December 21st…

Two years ago…it happened.

As I was thinking about what to write today I got really stuck. I wasn’t sure what direction to go. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to emphasize the heartache that we all still feel very acutely, or if I wanted to assure everyone that we are doing well, thriving even…which is true. I thought about telling stories about my parents, which I love to do, but I didn’t know which ones to pick, none of them really seem to be good enough. I almost decided to give an update on all of us, but that just didn’t feel right this time. I know I did it last year but that was when we were all still nursing our many physical injuries. This year has been more about healing our emotional wounds.

The moment my parents died my heart ripped in two. One side filled with heartache and the other just broke. Sometimes I lie awake at night, when the world is fast asleep and take a walk down memory lane. Remembering them is easy, I do it everyday, missing them is hard.

I know that sounds really deep, but it is true. However, there are a few things that have brought all of us a little bit of peace. I can’t remember if I’ve shared this before, if I have please forgive me. My parents were incredibly prepared for…anything. Their will was set up impeccably, and allowed us to put their inheritance in a trust fund rather than have it appear to be income, which permitted us to keep the money instead of paying for all of our medical care out of pocket. But more profoundly are the steps that my mom took in case something happened to her. Let me emphasize that my mom was 57, in good health, and had no real reason to fear anything coming on so quickly. In their so called “death file” my mom had prepared a few things for all of us.

The first was a ring. Engraved around the outside it says: Jessie I am always with you. My siblings have similar rings. The second is that we each received a tiny little angel charm to go under our pillow so that my mom and dad can meet us in our dreams, and protect us in our sleep. The third was a message, written on a Post-it note, reminding us of a few things.The modified version reads (some things are just for us:-) ):

  • Share/split our possessions – store what you may want someday – let go of the rest
  • Stay close to each other – force yourselves even when you don’t feel like it – unconditional acceptance, support, & love will keep you connected & are lifetime gifts to treasure & take care of
  • Know that we are watching over you always. You don’t think I would let go of that, do you? 🙂 -And that the biggest, greatest, most wonderful gifts of my life were… YOU. ❤
  • You will be OK – you are all strong & centered. Be happy.
  • I love you forever & ever.

I hope that this inspires you to do something similar for your loved ones. This has been the most beautiful gift to us.

A while ago I came across this article on NPR All Things Considered and it really touched me. No matter what your faith is, it is always reassuring to have science back up what is in your heart. Aaron Freeman is a commentator and American journalist that gave this NPR performance titled Planning Ahead Can Make a Difference in the End. I’ve changed just a couple words to personalize this just a bit. I hope that NPR and Mr. Freeman will be okay with that and understand that I am using it in in the spirit that it was delivered.

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing children about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your daughters to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved mother remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping son that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would remind everyone that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your children are comforted in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let them know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are their eyes, that those photons created within their constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.
Here is a link to the original:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4675953

So, in the spirit of Tim and Cheryl light a candle tonight and let it burn bright and give your loved ones a kiss knowing that nothing quite lasts forever. Mom and dad loved the holidays; they had a way of inviting everyone into the folds of our family. You don’t get to pick your family, but you only get one. Treasure the good things in each other and have a very Merry Christmas!!!

And of course I wanted to include this video again – I LOVE seeing them.

Jer’s Turn

Some of you may know this already but Jeremy recently spent Thanksgiving week in the hospital. The Monday before Thanksgiving he was having severe stomach pain so one of his roommates took him to the local hospital in Spokane (where he currently attends University). The doctors initially thought it was appendicitis, so at 10:30 PM they admitted him into the hospital and prepped him for surgery.

At this time our nuclear family (Aunt Terry, Jaime & Steven, and myself) were all working together to make sure that someone was there when he woke up from surgery! All of us certainly understand the importance of having someone there when you wake up from anesthesia! imageSo Aunt Terry and Jaime jumped in the car and headed over the pass. I’m still not sure how they stayed awake, I understand Jaime knitted an entire sweater on the way, and I know Aunt Terry loves Christmas tunes so much and I’m guessing that might’ve been enough to keep her going.

