Friday, June 29, 2007

Much To Do About Nothing

The hardest part of dealing with grief is being able to put it to the back burner so that you can function. At times it's nearly impossible. Today I have a list of things I simply must do. Instead of doing any of those things, my mind tends to wander. Yesterday I had a tense exchange with my mother-in-law. I had a picture of Jen and her daughter taken in May. In fact, this is the LAST picture taken of the two of them. I purchased the cutest frame that said Mommy & Me and put the picture in it. I was so excited about Jen's daughter having it. I mean, imagine the memory of that day for her. My m i l quickly vetoed that. She doesn't LIKE how her daughter looks in the picture. Well, who would like a picture where someone is so sick, wearing a wig, I GET that. But her daughter saw her look much worse in the final weeks. I didn't want to upset her so I dropped it. When Rob came home and I told him about it, he said let's just put it away for her and when she's older we'll give it to her. Yes, I certainly will.

I know that people grieve differently. I know that I must respect the m i l's process of grief.
Having said that, a part of me feels so disturbed that she is removing every trace of her daughter from her room. She has given away all her clothes already. I know how I grieve.
I worry that my little niece needs to be surrounded by her mother's things right now. I have searched my house for things Jen gave us. They are organized together and I feel the need to keep touching them. What if her daughter feels that way? Granted most of what she has was given to her by her Mom so she may not be going through those feelings that I am. There are things that I gave Jen I would like to have back. I doubt I will get them. For the life of me, I cannot understand how removing someone's possessions can help. My m i l came upon a box wrapped for a birthday present. She was so happy. Her daughter had missed her birthday this year and she thought that she had hidden away a present for her. When she opened the box she realized that it was not for her but for her granddaughter's birthday in the fall. Her heart sank. I really was sad for her. We exchanged a glance and a thought at the same time. There will never be any more gifts from Jen. I thought of the joy her daughter will feel on her birthday in a few months to have a last gift from her Mommy.

Now I must distract myself from these thoughts and go balance my checking account. I am going to try to write again in my paper journal.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Celebrating Life and a Joining of Lives

The first picture is Magnolia Diana drew and I just love it. She is a Southern Belle that has been liberated.

This is a picture of Diana with Rob (over 20 lbs. thinner)
when we met her in North Carolina about seven years ago.

I just learned that one of my favorite people, Diana the author sometimes formerly known as Prozak and ProzieofMountns has married her darling HippieJim.

Oh this makes me so happy. Two people joining their lives together despite hardships they have been through. Actually, I think hardships bring true love couples closer.

Diana helped me get through a really rough patch when I needed support. She didn't tell me what to do but gently affirmed my decision to take another chance on love.

Oh, friend, I can never thank you enough.

I cannot wait to actually meet Jim. All I know is anyone who still has Woodstock tickets really rates in my book. I hope someday he can see my Janis Joplin Porsche cookie jar.

Best wishes for a long life and much happiness,
From just one of the many who love you.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Relay for Life

(This is the luminaria that will lit in Jen's memory tonight. Between the two in the pic are the words "beloved mommy" and above the dragon pic are the words of Cheryl
" Rainbows and butterflies.Fairies and dragons.She always saw the magic in life." The heart is surrounded by gerbera daisies. At her services Rob and I had a huge heart of them with roses and a banner "Sister." Those are favorite flowers of Jen's and ours.) Thank you again to my ownline friends who made pledges in her honor. Jennifer, Mary and Katie bless you.

Today is the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life
There is a survivors lunch at noon. I can bring one guest. At 2 p.m. the festivities start. I have submitted luminarias for Jen (which Rob and I worked on together) and Marc, his friend we lost last year to cancer. I would give years off my life in exchange for a cure for this disease.

I am going to walk only one lap. If it's hot it is a strain on my heart and body.

There are two other cancer survivors in my office. They understand what I am feeling right now. When you survive cancer and someone else loses their battle you experience guilt. You feel unworthy to be given survival when someone else was not. Especially when the person is young and leaves a child. Our niece has become very weepy. She never cried at her Mom's services but now the slightest thing has her crying and she made the statement that she never got hurt before Mommy died but now she is having a lot of accidents. I am so concerned about her getting through this with minimal psychological stress. Her grandmother is doing everything possible to comfort her while dealing with her own loss. Yesterday she began cleaning out Jen's room, sorting through clothes. I would leave it all alone for a very long time. She and I are handling things differently and I have to respect her choices.

The Beatles were is all there is. And.........the love you make is equal to the love you take. That's it, all there was to know and I have had the albums for forty years. When you leave this world all you leave behind is the love that you gave people. It inspires me to want to give more, be more accepting of others and make joyful memories with those I care about.
So, please have a wonderful weekend and know that if you have the link to this private journal, you are someone who matters to me. Peace and love baby.

