Monday, March 26, 2012

All I have are memories now
Tucked safely in my heart
They help me keep you close to me
Now that we're far apart.

All I have are pictures now
That help me make it through
I need you near to help me with
This pain of loosing you.

Please stand by me and walk with me
And help me on my way
To find the peace and strength I'll need
To face another day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19, 2012
If i could see you one more time
If i could hold you tight
I'd have another chance to say
That things will be alright.
If i could give you one more hug
If i could ease your fears
I'd once again be by your side
To wipe away your tears.
If we could sit and talk again
Just like we used to do
I'd get another chance to say
"I'll help you make it through"
But now there is no "If I Could"
There only is "The Why"
I had to give you back to Him
I had to say "good-bye".

Friday, January 27, 2012

Amazing Years
There are anniversary dates
We wish we could ignore
But how can we not think about
The way things were before.

From the day you came into our lives
With your hair of brown and your eyes so blue
We knew the Lord had blessed us
And that blessing Jeff was you.

We got to have you with us
For thirty-two awesome years
You gave us many memories
That now bring us to tears.

We try very hard Jeff
To honor your memory
By smiling when we remember
The way it used to be.

You brought smiles to everyone
Your soul was gentle and kind
Not a day goes by
That you don’t come to mind.

April 4th, can’t possibly go by
Without shedding many tears
We love you still and want to say
Thank you Jeff for 32 amazing years.

Love you forever and a day.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thought on starting my third year without Jeff

I am feeling rather as though my mind is a kaleidoscope. I look through the kaleidoscope – I see images of Jeff, the man I fell in love with, the man I married, the stepfather of my daughter, the life we shared. I rotate the kaleidoscope – I see images of the pain and sorrow that followed his death. I rotate it again – I see images of my daughter, when we were a family of three, as she has grown up during the last two years without her dad, as the wonderful and successful adult she has become despite being forever scarred by her dad's death. Another rotation – I see images of some of Jeff's friends who became my companions in grief and then my friends. Yet another rotation – I see images of my journey of grief, of hope and healing, of the slow rebuilding of my life, of the people I've met and the experiences I've had since Jeff's death, of my "new normal," of my commitment to embracing life all the more because I am keenly aware of just how fragile it is. Another turn of the kaleidoscope – I see images of my new life since this time last year.

I looked it up – the word "kaleidoscope" is derived from three Greek words meaning "beauty," "shape" and "instrument for examination." And that seems oddly apt. Because through the kaleidoscope of my mind I am able to see, to examine if you will, the beauty of my life with Jeff as well as the beauty of my life as I have rebuilt it; I see the people and events that have shaped my life and continue to shape it. The kaleidoscope reflects the patterns of my past and my present. It hints as to the possibilities of the future. The images tumble and combine to form the ever-changing patterns of my life.

For me, the anniversary of Jeff's death will never be a "normal" day. I think the experience of his death imprinted itself so deeply in my mind and my being that each year the awareness of the approaching anniversary flows through me unbidden, bringing the past back into sharper focus.

And yet, unlike the first year when I determinedly set the day apart and tried not to allow the reality of the present to intrude, there is a certain balancing of past and present that now comes with each anniversary. It is part of those ever-changing patterns in my kaleidoscope. This year I found myself alternating between, on the one hand, images of Jeff and memories of the past I shared with him and, on the other hand, how I live my life in the present, between the sorrows that will never fully subside and the joys of living. And that's okay – that's part of this journey, part of the ebb and flow of life. In these days which lead up to the anniversary and on the anniversary itself, I gave myself the quiet time I needed to reflect, I allowed myself certain rituals, I honored Jeff's memory. And around those times I will continue to live my life as it is now.

And so, as this second anniversary of Jeff's death approached, I found myself once again looking back at the man he was, at the life we had, at the love we shared. Yes, there is a sense of sadness and melancholy. But there is also a strong sense of gratitude, gratitude that he was part of my life, gratitude that he loved me and that I loved him, gratitude for the lessons I learned from him while he lived and in the aftermath of his death. I know that I will always love him, that I will always remember him, that he will always be part of me. I know that the life and love we shared will always be part of the kaleidoscope of my mind, part of the patterns of my life.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Coming up on almost two years ...

Martial words reflect illusory mind-set against illness

Finally, this morning, enough -- I read one too many journalistic references to someone's "beating" cancer, as if cancer was an opponent to be defeated, an enemy to be conquered, a battle in which courage often wins the day.

It is a lie. Cancer is to be endured, that's all. The best you can hope for is to fend it off, like a savage dog, but cancer isn't defeated, it only retreats, is held at bay, retires, bides its time, changes form, regroups. It may well be that the boy who survives an early cancer lives a long and lovely life, without ever enduring that species of illness again, but the snarl of it never leaves his heart, and you'll never hear that boy say he defeated the dark force in his bones.

Use real words. Real words matter. False words are lies. Lies sooner or later are crimes against the body or the soul. I know men, women and children who have cancer, had cancer, died from cancer, lived after their cancer retreated, and not one of them ever used military or sporting metaphors that I remember.

All of them spoke of endurance, survival, the mad insistence of hope, the irrepressibility of grace, the love and affection and laughter and holy hands of their families and friends and churches and clans and tribes. All of them were utterly lacking in any sort of cockiness or arrogance; all of them developed a worn, ashen look born of pain and patience; and all of them spoke not of winning but of waiting.

A great and awful lesson is contained there, it seems to me, something that speaks powerfully of human character and possibility. For all that we speak, as a culture and a people, of victory and defeat, of good and evil, of hero and coward, none of it is quite true. The truth is that the greatest victory is to endure with grace and humor, to stay in the game, to achieve humility.

