told you I chose you for a son and I was so proud of you.  I did and I am. 
  9. Remember when you were playing intramural basketball and I shouted your name across the gym.  You shot me a death stare, like I had committed the worst crime.  You and I fought about your “behavior.”  Greg, you were supposed to be annoyed with Dad and me when you were a teenager.  I was so happy to know you as an adult and to have meaningful and deep conversations as you went through your cancer journey.  I don’t think I would have had the opportunity otherwise.  You always pointed out the silver lining to the cancer. 
  10. Remember our trip to Hawaii your Junior year of college during summer break. We retraced your roots, the catamaran, hiking Diamond Head, and whatever crazy thing I could think of or whim you had.  I wanted to have memories of you before you ran off to start your life.  We had so much fun on that trip:  sailing on the catamaran and all night shark hunting were my favorites. I liked the catamaran because I’ve never seen you so relaxed, happy, and peaceful.  I liked shark hunting because it was a comedy of errors – from the drunken Japanese tourists hurling over the bow, the running feet of the Canadians who actual caught some sharks, the Captain of the boat that probably had a bounty on his head, and me having dry heaves that started fifteen minutes into the hunt.  You kept saying, “I thought you were in the Navy.” I’m so glad I took the trip. It will forever be one of the highlights of my life.  And yes Greg, I really was in the Navy.  
  11. Remember your senior trip to Myrtle Beach.  You turned off your cell phone so you were incommunicado.  You had like twenty voice messages from me. Even though, you said it was like fifty.  Each message was more frantic than last.  When you got back, we had a heated discussion about the rules and being 18.   We made a deal -  I would step back if you would pick up.  I did and you did. 
  12. Remember the first time I dropped the “f” bomb. You were in fourth or fifth grade, the alarm system was going off at the house. I was trying to go to work and get you off to school.  I didn’t know how to turn the alarm off and you were having a panic attack.  I dropped the f bomb, which shocked you because I always had “G” rated language by you. I guess you realized I was human.  Sorry.  
  13. Remember our trip to Nags Head when you and Morgan were in High School.  You and Dad went body surfing.  We made all the trips to Krogers. You were dating Katie and were a kind of being grumpy because you missed her.  I had a melt-down about something Morgan did, which caused a ripple effect of tension.   After we all made up – I said something about putting the “fun” in dysfunctional.  We were never a perfect family unit, but we always loved each other. 
  14. Remember me doing KempoX and crying in the hotel after we found out about the last treatment didn’t work.  You told me to cry and let it out and just be myself.  But warned me not to cry for too long.  We talked about alternative treatments and getting you strong enough for other treatments.  We didn’t sleep much that night.  I’m glad we were there for each other.
  15. Remember when we played hooky from work and school when you were in something like the third grade to go the Smithsonian.  We took the metro into DC and went the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs because you loved Jurassic Park so much.  Thanks for telling me how much that meant to you as an adult. 
  16. Remember when we deemed Christopher Cross as our music track for Hawaii.  We would sing “It’s All Right. I think we’re gonna make it.” on the plane through the turbulence and every time we were stressed.  It is all right.  And I think we are going to make it. 
  17. Remember Happy Shopping on Saturdays when you were grade school.  This was before the time of Wegmans and cell phones.  We’d listen to the happy musak track and push the cart to the song.  It was silly and fun.  You carried on the tradition at Wegmans and tried to actually identify the songs on the track. I still don’t know how in the world you thought the Pointer Sisters were singing “Please Don’t Shine” for their song “He’s so Shy.”  I tried Googling it, but could never find it.  It took nearly a year to figure out what song you were talking about.  The mystery would have never been solved if I hadn’t heard the song with you.  Singing was never your strong suit. But you didn’t care.
  18. Remember how you worried about not being successful for your age. Like success has a timeline. You thought you should have a house and be self supporting.  You could be very hard on yourself at times and you did not extend the same compassion to yourself.  Most people never have the success you had – a true love, unconditional love of family, a job you were excited to have, a work environment that you loved, and the good sense to take time to appreciate people and let them how you feel.  I told you crises define people and instead of seeing yourself as a victim, you inspired many.  YOU WERE A SUCCESS.
  19. Remember how much you loved food.  You were game for anything. Each place or event was bracketed by the menu.  You enjoyed talking food and recipes with Dad.  FoodTV was one of your favorite channels.  If you could have channeled Alton Brown, you would have.  I loved that you loved food.   You were always the good eater.
  20. Remember the appreciation lists we started last April.  Every time when we were down or concerned, we would list the things that made us appreciate.  It helped us let go of the oars and float downstream instead of fighting the current. It helped us through many scary times in the upcoming months.  We appreciated simple things like getting a good room, having the support of friends, energy to go for a walk, or flexibility in our jobs.
  21. Remember when I told you the extent of my Believe in Zebra “intention” from February 2008.  I didn’t show the flyer until you got home because I was afraid you’d be embarrassed.  You thought it was just wrist bands.  You had no idea of the extent of intention in February 2008.  Over 500 people intended, prayed, or meditated for you to help you get through the surgery.  It worked – you lived a precious year longer because of it.  You told me that you had this strange sense of peace and surge of energy at the time of the event before I told you extent of the intention.  It made me feel like there is something more than this.  Thanks Greg.
  22. Remember our celebration in Roanoke in August 2008. You had just moved to Roanoke for a new start.  We thought you were cancer free again after finishing a year of Interferon treatment. You were starting to gain some weight back and get some energy.  I enjoyed the celebration and the moment.  Later you told me you were concerned something was wrong.  I hoped you were wrong, but you were right – it was confirmed the next month.  
  23. Remember when you tried to teach me to make the Chewbacca sound.  I could never get it right.  You would laugh and laugh and laugh because I would sound like I was gargling spit.  You would always make the Chewy sound just to taunt me.  I’m never going to get it right.  I’m fine with that. 
  24. Remember the Dance of Joy last April, when we got the first report that you were cancer free.  We were in Houston in search of barbecue.  Aunt Janiene was with us when we got the news.  We were so relieved, because you nearly died in February from the surgery where your bowel ruptured.  We truly believed in Zebras.  You took the picture of me and Janiene dancing in the street.  I have the picture you took and will always treasure it.
  25. Remember our early morning breakfasts at McDonalds before school.  I really wanted to be a stay at home mom and spend as much time as possible with you and Morgan.  I will always remember your order: an Egg Mcmuffin, large OJ and two hash browns. 
  26. Remember when you said you were getting a divorce last year after being married for only a year and half.  You told me not to be sad and that it was going to be all right.  Getting married young is challenging – getting married young with a diagnosis of cancer is even more challenging.  I’m glad you got a second chance with Katie, who stayed with you until the end.
  27. Remember our promise to each other to let the other know if there was something more if they died first. TBD.
That's what I have so far.  I highlighted some areas to go back to and have one or more "TBDs." I know it's  still a work in progress. So,what do you think? I want to make you proud. I want to be a better person.  I want to know if there is more. You'll let me know. You promised.

You stirred in bed, trying to get comfortable. 

"Mom," You said. "Thanks for everything."

With that I closed my computer and sat next to you. I held your hand tighter than I should have. But, I was saving time.