They made it in time to see Jeremy when he came out of surgery. The surgeon came out and told them that when they got in and began looking at the appendix they noticed

that it was not a problem, but while they were in there they did notice that his intestines were severely inflamed. I imagine that the conversation went something like this – hey Bill, this thing looks fine, I am poking at it right now but… whoa, this over here looks severely jacked up. Theyimage removed 4 inches of the small intestine and 4 inches of his cecum. All of this is consistent with Crohn’s disease.

Jeremy was tired and sore but started recovering nicely. Wednesday, Aunt Terry and Jaime headed back and I tagged in to spend Thursday through Sunday there. Thanksgiving consisted of Carl’s Jr. for me, and ice chips and the Hawks game for Jer. Can you believe Carl’s Jr. is open on Thanksgiving!? Don’t worry, we are doing a make up Thanksgiving later. Jeremy continued to recover slowly, for a few days he had trouble keeping any liquids down but his body became strong enough to walk laps around the nurses station.

Something my mom has always said about Jeremy is that he is an impeccable judge of character. This really showed through in a few ways during that week. imageThe first is that he had a revolving door of friends willing to come visit him in the hospital. For most of the visits he just slept and his buddies sat by his side for a bit and silently and stoically let him know that they were there for him. As he began feeling better he was able to sit up and joke with them, he got many cards of well wishes, and his sweet little “basically a” sister made him a Seahawks blanket so he didn’t have to use the hospital stuff. All of his friends were gracious, kindimage to all the staff, and super respectful of everything that was going on. If you are Jeremy’s friend, you can sleep safe knowing that you have a kind heart because he chooses his friends carefully.

The other thing that really demonstrated Jeremy’s character through this is how he treated all the doctors and nurses. Even in pain, he always said please and thank you, he definitely advocated for himself when he needed something but was thoughtful about the timing. As a hospital veteran I find this such a wonderful thing because if you can believe it…there were times in the hospital when I definitely was not using please and thank you in my vocabulary! Hard to believe, I know!

Many people have given us lots of advice on Crohn’s, we appreciate all the knowledge and are putting it in our memory banks. However, what Jeremy has decided to do is focus his treatment plan decisions with his doctor. It is nice to have information, but it gets confusing when some people say wheat, other people say no wheat, some say medicine, some don’t, some say fly like a bird, some people say walk like a dog 🙂 It’s super confusing. Here is what we do know:

Crohn’s belongs to a group of conditions called inflammatory bowel disease (IFB). It is a chronic imageinflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Under normal circumstances our immune system attacks and kills foreign viruses, bacteria, fungus, and other microorganisms; our bodies are usually able to distinguish the difference between the good bacteria and bad bacteria. In people with Crohn’s the good bacteria is mistaken for harmful invaders and the immune system prepares to attack! Cells come out of the blood and into the intestines to create inflammation and build a wall of defense against the enemy. In Crohn’s, the body’s defense system remains up and the inflamed bowel continues to stay vigilant against the attackers. Unfortunately, science has not discovered what causes Crohn’s, but have determined that various stimuli may trigger it (which is why he is working so closely with his doctor), affecting all individuals differently. For instance, it might be bacteria, something in your intestines, or family history. Most likely it is a combination of all three. Crohn’s is a chronic disease, which means he will have it for life. However, sometimes the disease can be in remission, with no symptoms at all (fingers crossed).

You will be happy to know that Jer is home and in Bothell, relaxing, and is back to his little brother antics again. His professors have been super understanding, and he is finishing up the last of his schoolwork before the quarter ends.image

And, as always, thank you so much for supporting our family! It is crazy just how much love we have. Your comments, and little gestures of acknowledgment mean so much to all of us :-).

Keep on, keeping on!