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 4 Months 6 Days

This was our 4th Memorial Day without my dad.  It is still hard to comprehend that it has been that long.

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These past few weeks have been hectic at our house with some big milestones.  My son graduated from high school and my daughter was baptized.  I remember one of my first thoughts after dad was diagnosed was that he was going to miss these specific events.  The few weeks leading up to all this were hard.  I would cry every time I thought about it. The graduation didn’t end up being as hard as the baptism.  My dad would have been the one to perform my daughter’s baptism.  Instead my brother did.  Which was wonderful.  We (My brother, Rachel and I) had a little melt down cry in the hall right before he did the baptism.  But it turned out beautifully.  My dad was there, we could feel the peace surrounding us.

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When they posed for these pictures my mom said “Leave room for grandpa.”

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We’ve been helping my mom clean out her house.  It’s amazing what you can accumulate in 45 years of marriage.  I found one of my dad’s journals he kept when I was 10-15 yrs old.  I’m not all the way through it yet but it is comforting to be reading his words.

Thank you all for your kind emails and comments.  I read them all and I apologize if I don’t respond immediately.  I do pray for you and hope you all have peace in your experiences.

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.

After – 2 Years, 10 months, 4 Days

I haven’t posted for awhile.  I still monitor the site and answer all my email and comments.  I guess after awhile there isn’t a lot to say that hasn’t already been said.  I still get sad, I still miss him every day.  I can’t believe that is has almost been 3 years since he died and almost 4 since he was diagnosed.  Like I always say, it goes by fast, but yet so slow.

My mom is doing well.  She is still serving a mission for her church.  She will be done in July.  She has been talking about selling her house and buying something smaller.  She really has no attachment to her house.  They moved into it only 5 months before my dad got sick. So it really only has memories of him being sick there.  I won’t be sad to not have to visit that house anymore for sure.

My daughter is getting baptized in a few months and I asked her who she wanted to perform her baptism.  Immediately she said Grandpa (yeah me too).  Then we were talking a different day about who we would invite to her baptism and we said Grandpa and Grandma (meaning my husband’s parents) and she got all excited for a minute “Grandpa is going to be there? Oh yeah, he can’t.”  That split second of excitement in her was sad. It’s hard to understand the completeness of death as a young child.  We always reassure her she will see him again.

We put up our tree this weekend.  The first ornament now is my dad’s BYU ornament.  I got a little teary when I put it up.  Christmas isn’t the same without dad.

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After – 2 Years, 3 Months, 3 Weeks – Memorial Day

I can’t believe this was our 3rd Memorial Day without my dad.  Memorial Day in our family has always been a big event.  A lot of cemetery visiting, picnics and pictures.  Yes, my family is one of those that take group pictures around headstones and all over the cemetery. In my teenage years (when I knew every thing) I thought it was pretty creepy and tried to stay out of those pictures. Now I understand.  It’s about family.  It’s about kids running around in the grass.  It’s about my daughter sitting on my dad’s headstone and telling me how much she loves grandpa.  It’s about hugs from cousins and aunts and uncles you haven’t seen all year.

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I hate the fact that that headstone even has to exist.  But I do appreciate the bond that was created with my mom and my siblings because of my dad’s cancer.

My mom is doing well. She is still serving a mission for the LDS church. She has extended her time and will stay out an extra year.  She is always busy and doing fun things with the other sister missionaries.  She is able to come up and visit us which is nice.  I am glad she wasn’t called to serve farther away.

Thank you to everyone that emails me and sends me positive comments.  I apologize if I haven’t gotten back to you yet.  I will.  Things have been hectic this past month or two.  I pray for each of you and hope that you have peace and comfort.

After – 23 Months + 17 Days

It’s coming to that time of year I hate. The holidays are over.  We are in our bleak winter inversion days.  It’s cold and dark and seems like there is no end to winter in sight. And it is almost February.  I HATE February.  My biggest hope this year is that we can make it through February without anyone dying. (Knock on wood.)  This year will mark the 2 year anniversary of my dad’s death and one year since my grandfather died. (Oh and my 45th birthday.)

I don’t want this to be a doom and gloom post.  Especially with how great a tribute my last post was to so many brave people that have fought the battle of GBM.  So I want to focus on some of the things that I have learned since my dad’s diagnosis in 2012.

* Life isn’t fair. GBM is the shittiest most horrible thing I have ever experienced.  My dad was the most kind loving person I have ever known.  He didn’t deserve to die the way he did. (No one does.)  But things happen for a reason. We can be mad at God and the world for having a loved one go through this.  But there is a reason.  You just have to find it. It took me a year and a half to figure it out.  But once I did it put a little more perspective on the whole situation for me.

* Life goes on.  No matter how dark and heavy those months were after my dad’s death it did get better.  I didn’t think it ever would. But slowly it didn’t hurt so much. I could breath again.  I didn’t cry every time I was alone in the shower or the car.  I laughed. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t stop missing him.  I still think about him at least 10 times a day.  But the sharpness of it is gone.

* Family is everything. I take each day with them as a blessing.  I tell them I love constantly.  They probably get sick of it.  I don’t call my mom every day like I did the first year after dad died.  But I do talk to her at least 3 times a week.  It has never been like that between us until dad got sick. I love our relationship now.  She has always been a good mom.  (Although in my teenage years you would have never heard me say that.)  But now she is my friend too.

* We can “What if” and “Coulda, woulda, shoulda” our experience forever and it will never change the way it all happened.  You have to let it go.  This is one of the hardest things for me.  Did we make the right decisions? Should we have tried the Avastin? Should we have given him more pain medication?  Would it have made a difference if his idiot doctor had diagnosed him sooner?  None of that matters now.  It can’t be changed. I just have to believe that we did the right things and stop beating myself up about it.  Once I did that my grieving process seemed to move forward.

* My mom’s philosophy is right.  There is a time to grieve and then after awhile you are just feeling sorry for yourself.  Not everyone grieves the same way, or in the same time frame.  But there is a point that you just have to be done.  Whether that is 1 month or 1 year it does have to end.  This is cliche, but we all know our loved ones would never want us sitting around feeling sad and stopping our life and happiness because they died. I know my dad wouldn’t.  I know I wouldn’t.

* Therapy is wonderful.  People going through this always ask me what helped me the most after my dad died.  A grief counselor. I wish I had gotten one sooner.  Probably even before he died.  That was my first big step out of that dark hole.

The day I left to go help my mom that terrible awful week before my dad died (which is actually 2 years from today) I wrote this on my husband and my bathroom mirror.  It was the first time we had really been apart for 5 years.  I was leaving into the unknown.  I was scared. It’s still on our mirror 2 years later. It reminds me how weak I thought I was but how strong I really am.

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The biggest thing I learned from all of this is no matter how many times you think you can’t go another day, hour, minute, second,  you really can.