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I hate cancer, I hate even more that kids get it and die, but I am amazed everytime I read one of Kerry's journal pages, amazed at the lives Sicily touched and the many many more she will touch when Kerry gets this book written. I for one cannot wait to read it. God just feels bigger every time I read her words. I sent a card to them last week to let them know they are still in my prayers and will continue to be.
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough! Chemo Angel
Long overdue...I know! So of course this means it will take a good chunk of your time to read. Just say'in!
Believe me when I say I miss sitting down to journal and unload some of the heaviness I carry in my heart. I know Chuck Yeager already broke the sound barrier before I even took my first breath, but do to the speed at which our lives seem to be going right now, we are coming close to breaking our own record of some sort. I'm not sure what might break, unless it's my sanity. I think I still have a pretty good hold on it for the mean time, although it's getting shaken up quite a bit lately! Mostly my own doing.
I need to learn to be a better manager of my own time, because I don't like feeling my life passing by at such a fast pace. I wish I had, among many other things, a pause button to push when our lives seem to be going too fast. I've wished at times for the chance to rewind a few areas of our lives, as well. But rewinding and replaying a part over and over again will not change what eventually happens. Often times when we let ourselves rewind we pull up things we wished we would have done differently. We allow that guilt or remorse to weigh us down, which inadvertently affects our today and our tomorrow.
What I have also discovered, however, in a more positive light, is by “replaying” certain life experiences, I am able to clearly see God in every bit of my life...the people and experiences He has connected me to and let me have. I understand better why certain events have taken place and why He put certain people in my life at any given point. I admittedly feel shame for recognizing God's companionship more in hindsight than for my desire and ability to look for Him in foresight, or more importantly, in the here and now...something I am working on daily! It is hard to always do when life is in play, when we have “this” to do or “that place” to be. I have even at times with admitted guilt wished for a quick press of the fast forward button, like right now. Can we please fast forward to Fall and skip these 105 degree temps with 115 heat index? I miss opening the blinds in our house to let the sunshine in...the light and warmth that makes me feel closer to Sicily. Instead, we are tripping around a semi-dark house in the middle of the day in hopes of keeping it cool. Yes, I am a heat wimp! I do melt, contrary to what I was told growing up...I WILL end up as a puddle on the sidewalk if left out in the sun too long! This will also happen if I am allowed to watch “Steal Magnolias” or any other sappy chick flick when left to my own devices. But that is a whole other chapter!
God won't allow me to fast forward through the parts of my life that I don't like or that make me feel uncomfortable as they, too, are opportunities to learn, grow, appreciate and possibly evoke change. Right now I am very appreciative of my closed blinds and working air conditioner! I am thankful for both, and more!
It's been almost two weeks since I last journaled. We were preparing to drive the five hour round trip to Kansas and Sicily's grave site to release the butterflies on the four month anniversary of her death. See, I am working at making myself stronger by just typing words that have been hard to say, read or write. To say, “Sicily's death” still has a strangeness attached to it somehow. Maybe it will always feel strange and never have a natural flow. Never-the-less, I am working at not avoiding those two words put side by side and in the same sentence. It is part of the healing process. Some days I am not bothered by those two words. Other days, I feel the pain as if it just happened yesterday. I let the tears roll and head to the medicine cabinet to dose myself with sinus allergy meds. When I cry too much, I end up with sinus problems. Go figure. You think I'd learn to avoid crying, but that won't do me any good in the long run. I will just keep the makers of the generic brand of allergy medicine I use in business for a quite some time! My tears = My healing!
The butterfly release was incredible. Once again I feel inept to find the right words to describe how BEAUTIFUL it all was. We were surrounded by family and friends...I believe there were approximately thirty of us there. Considering it was the middle of the day during the middle of the week, I did not have high expectations of a huge crowd. What we had was perfect and I learned more about God's perfection through this experience. I did a little research that was spawned by a comment a friend made in the guest book. I had written that we had seven butterflies viable for flight out of a possible ten cocoons. She shared that “seven” is known as the number of “spiritual perfection.” We had eight butterflies hatch, but the eighth and final butterfly emerged with completely underdeveloped wings and stood no chance at surviving in nature.
I marvel, in hindsight, of course, at the lessons God intended for me to learn through these butterflies. That eighth butterfly was just as important to me, if not more, than those seven other healthy butterflies that would soon take flight. I was able to keep the deformed butterfly alive with sugar water droplets on a carnation flower. This was how we fed all the butterflies while they were in our care. I just made sure I placed one of the flowers close to this butterfly at all times so it could feed. It was amazing to watch. It lopsidedly swaggered close to the flower and was able to sustain its own life. I knew this would not be the case once we took the butterflies to Kansas. I knew this butterfly would die shortly after placing it on Sicily's grave, but I was okay with that. I wanted to keep it alive as long as possible and it meant so much to me to lay it there above the ground were Sicily lay and know that it, too, would find its final resting place. I know this may all sound simple and sappy, but the symbolism to me was amazing.
The release of the “ spiritually perfect” seven was healing. That twenty first day on the calendar, that I had begun to dread, turned out to be wonderful. It put me on a high that continued for several days. As I stood by Sicily's spot of land with the butterflies patiently awaiting their freedom, I read a couple of short passages I had prepared for the occasion: (I apologize that it is a little long. I truly am a windbag!)
"We were gifted this butterfly kit from a friend...the mother of a little boy who also passed away from Wilm's Tumor last year. I had to send off for the larvae, or caterpillars, and was able to request when I would like to have them delivered. I wrote down on the little postcard, July 6th. July 6th came and went, as did the rest of the week with no delivery of the larvae. I decided not to worry too much about not being able to “raise” our own butterflies as we were enjoying the addition of a beautiful black, yellow and blue winged visitor in our backyard.
Monday, July 12th, I went to check the mail and found a small brown box sitting in our mailbox. I knew immediately what the contents of this box contained. I opened it quickly to find two clear plastic cups with white lids and a mess of unrecognizable stuff inside. The kids and I studied it for awhile, then placed the cups high up on the roll top desk above the computer in our home office. Hopefully, a safe distance from our curious cat, as well as a convenient location to keep them under surveillance. By Friday afternoon, to our huge surprise, a couple of the cocoons seemed to have been vacated. We rushed to set up the net covered laundry shaped basket that would serve as their habitat until we could release them.
Over the next day and a half, a total of eight winged insects escaped the confines of their cocoons, but only seven became viable to fly. We were expecting to observe their metamorphosis for a few weeks instead of a few days. It became apparent to us that we would have to plan their release date a.s.a.p. My heart filled with happiness, as well as an understanding of God's plan, when I looked at the calendar to see the date of July 21st right around the corner. This is the number on the calendar that I found myself dreading each month. The number that seemed to take the wind out of my sails every time it came about. But not this time. For on July 21st, the four month anniversary of Sicily's passing, we were going to get to release seven butterflies at her grave site!
"I believe it is no coincidence that we are getting to release seven butterflies. The number seven is known as the number of spiritual perfection. In Hebrew, it means to be full; satisfied; to have enough. There are seven colors in the spectrum of a rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet). There are seven notes on a musical scale (do, re, me, fa, so, la, te). There are seven days in a week, seven continents on earth...what I'm trying to say is that the importance of the number seven is relevant here. I had hoped more butterflies would emerge but learned that seven of them is what God had intended. These seven are sufficient! They are all we need!
"I have grown to love the symbolism of the butterfly for so many reasons. They symbolize change and new life. My favorite representation is the comparison applied to the stages of a butterflies transformation and that of our own lives. The butterfly starts out as an egg, as we begin life from the womb. The soon-to-be butterfly then takes on its first major change into a caterpillar, in which it feeds and sleeps and grows. This is our life through adulthood. It is then wrapped in the chrysalis or cocoon where life does not seem to be present. This is our body when we die. But the butterflies life, the life it worked so hard to create, is not over. The best is yet to come. Soon it begins to break free from the physical bindings and spreads its wings to takes flight. This is our soul when it is released from our physical bodies and enters into heaven where we have eternal life. This is why in many cultures, the butterfly represents the soul."
“Butterflies beckon us to keep our faith as we undergo transitions in our lives!”
“The butterfly counts not months, but in moments and has time enough.” Unknown
I will sign off for now. The next two days will consist of running kids to pick up their schedules and hunting down school supplies. They start on August 12th...I think it stinks! I am not ready to face an empty house again, but plan on working on my time management skills which will include blocking off time during the day to work on THE BOOK! I am a little ready for some sort of schedule that having the kids in school forces me into! I mentally have a full agenda of things I'd like to do and accomplish, but will allow for a little deviance! I'm no fun if I have to be rigid...and if I'm not allowed some fun, well, let's just not try that! ; )
God bless you all! He is with you all the time...just look!
Thank you for posting this msg about the butterfly release. I read it at lunch time at my office and actually had to take a break to the ladies room because I thought I would start sobbing out loud. It touched me and brought back a fresh grief of my own -- and yet joy mingled with it. Hard to describe. I do appreicate the time you take to share these things.
__________________ Louise Bergmann DuMont
Author, Speaker, Serious About Her Coffee, Lover of all that is Chocolate...
Worshiper of El Shaddai (The All Sufficient One)
Friday, August 13, 2010 4:58 PM, CDT
School is in session. The kids headed back to the classroom yesterday, August 12th, and I continue each day to be a student in the classroom of life…under God’s instructions. I knew this was going to be an emotional period for me with Corinthian, Isabella and Elias returning to their daily school schedules and the fact that Sicily would have started kindergarten. I allowed myself to feel and do whatever was necessary to get through it. My emotions came into strong play starting late Tuesday afternoon when Patrick and I escorted Elias to his elementary school to meet his new third grade teacher. As we headed toward the direction of his classroom we passed by the rooms marked “Kindergarten.” It was hard not to wonder which classroom would’ve been hers and who her teacher might have been.
Sicily could not wait to start kindergarten and ride a big yellow bus to school like she’d watched her siblings do the past two years. She was more than going to be ready. I had that familiar knot in my throat as we walked past those rooms and I began to pray that I could get through the next fifteen minutes of the day without totally losing it. I didn’t make it.
We entered Elias’ classroom to find an attractive young woman who introduced herself as his teacher. I immediately felt a good vibe. She already seemed like someone Elias would bond with and I needed to feel that. As Elias and Patrick stood and chatted with her, I sat and filled out the necessary paperwork. It was the usual list of questions I’ve become accustomed to filling out for the past twelve or so years (counting back since Corinthian was in preschool). I could feel my lips begin to quiver and the familiar tears burning my eyes when I read the last question on the final page…“Is there anything special I need to know about you child?” I knew what needed to be written…what had to be written. But how do you explain and describe or put into words what I needed to share with this new teacher, who was totally unaware of what we, as a family, and Elias, as a big brother, have endured with the loss of our precious daughter and his little sister?
Because it was upsetting me so much, and at the same time I knew I needed to write something, I wrote it plain and simple. I actually can’t even remember the exact words, but it was something along the lines of, “In March, Elias lost his little sister, Sicily, to pediatric cancer.” As I sat and struggled writing these words as the tears blurred my vision, Patrick verbalized to the new teacher what I was in the process of writing. I couldn’t talk much. The reality of it all still hits sometimes like an earthquake and continues to shake the world around me. And like an earthquake, I have little or no warning when my strength begins to tremble and crumble a little. God has built and reinforced me to withstand a great deal during such earthquakes. His form of stabilization comes in the faces, words and actions of family, friends and perfect strangers. I’ll explain more in detail shortly.
Though my face continued to be stained with tears, precious Elias still managed to conjure up the need for laughter. I had a very good “craughing” moment (crying and laughing together) before we left his new classroom. When his teacher innocently asked him if he was ready for school to start, his split second response was, “I wasn’t until I found out YOU are going to be my teacher”…this being said with a confident smirk on his face. Poor gal, she is going to have her hands full! You have to love this kid! Scoring brownie points right from the get go! I also have to mention that he had an apple in his backpack for her on the first day of school. He’s a charmer, that one!
I have been doing pretty good lately at “trying” to live in the day and not let my worrywart personality control things and get too far ahead of the present. I’m still a complete work in progress in the area, and will be for a long time, I imagine, but it really feels good to “Let go and let God!” That’s what this truly is. It is an amazing way to live. I’ve tasted the success and only crave it more. I hope and pray this becomes a permanent practice because it just makes life better…simpler…free-er! But at the same time, it is work. As the old saying goes, “Anything worthwhile is worth working on”…or something along that idea.
Yesterday morning, getting the three kids ready for school went like clockwork. They were all anxious and excited, in a good way. Corinthian was ready to start his “high school” career. I still can’t believe he is in high school. He is almost as tall as I am and his voice has really deepened. He is truly turning into an incredible young man. Watching him mature and grow into this world around him is a goose bump producing experience for me. I want to enjoy every single moment around him (all the while giving him needed space and breathing room) as I know the next four years will fly by, despite my pleas for slow motion.
Isabella is coming into her own, as well, as a soon-to-be-official teenager. She is sweet and loving and concerned about my emotional state at all times. When she is aware of a situation that might affect me or stir my emotions, she is the first to ask, “Mom, are you okay?” In addition to the “light” eye shadow she was allowed to begin wearing last year, late this summer she asked if she could try mascara before entering seventh grade. We are on the road these days to learning how to remove the black mess to avoid waking up every morning with raccoon eyes. Not there yet. It may take some time, but she is asserting her independence in the matter and I have to let her. Before she heads out the door I try to grab a makeup remover wipe and do a little touch up. She’ll get the hang of it eventually! Boys are so much easier at this stage, but I wouldn’t trade my shoe shopping buddy for anything! ; )
Elias, oh Elias. He excitedly reported yesterday as he walked in the house swinging his empty backpack and carelessly tossing it on the floor that, “THERE ARE NO RULES” and “THERE WILL BE NO HOMEWORK” in his class. Next out of his mouth was, “Man, I really like our teacher!” I think he’s going to have a really good year and he deserves it, by golly! He may never want to leave the third grade! One last thing on this kid…I’ve come to the conclusion that when he tries to be funny, which he is in constant practice of attempting…he is not. When he is just himself and doesn’t try to be humorous, he has me rolling. This morning he was not fully awake when I asked him what he wanted for breakfast. He requested more time to think about it. Typical for Elias…why do now what you can put off for a bit longer. He is already notorious for procrastination. I have no idea where he gets that! (Not that I am confessing to anything!) I explained that he didn’t have extra time to ponder this morning as I let him sleep in a little longer than I should have. I began to rattle off choices…cereal, bagel, English muffin…he sat looking very disinterested and still half asleep. I gave him a few minutes and returned for his decision. With a bit of a confused look on his face he asked, “What did you say about the Italian cupcakes?” I returned the confused look. “What Italian cupcakes?” A little frustrated with his clueless mother, he pointed over to the counter where the English muffins were. Yes, I almost had a moment…one of pure hysterics. So he got the country wrong as well as the bakery category. Heck, Italian cupcakes sound better to me for breakfast than English muffins. I’m all over that! Except he is voluntarily attempting to eat healthy. (Did you know that if you smash chocolate chips into a bagel they don’t count? It’s magic or something. They only count if they are in a cookie! Haven’t found the scientific proof yet, but we’re still look’in!) I will never be able to look at or eat an English muffin the same again. And yes, he chose an English muffin, aka “Italian cupcake,” spread with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar (which apparently doesn’t count in this instance, as well). ; ) I have yet to figure out his idea of “healthy.”
