"Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thoughts, May 28

It is hard to comprehend that mom is really gone.  It all happened so fast. I was holding her hand when she slipped away from this life.  I helped dress her body and prepare her for the viewing.  I spoke at her funeral and then watched her casket be lowered into the earth.  Even though I was there as it happened, my mind is still working to absorb the reality of it all.  It is just so unbelievable and difficult to comprehend that she will not be a part of every meaningful thing that happens for the rest of my life!  I suddenly feel the need to write down every memory we have together, every great conversation, every little thing she ever did with my children.  I don't want to forget any part of it!  Right now our conversations are recent, but with time they will become distant.  It makes my heart sink to think that at some point, having my mom around will seem like it happened in another life time...kind of like how high school seems to me now. I could easily live 50 more years.  The thought of even one year without my mom is daunting, let alone 50!!
People keep telling me how strong I am. I appreciate the compliment, but I know this trial has only begun.  Anyone can get through a crisis, which is how the immediate 2 weeks following mom's departure felt to me.  But now, I've got nothing but real life ahead of me.  Day in, day out, with many responsibilities to fulfill.  I have my precious family to raise.  There are birthdays, holidays, and lots of normal days in between.  But none of it will be the same without my mom.  There will be so many days that I will long to hear her voice encouraging me and telling me what a good job I am doing, that I am on track, and that everything is ok.  At the end of April, we had a special activity with the young women - a standards night.  I was really excited about it and felt very inspired about the focus we had chosen for it.  Mom told me that she knew it would be great, that it would be powerful for everyone there.  Her confidence always boosted my own, partially because I knew she was praying for me, and partially because whenever she said it, I knew it was true!  She has always been my biggest cheer leader. 
It is perhaps ridiculous how many times I have gone over in my mind the same details, over and over again...but I think it is part of processing the trauma.  I wish I would have gone to see mom sooner.  I also wish more than anything I could have been closer to her while she was going through the last 3 weeks.  I wonder why I didn't have her come to church when Sophie gave her first talk in primary.  I wish I would have taken more pictures of her and I together.  Why didn't I?  I wonder why, when she said she wanted us to talk about great memories, I couldn't think of anything great!  Why didn't I think to tell her how good it made me feel as a child when I would wake up in the morning with red kiss marks on my face from when she kissed me either after arriving home late from a meeting or leaving early for one?  Or how I loved the way she tucked me in at night and had me imagine that I was snorkeling with all the beautiful fishies in the ocean?  I wish I would have just told her how much I loved her.  But how could I have?  I didn't want to make her cry, because crying made her cough up more blood.  It bothers me now that the entire time she had cancer, I never once cried in front of her.  There were so many times that I held it back.  I cried so much, but I always felt like I had to be strong around her.  How stupid!  I should have cried on her shoulder, at least once in awhile!  I wish so many things, but I could have never known the future.  I thought we had many years left together!  I honored and respected her, talked to her almost daily, and I saw her often. I think she felt my support, and I know she would never want me to waste my time feeling badly.  She would want me to press forward and not to dwell on that which I cannot change.
At least once a day I think about how lucky I am.  People die every day.  Some people have lost loved ones much earlier in life.  Some people have their moms with them, but they have a troubled relationship that causes pain instead of joy.  Some people lose loved ones under far more tragic circumstances. 
When I found out how bad the cancer was and forced myself to face the possibility that mom might not make it, I prayed fervently for three things.  The first thing was that her life would be extended at least long enough for us to write up many of the incredible experiences that has had over the years...experiences that would be invaluable to her grandkids.  Mom's hand was numb, so I planned on having her dictate these stories to me so that I could type them up for her.  The second thing was that at the very least, she would be able to write a special letter to each of her grandkids.  Again, I hoped to help her with this.  Neither of these prayers were answered, which broke my heart.  But the third thing I prayed for, which was the most urgent desire of my heart, was that if the Lord was going to take her, that I might be by her side when it happened.  I am thankful that God granted me that blessing.  I needed to be there.  I had to be by her side!!  My mom has always been my best friend.  There is an empty spot in my heart that I am going to have to learn to live with.  One day, that spot will be filled again, but not for a long time. 
Dealing with this new and unexpected reality has certainly been an eye-opener for me.  I know that I will better be able to comfort others who experience similar heart-break and loss.  And I know now how strong my testimony really is. I trust Heavenly Father and am confident that he knows better than me.  I don't like that he chose to take my mom so early, but I do know that everything he does is for the good of his children.  Knowing this is what gives me the strength to carry on.  I know that she will continue to be a part of our lives and bless us in ways we don't necessarily understand right now.  I know, as Jason says, that not even death can keep my mom from her grandchildren.  I don't like that I must adjust to a new normal, but because the Savior is the rock upon which I build my life, I can and will do so successfully.  I pray that this experience will make me more capable of serving God's children, because what's the purpose of suffering if it can't be used to help someone else?  These are the things I must focus on.
Here is a cute picture of mom with Weston and Sophie during Christmas a little over two years ago:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Family Home Evening, Memorial Day 2013

