Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Congratulations and Condolences

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything." ~C.S. Lewis





Its been two weeks since we lost Mom. She left this world the day after we heard our baby's heartbeat for the very first time, at 3:15 am, during the full lunar eclipse. The hospice nurse woke us up by knocking on our door and I made it into the living room just after she had taken her last breath. Nathan was right behind me, and my father and brother were already by her side. We did not yet know that it was her last breath, until she did not take another. I used my hands to close her eyes, like they do in the movies. We held hands and prayed, and stayed with her until 7 am when they came to take her away. I took one last photo of us together.


With the loss of Mom came a profound sadness that quickly enveloped me and now permeates everything I do. I thought it would be easier because I knew it was coming. It's not. Being awake is difficult. Sleeping is difficult. And it's there all of the time, like I'm wearing a really heavy, wet blanket.

When I returned to work after the bereavement leave, I had to call a classroom for a student. The substitute who answered was a little behind on the news and exclaimed "Congratulations!" Oh yeah, I'm pregnant I thought. Dreaming about this baby and the future does help somewhat, but is quickly followed by emptiness knowing I will not be able to share it with Mom. Not only is it a loss for me, but it's a loss for our children who will miss out on being babysat by the kindest, happiest, most patient grandmother under the sun. My heart aches knowing they will only know her through stories.

It's such a strange time in my life because what would have been the happiest time has now turned into the saddest time. One of the toughest times is when I would normally call her: on my way to work, home from work and on my lunch walks. We spoke every day of my adult life.

This loss has stirred in me more of a desire to believe in something after this life and cultivate my faith. I went to mass and a prayer event on Saturday at one church, and mass on Sunday at another. I met with a Chaplin for two hours, signed up for a grief counseling group through the church, started reading the Bible, and C.S. Lewis A Grief Observed. Still, I remain skeptical and fearful that all we have on this earth may really be all we have. If that's the case, Mom is gone forever. I don't want that. I want her to be somewhere, anywhere, and I want to be reunited with her when I die.

The Chaplin I met with hit the nail on the head when she said that I seem frustrated with myself for not having faith. I am. I want so desperately to believe, but it does not come easy to me. Just when I seem to be making progress and inching along, a question pops into my mind like "But what about the dinosaurs? Why did God create them?" 

Her funeral is this Saturday, with burial (of remains, instead of internment) at Arlington National Cemetery in Riverside on Monday.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

List: Inanimate Objects That Now Make Me Sad

As September turned to October, Mom really started to decline. She started sleeping over 20 hours a day, and was no longer sitting up or eating. When my father lifted her, she could not hold her head up. When she talked, she was hard to understand. Most days, I found myself feeling like I had already lost her. While her energetic life-force was dimming, her smile and sweetness remained, even when she was asleep. It is truly something to behold, and happened all last week even in the absence of any pain medication.

I remind myself to look at the glass half-full because that is what she has always done in every circumstance throughout her entire life. Instead of focusing on the great void her death will leave, I look at everything we have and will always have, because she was ours. I remind myself, as she often did throughout her treatment, that even children get cancer. While she is still far too young, she's had a rich, full life. Not a life filled with material things, but instead, the things that really matter.

Even so, sadness has started popping up everywhere. Countering it and re-framing it with thoughts like the ones above can be exhausting and only goes so far when it starts to become like the whack-a-mole game. Sometimes, it's okay to be sad about the loss I am already experiencing and the greater loss I am anticipating.

Below is a list of inanimate objects that have suddenly started to make me really sad. I'm hoping that one day, I will look back on this list and feel a connection with her instead of this suffocating sadness.
  • Shampoo and Conditioner. I ran out of mine, and grabbed hers from her bathroom, borrowing them as I would have done when she was healthy. As I was washing my hair last week, I was struck with a profound sadness because she bought the economy size bottles. Little did she know when she bought them that she would not finish them.
  • Lays potato chips. Her favorite. Passed these in the airport and they glared at me.
  • Tustin Tiller Days. A local carnival we went to last year. They started promoting and when they put up the signs and I drove by them and thought of our memories, the sadness struck me in my stomach.
  • Overhearing girls/women be rude to their Moms. No explanation needed.
  • Gift shop souvenirs. I went to the Smithsonian last week, and seeing pretty, pink flower earrings I would normally have bought for her broke my heart.
  • Photos of her. Especially after her diagnosis, when everything still seemed okay. Looking at them hurts. Where did she go?
  • Plants. All of her plants through out our house and backyard, especially the pregnant onion because she was so excited to show me the babies. I imagine planting them with my son or daughter some day, and ache because she won't be there.
  • Handicap placard. Opened my glove box the other day looking for a pen and realized there would be no more fun trips.
  • Christmas decorations. How will I put her decorations up? How could I not?
Though these things are hard, I know a thousand more will pop up once we loose her. And though I have anticipatory grief right now, I'm certain it will be nothing like the real thing when it arrives. We finally have continuous hospice care. Someone is by her side 24 hours a day now, and they can tell if she is in pain even by just a facial expression. She is transitioning, and they anticipate her time left on this earth to be 24-48 hours.