I began my day yesterday by going to church. I couldn’t think of a better way to start what I had already resigned myself to be a difficult day (even though I’m trying not to do that…this was a given). I wrote last time about how I wished I didn’t have to see and feel God’s presence in my life in hindsight. Yesterday I lived the entire day in awareness of His constant companionship. It was incredible to immediately know He was with me and in so many ways. I had barely begun the short two and half mile drive to our church before I began to cry. There was no avoiding it or trying to stop it from happening. My head would have exploded if I had tried to erect a dam. I pulled into the church parking lot and tried to figure out a way to compose myself. I sat for a minute wondering if I should just back out and drive away, as I just felt so low. When I feel this level of sadness, I truly prefer to be alone, even though that may not be beneficial or advantageous for my healing. I grabbed my keys out of the ignition, made sure my cell phone was on silent and quickly climbed out of my vehicle before I changed my mind and chickened out. This was where I wanted to be, but at the same time, it made me that much more emotional just being in these surroundings…the location of Sicily’s preschool…the place of her funeral.
Being at church allows me to feel so close to God, and at the same time, so close to Sicily. Tears are just a common occurrence whenever I am there. I just accept that. I stock my purse with Kleenex often. I walked through the double doors and headed towards the little chapel where mass is held on weekdays. I took a deep breath and opened the chapel door. I quickly surveyed the room for a vacant spot and to my heart’s joy my eyes met the eyes and smiling face of my dear soul sister, Judi Ann…Sicily’s preschool director and our beloved friend. And there next to Judi Ann was a vacant seat. I made my way over, pulled out the kneeler, ascended to my knees and cried. Uncontrollably cried. The room was completely silent and I was embarrassed but at the same time, I had no control and this truly had to be done. Judi Ann sat with her arm around me and I noticed out of the corner of my eye as she quietly wiped away her own tears. She is truly a gift from God to me! This is part of healing and I AM healing…slowly.
After mass, Judi Ann told me how she had already attended mass earlier in the week and for some reason decided to attend again. She said she had a lot of things she needed to do, and almost didn’t go, but went ahead and apparently listened to what God was telling her to do. She needed to be there…for God…as He needed her there for me! I was able to pull out of the church parking lot with a huge grin on my face. Yesterday turned out to be one of those days where life just felt good, despite the tears and sadness...it was all still good.
I treated myself by calling in a lunch order to a favorite Chinese restaurant. When I went to pick up my food, which I had requested “no scallions,” I was told that they had accidently put scallions on the first order so they made another order and threw in the first order for free. I can pick off a few scallions. Yippee-skippee…I left the restaurant excited that I could eat my favorite lettuce wraps for two days in a row. Then (as it kept getting better) as I entered Wal-Mart, the sweet little lady working as the greeter commented on how pretty my shirt was. Compliments given by strangers are one of God’s hints of His presence. I don’t know how many times my days have been made by the kind words and actions of strangers. I try to reciprocate as much as possible. But her kindness didn’t end there. On my way out of Wal-Mart, this same cute little lady stopped me again and talked to me for a few minutes…just small talk and nothing in particular. It was if she felt compelled to make me feel cared for…as if she knew it was a tough day for me. She even walked me to the doors and gently patted me on the back as I walked out into the bright sunshine. Again, I walked to my vehicle with a smile on my face. I just love people. God created some really, really good ones! I felt like crying only because I was feeling so overwhelmed just knowing I was in God’s care.
The day ended with a surprise special visit from Father Joe and two seminarians…with ice cream in hand. The care and compassion is never ending! I went to bed sighing a huge sigh of relief that we made it through another one of our “firsts” on a long list of many that we are forced to encounter…a year of “firsts” without Sicily. But true to His promise, God has and continues to take care of us!
I'm starting to exhale a little as I have come to dread this month for many reasons: unbearable heat, kids returning to school, memories that cause heartache. It's just a month on a calendar...a way to keep track of time, yet it's difficult for me.
I've been trying to do a bit of writing lately. Book writing. It's been hard. Memories seem so fresh and painful, yet at the same time, somewhat far removed from our current lives. The past couple of weeks have found me doing a lot of reminiscing, mostly due to those inevitable dates on the calendar. August 21st was the five month mark of Sicily's passing and the following day, August 22nd...a day that truly is burned like a tattoo in my mind and in my heart, marked the two year anniversary of her cancer diagnosis. On the 25th, I found myself struggling to manage my day through the flood waters that developed as all I could do that day was cry. Two years ago, Patrick, Sicily and I had our first pediatric oncology doctors appointment in Oklahoma City. I remember the whirlwind of emotions and questions that consumed us as the reality of the situation was beginning to sink in. Our daughter had cancer. What do we do? What do we not do? Where do we go? Who do we see? Who do we trust? What our her chances? When I think of those never ending and often unanswered questions today, I am left shaking my head. It at times still seems so unreal. Did this all really happen?
Last year on August 25th, Sicily was dressed and smiling, her one inch growth of hair was gelled and slicked back, she had her pink leopard print backpack slung over one shoulder and her lunch bag containing Spaghetti O's grasped in one hand as she was anxiously excited about her very first “real” day of school. I shed tears of joy that day. This year the tears fell on the opposite end of the spectrum. I am glad that I am still crying, as funny as that may sound. I just want to get it all out of the way so that maybe next year during the week on the calendar that dons the dates that trigger such emotions, I will find comfort in remembering our life with this little girl, and I won't be attaching memories of such sadness in an overwhelming way.
I had a doctor's appointment for a well woman check-up scheduled last Wednesday, the twenty-fifth, and I felt sorry for my doctor . I have only seen her a couple of times since we've lived here as I have been fortunate enough to have stayed somewhat healthy the past two years. When her nurse sat with me in the exam room and preceded to update my information into the computer, I knew I would not be able to hold it together for very long. The tears began to form in my eyes just in anticipation of having to talk about Sicily. I haven't been there very long or enough times for them to know our circumstances. When the nurse casually asked if I still had four children at home, all I could do was shake my head “no” as the tears barreled down my face. She sweetly asked if this was a recent occurrence and I nodded my head, “yes.” I could see in her eyes that she did not want to cause me anymore pain, but she had to ask for a few more specifics and details. In between sniffles and moments of not being able to speak, I simply explained that our four year old daughter had died from pediatric cancer this past March. She proceeded to ask a few questions about what kind of cancer and how long she had battled. She was very sympathetic. After she left the exam room, I sat for awhile and sobbed. I knew it wasn't over as I would need to tell my doctor a little more about it. She came in with, “So, I hear you lost your youngest daughter?” I was able to share with her more details. In what I'm sure came out to be a very unconvincing attempt, I tried to assure her that I really am doing okay. I am letting myself grieve. I truly have more good days than bad, but the bad days do pop in unannounced quite often. I continue to open the door and let them in instead of trying to ignore their presence and need for my time. Soon, their visits should dwindle, but I will never “not” expect them to appear. It's best to just deal with them and acknowledge that they will happen!
I think she believed my honest confessions that I am really doing okay...that I am grieving in a healthy way, if there is such a thing. She left it up to me if I ever decided that it was too much and I needed other help. I should just let her know. I take pride in handling this my way...which really is God's way. I, by no means, think having the need for help in any way is weak. I just feel very fortunate to have the support system I do and being able just to write about how I am doing is more helpful to me than a pill I could swallow. But, again, I “never say never” as I don't know how my grief will all play out! I am just thankful there are options!
One of the thoughts that has been triggered during these most recent times of reminiscing has been over the changes our experience with Sicily and her cancer have created in me. These have been profound changes in my own personal life and ones I want to keep and hold onto. But I have a fear that when time passes and our lives proceed further and further away from the reason why these changes came about, will they, like the raw edges of the grief that evoked them, begin to soften and fade and not be as important or profound to me as they are currently? Will my way of thinking and my perceptions in life regress and return to the way they used to be? I guess the answer lies in how much these changes really mean to me, and if they are of that much importance, will I be willing to work and continue to practice them so as to keep them this strong? Change is hard. It is often times met with disagreement, contempt and unwillingness to accept. But when something good is derived from something that is considered, shall we say, “not good,” then those changes really need to be kept. It will take some work to maintain them, which often times requires painful reminders as to what evoked the changes, but if that's what it takes, I am willing to go there!
I am learning that grief is really a necessary process, and at the same time, a necessary hurdle to overcome. Every day is different from the day before, and will most likely be different from what tomorrow brings. Some people welcome it with open arms, embrace it and push it out the door in a timely manner, while others struggle with the fluctuating pendulum of change that grief seems to control and can't get past it. I like to think I am more of the former, but to say I am doing it in a timely manner would be up for personal interpretation. What I think may be happening fast or even on pace may come across as going slow to someone else. I think the most important lesson to understand about grief, no matter what the situation is concerning the grief, is that it is as individual and unique as the person is that is enduring it! Those around us may share common thoughts, ideas and even emotions, but when faced with grief, no two people experience it the same. I have learned to let go of the guilt I feel at times when I cry. I feel guilty thinking that I am making others around me feel uncomfortable. I am starting to let that go. Honestly, I wish I were done crying, but like I said before, I am glad I'm still able to do it. Maybe when I stop, or the episodes begin to have more time between them, then I will considering my journey or quest for healing to be fulfilled. Maybe that never happens, I don't know. I've never lost a child before so I don't have any idea how my emotions will be in five, ten, or twenty years down the road. I can only hope that with each mile stone that comes along that Sicily should have reached or achieved I will be strong enough to focus on the wonderful memories we did get to have with her instead of the regrets of not being able to have her here to share them with. As it goes...time will only tell!
I scratched another mark on my survival walking stick this past weekend as I stayed home by myself for the entire weekend as Patrick and the kids traveled to Wellington. I was torn between attending a Women's Club function here at church and getting to visit family and friends in Kansas. The thought of missing an opportunity to sit at Sicily's grave broke my heart, but the need to be more active and involved in our church had me participating in my own personal tug of war. I stood by what I thought was the best thing for me to do, and it turned out to be exactly the right decision and a much needed good time! I attended a sock-hop at church. Yes, I even dressed the part. It was a membership drive for the Women's Club and an opportunity for me to be around some people I love dearly and allowed for me to meet others. Sicily's beloved teacher and my dear friend, Miss Sylvia, was part of the committee that put the whole shin dig together. I didn't get to be around her as much as I'd liked as she was busy and had much to do. I sat with Miss Judi Ann, another vital part of my life, and she introduced me to several sweet smiling faces. I must say, I was very entertained! I love to laugh and I love to be around people who don't take life too seriously! I sat at the right table!!!
After Saturday afternoon's festivities, I came home and just did a little of this and a little of that and some of nothing around the house. I worked on laundry and sorted through stacks of things pertaining to Sicily that I knew would be difficult to go through, but managed to tackle anyway. I had worn a pink sweater, Sicily's favorite color, to the sock-hop earlier that afternoon. As I was doing laundry, I hung it, along with several other items of clothing that I don't throw in the dryer, above the door way in between our bedroom and bathroom. Five times through out the day and the following morning as I was getting ready for church, that sweater fell down. None of the other dozen or so hanging garments fell...only that pink sweater. I'm beginning to see signs of Sicily's presence. I felt like she kept knocking down that sweater to remind me that she was with me, even though I was alone in the house and by myself for the weekend. I cried. I laughed. I verbally told her she was being a stinker for knocking down my sweater, but at the same time, I was so happy to keep picking it up. It was her way of letting me know she is still with me. That's the first time I really felt it. I can't wait to see what she does next! ; )
I'll end with my Sunday morning church experience. It never bothered me before to go to church by myself, but since Sicily's death, I just want my family with me and around me as much as possible. I got up and managed to get myself ready for 9:15 mass. It felt strange pulling into the church parking lot and walking up the sidewalk alone. Even though our church is one of my favorite places to be, it was still a very lonely feeling. I guess I was truly wearing my emotions on my sleeves that morning, as the tears my eyes have grown so accustom to began to fall shortly after I slid back into my seat after kneeling. There, four short pews in front of me sat the most precious blonde haired little girl, with a face that I was so familiar with. It was Sicily's preschool classmate from last year and her bestest buddy. This little girl used to send Sicily pictures she had drawn. I can't recall how many times Sicily's day was brightened when I'd bring in the mail and their was an envelop addressed to her and in it was something special from her dear friend. She and her mother came to visit us at home after we found out Sicily's cancer was terminal. They brought puzzles and she and Sicily sat down and immediately put one together on the living room coffee table. I've kept that puzzle and wrote the date on the back with a short description of why it is so important. It was the last puzzle she ever put together.
Sitting behind this little girl in church and observing her pure sweetness just became overwhelming to me. I held it together for the most part, but after communion and during the singing of our closing hymn, I lost it once again. It is hard to hide my emotions at times like these and the easiest thing for me to have done was to just grab my purse and run out the door, but I didn't. I needed to stand before God with this. The next thing I knew, I felt an arm wrap tightly around me...an arm, though attached to a small and petite frame, that was strong enough to hold me up if I began to proverbially crumble. I didn't even need to look to see who it was because I already knew, but I turned my head to the right so I could look into her eyes...it was Miss Sylvia, Sicily's teacher...and my friend. She came to my rescue. She stood beside me until the music had stopped and people began to move about. She hugged me and held me close as I continued to cry on her shoulder! Soon, her husband, JD...Sicily's partner in mischief, was at our side. Sicily's friend and her family approached us. I apologized to them and explained why I felt so overcome with emotion. I hope I didn't make them feel bad or too uncomfortable, but this was just another step in my healing process. I love seeing this little girl. Her smile makes me happy because her actions and friendship to Sicily made her so happy! I will always treasure how much she meant to her! I don't know if these types of emotions will continue when I see her sweet face or if this was an isolated incident because of my weekend solitude. I just know that after I experience something like this, I feel like I am on the right path. I am thankful that God is allowing all of this to happen, as it all has a reason and a purpose!
