After – 4 years, 4 months, 3 days

Another Memorial Day done.  This will be our 5th one without my dad.  I can’t say enough how time goes by so fast, but yet so slow.

The cemetery was beautiful.  Now that my mom has moved I will probably only visit it on Memorial Day.  We also went to another cemetery where my great grandparents are buried.  It had an amazing flag display that was very humbling.  I explained to Rachel what the flags stood for and that each one was for someone who had died in a war.  Most about the age of her brother. 19.

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I want to share a moment I had at my dad’s grave. I have written about how robins to me are a sign of my dad.  I see them in my yard a lot and on our fences and feel like it’s my dad saying “Hi. I see you. I’m with you.  I’m ok.”  My husband just smiles when I say that, I’m pretty sure he thinks I wacko, but you can’t dismiss this.  We were standing by my dad’s headstone talking with my uncle (my dad’s brother) and his wife and a robin just flies up and lands on his head.  It just sat there for a couple of minutes.  Not scared.  Just looking around.  Then he flew away.  I was like “Did that really just happen!?”  It gave me goosebumps.

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They are still with us.  Sometimes we just forget and just need a robin to land on our head to remember.

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After – 4 Years, 2 Months, 3 Weeks

I don’t cry at stop lights anymore.

I just realized that a few weeks ago.  After 5 years of having the word Glioblastoma in my vocabulary I don’t cry at stop lights.  That may seem like a small insignificant thing, or even really random, but I did most of my crying about my dad in the car.  It was the only place I was alone.

But grief is a very fickle thing and I do still cry.  Like right now at my desk.  Fleetwood Mac’s song Landslide just played on my Spotify radio and it actually made me suck in my breath.  It’s amazing how music can bring back a feeling so strongly.

Take a deep breath and continue.

My mom is all settled in her new home.  She is really happy.  She called me yesterday and told me that she was going to go on a date. That was a weird conversation.  I was actually surprised at how excited I was for her.  We giggled and laughed. Then I was nervous for her and it brought up all the questions of “What if she gets married?” “Does that mean I have step siblings?” “So she’ll have more grandkids?” all in a matter of 10 seconds while she was talking to me about it.

It was weird.  But I was not sad.

I just want her to be happy.  That is all my dad would have wanted too.

The world just keeps spinning, and life does go on.

I was pretty sure 4 years ago it wouldn’t.

I’m very pleasantly surprised.

After – 3 Years, 8 Months, 29 Days

It’s been a long time since I posted.  There isn’t a lot to report these days.  Which is a good thing.  My mom sold her house and bought a new one in a different state.  I have to admit I was not sad walking out of that house for the last time.  There were no happy memories there.  My dad got cancer 5 months after they moved in and then died there 10 months later.  Her new home is beautiful and just what she wanted.  She will be done with her LDS mission in February and will move right into the new home.

While cleaning out her house I came across many of my dad’s things.  It brought back lots of happy memories.  My mom downsized a lot so we acquired a lot.  My husband still asks why I brought random things home like an ugly 1970’s plastic cup or a container that held bulk laundry detergent. Because they remind me of my dad.  I smile every time I drink out of that stupid glass.

14238331_10211057132769980_6478606833553214460_n(This picture was taken over Labor Day weekend.  My mom just turned 70 and she rocks!  I want to be as cool as she is when I am her age.)

This will be our 4th holiday season without my father.  It does get easier, but I still find myself wanting to call and tell him something and then remembering I can’t.  I don’t imagine that ever goes away.

I think about closing down my blog but my numbers are still so high and I am still getting emails, so I hope it is helping others.  That is the main reason I started writing it.  I have seen a surge in my numbers, especially this last 6 weeks, which doesn’t necessarily make me happy.  That to me means someone new has just gotten the diagnosis and is searching desperately for any answers. It makes my heart hurt.  To you I wish you comfort and peace.  I am sorry you ever had to google the word Glioblastoma.

After – 2 Years, 11 Months, 3 Days

Someone posted this on my Facebook today in our GBM grief group.  I am taking no credit for it.  I did not write it.  It was written by a RSnow on Reddit about 4 years ago.  It is probably the best description of grief I have ever read so I wanted to share.

The question was “My friend just died, I don’t know what to do.”
Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

A New Perspective

Perspective –

a. The relationship of aspects of a subject to each other and to a whole.

b. Subjective evaluation of relative significance; a point of view.

c. The ability to perceive things in their actual interrelations or comparative importance.

I have written this blog from the perspective of a daughter, care giver, and loved one of someone going through the difficult journey of brain cancer.  I have only been able to express my feelings from this side of the experience.  The fear, anger, loss, heartache and loneliness that come from watching your loved one die a rather horrific death that GBM brings with it.  It was horrible. I hated it. I still hate it.  But these past few weeks I’ve gotten a glimpse of perspective of how my dad may have felt those 10 months.

Truthfully it has freaked me out and made my heart hurt even more for my father and his experience.  It has also given me a greater admiration for him. (If possible)

I have struggled with endometriosis and other “women” problems for the last 25 years.  It has been something I have accepted and learned to live with.  I have had 3 major surgeries and 3 c-sections. The last c-section was a scary as hell. We were lucky to have a healthy baby that only had to be in the NICU for 24 hours. I only needed 2 blood transfusions and an extra 2 hours of surgery with no internal damage.

