Friday, September 26, 2008

Broken Hearted

Dad, Tony and I at the Hope Gala

When I was a junior in high school, my grandmother, my dad's mother, was suffering from bone cancer. I remember sitting at the kitchen counter studying my biology book trying desperately to memorize all of the bones in the human body. My dad glanced over my shoulder and asked if he could borrow my book. The next day my dad carried my large text book into his mother's oncologists' office and in exasperation asked the doctor to explain exactly which bones were affected by the cancer. The doctor quietly took a highlighter and methodically colored nearly every bone of the pictured skeleton. I think my dad needed a visual to adequately understand his mother's diagnosis.

I find myself in what I imagine to be that same place of shock and disbelief. I thought I was ready. I have known this day was coming for a year and a half, and yet learning that we are at the end of the road treatment-wise has brought a new sense of grief. My dad's cancer is now in his bone marrow, so effectually, the picture of his skeleton can also be colored from head to toe. The beast he has been fighting so diligently, for so long, has at last overcome, despite his best efforts.

The week has been long and there are more emotions than words. So many moments this week and the witnessing of my dad's suffering in his final days, have brought me to my knees.

It was on Tuesday when we met as a family to try to figure out the best care for dad. He, who so rarely shows emotion, choked up on several occassions. Witnessing such vulnerability and humility is heart wrenching. I cried, which upset him. Then I felt guilty for crying. It should be me lifting him up rather than the other way around.

It was on Thursday at the American Cancer Society's Hope Gala where my dad was honored with the Sword of Hope Award. Seeing my dad in a wheelchair for the first time, smiling despite the pain. Watching him insist on walking un-assisted to the podium to accept his award and deliver a charming, witty speech more true to his larger than life character than his frail body portrayed.

It was Sunday witnessing my sweet husband and kind brother administer to him. Jon's tender words of peace and comfort which bore witness to my heart of truths I hold dear. It is watching those promised blessings and tender mercies come to fruition one by one and knowing my Heavenly Father is mindful of him, of me and my entire family.

It is the voicemail message Monday night, left from his hospital bed for Cole, wanting to dissect the Chargers game and celebrate Weddle's interception.

It was on Tuesday watching Miles snuggle with him at the hospital; Miles content to lay with him, Dad stroking his cheeks repeatedly as if to memorize his face.

It was Wednesday, watching the hospital bed be delivered to his home and then helping to bring him home from the hospital. His struggle to walk and to get into his new bed. He wore his sunglasses and neatly pressed golf shirt and shorts. He cracked a joke once he caught his breath, turning our tears to laughter. He is still the same man, but oh how his body betrays him.

It was on Thursday as I held his hand and told him a secret. His blue eyes sparkled and joyful tears leaked onto his cheeks as he winked at me.

It was last night holding the small sobbing shoulders of my twelve year old son as he grieved his beloved grandfather.

Each day brings a new moment of heart break, of remembering, of gratitude. Each day in my grief I feel angel arms around me bolstering me. It is in the meals which magically appear on my kitchen counter, the tender emails, kind phone calls and flowers. It is in the daily phone calls with my mother and each of my brothers and sweet sisters in law. It is in Tony's constant support and care of me. I feel loved. I feel lifted.

"It is imperative to remember He is right there with us as He has always been. When we weep, He and the angels of Heaven weep with us...When suffering, we may in fact be nearer to God than we have been in our entire lives...Bad days come to an end. Faith always triumphs. Heavenly promises are always kept." Jeffrey R. Holland

Even in my heartbreak, I know it is true.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Beautiful Life

I arrived home this afternoon to a beautiful bouquet of roses from my sweet husband. There they were nestled among the breakfast dishes, the scattered newspaper and crust from my morning toast. We celebrated our anniversary this past weekend in Jackson Hole and yet he still made the effort to make today special.

I put the baby to bed and quickly called my dad to see how his appointment at the pain clinic had gone. His new drug regimen made him particularly loquacious and he had a lot to say. At times I struggled to follow his pattern of thought and even wondered about his lucidity. But then he paused and wished me happy anniversary. "How many years?"

"Fourteen". I replied.

"Jill, you have a beautiful life with Tony. I'm proud of you. I'm proud of all the things you do and have accomplished together. Keep living the way you are."

I hung up the phone and wept. It is very rare for my dad to compliment me, or anyone for that matter. Rarer still for him to tell you he is proud of you. He was raised with the mantra that a pat on the back will spoil you, so it always, always takes me back when he sincerely and openly praises me. Perhaps his words meant more today knowing that I won't be having this same conversation with him next year on my anniversary.

I went to work cleaning the kitchen and making lunch. I visited Tony in his office and told him I wasn't feeling well. He told me to lie down, take a nap, take it easy, we could have leftovers for dinner.

I did just that and quickly found sleep, waking just in time to run the after school carpool.

The leftovers are in the oven now. Tony is out mowing the lawn with Miles close behind. Rachel and Cole are both gone for the evening, absorbed in dance and football practice. The house is quiet, rain slowly beginning to fall outside.

I am overwhelmed in the abundance of my life. Amongst the chaos of children and dishes and laundry to fold, my sweet husband would rather see me take care of myself and get the rest I need than attend to my chores. He happily lets Miles "help" him mow the lawn. He drives my carpool anytime I ask. He listens to me, he loves me, he makes me feel safe. Our life isn't perfect. We have weathered many storms and I know many difficult days are closing in on us. But I know he'll be there. I know he will strengthen me and give 100% on those days when I can only give 5%. I believe in him. I believe in us, and in the life we have created together.

It is a beautiful life.

Day in and day out.

Happy Anniversary to my best friend. Thank you for giving me our beautiful life.