I need to hit the treadmill. After my doctor's appointment last week, the number on the scale scared me so I decided I needed to make some changes. Uuugh...not the fun kind of changes, either! Some people starve through grief, well, apparently I've been feeding mine a feast. My grief is insatiable and is about to get locked out of the fridge! Wish me luck! ; )
My love to you all and thank you for letting me continue to unload part of my burden on you. I can't explain how great I feel after I've been able to journal. It truly feels like I just handed off my backpack full of rocks and I'm free to run around for awhile until another load is collected! We can't get through this alone and haven't had to! By-the-way...Corinthian, Isabella and Elias are really doing good right now! Prayers for them are constantly being heard and answered. Thank you!!!
Location: Me and my Spanish exchange student, Quique!
My heart still aches for the Zeka's!
even though I haven't been posting here, I continue to pray for the Zeka family. I'm glad that the kids are having a good summer. I pray that Kerry finds peace in her heart, and some of the pain eased.
Some days the words come easily and flow like melted snow cascading over mountain top water falls and my hands can barely type them as my mind speaks to itself. Other days, I struggle to put my thoughts into one complete coherent sentence. Lately, I've had more of those kinds of days. I haven't felt much like writing. The is no redundancy in answering the same question of “how I am doing” as it changes from day to day and it seems to be so unpredictable. I still have good days and I still have really bad days. We all do. I still hurt, tremendously, and I'm still trying to figure out how to get through life with a chunk of my heart missing...gone...forever. I know this is one injury I can't mend. This injury will never stop hurting. It could easily be so debilitating, but I work hard at not letting myself walk into that dark forest. I know if I did, I'm afraid I could not find my way back to the light of life again. I plan to stay in the sunshine!
Today marks six months since Sicily died. I can say the word, “died,” now, as that is what she did. She died. Her brain told her organs to stop working. Her heart stopped pumping and her little lungs halted the process of inhaling and exhaling the air we shared. Her little body became still. She died. But her spirit and her zest for life will continue on in the lives of all who knew her and loved her. Death couldn't stop her...her short little life will continue to impact us all! The mere thought of her will remind us to value life. I pray that simple thoughts of Sicily continue to ground those who feel themselves slipping...calm those who are overwhelmed with fears...relax those who are stressed...and strengthen those who feel weak. I pray that visions of her make us all feel closer to God and remind us that life is short...the “here and now” that we perceive as life...but if we are nice to one another and live our lives to the best of our ability, we will never completely “die” either.
Today, as you can probably surmise, I'm feeling pretty fragile. BUT, I am doing okay. I've cried because I felt like crying. I've talked to and picked up Stowie the cat more than usual. She's actually receptive and has reciprocated my need for comfort. For the first time, ever, she licked my chin as I briefly held her. She must sense I am in need of something a little extra today.
I still smile sitting here at the computer as I have a precious reminder of my daughter's love for me watching my every move through black plastic eyes. This past Christmas, her last one to celebrate with us, she gave me a little Santa hat wearing stuffed dog that barks “Jingle Bells” when its left back paw is squeezed. She picked it out herself on a shopping trip to Walgreen's with her siblings and aunts. It was easy to see through her gift giving glasses...giving me this dog would ensure her ability to get to play with it. She had it all figured out. What I don't think she consciously knew was how much comfort this furry little barker would bring me down the road.
I have a picture of us together Christmas morning right after I had opened my special present. I recently added it as the background for the desk top on this computer. I started to wonder where my little musical mutt friend was as I could not remember seeing it since right after Christmas, assuming it must be somewhere in the mayhem of Sicily's bedroom. I also figured it might just have easily been packed away with Christmas decorations, although I could not see myself doing that as I valued the sentimental attachment I knew I would have with it. I didn't waste too much time worrying, but will admit that the desire to find it grew a little more each time I gazed at the picture framed by the computer monitor.
A little over a week ago, I began to slowly deal with a few areas of the house that have been neglected (which if one were to ask other occupants of this household, they would sheepishly admit that that about covers the entire square footage!). I casually opened a box, pausing for a moment to decide if it was something of a priority, but continued more out of curiosity about its contents. I was on a little bit of a mission to find some things I could let go of quickly without a second thought as the church and preschool garage sales were fast approaching. There were indeed some items of Sicily's that I had forgotten about, and decided to donate them without hesitation. As I was nearing the bottom of the rather large box, I saw a brown tail with a jingle bell attached sticking up through some other items. I grabbed the tail and pulled free one of my favorite Christmas gifts, ever! He, or she, as I don't think we ever decided the gender of this dog, is now a permanent fixture on the computer desk in our home office. Sicily had already worn the batteries down enough so that the tail with the jingle bell attached doesn't wag anymore, but the little guy still belts out a ferocious version of jingle bells. It makes me very happy!
Another thing that conjures up thoughts of happiness for me will occur this Thursday. I, along with some other family members, will get to see Natasha Bedingfield perform live at a concert benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation in Wichita, Kansas. I PRAY she will sing “Pocketful of Sunshine!” That song epitomizes Sicily! I will never forget how that song became such an important part of her cancer journey and how it continues to help us feel her “light” every time we hear it. It all began right after we moved to Oklahoma from Kansas in the summer of 2008. Sicily and I watched Natasha perform the song on the Today show one morning. I immediately loved it and downloaded it from iTunes. I played it often after that and Sicily began to dance to it whenever she'd hear it. What I wouldn't give to see Sicily dance the way she used to dance...she did a perfect imitation of the Seinfeld character, Elaine Benes, only it wasn't an imitation...she just moved all over the place! If anyone knows what I'm talking about, there was no rhyme or rhythm to the movements...just “movements!” Sicily was a pro!
After Sicily's diagnosis, the song took on a whole new meaning for us. My favorite memory occurred as we were driving to the hospital from my sister's house in Oklahoma City for the first time at 5:30 in the morning for her port insertion surgery. It was dark outside and Patrick and I quietly listened to the radio. Despite having to wake up so early, Sicily was in her usual spunky mood. She asked if she could listen to my iPod so I handed it back to her. I attempted to instruct her on how to put the little earphones in her ears, but she pretty much already knew what to do and if she didn't, well, she'd figure it out on her own anyway! She placed the ear phones into her little ears and began pressing buttons, fully thinking she knew how to work it. Next thing we knew, a cute little voice began singing, “Take me away, take me away...” Patrick proceeded to turn off the radio. We drove the rest of the way to the hospital listening to Sicily trying to sing the fast paced words of “her” song, “Pocketful of Sunshine.” I remember looking over at Patrick, and he briefly looked at me, and our eyes communicated without words. We both knew how precious of a moment that was! I'm still moved completely to tears every time I think about it. I love that song so much and will for the rest of my life. Sicily was totally our “Pocketful of Sunshine!” If you think about it, a pocket could never hold sunshine...sunshine cannot be contained! Bright rays of light would shoot out from the corners and break free from the confines of any fabric. That was Sicily. I think her little life was so bright, that even death can't subsume her brightness!
I apologize, even though I know an apology is not expected, that so much time elapses these days between journal entries. It's either because I am very busy, which is good, and time escapes me...I'm just having a great day and I want to enjoy it...or I'm having a very gloomy day and just can't do it. The last two are the days I “need” to write, but they also fall simultaneously on the first explanation. I will just try to do what I can when I can. I always feel better when I write so you'd think I'd figure out a way to make it happen. There are a lot of things I still haven't figured out these days, and may never.
Six months...hard to believe! I still love life...I still think my faith in God is the coolest thing, EVER...and I still miss my little girl every second of every day, even more than the night we placed her body onto the gurney behind the funeral home vehicle and watched them cover her up!
One more thing I've been meaning to write about for so long and just haven't gotten to it, and I'm ashamed! Our beloved friend, “Aunt Glenda,” has worked long and hard at developing a website that both honors and memorializes Sicily and will be a blessing to other children fighting cancer. Before Sicily even lost her hair, Glenda began knitting her custom chemo caps. These precious hats quickly became a part of Sicily's daily wardrobe and her trademark appearance. Some of her favorites where the ones that Glenda attached “hair” to...strands of brown yarn that served as bangs, ponytails and braids. We would add bows to her “hair” and she would at times pull her “hair” back into ponytails and clippies. These hats were vital to her battle and they made her feel so very special. Another favorite was the beret Glenda designed that soon began to symbolize Sicily, and others who wore it, as a little soldiers in the battle for their lives. We had “Sicily berets” in about every color imaginable.
More important, Glenda and her friends held knit-a-thons and made dozens and dozens of hats that they sent to The Children's Hospital in Denver (she lives in Fort Collins, CO) as well as boxes to me here to distribute at the hospital and clinic where we were patients. Now, because of this desire to fashionably accessorize the beautifully bald, Glenda developed a website that will serve as a clearinghouse for chemo caps for pediatric cancer patients. Those who are in need will be able to find those who want to provide. Right now, they are hoping to have contacts at children's hospitals nationwide that would help distribute their creations. The website will be funded by the sales of Glenda's custom patterns (the actual hats to children will be free of charge) and any extra funds earned after the subtraction of administration costs will be donated to the Pablove Foundation. The website is aptly named, “Pocketful of Sicily” (Pocketful of Sicily - Home Page). Please consider checking it out and if you knit, crochet or know of someone who does that might find this pulling at their heartstrings, please pass it on and spread the word! The website is still in the early stages and is not fully complete, but it's up and running. This means so much to us and we will never be able to thank Glenda enough, as well as all the others who assisted her with this project!
I will sign off for now. I am patiently waiting for Fall to arrive. Summer isn't quite ready to give up the reigns, but I'm ready for my favorite three months of the year to begin! I need to find Stowie the cat again for a little more feline bonding. Actually, it looks like she is right behind me napping in a rocking chair. Maybe I'll just blow her a kiss!
Life is going at a pretty fast pace, which is good, for the most part, but makes it hard sometimes to fit the things I really want and need to do into a sixteen hour period. I try to prioritize and make plans for my day only to let go of the steering wheel many times because I am not the driver and my day tends to go better when I admit that I am not! I have to work hard at not letting myself feel too guilty when I can't answer emails in a timely manner or I fail to accomplish simple tasks like putting laundry away.
This morning I had the best of intentions to spend my morning pecking away on the keyboard to share our incredible experience from last week of getting to meet Natasha Bedingfield, and I will, eventually. I even called my mom to let her know I would not be answering the phone for awhile so I could attend to this desirable task. I was five minutes from getting in the shower when the telephone rang. The little screen on the phone identified the caller as someone so dear to me, someone that I haven't been able to speak to for sometime, that I knew I needed to drop everything to answer this call, so I did. Without going into details, it was one of those phone calls that could be considered long overdue, but after the fact, and actually during the conversation, as it was emotional, I realized why timing is so important. God's timing and not my own. I am having a good, strong day and was prepared to talk about some painful issues with this person. The phone call did my heart such good and I hope it did my dear friend some good, too. Our story will require a whole chapter of a book, probably. This relationship is already a part of my life that has benefited me in so many ways and continues to cement my faith in God. I think this person knows that, too! God brought us together for a reason, as He has done time and time again for me!
So, with all that being said, this journal entry will not be completed in the time frame I had hoped, but the most important thing is that it will get done!
I sit here and try to find a starting point to explain how last week became the most amazing whirlwind of events I think I've ever had the privilege of experiencing in my life.
I guess it's best to start at the very beginning with Sicily's love of the song, “Pocketful of Sunshine.” I explained in my last writing how much she loved it and how it has helped us all on her cancer journey and continues to help us during our grief process. My sister-in-law, Sicily's beloved Aunt Bett, called me sometime in mid-August to tell me she had just heard on a Wichita, Kansas radio station, B98, that Natasha would be coming to perform in September, along with a list of several other talented artists, as part of a “Pink” concert to benefit breast cancer. Although my heart is deeply passionate about bringing as much awareness and attention as possible to the underfunded and lesser known plight of pediatric cancer, I pride myself in supporting other forms of cancer research, as well, as I have many special people in my life that have in the past and are currently battling breast cancer, and these people themselves have been advocates on behalf of my daughter and her disease. I will admit, and I feel I justly have the right to say this, that it does sting a bit and hurt that so much attention is given to breast cancer awareness during the month of September, which is “Childhood Cancer Awareness Month,” when the month allocated to breast cancer is October. If I could change our month, I would...to April or May...during the season of spring, but I wouldn't even know how to go about that. I don't know who made the decision in the first place as I don't think it was very well thought out! So, with that being said, I decided to buy a ticket to this concert. Mainly, of course, so I could hear Natasha sing “the song.” My decision was not immediate as I had to check with Patrick about his schedule for work. Sure enough, he had a board meeting that day but convinced me that he could handle everything with the kids and that I needed to go. So I had Bett get me a ticket.
Fast forward to last week. It was already turning out to be a difficult week for my emotions and I struggled trying to find some level of excitement about attending the upcoming concert. I was looking forward to it, but at the same time the blues were so heavy upon me that they did indeed weigh me down and damper my normal enthusiasm. Sometimes the thought of being away from my family drives me to want to turn down invitations and hunker down. That can be detrimental so therefore I force myself out the door.