I know a young man with brain cancer. He's 16 years old. He isn't battling his cancer. He is enduring it with the most energy and creativity and patience he can muster. He says the first year he had cancer was awful because of the fear and vomiting and surgery and radiation and chemotherapy and utter exhaustion. But he says that first year was also wonderful because he learned to savor every moment of his days. He met amazing people he would never have met, and his family and friends rallied behind him with ferocious, relentless humor. He learned he was a deeper and stronger and more inventive and more patient soul than he had ever imagined.

He also learned about fear, he says, because he was terrified, and remains so, but he learned that he can sometimes channel his fear and turn it into the energy he needs to raise money for cancer research. Since being diagnosed with cancer, he has helped raise nearly $100,000, which is remarkable.

I met a tiny, frail nun once, while walking along a harbor, and we got to talking. She said no one defeats cancer; cancer is a dance partner you don't want and don't like, but you have to dance, and either you die or the cancer fades back into the darkness at the other end of the ballroom. I never forgot what she said, and think she is right, and the words we use about cancers and wars matter more than we know.

Maybe if we celebrate grace under duress rather than the illusion of total victory we will be less surprised and more prepared when illness and evil lurch into our lives, as they always will; and maybe we will be a braver and better people if we know we cannot obliterate such things, but only wield oceans of humor and patience and creativity against them.

We have an untold supply of those extraordinary weapons, don't you think?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Sunday was one year since Jeff passed away. It seems like it has been an eternity - not just 365 days.

I started the day by going to Mass at 8AM - picking up my mother for a day out. We headed towards Tampa and stopped at my younger brother's cemetery plot. He was killed on his motorcycle in '88 at the age of 27 (not his fault). Then we went for lunch on the Gulf - live music, good food and spent the afternoon watching the alligators swimming around the marsh. Thank goodness we were elevated on a deck.

I must confess that I kept my eyes on the clock - being Jeff passed away at 3:05PM. When the clock hands showed it was 3:05 ... I looked around the restaurant and nothing had changed. All the people were still talking, laughing, eating and the music was still blaring. I know Jeff was happy we were out and about and not just sitting at home. He wants me to go on with my life as I would with him if the tables were turned.

Only God knows what the future holds but I know I am a survivor.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas 2009

I wanted to share this video with all my friends and family that gave us so much support as we fought Jeff's cancer this past year. Merry Christmas and a very healthy and happy New Year.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

This last entry is the hardest ever

On Thursday April 2 Jeff was rushed to Oak Hill Hospital with what ended up as an abdominal aneurysm that had burst. Normally people don't even make it to be hospital and die shortly after it happens.

Around 3AM on Friday the vascular surgeon reviewed the CT scan and gave him a 30% chance of survival if they did perform the surgery - and not only would he have to be intibated (breathing machine) but he would have to be put on dialysis because of kidney failure. This was because the aneurysm was located right below the kidneys and they would have to shut off the blood supply to correct the aneurysm. The big word was IF he survived. The surgeon said he would also be in terrible pain as well. He also said that if he did survive the surgery (followed by added dialysis) he would still have to deal with the brain tumor.
He said this was 'MAJOR MAJOR' surgery but the outcome did not look promising.

The other alternative was to make him "pain free" and comfortable and he recommended that. He said he has less than 24 hours. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make but elected to let him die peacefully without any pain.

Right after the decision was made - they gave him some great pain Rx and I asked him how he was feeling. He said he had no pain but he also had no feeling in his legs from his toes to the pelvic area. The doctors said that was very normal and to expect more of those symptoms.

Around 6AM I asked the nurse to call in the local Catholic Priest. He arrived around 6:30AM and started the "last rites". When Jeff saw him he just looked from me to him and back again and then made the sign of the cross. I truly think he knew it was the end.

After the Priest left I told him that when he gets up in Heaven to please pray for us poor souls left here on earth and his response was "not now" and smiled. I then apologized for losing my temper and getting angry over the past year and it wasn't directed at him but at the situation we found ourselves in. His response to that was to take his finger and thump my nose. So he hadn't lost his sense of humor even to the end.

I came home to shower, etc. and was right back up there mid morning. Around 5PM I left for home - my eyes were burning from no sleep. Don't know why I did that because I never did get any sleep. Called the hospital around 10PM and the informed me they had moved him to the second floor - had a couch set up with pillows, blankets and sheets and I could stay the night. I rushed back around 11PM to spend the night.

He had a male nurse (Eric) who entered the room and asked if we were people of faith and I told him yes. He then asked if he could pray with us. I've never seen this happen before but Eric knelt down at the foot of the bed and prayed. I do know he came back into the room to put another blanket on me and I finally slept until 6AM.

The vascular surgeon appeared Saturday morning and said he was surprised to see we were still there and reiterated that he would not be seeing us on Sunday. He was right -Jeff took his last breath at 2:40PM and his heart did not stop beating until 3:05PM.

I thank God I was able to be with him when he took his last breath - and he was at peace.

This past year has been the hardest journey I have ever been on and I'm sure Jeff felt the same way. A few weeks ago he said "Cheryl, this is so tragic that it's hard not to cry". I know he felt like crying at times - but he never did (at least not in front of me).

Thank you all for your prayers, encouraging words, e-mails, Masses, cards, flowers, food, ,etc. It means more than I can ever say.

His journey has just started and as Fr. Bernie said - what a glorious time for Jeff to be in Heaven.