The kids look forward to the end of Family Home Evening each week because we always give them a chance to share their testimony.  Sometimes their "testimony" evolves into what Weston likes to call a "testistory," which is really just a story...but we do often get some sweet and fascinating thoughts.

Weston's testimony tonight consisted of something like this:

"I know that Joseph Smith restored the church.  I also know that there is a story about the people preaching to the Lamanites, and the bad Lamanites tied them up, but the Lamanite king liked him, so the king told the guards to untie him.  And they had an arms celebration because the guy that went to the Lamanites ripped off their arms."

Sophie said:

"I know that if we get in problems then Heavenly Father and Jesus will save us."

All day long I think of their sweet and funny words, and I want to record them much more often than I do.  With mom being so suddenly gone, I am more aware of all the things I wish I had recorded all this time. I am so thankful for my sweet children!  These are pictures of mom reading to Sophie back in February the day of Brighton's baby blessing.  It is just almost impossible to fathom that she won't be an integral part of everything I do for the rest of my life.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Peaceful Passing

Mom passed away at 11:50 this morning.  This is certainly the last thing I ever wanted to have to tell you.  After her procedure on Friday, they had to leave a tube down her throat to give her full oxygen.  I know she hated that thing down her throat, especially because she couldn't talk.  Well, you all know much she loves to talk!  My Aunt Karen started using the doodle app on her iPad for mom to write with her finger to communicate.
Yesterday morning the doctor explained that the cancer was so far progressed in both of her lungs that they simply could not stop the bleeding.  I was shocked to see how much she was bleeding when we arrived yesterday! She was getting another blood transfusion when we arrived, and her grip was strong.  She felt strong.  I wanted her to talk to me so badly!  She was able to write a few things on the iPad app of the first things she wrote was that she was seeing herself healed and cancer free!  I asked her how she felt and she said peaceful.  She felt every prayer for her and was so grateful.  We read her all the texts and facebook messages that you sent yesterday.  She asked that we read her scriptures about healing.  We read scriptures for a long time.  You know how good she is at focusing on what she wants to create!  She was exerting every ounce of faith and strength in her spirit to be healed.  I know that there is absolutely NOTHING, save it be the will of God that could keep her from being healed.  She fought to the very end with dignity and courage.
Each of the grandkids got to be close to mom and hold her hands, or just slobber on her a little (maybe not a good time for a joke, but you know baby kisses are more like little slobbers)!  As soon as Sophie saw grandma, she immediately tried to hop up on the hospital bed and cuddle with her.  She wanted to so badly, but there were too many tubes and things going into various veins in her arms.  Without question, mom LOVES those kids.  I am truly sad that they will not grow up with her being a part of every important event in their lives.  That really breaks my heart.  My only consolation is that I know she will perhaps have an even greater influence on them in unseen ways now that she is not bound by a physical body.
Even when we thought she was sleeping, mom would respond to us by nodding or shaking her head or opening her eyes to gaze at us and make sure we knew she was alert and sharp.  We just sat, holding her hands, rubbing her feet and talking.  I kept searching my mind for what I should say, as though there were some grand important thing I needed to make sure she heard from me.  But since I have talked to her almost every day of my life I think she already knows everything I might possibly want her to know!  We mostly just visited about great memories we have together.