Thursday morning began as any usual weekday does in our household with Corinthian and Isabella getting up early and getting themselves ready for school. I hadn't packed anything for my one night stay away from home, and just figured I would throw things in a bag later that morning as I hadn't planned to leave until around 1:00. As was their normal routine, the two older kids left the house and headed to the bus stop on time. They never seem to run late. Elias usually doesn't wake up until about half an hour after they leave. I typically make myself some breakfast, but that morning I began to ice some sugar cookies to look like soccer balls so Elias could take them to his class in honor of his ninth birthday on Saturday. I was a little startled when Corinthian and Isabella came walking back into the house a short time later. My first inclination was that they had missed the bus, which is something they've never done before. So with a surprised look on my face I asked them, “Did you guys miss the bus?” With a grin filled with excitement Corinthian responded with, “No...school has been canceled!” I know it is still early in the morning and I may not be completely awake, but I don't recall hearing a weather forecast for snow, ice or any other reason to cancel school. Corinthian reported that the bus driver had met them at their stop to let them know that school was canceled due to a water main break within the city of Broken Arrow. She then gave them a ride back home. As soon as he was finished sharing the story, the news anchor on a local Tulsa station reiterated the situation. I felt a slight bit of panic as I hated the thought of leaving the kids home alone during the day with Patrick out of town as well, but calmed myself quickly thinking that I could call a neighbor and ask them to be available in case of an emergency. With Isabella being an insulin dependent diabetic, I still carry a heavy load of worry where she is concerned!
The air around us began to carry a hint of excitement, as kids are always excited about a free day out of school, but this was something else, something different. The excitement and anticipation of something big thickened as the phone rang and I picked it up to hear Bett's voice, which also carried a higher level of excitement. I quickly explained the situation with the kids and she confessed that she was already aware of it as Isabella had wasted no time emailing her Godmother the news. She continued to ask if all three kids were out of school and I replied that the entire school district had been canceled. The next thing out of Bett's mouth was, “You're never going to believe this!” She began to explain that B98 radio in Wichita was going to give us four tickets to the concert as well as organize a meet and greet with Natasha. How I managed not to drop the phone, I don't know. She said someone from the radio station would be calling me soon with the details. This is when shock began to take over. By now, the kids were beginning to swarm around me inquisitively as to find out why I kept repeating, “You are kidding me! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” My mind was having a hard time comprehending what this meant. Soon, my cell phone rang and it was Brett, from B98, and after asking me how I was doing, he calmed me by saying, “Don't worry, you're not on the radio right now.” I said, “Okay,” as I exhaled. He began to explain a little about what he knew of Sicily and asked me to explain the relevance of Natasha and the song. I started out okay, but as usual with me, my emotions took over and though my tears were invisible to the person on the other end of the phone, there was no mistaking their presence. Besides, it was just him and I talking, right? ; ) He expressed that B98 would like to have us as their guests for the evening. I said we would be honored, as I graciously and humbly excepted! He said someone from the station would be in contact with me to go over the details. As we hung up the phone, shock had moved up the express line to total disbelief! I couldn't believe it! Feeling a level of excitement and happiness I hadn't experienced in such a long time, I called my other sister-in-law, Valerie, who was also an enthusiastic ticket holder, to share the news. She picked up the phone and started yelling, “You're on the radio!!!” I sat on my end of the phone in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and listened to myself crying on the radio in Wichita and the surrounding south central part of Kansas. Yes, you can say it was something else. I found myself laughing a laugh I didn't know I still had in me.
This is when the palm sized snowball began to roll down the hill and created an avalanche of major proportions. I received a call from the radio station saying that a local hotel had contacted them to ask if we had a place to stay for the night. They gave me the name of the contact person at the Holiday Inn Express, so I called her. A sweet woman explained that she had been running a little late to work when she heard me on the radio sharing Sicily's story. She said if she had been early or on time, she would have missed our story completely. She admitted that it had affected her to the point of tears and it took her a few minutes to compose herself before she called the radio station with her offer. I once again graciously accepted her generous offer for us to stay at the Holiday Inn Express. When I think about all of this, my love of mankind and awe over humanity just grows taller than the tallest mountain top.
I was on and off the phone the rest of the morning setting up times and accepting generous offers. Tree Top Nursery in Wichita donated a garden statue to us that closely resembles Sicily when she was little with ponytails and pink ribbons donning her hair, in addition to a Willow Tree angel holding a red heart. It is titled, “With Love.” Both, along with meal vouchers to Freddy's Frozen Custard for our dinner, were delivered to the hotel by a dear friend I have known for years, Brenda, and her precious daughter. Brenda lives in Wichita and heard me on the radio and called me shortly after. When she found out we were having logistical issues trying to figure out how to pick up our dinner vouchers from the radio station in time to be able to use them before the concert, she offered to pick them up for us. Brenda and her family have always been great friends to us and time and distance haven't changed any of that! When I first learned I was pregnant with Sicily six years ago, I was in a bit of a panic as I had very few baby items left after selling them in a garage sale before we moved. I mainly had just the crib. Brenda swooped in and loaned us many needed and useful things and saved us from having to start all over again. She swooped in once again on Thursday! She has been an amazing friend!
While still at home, I was trying to piece together how this all came about. I knew my friend in California, Pablo's mommy, who had helped arrange for Natasha to call Sicily prior to her death, was trying once again to see if she could make something happen. In addition to her efforts, my sister-in-law, Bett, had emailed the producer, Kathy, of B98's morning show, about Sicily's beloved song. I give credit to Sicily for seeing these efforts. I envision her upstairs tugging on God's majestic robe and asking Him for a gift for her family. It's undeniable to me. God used water, something Sicily lived for and died with, as a means to make this precious gift possible for us. Water was one of Sicily's favorite things in life. She loved to be near it, by it, in it, drink it...in fact, the last words we ever heard our little girl speak to us minutes before she died was, “Can I have a drink of water?” I will spend the rest of my life seeking ways to be near water in as many ways as possible to feel a stronger sense of closeness to her. So, to see the connection in the water main break in Broken Arrow to the ability of her siblings to be able to attend this concert, and meet sweet Natasha, was the doing of God and His little “pot stir-er,” Sicily! She's able to stir the pot in a positive way, as well!
Somehow the kids and I managed to pack our bags and hit the road around noon. I was feeling a high level of anxiety with time of the essence. We needed to be at certain places at certain times and the weather was looking as if it might want to play games with us. Both the need for speed and the mischievous weather threat were ingredients for a recipe of nervousness! Driving out of Tulsa and towards Kansas poses a higher level of driving skills these days due to road construction. Uugh! I know it's needed, but Uuugh!!! Usually when we are headed out of town this direction, I am a passenger and I pay little attention to detours and road closings. I began to wish I'd done a better job of being aware of my surroundings on previous road trips when on this one I missed a vital detour turn and started driving in the opposite direction than what we needed to be going! This was one of those days I should not have been behind the wheel. I had both hands tightly grasping the steering wheel and both eyes focused straight ahead, but my mind was swerving and wandering all over the place! Thankfully, Corinthian was there to help me stay focused!
I explained to Corinthian, as I needed him to be my co-pilot, that we needed to get off on the next exit and attempt to get back on this road going the opposite direction. We needed to see if we could find the turn we missed somewhere around all the orange road construction signs. Luckily for us, an exit was fast approaching so I took it. I could see ahead of me was a stop sign and that I would have the ability to go back under the overpass and get right back on the road we'd just departed. Also, clearly in my vision up ahead, was a homeless man standing right by the corner with a cardboard sign clutched in his hands that read, “Veteran, Anything would help!” Just before we had left the house, I had grabbed five loose one dollar bills that were laying on the counter and proceeded to lay them on the console of our vehicle just in case we might need them for something. I had adequate cash in my purse if we were caught in a bind, so this was just something of a fluke that I happened to grab this money. Before our vehicle came to a stop at the stop sign, God had already put the idea into my head that I needed to give this man that five dollars. Through the generosity of others, our next three meals were being taken care of. I prefer not to hand over cash in situations like this and would rather have handed the person in need a sack of food, but it was a quick judgment call and one I did not feel I had the power to ignore. In lightening fast speed, I rolled down my window and as quickly as it went down I had it going back up again after handing the fellow the money, but not before I heard him say, “God Bless You!” I drove off feeling blessed! “I” felt God's blessing. I was the one who was on the receiving end of the blessing in this situation! I have felt blessed for so long and continue to feel it stronger and stronger with each day of my life that He allows me to grow closer to Him! I explained to the kids that the apparent reason I missed our original turn was so we could help someone who was in need since we have been helped so much ourselves by others. I felt it was one of those moments that God gives me to prove His love to me and my children. Needless to say, we quickly found our correct exit and made it to our next destination with plenty of time to spare. See, God takes care of those who take care of others!
To think of the events that took place over a thirty-six hour time span, I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief that they really occurred. I am not a “star struck” type of person. I firmly believe that we are all special and unique in many different ways. In fact, I have a little plaque in our home office that reads, “Always remember...you're unique, just like everyone else.” Some people's uniqueness and special talents bring them fame, while others blend into the crowds and they melt into the masses. But I think we are all special! I did not feel nervous or scared or overwhelmed getting to meet Natasha Bedingfield, although I did have numerous butterflies taking flight due to the excitement and honor that I bestowed upon this opportunity! Her beautiful song writing skills and incredible vocal delivery made a huge impact on our lives, especially that of one sweet little girl! It made me so happy just to have the chance to be able to tell her this in person.
Once at the concert, we were given an orange colored bracelet, along with a few hundred other people, to signify that we could participate in a “meet and greet” with one of the evenings performers. We stood in line for quite sometime and began to wonder how this was going to happen. How were we going to get to meet Natasha? Just then I recognized the radio station producer, Kathy, from pictures I had seen of her on their website. I called to her and introduced myself and next thing we knew, we were pulled aside and brought up to the front, a little distance from the long line we had found ourselves waiting in. We were told that Natasha was aware that we, Sicily's family, were there and we were given permission to take photos, as we were originally told as we previously stood in line that we could not. I soon saw Natasha being ushered into a black tent area and they eventually lead us in, too. She was very sweet and we shook hands. I had grasped in my other hand the feathered wings I take with us on important trips to be photographed as a representation of Sicily. Natasha began to ask about the wings and I explained how they came about and their meaning. It was then she truly realized who we were, as I guess I just assumed she knew Sicily's family would be meeting with her first. She exclaimed, “Oh, you're Sicily's family,” and she hugged me tightly. She proceeded to hug Corinthian, who was smiling from ear to ear, then Elias and Isabella. I introduced Bett and Val as Sicily's aunts. I gave her a little sack I had hastily put together as we were leaving home that contained a Wilm's Warriors t-shirt that has “Pocketful of Sicily” on the back with “Our Shining Strength” below it. I put in a few smiling pictures of Sicily, as well, and I cried when I gave it to her. She seemed to really like the t-shirt as I showed her what it looked like as Elias was wearing one. She had someone take a picture of it. I am not a jeans and t-shirt type of girl, but Sicily was, so we all wore jeans and Sicily t-shirts to the concert. As all of this is going on, a video camera was recording it and it can now be found on Youtube. Corinthian found it under Zeka Family meets Natasha Bedingfield.
I proceeded to ask Natasha what her inspiration for the song, “Pocketful of Sunshine” was and she explained that she was just going through a really tough time in her life, hence the “Sticks and stones are never going to break me...” We can all relate to that some time or another, but equating it to Sicily's journey with cancer, I guess that could explain why it had such an impact on those of us around her all the time. Natasha said her new CD will be released in November and promised to send me a copy, as it has more songs like “Pocketful,” on it. I'd have been first to order it, anyway!
I prayed that the feeling I felt inside would find a way to stay with me for as long as possible and find me again on days ahead when the blues manage to creep in. I have to believe it will. Listening to Natasha sing “the song” that beautiful night was nothing short of amazing! She sang a softer, more acoustic arrangement. I stood with Sicily's wings clutched against my chest, feeling her presence all around me. I think this made Sicily even happier...she had done good!
We returned to our hotel room before 11:30pm with perma grins stamped on our faces. Before we left the concert, Elias asked if we would ever have to wash his Wilm's Warrior t-shirt? I asked, “Why, because Natasha touched it?” With a dreamy look in his eyes he nodded his head, yes!
I was saddened that Patrick wasn't able to be there with us to experience what we experienced, but we had the next best thing by having two of his sister's, aunt Bett and aunt Valerie, with us. They had enjoyed some of the best times of Sicily's life, but also endured some of the worst, as well, during scary and heartbreaking moments on her cancer journey. Aunt Mary Ann and cousin Megan also attended the concert with us, but we could only take a couple of extra people back with us for the meet and greet, so they graciously saved our seats for us.
Since the kids had to be absent from school on Friday after the water issue in Broken Arrow had been remedied, Kathy, from B98, met us for lunch at what is now one of my kid's favorite eating establishes in Wichita (along with Freddy's, but we get to enjoy that restaurant locally). The Old Mill Tasty Shop is a long standing eating establishment with an even longer and impressive reputation. Patrick used to eat there from time to time when he worked in downtown Wichita, but this was our first experience, and it was awesome! I can't begin to explain how much fun it was to be with my kids and see them enjoy themselves to the highest degree. The same goes for me. Our waitress, who has worked there for over twenty-five years, showered the kids with love, chocolate malts and old fashion syrupy soda pop concoctions.
We walked and drove around Old Town in Wichita for awhile and proceeded to accept the generous offer of visiting The Museum of World Treasures for the afternoon. We managed to make our afternoon educational and enjoyed every minute of it.
We arrived home to Broken Arrow by 7:00 Friday evening and we were exhausted! But it was an amazing kind of exhaustion! Elias was already keyed up and ready to go for the following day as it would be his ninth birthday. It was much lower key than the previous two days, but he has reported that he had a great birthday. I continued on an emotional roller coaster on Sunday, but it was a good ride. I'll save that story for another day!
Hopefully, I haven't used up too big of a chunk of your day! I'll be able to sleep tonight knowing I was able to journal about this and have a way to re-live it on future days!
I will try and upload some of the pictures we took onto Facebook. I'm usually pretty slow about doing that, but will try to get my act together to get it done sooner than later!
I pray everyone is beginning to enjoy the cooler temperatures and anticipating a great fall season. I know I am!
Some days I have to wonder what my state of mind is. Currently, I think my mind has left the state in which I live in and has traveled elsewhere for a mini vacation. My guess it's somewhere relaxing on the island of Sicily, off the tip of the boot in Italy! (Right? Makes sense?!) I say that my mind is missing because I have been prone to acts of complete mindless behavior lately. Lucky for me, I get to blame it on the grief...it's not my fault! I'm not usually this bad. I will admit to having bouts of mindless behavior from time to time, but that's just because I am not perfect. Perfect people keep their minds in line. Me? I lose track of mine often! My mind has a mind of its own!