Friday, June 15, 2007

It is hard to function. We are not eating or sleeping normally. Today I was driving and when I returned home there was a police officer who pulled up behind me. He asked if I knew why he had stoppped me. No. He proceeded to tell me I was going way over the speed limit and passed him and then had failed to signal when I turned down the road. I explained to him that I am detached from myself. I explained that just one week ago today my sister-in-law who had been promised a year if she had the surgery that she had six weeks ago was performed. I showed him her prayer card with the date. He advised me not to get out of the car (hmmm okay) and he ran all my information. I guess I was fortunate that I had a perfect driving record because he decided just to ticket me for not wearing a seat belt. I know I should be grateful because I would have had points and insurance surcharges. Instead I just think of the $50 I will have to spend.
I feel numb.......that is when I am not crying so hard that I have pain in every limb of my body.
Thanks officer for being a human being.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thoughts, thoughts and more thoughts

I am consumed with guilt that I could have/should have done more for my sister-in-law.
I guess it's normal to go through that but I cannot feel that I did my best.
I want to be more like her, more thoughtful and helpful of others.
Her ex mother-in-law wrote this about her:
"Rainbows and butterflies.
Fairies and dragons.
She always saw the magic in life."
So very true. I do remember when her Dad died and she went through a bout of depression.
I know in time my grief will lessen too. I feel guilty about that as well. I made a memorial web page for her. On Saturday there is the Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society. I am walking with my team from work. I did it in her honor. I am doing two luminaries for her.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Rest in Peace


On June 8th at 5:15 a.m. my beloved sister-in-law (the baby of our three sisters)peacefully left this world. We were blessed to be able to spend several hours with her for the two previous days. Despite four surgeries since January and many radiation treatments, her cancer had returned in less than four weeks after the last surgery in which the doctor felt he had it all. Mercifully, pneumonia claimed her before the cancer could. She left the world without complaint, much as she had lived her life. Her final words as we left that evening were barely heard because of the difficulty she had speaking and the weakness of her voice. We did see her mouth move and I heard the whisper "love you" as her mother, brother and I headed out. I suspected that might be the last time we would see her alive.

Jennifer McLaughlin McFetridge was a wonderful friend, daughter, sister, niece, cousin but mostly she was a mother to her eight year old daughter, Cassie. That was the thing that made her happiest. Making Halloween costumes, making head bands with ribbons to match each outfit, waiting in line to buy the latest Disney DVDs, anything that was for her daughter. This was her true happiness in life. Her daughter was not the only person who benefitted from Jen's caring. She always thought of what she could do for her Mom and even for her neighbors. All the neighbors had many stories of the times Jen had helped them. She did not complain. Her doctors came to tell us how brave she was, how hard she fought. We knew but it was good to know that they knew as well.

My favorite memory of Jennifer is this. When Rob and I were married we asked our DJ to play some Irish songs. He played the Unicorn Song where you make all the hand motions. She and I totally spontaneously, jumped up and the two of us did all the motions. When the music played between we grabbed each other and we waltzed all over the dance floor. We then proclaimed ourselves unicorn sisters. That Christmas we gave each other (unplanned) unicorns. That was a magical moment as were so many moments spent with my beloved baby sis. Several months ago I got a phone call at 7 a.m. It was Jen. They had just told her that her tumor which had been removed from her neck was now in her skull. She was scared. She talked to me about so many things that morning. Before we hung up she reminded me of the day we met. It was her father's wake. Her daughter was not yet two and I left the receiving line to care for her. We bonded like there was no tomorrow that evening. Since then her daughter and I have had a mutual admirational relationship. I adore that child and often think she was the daughter I might have dreamed of having. Jen asked me to promise her that if she lost her battle I would take care of her daughter, Cassie, at HER funeral. I promised her. I never dreamt it would happen. When we arrived for the communion last month Jen asked me to do everything for her. I did, WE did. Yesterday, once again, I dressed my eight year old niece and we went to her Mommy's funeral. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye. We will be seeing them here in a few weeks. I am hoping to make more money and surprise them with a trip to DisneyWorld.

I thought I was pretty together but Jen taught me a lot these past few months. She was wise beyond her years and she knew how to squeeze the lemons life threw at her and make them into lemonade. She knew how to put it in a beautiful glass and then take it to the beach to drink it. Her legacy is that she left people better off for having known her. I am a better person because of her example. I strive to be a good example for her daughter.

Jen never ended a phone conversation without saying to Rob or I "I love you both."

What a beautiful way to remember someone, that they made you feel loved. Thank you unicorn sis for the sunshine you gave not just to me. Jen was loved by all who knew her. It doesn't get any better than that in life.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

My Absence

The photo is of Rob with Jen and her daughter at our wedding. Jen and I danced the Unicorn Dance that night, just the two of us on the dance floor. A memory that has to last a lifetime.