Mom's blood pressure became weak as time wore on.  They gave her medication to keep it higher, but at some point they maxed out on the amount of medication they could give effectively (meaning that they could give more, but it wouldn't do anything).  At some point in the late evening, mom was too weak to write on the iPad.  She drifted into a deep sleep that, when I think about it, was probably more like a coma as her blood pressure dropped more and more.  I kept feeling her poor chest rattle and struggle to breathe.  No blood came up during the night, but the doctor said he was certain that the lungs were filling up with it still.  At some point before she fell asleep last night she found out that her sister Sharon was flying in this morning.  The doctor had told us when we arrived yesterday that it was only a matter of hours before she would leave us, so I couldn't leave the room.  I just had to be with her.  It was amazing that she made it through the night, but I know she was waiting for Sharon to come.
When the doctor came in this morning, he told us that she was suffering and we needed to decide when to take out the oxygen thing, which was basically keeping her alive.  He urged us that the sooner the better.  I felt strongly that she did not want to go yet.  I knew she would at least want to wait for her baby sister, Sharon, to arrive.  As soon as I vocalized this, Mike agreed and mom's blood pressure almost doubled!  Even the doctor said he thought we were right, and that she could hear us talking which is why her blood pressure numbers improved.  That was reassuring.  I know, even in her weakened condition, that she felt us all there.
After saying a family prayer we decided that it was time for us to remove that awful tube in her throat.  We knew her body was in shock and that her liver was shutting down.  We felt that if through an 11th hour miracle she were going to be healed, it wouldn't really matter if the tube was in or out.  As soon as they took it out, she seemed so much more peaceful and comfortable.  I think she was ready.  We all gathered around her, holding her hands, stroking her forehead and hair, giving her kisses.  I held my daughter, Sophie, up to give grandma one last kiss.  I don't think the kids are old enough to comprehend what all that means, but I'm glad they were there.  I know mom would have wanted us to all be there, just as we were.  We felt the Spirit abiding with us, and after she took her last few breaths the room filled with an even greater feeling of peace.  It was so very peaceful, and I felt like mom won.  She was strong through the last test of her mortality.  I felt relief for her, and after a few minutes my Aunt Karen made the comment that she could feel her cheering us on already...we all agreed!
I will miss my mom cheering me on with her ever constant faith and optimism.  I will miss her voice, her embraces, her wise counsel, her encouragement.  I will miss going to visit her every week with the kids.  I will miss the way she interacted with them, and their excitement to see Grandma Ruth.  I will miss her every day for the rest of my life.  If I didn't know I would be with her again in a future day, I don't know how I would go on.  But I will see her again, and I know that the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.  My hope is in Him, for He overcame all.  How thankful I am for this knowledge.  I love my mom for teaching me to follow Jesus Christ.  She taught by example, and she has left a phenomenal legacy for her children and grandchildren to follow.
Thank you for all of your strength and prayers during this battle.  Your love and friendship has meant the world to my mom.  Tentatively, the funeral (aka celebration of mom's life) will be held Wednesday morning, May 22, in Las Vegas.  I will continue to update you in the near future.
Meanwhile, please email me your favorite memory and picture you have with mom if you would like.  I want to put something together if possible, and I would like each of you to help with this.  My email address is
Thank you again for everything.
Much love!