Here's my proof. Last night, I took a hot baking sheet out of the oven. I used a sweet little pot holder made by one of the kids. Whenever I grab one of these loom weaved little pieces of love, I have eyes peering over my shoulder to see which one I am using...was it one of their own or one made by a sibling? This is mainly the practice of Elias, so I have to make sure I rotate the use of these colorful little creations to keep life fair. It's all about keeping life fair...equal...balanced! I placed the hot piece of metal on the cook top, quickly decided it needed to be moved, and with the pot holder in my left hand I proceeded to move the baking sheet with my unprotected right hand. Huh? I can move pretty quickly in the kitchen when I have to so I opened the freezer door and grabbed “boo-boo bear” (or what eventually became renamed to “booty bear” as we used it to numb a certain area of Sicily's body before giving her white blood cell boosting shots). I applied the innocent bodiless bear head shaped icepack to my three affected fingers and thumb. Yes, I really grabbed the pan with gusto, apparently! Patrick, noticing my quick moving actions, inquired what I was doing. Still surprised with my own level of dysfunction, I explained to him what I had just done. He said, “I didn't even hear you say Ouch!” I think I'm past saying “ouch.” Physical pain doesn't hold me in it's grips like it seemed to in the past. Emotional pain passed it in the relay race a long time ago.
I apparently wasn't done attempting to mutilate my skin. This morning I helped Isabella with her hair by using a straight iron. Those things should be considered a deadly weapon...or at least they should carry the same warning level of danger when in use as, say, a pair of numb chucks! If you use one, your chances of getting hurt are considerably high...especially if you are functioning or not functioning the way I am these days. Once again, allowing my hands to work without my mind present proved to be a huge risk, but I wasn't aware yet that my mind had completely deserted me. Everyone knows, or I'm guessing that most people should, that when you apply extreme heat to hair, the hair usually retains some of the heat for the next few seconds, if not longer. My hands have not yet learned this lesson. I pulled the flat iron down a chunk of Isabella's long, blonde hair, and immediately grabbed the chunk again into the palm of my left hand. I felt pain but the word “ouch” still did not surface. Maybe this incident was my right hand attempting to get back at my left hand for the previous evenings accident. Who knows! All I know is that I was running to the freezer again. This time, instead of grabbing faithful boo-boo “booty” bear, my stomach forced me to grab a frozen waffle instead, killing two birds with one stone. Maybe my mind fell to my stomach because I considered that a great thought...first aide and breakfast! I used the cold waffle to aid by burning hand, then popped it into the toaster. I think I just located my mind...it's living further south in another area of my body. To make it work in the future, I may have to bribe it with food! I am well aware that both my mind and my stomach like chocolate, so maybe we can work out a deal.
I was more than happy to eat a waffle for breakfast, or as Sicily referred to them, “Faffles,” (which stands for Frozen Waffles). I think of her every time I do, so eating “faffles” makes me feel close to her. I eat it the same way she did...naked and wrapped in a napkin. The waffle is naked, not me...I'm not that far gone! ; ) By naked I mean without butter or syrup. Sicily liked to eat it this way so she could get away with eating it in a chair in the living room and be closer to the tv (I normally don't allow food to be eaten in the living room. Sicily knew how to tweak the rules!). She truly had life figured out! So I can admit that I love faffles merely for this reason! Faffles make me smile! Burns on my hands...not so much! ; ) I think for the time being when I am around heated items, be it the oven or a flat iron, I should consider wearing oven mitts...the kind that go all the way up to my elbows...on both hands. It may take me twice as long, or longer, to assist Isabella with her hair, but better safe than sorry is what I always say! It's incredible that I am still able to type. Physical pain can't slow me down...emotional pain, I hit a brick wall!
This is one of those journal entries I felt like writing just for the fun of it. I'm having fun writing and sharing my journey on this crazy grief road. I hope as many people as possible are able to “craugh” (cry and laugh) right along with me. There is strength in numbers and mental health benefits in “craughing!”
I'm probably better off staying away from getting behind the wheel, except for maybe a quick trip to see Wally (Wal-Mart) less than a mile down the road, until I renegotiate the terms of existence with my absent mind! I can handle small tasks. Ones that require a lot of thinking may have to be rescheduled or temporarily put off! A word of caution...if you ask me a question that requires more than a “yes” or “no” answer, please be patient. After downing a handful of M&M's, you may get an answer...no promises, though.
I know I am not functioning at full capacity when Elias asks, as I am driving him to soccer practice one day last week, if the speed bumps we are going over were made so big so they would be that much fun-er (and yes, “fun-er” is still a legal word in the impressive vocabulary of a third grader, but not for much longer. Soon he will have to erase it and speak correctly, but I still like to hear it!). My first inclination was to go into details and explain why the speed bumps were there and necessary, but decided against it and simply answered, “Yes”...especially the way mommy drives over them... “oops, was that a speed bump?” We usually get a little air under the tires! Who needs a ride at a State Fair?
On a more somber note, I want to take the time to write about something a little more serious. This requires very little thinking because it's coming straight from my heart. I forgot to share one very important experience from last week. Before we headed home to Broken Arrow, OK from Wichita, KS, we stopped in Wellington to give grandma Zeka a hug and to visit Sicily. I don't know when a visitation to Sicily will ever be easy, but at the same time, I crave sitting at her graveside on a daily basis. It's probably a good thing that she is buried two and a half hours away from us, or I might consider pitching a tent so I could stay near her for long periods of time. That, for sure, would not benefit my healing process. Never the less, I can't approach her little spot of land without pipes of tears bursting! Corinthian, Isabella, Elias and I stopped by to see her on our way out of town. Her grave is still meek but sweetly decorated with silk flowers and gossamer butterflies, along with other mementos loved ones thought she might like. The kids and I brought little gifts to leave with her so she knows she is still loved beyond what lies beneath the six feet of Kansas soil. Elias wiggled off his orange “meet and greet” wristband that he had previously stated he wanted to keep and leave on forever. He gave it to his little sister without thinking twice. Corinthian left her a piece of gum, a favorite life sustaining food group for Sicily (“I don't need to eat, I have gum!”) and Isabella gave her three tic-tacs...which Sicily would have immediately chomped on and in a state of shock announced, “those were HOT!” I kneeled down and tucked a ticket stub, with NATASHA BEDINGFIELD written in bold capital letters, under a little concrete garden angel. I told Sicily “thank you” and assured her she was with us at the concert, and we knew it! She is with us, always!
I am anxiously awaiting for Sicily's majestic gravestone to be placed. We ordered it in July and were told it could take up to five months, or more, for it to be complete. It was going to take three months alone for it to be shipped from over seas. I know it will be worth the wait. Some of the extra waiting is due to my own procrastination...trying to figure out just the right words for the epitaph, not only for Sicily, but for Patrick and I, as well. The gravestone will cover all three of us, so it's been an interesting experience, to say the least, to choose the words I will be able to read at my own grave site. If that's not mortality staring you right in the face, then I don't know what is. It does not bother me at all. We all have to die sometime, but it's not every day you expect to see your name engraved in a stone that will mark your final resting place. Funny as it may sound, it brings me peace. I'm ready to see it! More than anything, I will find comfort in seeing it written close to Sicily's name so as to surround her with her mommy and daddy's love forever! That's why Patrick and I decided to go ahead and take care of our “stuff” at the same time. It's one less thing the surviving spouse or our other children will have to deal with at such a difficult time. More than anything, though, like I said, I just didn't want Sicily's name there alone. I just needed us to be with her, somehow.
I have a request of anyone in the Wellington, Kansas area, or for anyone who finds themselves traveling down I-35 in south central Kansas for that fact (because the cemetery is located just a few miles off the interstate)...please visit Sicily from time to time. If you need directions, email me and I will “attempt” to give them (the cemetery is not hard to find, but asking me for directions right now is not a “yes” or “no” question...I will do my best)! It would mean the world to us if we knew people were visiting her, whether you personally knew her or not, because standing in front of this little girl's grave can be quite profound. Pray by her, laugh by her, cry by her...read her a book. Manicure her little rectangle until her gravestone is placed so the grass doesn't smother out the little gifts left for her. I would be there every day if I could, but I can't. “It takes a village to raise a child,” and we had numerous villages and neighbors consisting of family, friends and complete strangers who played a role in her “raising!”
I will close with the epitaph I finally came up with that will appear on Sicily's stone. After doing long searches on the internet, I had one of those “DUH” moments when I finally realized that I should pen the words myself. Yes, I'm a little slow sometimes (I can hear an echo from my husband, “Sometimes?”) ; )
"She's our Pocketful of Sunshine,
An angel with a smile.
Created in God's perfection,
Beaming light on us all the while.”
I just love reading Kerry's stuff, and I "Craph" with her at every reading. I am so glad to see her writing more. I signed the guest book today and told them they are still in my thoughts and prayers. For reasons I can't explain, I just love these people.
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough! Chemo Angel
I just love reading Kerry's stuff, and I "Craph" with her at every reading. I am so glad to see her writing more. I signed the guest book today and told them they are still in my thoughts and prayers. For reasons I can't explain, I just love these people.
Betty, you are so sweet - wish you had the opportunity to meet them in person - they are all so very special. So very grateful Reynold and I got to visit them in July 2009 and also went to Sicily's funeral.
Thanks for sharing that Caterina, I am now setting at my desk crying, she is an angel now, don't have to worry about her, she is in heaven. Some one did a great job, it was like her short little life on fast forward. She sure liked to dress up, a real girlie girl. I can't imagine how empty their home must fell without her. Sorry for rambling, just thoughts coming out my fingers onto the kepyboard.
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough! Chemo Angel
I sincerely apologize for being MIA for the entire month of October. The explanation is long and one with many details, but I will try not to go overboard...an attempt that will most likely prove to be futile! ; )
The morning of Saturday, October 2nd started out rather nice. For the first time in a long time I sat out on our back deck and enjoyed my morning coffee while Corinthian kept me company. I woke up feeling good and looking forward to just spending a weekend of quality time with the family. The phone rang a little after 8:00. It was my mom, who, in her usual manner, asked how I was doing. There was a different tone in her voice...one I was not used to hearing. After a short bit of small talk, she spoke slowly and began her next sentence with the word, “Well...” which in many cases is usually followed by some potentially bad news. I could feel my chest begin to tighten as she proceeded to calmly explain to me that she and my dad had experienced a little house fire during the night. For the past six months of my life I've been living in sort of a coma where I didn't think my heart could feel any pain deeper or my level of anxiety could swell any higher than what I had been enduring until the thought and fear of the possibility of losing both of my parents in a fire became a reality!
Speeding up the conversation as my mom naturally began to predict panic in my voice, she assured me that she and my dad were both okay. I proceeded to ask for details into the matter of how, when and what happened. At the time of our conversation, to the best of their knowledge, the fire began in the garage in an electrical outlet where an extension cord was plugged in. The flames then shot up through the attic and proceeded to do damage to the ceiling above the kitchen as well as most of the interior of the garage. My mom said around 3:00 am she was awakened by the strong smell of burning wood. She rolled over and tried to turn on the lamp by her bed but it would not come on. In the dark, she and my dad got up and managed their way into the living room where they could already see bright orange flames through a door that lead from the kitchen into the garage. It was then that their smoke alarms finally went off. My dad, in an attempt to save his home, ran outside and tried to begin spraying the fire with a garden hose. My mom ran to the neighbors house for help in calling 911. I can only imagine the fear and panic that swirled around them as this all went on.
As my mom is telling me the details, still in a calm voice, the numbness of my shock begins to wear off and I begin to experience deep fear of the situation. I do, at the same moment, feel a wave of relief as she continues to convince me that they are both okay. My thoughts then traveled to their beloved cats...a female named Dust Bunny and a male name Tige...two stray cats they took in at different times and cherished both of their companionship's. My mom said that when the fireman brought out Dust Bunny, she could tell the kitty was not going to make it. She had obviously been overcome by the smoke. The firemen found Tige under a bed and he appeared to be in better condition, but was rushed to a Cat Clinic for further evaluation. His condition worsened over time, but after cashing in the majority of his nine lives and spending a week under a vet's care, he has recuperated and is currently in the care of a mutual animal loving friend.
My parents house was not destroyed by the fire, but ended up with extreme smoke and water damage and will not be livable or repairable at this time. Unfortunately, they were also without home insurance at the time of the fire. Their policy had been dropped as their fifty-five year old house was in need of painting. My dad took on the job himself and was over three quarters of the way done when the disaster occurred. This is one of life's lessons that is difficult to have to learn and endure, but we attempt to move forward and try not to dwell on the would've, should've, could've scenarios that plague us during situations like these.
My parents have a very wonderful and supportive church family that has stepped in and done amazing things for them! Their minister even went so far as be with my parents as they buried their kitty, Dust Bunny, and held a little prayer service for her. In an attempt to console my dad about the loss of his cat, which only true animal lovers can begin to understand, I told him that I was so sorry she died, but now Sicily has a kitty to play with in heaven. I think the thought helped us all out in some way!
This past month has been a month of true growth for me on so many levels. My parents fire, though tragic, heartbreaking and inconvenient, has proved to teach me some lessons that I don't think I normally would have learned otherwise. My sisters and I have taken turns in these past weeks traveling from different locations in the state of Oklahoma to help our parents begin the long process of basically starting over. It has been an eye opening experience to see the accumulation of things that can fill a house over a forty-two year span of life. It's been hard. At first, my emotions ran the gamut when processing that the house I grew up in, the home my children referred to as “Grandma and Grandpa's house,” would no longer carry those titles. It could no longer serve that purpose as “their home.” But what really makes a home? Is it the belongings we've collected or the material things we've held onto year after year? Is that what a home is made of? Or is it the family and friends who spend time together enjoying life and making lasting memories between walls and under roofs that define what a home is? It seems so easy to truly see the obvious, but for many of us, “things” represent our lives or the lives of others that have touched us. So much so that we begin to bury ourselves with them and we won't let them go for fear of losing or weakening our memory of what those “things” represented...a person, a place, an experience, a relationship. I don't know if you can see where this is going, but I've been spending the past month battling my own personal war over letting go of some of Sicily's things. I started by tackling mounds of clothing, shoes and hair accessories. It has been a painful journey, but one I was ready to embark on. It will take time, but at least I've jumped on the wagon and I'm headed down the right trail.