It now has come to the point to where I have to have a hysterectomy.  Neither one of my doctors (one of which was my doctor for 20 years and who is who did 2 of my surgeries and delivered 2 of my babies) refuse to do it.  Her words “I wouldn’t touch that surgery with 10 foot pole.”   (Nothing like that statement to make you have a little anxiety.)   So I met with a specialist, an oncologist gynecologist, last month and scheduled surgery for next week.  She seems confident that she can do it.  She said it will be a difficult surgery and scheduled 5 hours to do it and made sure I was her only big surgery that day.  This is what she does.  Intricate, difficult gynecological surgeries. Mostly cancer patients.  So I know I will be in good hands. But even knowing that I have still been battling major panic attacks since we met with her last month and have wanted to cancel the surgery a million times.

Now to my point of this whole post. (Finally) In the midst of one my crying panic attacks I started thinking about my dad.  I thought about how scared he must have been knowing that his situation didn’t have even that possibility of having a happy ending.  His anxiety wouldn’t go away after his surgery.  He had to live with the fact that in the near future this cancer was going to kill him.

So then I felt like a big whining baby.  No wonder he cried every time he had to leave us or hang up the phone and say goodbye to me.  But what makes me feel like a bigger whanny baby is that my dad never said one negative thing about it the whole time.  He always said “It is what it is.”  He never had a pity party, never said “why me?”  although I’m sure he thought that.  He never showed an outward bit of anxiety to us.  This makes him even more amazing to me. Because I’ve been a big huge complainer, whiner, crier, bitcher, why me-er,  for 5 weeks now.  My husband deserves a medal.

Tony and I had a huge talk on the way home from the pre-op appointment yesterday.  It was THAT talk no one wants to have. I don’t want a funeral, have a party, say nice things about me,  don’t marry a dirty pirate hooker, give my daughter a good mom, don’t love your next wife more than me. I cried the whole time, but if my dad’s cancer taught me one thing was be prepared.  It all gives me a stomach ache though.

Now when I start feeling that anxiety and fear creep up on me I take a deep breath and think of my dad.  He did this.  He faced 2 major brain surgeries with his head held up like a man.  If he can do it, I can too.

Another “First” Overwith….

Facebook post Sunday August 18th,

I usually don’t post my religious views on Facebook as I respect everyone’s beliefs even if they differ from mine, but today I am very thankful for my belief in eternal families. 46 years ago today my parents were married in the Manti LDS temple. I believe families can be together forever. What a great example my parents are to me. Knowing I will be with my dad again and my whole family is comforting.

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One of those few “good” things about knowing my dad’s time was short is that we threw my parents a surprise 45th wedding anniversary party last year.  I posted about it here.  I am so glad we did it.  What a great memory for all of us.

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After A While

I have mentioned once before on this blog that when I was 17 I placed a baby for adoption.  It was a terribly hard experience and comes into almost a tie with my dad’s death as far as grief goes.  I am glad I did it.  It was the right choice.  I wouldn’t change it.  It has taken a long time to get over it though.  This is the first year I haven’t felt really sad on her birthday.  That could be because it was 9 days after dad died and 2 days after his funeral.  Or maybe it just takes 25 years to get over something that difficult.

The reason I even bring it up (because that is not what THIS blog is about)  is because my grandmother (my dad’s mom) sent me this poem in the days after I had the baby.  It has been a favorite of mine over the years, and has taken on different meanings in different situations.  Today as I was making dinner part of the poem popped into my mind and it was comforting to me.  I knew I wanted to post it here on this blog.

After A While

After a while you learn
the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn
that love doesn’t mean leaning
and company doesn’t always mean security.
And you begin to learn
that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises
and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of woman, not the grief of a child
and you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down
in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns
if you get too much
so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure
you really are strong
you really do have worth
and you learn
and you learn
with every goodbye, you learn…

Veronica A. Shoffstall

A Picture Can Say A Thousand Words…….

I wanted to share an experience I had  by posting an email I sent my mom today.

Today I was looking through all the pictures Steve (my brother) scanned for your anniversary slide show for Aimee and Kimberlee (my cousins).  They mentioned that they didn’t have many pictures of them when they were younger and I said I would look through them and see what we had.  So I went through each picture one by one.  At first it made me really sad to see all the pictures of dad younger and growing up.  Then all of our family pictures of us growing up.  I stopped on this one.  Then I realized wow, we have had such a good life.  We have done so much. Gone so many places.  Done so much together.  It made me sad, but gave me peace.  Dad is amazing.  He has had such a great life.  He has been the best father anyone could ever have.  We are lucky.  He may not have another 5 years but we have had 40+ with him.  We are blessed.  Thank you for my life.  Thank you for the unconditional love.  Thank you for all you have done and still do for us.  I couldn’t imagine a better life.

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Peace.  What a wonderful feeling after so much anger.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am still mad.  But have peace that my dad has had an amazing life and in turn has given me one.  I am grateful.

(Yes, we have matching shirts.  I think my mom had one on too.  How awesome is that??)

What A Difference Morning Can Make

The previous post was pretty dark and depressing.  Sorry.  That is just where my mind had been for the past few weeks.

I talked to my dad this morning and he sounded good and we actually had a conversation.  So I guess there is something to the idea he does better in the morning.  He knew it was me and we talked about them spending Christmas with us.  He was still a little slow, but it was night and day difference than when I talked to him the day I started writing the previous post.  (That took about 4 days to write.)

He says he feels great.  No pain.  Hates dragging the oxygen around.  He gets his staples out on Monday.

They always say the first few days after the surgery are the worst.  I think that goes for family members too.

I haven’t cried today.  That is a good start.