Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Measure Every Grief I Meet

I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.

I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.

I wonder if when years have piled--
Some thousands--on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;

Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.

The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies,--
Death is but one and comes but once
And only nails the eyes.

There's grief of want, and grief of cold,--
A sort they call 'despair,'
There's banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.

And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,

To note the fashions of the cross
Of those that stand alone
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own.

-Emily Dickinson "I Measure Every Grief I Meet"

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My story: part II

Once again, this is how I remember it. I'm not perfect so please don't think that this story is. :)

Okay, where did I leave off? My mom was sent to the hospital because her eyes were yellow and the doctors did some testing...(here's the full thing if you need to catch up: Part I)


Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. -Winston Churchill
My mom ended up staying in the hospital for a little bit so that the doctors could figure out what was wrong. I went back to Salt Lake and school because the doctors had sent her home.
That means that she was fine, right?

For the next few months doctors poked her and took samples of everything to try and figure this thing out. Finally, the week of July 4th, when I was in Philadelphia visiting some friends, away from home and my family, my dad called me to tell me that my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He didn't give me details just the comfort that she would have to do chemo, radiation and surgery to beat this thing.
I remember feeling shocked but slightly hopeful because my dad said that she could fight it, and he's a doctor so he knows, right?

At this point in my life I was more concerned with establishing my independence than recognizing that this was a crisis. Life expectancy for pancreatic cancer patients is about 5-8 months and in 2009 alone claimed almost 34,000 lives, including my mom's. It is the number 4 on the deadliest cancer list and is recognized as one of the more painful cancers because it attaches itself to blood vessels and nerves quickly. I've done my research since but at the time I just trusted my dad and took comfort in my ignorance.

When I got home I sat down with my family to discuss what was going to happen next. My mom seemed so optimistic about everything and kept reassuring me that she would be fine and I completely believed her. She told me that she was going to have a Whipple procedure in August to get out the "big stuff" followed by chemo and radiation to kill anything remaining, all with a big smile on her face, like always. Just writing it out makes me realize how foolish I was to believe that she wasn't scared to death.
She's my mom and invincible, if she says she can do something she will, right?

Me, being the self absorbed teenager that I was, went about my business of college life. Taking calculus tests, dating idiotic boys, going to parties, not going to class, sleeping in, driving down to see my family when I felt like it, meeting new friends, running for student government, you know, the usual. I wasn't close to my mom at this point. I had mostly butted heads with my parents in high school and was on a quest to distance myself from them and be who I wanted to be. (I hope this sounds familiar to some of you and I'm not the only self centered teenager)

As my mom's surgery date came I went to Lagoon (a run down theme park in North SLC) like any self respecting girl would do. Actually, to defend myself a bit, my entire family was there. My mom didn't want us to wait in the hospital for the entire day and my dad's work was having a party so we went on roller coaster rides as my mom was having surgery.

After surgery and Lagoon we went to visit her after hours in the ICU where she was hooked up to all kinds of machines and drugs. She was half awake, half asleep the entire time. I cried a lot that night. Not in front of her though.
She was being strong so I needed to be too, right?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Kathy's memories

Before my mom passed away she set up an incredible support group for me. It consists of my mom's closest friends and family and I call them my "Lovely Ladies" because they are now some of my closest friends. The night after my mom's funeral we all went out to dinner to start our new chapter together. I am so grateful for my mom knowing that I'd need those women because boy do I!

One lovely lady is Kathy Cheesman. She lives about 2 blocks away from my parent's house and loved visiting my mom. She would run errands for my mom, sit by her side and keep her company for hours and was an all around amazing friend. Kathy and I have been emailing regularly since my mom passed away and her emails are always very sweet. She somehow puts so many of my feelings into words so much better than I ever could. Here are 2 snipits from her that especially touched me and made me cry like a baby. (I asked her permission to use the January 17th one but not the February one so Kathy I hope you don't mind. It just made me bawl and I couldn't resist making other people cry too.) I hope you enjoy!

January 17th 
It's just not the same is it?  But how could it be when such an important person in your life is now gone from your everyday life.  I'm sorry and I feel for you.  I'm so glad your dad created a good Christmas the best that he could.  You are so smart to go to a counselor and to create your blog.  Is the counseling helping you?  What a great idea and I will try to contribute even though I basically just email and I'm not very computer savy!  I have missed Vickie very much and I mentioned her in my testimony this past month.  Our ward enjoyed the articles that she wrote each month for our newsletter and I shared a few thoughts on one titled coping strategies.  Mainly asking myself how I'm coping with the challenges in my life.  It made me self evaluate and also brought back memories of Vickie calling and us sharing ideas about her articles etc.  I saved several of them and encouraged her to save them and put them in a notebook so maybe your could ask your dad and there would be a piece of your moms writings.  There is a void for me too Krystal.  I have had some dreams about your mom and a few times felt her presence and I'm thankful for those experiences.  I'll tell you today at choir practice I thought of her and her beautiful voice and love of music and singing.  I had a deja vous moment of both of us at choir and yes it made me miss her.  I miss my friend and I told her there would be a void when she was gone and boy was I right!!!  I got teary just reading your blog and seeing her picture so don't feel bad about tears.  It is a compliment to be missed and time helps to keep us moving forward and help the wound to heal but leave a loving scar of rememberance. (that's my thinking)  Try not to be too hard on yourself after all this is your mom we're talking about and it's a very major adjustment in your life.  Sounds to me like you are taking some very productive steps to healing in the right direction Krystal.

February 2nd
Thinking back to when our son Travis left on his mission I can't help but remember this so I'll share it with you.
Your mom and I talked about our kids etc often as you know how moms are and she was excited and nervous for me about Travis going on his mission.  He was going to Costa Rica Spanish speaking.  I was going to have two missionaries out at the same time.  As time went on and her health and energy depleted she would forget about his leaving and I never brought it up because I felt there were more important issues to deal with in her life and other things for us to talk about.  I usually talked to her every day and stopped by the house often but I remember telling her on Monday April 20 I would see her on Wednesday.  I knew the day before Travis leaving would be crazy.  Anyway we took him to the MTC and went through all of our goodbyes etc.  The minute I came home from the MTC I told my family I'm going over to see Vickie.  I also remember having the most massive headache because of the many emotions I was feeling for people I deeply cared about.  (I'm sure you've had those massive emotional headaches too)  This was Wednesday April 22 and your mom was more medicated and not speaking too much.  I came over and kneeled on the floor by her holding her hand and talking to her because I knew she was aware of me being there and could understand everything I was saying.  I said" Vickie guess where I just came back from?  We took Travis to the MTC."  Oh Krystal her face lit up and she tried to talk.  I said "don't worry about talking but yes this is the day and he's in the MTC."  Anyway, I share this with you because she was a true friend who even at that moment when she was dying she had joy and excitement and sadness for me and remembered what was going on in my life.  Her expression said it all and her efforts to try and talk let me know of her love for me and my family.  OK I'm sorry if I made you teary over this story.  I'm assuming you are because . . . yes I am but I am also reminded of the many tender loving memories and experiences I have with your mom even though we didn't get to do a lot of the things we talked about or I planned on doing with her.  You are a good kind friend too Krystal and your mom was a good example to you in that respect.  True friendship is so important and necessary for all of us, so I share this with you as a positive tribute to your amazing mom and my dear friend!

Love you Kathy!!!