I started to realize that Sicily's clothing did not represent who she was as a human being and did not define her. Holding onto it all has actually caused me more pain just to see it, touch it and be near it. I can vividly remember certain outfits she wore and I've attached memories to so many of them, but to hold up an outfit and visualize her wearing it, it just becomes so painful that I can't bear to do it anymore. It's time to let this stuff go. What is okay, though, is seeing pictures of Sicily wearing these clothes. Those pictures make me happy. The pieces of colorful stitched together fabrics, by themselves, do not. This is what I keep in mind as I work through this process. I am holding onto a few things that she loved, like her Hello Kitty t-shirts and her adjustable button waste jeans that were sinched up with five inches of elastic showing on each side. She loved her jeans and t-shirts! I put some of her fall and winter clothing in a big consignment sale and tracked it as it sold. One outfit, in particular, I prayed would not come home with me after the completion of the sale. It turned out to be one that had such sad memories attached, I really needed for it to leave my possession...it was a bright yellow and navy flowered knit shirt with matching leggings and a navy blue skirt. She had it on while inpatient at the hospital the day we found out her cancer was terminal. I held the shirt up when I came across it and buried my face in my hands to catch the flood of tears. Holding onto something like that is not healthy. I am happy to report that on the second day of the consignment sale, it sold. I will admit to experiencing a waive of emotions, but more than anything, it was a huge relief. I anticipate this part of the roller coaster ride to continue with many highs and lows and twists and turns, but over time, I will also continue to adjust and adapt to what needs and has to be done! ; ) It's all about the healing process and my need to survive!
I know this will take time, as will the adjustments my parents are forced into making in their later years of life, but I still see God in every aspect of my daily surroundings. He continues to show Himself to me and I, humbly, continue to marvel at his unconditional love. I can't imagine trying to navigate through the treacherous waters that rise at a moments notice or attempting to keep my balance during these earthquakes of events in life if I didn't know that every second of every minute God is and always will be with me. His sufficient grace brings me to my knees and brings tears of thankfulness. I thank Him for Sicily's living and for her dieing...so many people were affected by her short little life. I thank Him for sparing my parents lives in that fire and for teaching me lessons through tragedy! It's a shame that's the way He has to get through to me sometimes! I think He made some of us a little too hard headed! ; )
I want to share a message I heard a few weeks ago at church. I have to explain, first, where my mind was on that Sunday. I was dead set on making it through church without swelling up my eyes, and for good reason. When we lived in Kansas, I had the honor of participating as a Eucharistic minister in our small parish. In the Catholic church, a Eucharistic minister is someone who assists the priest during communion in presenting the consecrated bread and the wine to those wanting to accept Jesus' body and blood. It's a participation in the church that, to me, is so incredibly fulfilling and meaningful. I was nervous every Sunday for the three years I was periodically scheduled to serve. I figured if I was not nervous, then the importance of the role was lost...therefore God allowed for me to be nervous every single time.
Once we moved to Oklahoma, I had a desire to humbly attempt to serve at our MUCH larger parish once a training was scheduled, but was never able to sign up due to Sicily's unpredictable treatment schedule. This past summer, I decided I needed to jump back into doing something that meant a great deal to me so I signed up and attended the short training. My first Sunday to serve was October 17th and I went to church with a nervous stomach and a prayer to God that I could make it through mass without my usual waterworks. I knew I would not be able to get up and stand in front of others with a tear stained face. Being at church still makes me very emotional. It's hard sometimes not to sit there and envision Sicily's white casket in front of the alter. I especially struggle with certain songs and music that I hear!
I knew my strength would be tested when Father Joe began to speak. He started by talking about prayer. He asked, “What do you tell the parents of a dying child?” Feeling like his words were penetrating my heart, Patrick and I, with our three older kids sitting between us, turned and looked into each others eyes. My eyes started to water, but I was able to hold off the flow. Of all mornings to hear such a question... I did not know how I was going to be able to fulfill my commitment that morning. I began to dig around in my purse for a kleenex, just in case, but to no avail. Isabella, sitting on my right, noticed my quiet frantic search and picked up her purse to do the same. Once again, nothing to catch or hide the building tears. She looked at me with apologetic eyes, wishing she could help her mom out. I took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled. I had to make it through this mass.
Father Joe continued speaking by sharing a story of his youth. This time of year, with the changing weather and the approaching holidays, he is reminded of a yearly experience he had with his father. Every year in December, he would accompany his dad out into the woods to look for and cut down the perfect Christmas tree. Sometimes it would take hours, but he didn't mind as that gave him the prime opportunity to tell his father what was on his Christmas list. The more time he spent with him, the more he could tell him all that he wanted. It wasn't until he was older that he realized those special moments were more about just spending time with his father and less about listing all the things he wanted. He knew he would never get everything he asked for, but that, in the end, was not what really mattered. Spending time together was. That is what prayer is...it's spending time with God. We can tell him everything on our “want” list, and He listens...He listens to everything! But too many times, the emphasis has been put on what we are asking for instead of the simple act of just being able to communicate with Him.
I've had family and friends alike talk about how they've prayed and prayed for something, but God has not answered them. There lies the mistake...assuming that God will give them what they asked for and if their prayer is not answered in terms of how it was asked, then they perceive God not to be listening. Or God said, “No.” I believe, like Father Joe, that God does not say “No.” I think He may say, “Not right now...” Our prayers are eventually answered. He does give what is asked for, but it comes in answers we sometimes refuse to see or don't understand...His answers are easily miss interpreted.
I, personally, feel like I am living proof of successfully reading into the answers that God has given me. On the afternoon of March 21st, as Sicily lay resting on the couch in the living room, I kneeled down beside her and begged God for a miracle. I pleaded with Him to heal Sicily and take away her cancer. “Please, God, don't make her suffer.” At 10:45 that evening, God granted us a miracle. Sicily would no longer battle cancer. She would not suffer for weeks as we had feared and were told she would. God healed her the only way she could be healed...He took her to live with Him in heaven. This was not what I had in mind when I prayed, but I realized for the first time in my life, what a miracle could be. I never believed stronger than I did at that moment when God had listened to my specific prayer! I did not ask God that Sicily not die. I think I already knew that her physical dying would not stop her spiritual living. The number of people who let her touch their lives is proof of that! But the bottom line is that I spent time with Him that afternoon...without expectations and without conditions on what I was asking of Him. My prayers were answered! Her dying is still painful, without a doubt, but I have peace and am learning about acceptance just knowing that He gave me what I had asked for through my prayers! His ways...not mine!
After Father Joe helped make sense of what prayer really is and how to better explain its purpose, I still felt the need to cry that morning, but I didn't. I carried out my duty of Eucharistic minister with shaky hands. Some parishioners might have wondered if Oklahoma was experiencing another earthquake the way the wafer vibrated into their hands or mouth! ; ) That was just me experiencing the moment! I am very thankful for that morning! I love discovering ways that help me better understand my faith.
I am still trying my best to live in the day and not fret too much about tomorrow. Some days are still harder than others. The upcoming holiday season is already stirring emotions in me that I haven't found a way to handle, yet, but I'll just keep asking God for His intervention!
The road ahead for my parents is still one with unforeseen potholes and setbacks, but they are showing me the meaning of perseverance and I am very proud of them!
Corinthian, Isabella and Elias are all doing well. There is still plenty of ruckus around the house even when our chief pot-stirrer is no longer physically present...her spirit is still around making mischief from time to time, but that's the way we like it! ; )
Was just thinking about the Zeka family, they have passed another holiday without Sicily, I hope they are doing ok, another holiday soon for them to get thru, I am sure it will be difficult, but they are strong and have much support. Still have them in my prayers.
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough! Chemo Angel
Betty, thanks so much for continuing to remember sweet Sicily's family. I, too, have them in my thoughts during this time. Did call Kerry at Thanksgiving and left her message to let her know she and her family were in my thoughts.
Thursday, January 27, 2011 11:20 AM, CST Hello everyone,
I apologize once again for this incredibly long hiatus. I just kind of felt like disappearing for awhile. I feel like it's time to kick off a new season on my own little reality show. I miss writing and need to get back to what truly acts as my therapy. I have a lot I want to share and unload. I'll do it slowly, though...for your sake as well as my own!
The holidays were hard and fulfilling at the same time. I think I live life in an ever swirling contradiction! There is a lot I want to write about. This is one time I'm going to have to search deep for some sort of organizational skills to help me achieve all I want to say. I'm going to be patient with myself!
I had no intention of writing today. I was actually getting ready to head out the door to run some errands. I needed to return something to the mall (uuuugh) and have been putting it off for as long as I possibly could. My desire to be at the mall has done a complete one eighty to what it used to be. I just don't want to be there. My internal hermit has taken the reigns a lot lately. As I grabbed my list, thoughts started to overwhelm me like they used to, so I found myself sitting down at the computer and re-acquainting myself with my old friend, the keyboard. God must have a specific agenda for me today! Guess the mall will have to wait!
In the past ten months, my faith has not faltered, once...it has been steadfast through the overflowing floods, the sporadic volcanic eruptions, the slippery mile high mountain treks and the pitch dark perilous tunnels. There have been many, many days of late where there have been only one visible set of footprints in the sand! There lies the reason why my faith has sustained and remains intact. It continues to grow even when I think it's not possible for it to do so! God has proven His point to me! He is with me and in me!
There is nothing that can "un-brake my broken heart," though I know that the deep wound will eventually scar over and the constant pain that is still felt so strongly will hopefully subside at times and dwindle in strength. Right now, the tears still flow as if Sicily died in my arms last night. No amount of vitamin E will ever fade the scar that remains, and there may be times that the wound could possibly be ripped back open and the immense pain becomes overpowering again. I am in constant awareness of this. But the one thing I definitely know is that hatred, blame, regret, anger...all these "infections" will inhibit the wound from ever having a chance to heal or recover. God provides me first aide...in many times it comes from unknowing souls who bandage my wound without realizing they are doing so. They friends and family, and on some days they are mere strangers who say or do just the right thing that may help me feel better!
One of the strongest practices that is required of those who consider themselves to be of strong faith is to be a good witness...a witness to share what God's love and grace are capable of achieving. This is a task that I have often failed to do as I am just not a natural born "seller." I tried my hand in my younger years at retail. The shoes, so to speak, never quite fit me right. I hated to hound people and propose they buy more than what they laid upon the counter. I did not like to be "pushy" as this made me feel uncomfortable when it was done to me. Bottom line, it's not my calling. I used to feel this same way when it came to witnessing to others where God is concerned. Some people are naturals and others are drawn to their charismatic ways, while some people try so hard that they are perceived as pushy in their attempts to try to force faith upon those around them and they actually do more damage than good. It can be a fine and frail line. For me, I decided that my actions in life will hopefully serve as the witness that God wants and needs me to be.
Numeral uno in my book is to avoid at all costs the humanly inhumane practice of passing judgment on others if they choose to believe different than me or if their thoughts don't align with my own. I will gladly share why my faith has literally saved my mortal and eternal life if questions are ever asked or presented to me. I will admit to wanting to offer one little bit of advice, though, where faith is concerned. It is better to have it before the storm arrives. It just helps with the ability to better handle the potential destruction that does and ultimately will take place at some time or another in everyone's lives! It's better to have the insurance before the damage is accrued. Though different than a home owner insurance policy, God will still help clean up the mess after a disaster, even if you didn't acquire a policy with Him or believe He would be of any help before. His insurance is free to us, though it came for a hefty price through His Son.
I am still overwhelmed to tears and complete full body goosebumps at times when I look around and see all that He has done for me, all because I "let" Him. He has blessed me with so much! By just believing and understanding that my life is in His hands, I am surviving a nightmare. A nightmare that will only end when my own earthly body is laid to rest. But as strange as it may sound, this nightmare is played out at the very same time as the most beautiful and amazing dreams are taking place, as well. They are not dueling it out in my head, but co-existing side by side. Some times they overlap and some times one has the upper hand for awhile. At first it was the nightmare, but then the beautiful dreams began to gain in strength. Never the less, life is about balancing the nightmares with the beautiful dreams. I feel like I am living proof that it can be done. Once again, the word "easy" has no place in my ability to achieve this. I want more than anything to erase that word from my vocabulary, but I can't as I hold onto hope that I may actually get to use it someday. I'm always holding onto hope! What would life be without it?
Well, I promise to sit back down soon and share some of the experiences these past almost three months have accumulated. I have felt Sicily's undeniable presence a couple times and I have discovered several means of ways to help with my own healing. I've been learning how to cope with situations that have me initially feeling helpless and frustrated, but then God puts ideas in my mind and I shake my head in amazement. I can't wait to share some of these things as maybe I will score some brownie points and earn my "witness" badge!
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 11:00 AM, CST Hello all.
It's been a crazy couple of weeks, again. "SNOOOOOW-OKLAHOMA where the drifts come sweeping down the plains..." Over a span of eight days we received more than twenty-five inches of snow. Not a common affair in our neck of the woods! This proceeded to give our kids nine consecutive days out of school and me the desire to buy a snow blower or a front end attachment for our pick-up so I could clear a path for the buses to make their rounds and get my cabin fever kiddos back to their precious books (and me back to my self imposed hermit/loner status)!
I would've liked to have sat down a little sooner to write again, but I am aware of my limited abilities when faced with the knowledge of possible interruptions and distractions. I don't do so well. I need certain conditions and a conducive atmosphere for my thoughts to flow freely. They are a little on the shy side when others are around...they prefer to hide and not become visible unless conditions are right. They're so finicky! The house needs to be somewhat quiet, except for my carefully selected choices of mellow music that entice my emotions to begin to stir. Half the time I find myself still wrapped in my fluffy Hello Kitty robe as apparently the presence of Hello Kitty must help me channel my brainwork a little bit better!
I did write one morning. I explained to the kids that I desperately needed to shut myself in the office so I could return a favor to someone. I was asked to write something about our daughter's cancer journey, along with others, by a lady in Florida who wants to share the impact of pediatric cancer, and its notorious lack of funding, to her church community. I say that I was returning the favor to her because this sweet soul had given me the gift of allowing my little girl into her heart, along with many other children, as she works to spread word of this devastating disease and its young innocent victims. I pray she does not mind that I am sharing what I wrote to her, but the words are ones I keep finding myself reading over and over again as I feel them impact me more and more. It's funny, but I am the one typing the letters into words on this keyboard, yet I still find myself in awe of their meaning and their lessons. That's how I know it's not me most of the time...it's God!