This will be the last post I expect to write for awhile. We got disturbing news today about my sister-in-law Jennifer. If you remember she had surgery just one short month ago to remove a large tumor in her head. They felt that if they radiated her right away, the chances were that the tumor would take at least a year to return. They did radiate her right away. The result was a swollen brain that filled with fluid necessitating a shunt put in about two weeks ago. Two nights ago she began to feel ill and they discovered that she had pneumonia. Last night they were uncertain she would make it through the night and wanted to put her on a ventilator. She refused (how I respect her for maintaing dignity in a hopless battle). Today they took her down for an MRI and it showed that the tumor is already back. Devastating news. The doctor told my mother-in-law that they are only going to make her comfortable at this point. To try to cure the pneumonia might only make her death far worse so at this time they are done treating her.

I think that is the right decision and one I would want made for me. The thing of it is although we logically know what is good our hearts only know the pain and don't want it. First thing tomorrow morning we will be driving up the the hospital for a visit. Not sure she will even know we are there. This is the dread disease that robbed a beautiful and energetic 34 year old woman of her life and her eight year old daughter of her mother. Surely, less money could be spent on war and more on cancer research. Tonight I am trying to think of all the wonderful memories I have of Jen. I have many. During our last visit I held her and told her that I loved her. We both cried and discussed our fear. When she first learned of the tumor in her head she called me at 7 a.m. I made a promise to her. One that I will keep. On the first day I met her over seven years ago we were going to her father's wake. Her little daughter was only a year old and I volunteered to take care of her, leaving her to deal with her father's service. That always impressed her. She made me promise to take care of her daughter at her funeral, should that happen. As my heart breaks, I will be taking my little niece's hand and letting her know that she is not alone. Letting her know that her Mom will always be with us in our memories. It's my final promise and it's the last thing I can do for my beloved Jen.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A great weekend

Yesterday we headed to the Philadelphia area. My friend Debbie and her husband Don took us to her tennis partner's home for steaks on the grill. Yummy and they had the best pastries for dessert. Came home and Rob found that he had eaten something that had him quite ill. Fortunately he survived that ordeal and today we went to a college graduation party for Debbie's son. Her ex husband and son's Dad is a wonderful guy. He had bought a brownstone in Philadelphia that is four floors, it even has an elevator. Beautiful and so interesting. We had a nice tour and his new wife Debbie gave us a tour. She is very nice and it did my heart good to see two families get together even though they are both remarried, and have a great time.
I got to see Debbie's huge family which I don't get to see that much anymore. I got to see her two grown children and got to see the restaurant manged by her new husband's son who is a great guy. If you're ever in Philly you should really stop in The Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar (old city) there is also one midtown. I was literally drooling looking at the fresh salads and had a wonderful drink called a Miami Mango something.
Now back to the real world. My doggie missed me like crazy despite visits from my son and mother he refused to eat. We missed him too. The cat is less fussy.
It will be nice to sleep in my own bed tonight. There truly is no place like home.

Friday, June 01, 2007

My friends, the books

Today I decided to clean up the garage. Well at least organize it. When moving things about I found an old box of some of my favorite books. I quickly opened and examined them. I have purchased so many over the years, read so many but these are the ones that I will always own.
Kahlil Gibran: three by him, one, Beloved Prophet, was so difficult to find as it had not been published in many years. It took me two years searching before I located it in a rare book store in another state. it contains his love letters to the woman he loved, Mary Haskell. I have been fascinated with him since first reading The Prophet as a teenager. Some of that book contains quotes that I frequently use. I love his mind. Other books are by Anna Quindlen. Her essays in the New York Times were outstanding. She can open anyone's mind by using logic. Three books are by an author most of you never heard of, Laurel Lee. When I was being treated for Hodgkin's Disease in 1977 she wrote an article that appeared in a woman's magazine along with her ink drawings. She was living the life of a hippie (not so different from mine) with two young children. While pregnant with her third she developed a horrible cough which was diagnosed as Hodkin's Disease. She refused a late term abortion as the doctors begged her to have it. She later gave birth to a healthy daughter and published her diary of the ordeal, Walking Through the Fire. A TV movie was later made of it, but it did not do the book justice. Laurel has an uncanny sense of humor and her drawings make it rich. I do not know what became of her.
I do know that her books are two of my prize possessions.

I stopped here and went to Google her name. I simply cannot believe that I never thought to do that. I just learned that she died August 2004 from pancreatic cancer after fighting it for a year I am so saddened by that but joyful that she left behind three children and four grandchildren.
The fact is that she died at 58 but she lived each day after her cancer diagnosis at age 29 with such joy and appreciation. Her dream was to live long enough to see her children independent and she achieved that. I hate knowing that she is gone because of all the days and nights that I wrestled with the demons of fear. I knew that she was out there doing the same and overcoming them. Thank you Laurel for all the hope that you gave me for all those years. Rest in peace. I have one last book of hers to purchse, Tapestry the Journal of Laurel Lee.

I have other books........they are my friends. Sometimes on a bad night they help me. I have one book that is unread. I purchased it a few years ago and I simply cannot get through it. I refuse to get rid of it and I just know that one day I will get through it, One Hundred Years of Solitude. My new favorite read are books by Jodi Picoult. If you haven't read My Sister's Keeper, you must. I am eagerly waiting to read her latest. Hoping it comes out in paperbook soon!