Anyway, here is a portion of what I wrote:
"It breaks my heart to think that anyone in this world could possibly be without an understanding that we all are here for a reason and that we all have a purpose in this life, though it may not always be obvious what that purpose may be. Some people are lucky enough to have one of those obvious and impressive purposes such as ones who work in the medical profession or those who serve their fellow mankind in a perilous way through the military or as policemen or firemen. I think those who preach and share the word of God seem to know their purpose well! I can honestly say from personal experience that before August 22, 2008, I often times questioned my own personal purpose in life. I think I was looked upon by others as someone who had it all, but in my heart, I knew I didn't. I had the most amazing husband who has always provided for his family extremely well and has been a rock of stability, love and forgiveness. We had four beautiful, healthy children...boy, girl, boy, girl. We've always had more than enough and lived, for the most part, a pretty uncomplicated and fortunate life. I walked the walk and talked the talk as far as what I thought it meant to live life as a Christian, yet, I still felt something missing but could not quite put my finger on what it was. Then August 22, 2008 became our family's own personal Pearl Harbor. We were under attack. An enemy had invaded our lives and would alter and change the life we knew...forever. Our youngest daughter, Sicily, who was barely three and a half years old at the time, was diagnosed with a pediatric cancer called Wilm's tumor. My purpose in life began to become less foggy as I tried to help manage Sicily's battle with cancer as well as attempt to keep things together on the home front for the rest of our family. We were blessed with effortless help and assistance from troops of warriors who joined our army both physically and through the power of prayer. This realization of my own life's purpose didn't happen immediately as it took awhile for the shell shock to wear off a bit and the smoke from the bomb to begin to lift, but I realized God had work for me to do. I beat myself up for many years over the fact that I did not finish college as I had set out to do like my three older sibling had very successfully done. I really battled internally with this. One day, it finally hit me...I was exactly what God planned for me to be! I am a Christian, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend. From each of these titles I have a purpose in life and a job to do and I realized that it took my daughter's cancer to make me aware of this. We all have a purpose in God's eyes. And in His eyes, each purpose He has assigned us carries great weight, yet I believe no one individuals purpose is greater than anothers. We attach the level of importance ourselves...human error.
I had an epiphany one day while sitting in my daughter's room at the Children's Hospital. I watched as a bag filled with poison dripped down and ran through a tube that found it's way into her tiny disease stricken body. A contradiction, I realized...using poison to help save her life. I always had hope...I held tight to hope that we could save her life! I began to type a CaringBridge entry. I found myself typing words I could not believe I was writing. I stopped to read and re-read them over and over again. Obviously, if I typed them, then I must really believe what I was saying. I simply wrote, "I will accept God's will...whatever it may be." That can be tough to state and affirm on a normal day, but sitting in the hospital with my daughter who was fighting a worst case scenario for her personal cancer diagnosis? I actually couldn't believe I was doing this. But I did. And I did...I accepted His will. God's will turned out to be that my daughter earn her pure white feathered angel wings and enter into His glorious kingdom three weeks shy of her fifth birthday. On March 21, 2010 I cradled her in my arms with her daddy by our side as she inhaled and exhaled her last breathes of air here on earth. We encouraged her to run to Jesus and I believe she did. I wanted to keep her with me forever, but she was not mine to keep in the first place. God promised that I will see her again. Until then, I will love Him with my entire mind, heart and soul. I realized He sent this little angel to me to save my life...and I believe it worked. She was born of my body to save my soul. If she had not have done the job He sent her here to do so well, she might still be with us. God truly works in mysterious ways, there is no doubt, but I finally get it. I understand what it means to truly be a Christian now and to let God have my life! I can only hope now that by sharing my experience through these words it can help others realize what a true relationship with God is. He loves us unconditionally, so we need to reciprocate by believing in Him and accepting His will for our lives unconditionally! Every single time we pray the prayer, "Our Father," each and every one of us recites, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done...!" Let those words not just be words of a prayer we memorized as children...but let them actually be alive in your life! I at times feel like I did pay a price, but in actuality, God did not take anything away from me...Sicily was His all along. We are all truly His. He gave me eternal life because of her. This does not mean I got a free ticket to "pass Go" and collect my two hundred dollars. I need to live the rest of my life open to what it is He still wants and needs me to do. I have to continue to accept His will, but I think it will not be as hard for me in the future! I've taken the first step and I plan to just keep on walking in His direction. I am not perfect and I see myself as probably flawed more than others...but I have God in me so I will just continue to do my best! I miss my little girl with every breath I take and I know I will for the rest of my life, but we will be reunited again one day when He allows me into His kingdom of heaven. He promised. Until then, I will continue to look for signs of God and Sicily in the snowflakes that gracefully descend in winter and the butterflies that flutter beautifully in spring...the rainbows that span the skies after a summer storm and the artists envy of colors that burst in the leaves of fall. God is here. God is everywhere!
Today, I can honestly say that I feel full...I can literally feel God living inside of me. It is sad that this feeling of consummation had to come through tragedy, but it did. The life and death of my little girl truly gave me what my life had been missing...a REAL personal relationship with God. I still find myself on many days not even able to make it to my knees as I lay crumbled up on the floor with my grief, but God pulls me back up to my feet. Day after day He dusts me off, He patches my brokenness, He polishes my tarnished spots...He repeats this every time I fall down and find myself face down on the ground. He promised He would, and He has! All I had to do was let Him."
Again, I have read these words that were meant for someone else over many times. I did have a question...one I was asking of myself. "Do I still struggle with my purpose in life?" You bet...many times over! But I've decided that if I always felt confident in the reasons for my existence and what I am supposed to be doing in this life, then I would not have the need to continue to ask God for His guidance. In hindsight, I can see and understand my purpose in a given situation. It's always easier to see and understand the paths that are behind us, but not so much the ones that lay before us. Knowing that God is guiding my every foot step and that He is with me at all times is only done through trust. I have to trust Him with my life and I try everyday. Faith, I believe, is always a work in progress. It takes patience, perseverance and sometimes, some deep digging! But in the long run, it is all worth it. By having faith, I can let go of my pesky need to always understand my purpose. Keeping faith has allowed me to feel accomplished. In the midst of some of my deepest days of this grieving process and the reality of facing life with a chunk of my heart missing, I have gone to bed many times thinking that I accomplished nothing that day. It was a total waste as I struggled with the slightest task. Then I realized that I had actually accomplished something that can be considered extremely difficult in these days and times...I kept my faith. Not only did I keep it, but many times I found ways to nurture it and encourage its growth. Funny how that can be accomplished through rivers of tears! Those days I felt had been a waste, were not a waste at all! That was a powerful realization for me! Sometimes we might shine and bask in the rays of our life purposes, while other times the weight of our life purposes might find us being dragged along behind a pick-up truck...but as long as we continue to inhale and exhale the air on God's great earth, He has a purpose for us all!
That leads me to share something from last October. I turned forty-years-old in June of 2009 and was well aware that I was due a mammogram. I actually had one done at the age of twenty-eight due to some concerns that were later dismissed. I put off the exam merely out of my own personal flaw of procrastination. I had been around so many CT and x-ray machines the past year that were directed at my daughter's little body to feel my life's quota had been met, so I just wasn't anxious to see another.
It took someone very dear to me to began her own journey with breast cancer that forced me to kick my procrastination to the curb. I scheduled my exam and diligently reported for the face off with a "body part smashing machine!" I knew what to expect. What I did not expect was to be driving home from this simple little test in tears. Before leaving the house, I grabbed a coat out of the closet as the temperatures had begun to require the wearing of one. The coat I wore hadn't been donned since last March. Attached on the left lapel sat a round button pin with a bald headed beauty smiling in happiness. The pin read, "Pray for Sicily." I have not had the heart to remove this pin soliciting prayers for my daughter, so it remains.
I was not scared or anxious about the mammogram and its purpose, but at the same time the thoughts of "what if" began to creep into my conscious. My appointment was late in the day so I expected a little wait, but was surprised when I was ushered right in. I've been in and out of a lot of different medical offices and exam rooms and around too numerous a number of medical staff to even count, but my experiences have always been pleasant. Most of the time there is little personal chit chat and it's business as usual. The tech performing my mammogram was very friendly...she swayed more on the edge of bubbly. She just seemed happy to be there. She explained what she would be doing and what my role in the procedure was. Nothing had changed from thirteen years prior so there were no surprises and I was just ready to be done with it all. It is, to say the least, a humbling experience. I would've thought nothing less of this tech if she did not talk to me at all except to tell me when to turn, when to hold my breath and so on.
In her friendliness and what seemed like an attempt to dissipate the natural uncomfortable awkwardness, she began to ask questions about my last name and its origin. I explained that my husband's family is of Czech descent and that his original last name was much longer but had been shortened when his great grandparents were shuffled through Ellis Island in the early nineteen hundreds. She was fascinated. She began to share how she loves hearing the history in peoples names and that her own husband's family is from Italy, so she has a very Italian last name. I can't even remember what she said her last name was because what she said right after that sent my head spinning. She could've ended the conversation with that statement, but she continued by saying, "His whole family is from Sicily!" Then she said, "Okay, now hold her breath." There was no need to hold my breath...I couldn't breathe! She just said Sicily's name. After I was allowed to breathe again, I said, "My youngest daughter's name is Sicily...but she died in March from cancer." I usually don't blurt that out to complete strangers, but I just couldn't believe that my little girl found a way to be with me while I was being tested for breast cancer. She was with me, and I knew it. The tech continued by sharing her condolences and by telling me how beautiful a name it was. After the test was over, she met me out in the hallway to explain that the results would be sent to my doctor who would inform me of any concerns. I showed her the button of Sicily on my coat lapel. She smiled a smile laced with sympathy... a contradictive expression if ever there was one. I walked to my vehicle and sat for a moment letting the faucet run. Little did this sweet tech know what her purpose would be in my life that afternoon. She was a portal for a simple message from Sicily. "I'm with you, mommy!" By the way, I'm good.
One last topic...the thought of a mother, whose child is battling cancer, finding herself being diagnosed with cancer is down right unthinkable...but it happens. And it did happen. Elisa Creed, mother of Tanner, who is currently receiving treatment for a Wilm's tumor relapse, was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. They live in the Wellington, Kansas area...our home stomping ground. Tanner was inpatient last week and still has two more rounds left on his protocol. Mother and son are together fighting for their lives. It's hard to even imagine...hard for the brain to comprehend. Elisa will undergo a double mastectomy this afternoon, so I am asking for prayers to storm the heavens. This family, which includes Elisa's husband and four daughters, needs support and prayers in an enormous way.
My stomach thinks it is due some food since we are now back to our normal school day schedule after functioning on summer vacation hours the past couple of weeks. Eating breakfast too early forces me to deal with hunger pains by 10:00...I'm just going to ignore them and hope they go away...or I could just give in and eat one bite size brownie! ; )
I have so much more to share and will continue to find the time and the frame of mind to accomplish as much as I can...when I can. Until then, please love and enjoy life.
We are doing pretty good. The key these days to that outcome is to stay busy, and that we are. Also, I know that the main reason we are doing as good as we are is because we are still being lifted up in prayer and we are so thankful.
Patrick and I both knew that the days between February 25th and March 21st were and are going to be the hardest for us to encounter yet. Each holiday and momentous occasion was felt deeply through out this last year of “firsts,” but we could still think back and attempt to enjoy the memories we had of living our lives with Sicily. February 25th marks the day we found out that all options had run out...the day Sicily's life was listed under the category of “terminal.” We had no idea how much time she had left and did our best to enjoy every last minute with her. We were given just short of one last month. It is hard to think back on those last days one year ago, so in an effort not to drown, I'm trying not to focus on them too much. It can be too painful at times!
The kids are on spring break and we have lots of “busy-ness” planned. I'm really looking forward to our time together. I have to smile with God's timing. The thought that He let Sicily survive long enough to last through spring break last year so her siblings and other family and friends could see her and spend one last time with her brings me to tears. It was such a gift. And then to have spring break this year to be able to be with my kids for a quantity of quality time before we endure her “angelversary” is yet another beautiful gift from Him.
Speaking of Sicily's “angelversary,” (thank you to my friend, Shannon, for sharing this title with me as it is so befitting and she knows very well the importance of the meaning)... Father Joe offered to celebrate mass at Sicily's grave site next Monday, March 21st in Wellington, Kansas and we graciously took him up on it. We will be heading up north just for the day and plan on gathering at the cemetery (Sumner Memorial Gardens) around 4:30ish. I want to be back home by late evening so I can sit in the rocking chair I last held Sicily in when the clock reads 10:45pm. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join us on Monday, whether you are Catholic or not...whether you personally knew this little angel or just let her into your heart, we sincerely invite you! Our motto has always been, “The more the merrier!” We also don't want anyone to feel obligated as we know this won't fit into everyone's schedule, but in case it does, we could use all the hugs we can get! ; )
I still have so much I need to write about, but haven't sat down long enough to focus and gather my thoughts. I promise I will in due time. So much of this grief journey has been emotionally draining, as should be expected, but it's been a mental process, as well. I have longed for the day when we could say we survived the first year. I just feel like I will gain a sense of accomplishment, as silly as that sounds. I am realistic to accept that each holiday and special occasion will still find me with a lingering sadness, but having endured a full year before, I know I will continue to feel more happiness and I will let my reflections of our precious little girl fill me with gratitude, joy and thankfulness that she was a part of our lives for as long as she was. She was truly a gift and I will treasure what God gave to me because of her!
I will try to confirm our plans later in the week and attempt to give directions to the cemetery in Wellington. It might be a safer bet to map quest as I am not known for accurate directions! ; )
One last thing...we had high hopes that Sicily's grave stone would be placed by March 21st, but we are still patiently waiting for that to happen. I guess if it's meant to be, it will be. I don't know why but I just really wanted it there by this momentous date. God keeps trying to teach me lessons of letting go when things are not in my control. It's a tough lesson to learn and I haven't grasped it yet, but I continue to try!
Sending hugs and prayers to the Zekas, can't imagine what a year it has been with out Sicily, it seems to have flown by for us, but I'm sure it hasn't for them. No one should have to celebrate an anniversary of losing a precious child, but it happens every day. God's comfort to them as it nears.
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough! Chemo Angel
SWEET SICILY'S FIRST ANGELVERSARY IN HEAVEN WITH JESUS.
Sunday, March 20, 2011 8:16 PM, CDT
It's the first day of spring for the year 2011. One year ago today the largest snowflakes I've ever seen slowly fluttered down from the sky and blanketed the ground. A friend explained that those extremely large round flakes were the discarded trimmings of Sicily's wings as the angels in heaven clipped and prepared them for her arrival. I wish I had a picture of that snow. I wish I would've run outside and captured a few of those beautiful flakes in a plastic bag so I could've stored them in the freezer and looked at and envisioned their purpose from time to time. I will just have to rely on my memory to remember how incredible that first day of spring snow was on March 20, 2010. The day before Sicily became a true heavenly angel.
This year, the first day of spring brought us eighty degree temperatures. Amazing how different things can be over one years time! Tomorrow, one year ago, our lives were changed forever. I spend a lot of my days, these days, in reflection of what has changed, how it has changed and, more importantly, how we've been able to adapt to this incredibly difficult change. We are quite different now. We will never be the same. We've come to realize that some things in life mean more to us while other things take on less meaning. I wish I could've learned and accepted this new way of life...this new way of thinking and feeling and understanding life without having had to sacrifice the young life of our precious little daughter, but unfortunately, it turns out that it was the only way God could get my attention. And that He did. He has my undivided attention now. He has my mind, my heart and my soul. He has my little girl, so I will do whatever it takes in the life I have left to ensure I can join the both of them someday!
We are going ahead with our plans to be in Wellington, KS tomorrow around 4:00 (give or take) to hold mass at Sicily's grave. We have no expectations for anyone to go out of their way to join us, though all are sincerely invited. We realize it will be spring break for the folks in Kansas and a lot of family and friends have already notified us that they cannot be with us. We completely understand! Do me a favor, though, if you could...look for signs of butterflies tomorrow, whether alive and fluttering around or just pictures or artwork of the delicately winged creatures. Think a sweet thought of Sicily. If you see pink or yellow...smile for a moment for the little girl who, without trying or even knowing what she was doing, changed lives. So many lives were changed for the better because of her. I couldn't be more proud to be her mommy...still!
Just in case someone needs directions to the cemetery in Wellington, I'm going to give it my best shot. From I-35 take the Wellington exit (I'm sorry...I just heard Charlie Sheen say, “Duh” in my head. I need to erase that image!!!) ; ) Turn right (west) onto Hwy 160. At the first stop light, turn left (south) onto Woodlawn. Approximately a few blocks down the road, turn left (east) onto Harvey which will end at Prairie Lawn Cemetery. Turn left at the entrance of the cemetery and drive through to Sumner Memorial Gardens entrance. Sicily is located a little north and east from this entrance. It's not a huge cemetery so it shouldn't be too difficult to locate her resting place. That's about the best I can do on directions!
We've been fortunate to stay busy this past week which has helped soften the sadness of this impending date. Patrick was away on a business trip so the kids and I left home, as well, and had the opportunity to hang out with my family for awhile. It did me a tremendous amount of good, even though I felt I was still experiencing a bit of anxiety from time to time. I can only imagine my condition if we had just stayed home over spring break! Since we've come home it's been a different story. I find myself soaking in a bath of tears one minute, and laughing over thoughts, stories and pictures of Sicily the next. The toughest time happened to be in church this morning...surprise, surprise. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I still break down when I hear certain music...especially when I hear the two choir members who sang during Sicily's service. Their beautiful voices haunt and comfort me at the same time. It's a beautiful experience, despite describing it with the word “haunt.” After losing someone, the word “haunt” just kind of becomes a norm in the vocabulary. I can't help but feel the sting of tears in my eyes when from time to time I envision her white coffin as it was gently rolled down the center isle of the church. Once again, visions that both stir great sadness and overwhelming joy at the same time (sadness that she is not with us but joy that she is in heaven). The words Father Joe speaks...so many times I feel them directed at me, though I know they are meant for all. My heart beats with a heavy burden when I hear him talk of children, and the loss of children, as he has done on many occasions. And then the music invades my emotions again. This morning we sang the hymn, “We Remember.” I'm glad we were seated in the rear of the church as there was no hiding the streams that rapidly developed and began to flow. I looked over at Patrick, who is usually able to keep his emotions under reign, and I had to turn over my last Kleenex to him. The beginning of the hymn had us both struggling... “We remember how you loved us to Your death, and still we celebrate for You are with us here. And we believe that we will see You when You come in Your glory, Lord. We remember, we celebrate, we believe.” The lyrics just took on a whole knew meaning for us!
Music has always been an important part of my life. It was been a huge crutch in my grieving process. A song that I first heard last spring continues to give me chills and I find myself drawn to listen to it over and over. It's called, “If I Die Young,” by The Band Perry. My favorite verse is, “Lord make me a rainbow, I'll shine down on my mother. She'll know I'm safe with you as she stands under my colors. Oh, life ain't always what you think it ought to be, no. Ain't even gray but she buries her baby. The sharp knife of a short life. Well, I've had just enough time.” I guess Sicily had just enough time. I still wanted a lifetime with her...what we mortals consider a lifetime, but God gave her “just enough time.” Time...something I don't think I ever have enough of, but my daughter had very little and it was “just enough!” I have to continue to work at seeing it this way!
I've got to go hunt down some pink and yellow articles of clothing for tomorrow. I know Isabella and I can handle that order, but the boys are a different story. ; )
Love to you all and God bless each and every one of you!!!
Wow, I can't believe the month of March is almost over. I had great intentions of writing last week. I blinked and found myself here, a week and a half later. Where does time go? Really! I relate to that saying, “I'm so far behind I thought I was first!”
I am in a totally different state of mind as of last Tuesday, March 22nd. It's almost like a switch has been flipped...one I would like to permanently tape in the “on” position as to not have it accidentally or inadvertently switched off. I truly had a very strong epiphany after spending the previous evening of March 21st rocking in the very rocking chair I cradled Sicily in as she slipped from this life into the next. I hugged her pink Hope bear. Her loyal companion throughout her cancer journey. It smelled of her, only because it spent time outside with us at her grave site earlier that evening...therefore it smelled of the outdoors. It smelled of her! As I sat there at days end, I also tightly clinched her Hello Kitty blanket that she was wrapped in as I cradled her in the last moments of her precious life. I sat alone, at 10:45pm and re-lived the most difficult and heart wrenching moment I had ever experienced in my life and wondered if I would ever own the true strength others seem to think I have. I was tired, weary, physically and emotionally drained, and ready, once again, for God to take over.
I awoke Tuesday morning with the strongest desire I have experienced, ever in my life, to make some sort of change. The above mentioned epiphany was when I realized that I just survived, and somewhat successfully did so I will honestly admit in hindsight, an unbelievable experience that I never in my wildest nightmares thought I ever would or could. I felt empowered, finally, as a result of living a full year without Sicily's physical presence. If I could accomplish that, what else am I capable of doing?
There are a few personal things I've longed to achieve in my life. Simple, mundane things that others may take for granted and not think difficult to achieve, but have been mile high brick walls for me. I hate to set myself up for failure by mentioning what I want to do, but if I don't reach my goal then it really is only myself I will be disappointing and letting down. I want to fully participate in a marathon someday. I'm not going so far as to say I want to run a full marathon, but would consider myself successful by just running “any” amount someday. You have to understand that I am not and never have been a fan of running! I was that girl on the track during Jr. high gym class who was passed by on the track so many times that when I crossed the finish line it looked like I was in first place but in reality I just ran one lap and had three more to go! ; ) My body doesn't look favorably upon what my mind is persistent in wanting to try. I'm going to side with my mind on this one and tell my body to, as Sicily would say (after hearing her daddy say it many times), “Suck it up!” So I've dusted off my running shoes (previously known as “walking” shoes) and am slowly trying to build a relationship with the treadmill. My knees complain in shock every time I break out of a brisk walk and attempt a slow jog, but they, too, must listen to Sicily's wise words! Nike encourages us to “Just Do It,” while Miss Sicily Evelyn Zeka barks and demands us to “Suck It Up!” ; ) So I will try my best! ; )
Returning to Sicily's one year “Angelversary,” I can only describe it as a beautifully difficult day. We traveled to Wellington as planned where Father Joe met us at Sicily's very own piece of Kansas property and he performed mass, despite mother nature trying to blow us back to Oklahoma! The wind was strong enough to return Dorothy and Toto back to the family farm without the magic of the ruby red slippers. It was not force enough, though, to stop our spiritual endeavor. With the help of a few borrowed cement garden statues, (an angel from Sicily's plot and a bunny and Mother Mary from Grandpa Zeka's) the make shift folding card table alter was anchored and prepared for mass...the second mass in a years time we've had in the presence of Sicily's last earthly possession, her little body in a box. We were surrounded by a small crowd of cherished and valued family and friends. The thoughts and prayers of those who could not join us physically were felt and treasured. I clutched in my arms Sicily's Hello Kitty blanket. The blanket that she received from her aunts on her Hello Kitty themed third birthday party in April 2008. The blanket that adorned her hospital bed almost every time during her more than eighty days spent inpatient over nineteen months. The blanket she was wrapped in as she was rocked and encouraged to run to heaven. The one that protected her lifeless body as she was placed on the gurney and zipped up in a black plastic bag on her journey to the funeral home. The blanket that was placed back into my arms after her funeral and has been my loyal security object at night for a full year now. Having it, holding it, provides a physical comfort for me. I will sleep with it until it is nothing but patches of fabric scarcely holding onto one another by thin and fragile strands of thread. I'm guessing that it will carry me into my late nineties. And if, by the will of God, it is possible, I will be wrapped in it when I breath my last breathes on earth, too!
After a beautiful mass was offered and loving words spoken by Father Joe, we gathered at Grandma Zeka's house for a dinner of Chinese (Sicily liked lo mein noodles) and angel food cake (per Grandma's request. It never donned on me to serve angel food cake. It was perfect!). Our excursion up north was quick, minus the five hour round trip drive, and we were back home in time for us to get the kids to bed and for Patrick and I to spend a little time in reflection. He had to head to bed before ten as he had to drive back to Kansas in the morning for a meeting, so I prepared for the special time by pulling the autographed CD of Kari Jobe off the bookshelf in the office where I have it on display. This was a priceless gift from a neighbor and friend of my heart on that cold March afternoon. I don't think she will ever know or I can honestly express enough the true value of this CD. It was delivered just hours before Sicily's wings were permanently attached and was the last sounds her little ears heard, along with the voices of her mommy and daddy, as she effortlessly flapped them for the first time. The angelic voice and music of Kari Jobe became a rope from which I clung tightly to as I grieved those first few months. Then it all of a sudden became too painful to listen to, despite her song “Beautiful” being the ring tone on my cell phone. The correlation between the words and soothing accompaniment and their significance to that nights occurrences became too much for my emotions to endure, so I began to avoid something that really meant a lot to me. This past February, the need to listen to her spiritually powerful and meaningful music again became overwhelming and I could not deny what my heart required for continued healing. At first, the tears burned my face and swelled my eyes, but my soul ached for that feeling of closeness. Listening to Kari Jobe's music made me feel so close to Sicily. There really are no words to describe it. When I am washed over with this feeling of closeness, I not only feel Sicily living in me, but God's presence is at its absolute strongest. All because of a CD. All because of lyrics like, “Here, in Your presence, I am not afraid of brokenness,” from one of my favorites songs titled, “Beautiful.” And from another favorite, “Beloved,” “I'll take you to My quiet water. I'll restore your soul. Come rest in Me and be made whole.” I am back to wanting and needing to listen, if even just briefly, to this music daily. It helps remind me of what was, what is now and what is yet to come! Kendra, thank you for listening to God that afternoon of March 21st! You did His work!
Tuesday morning another little ceremony was planned by Sicily's preschool at St. Benedict's. Last year, in honor of her birthday in April, a red bud tree, specifically chosen for it's pink spring blossoms, was planted near the childrens playground at church. This was another one of those incredible days that will forever remain planted in my memory and provide me with warm smiles for years to come. The entire preschool consisting of almost eighty little two-year-olds to five-year-olds gathered for the tree dedication. Each child was handed a balloon to release. The visual of a blue sky dotted with brightly colored balloons flying up to heaven is one I will never forget. Sicily's classmates sent personal messages to her via the balloons. Miss Sylvia, her beloved teacher and very special person in our lives, gave me a list of what each child wanted to say to Sicily. Just thinking about this brings me to tears, which we all know by now is not too difficult to do, but this was about the most precious and meaningful thing these little ones could do for my heart! Lillian said, “I love you! Happy Birthday” Kate said, “I will never forget you!” Chloe said, “I care about you!” Ryan and Nathan said, “I love you and would like to play with you!” Sam said, “I love you - I miss you!” Mary said, “Are you feeling better all day?” Jordon said, “I hope God takes care of you!” Jaden said, “I love you very much with my whole heart!” The one that probably gets to me the most is from the little boy Sicily claimed to be her boyfriend, Blake... “I love you in my heart. I really love Sicily so much!” There were many more sweet and heartfelt words. Needless to say, I cried a lot that day. I cry today re-reading the list.
Jumping forward to this past Tuesday, March 22nd, Miss Judi Ann, the preschool director and Sicily's and my dear friend, had the placque ready that had been ordered to be placed by the tree. It reads, “Our Angel. In Loving Memory. Sicily Evelyn Zeka. April 15, 2005 – March 21, 2010.” Once again we gathered by the tree that had been lovingly nurtured and cared for over the past year and placed the sand colored engraved stone in front of it. Father Joe said a prayer and we released six balloons in honor of Sicily's upcoming sixth birthday. We were minus the entire preschool but enjoyed the brief company of some of the teachers as well as church staff. I am humbled by the actions of others on Sicily's behalf. It still completely amazes me how so many let themselves be affected by her little life and her premature death. That knowledge is what helps me through the day...and sometimes through the hour! When people share their lives and stories with me, my armor of strength grows in layers. When asked how I've gotten through this, look in the mirror. You all are the reason! Isn't it amazing how each of us can have an effect on one anothers lives? As many of you know my favorite analogy is a Newton's Cradle. In the pendulum of life, sometimes we are the ones that get to swing to great heights because of the power and energy shared with us by others. Sometimes we are the ones in the middle...holding still but doing the most important job of support and sharing our vigor. Each one of us is needed in the big picture and for motion, life, to continue! All thanks to God's great design!
I have felt nothing by blessed through out this past year. To realize that Sicily's life and death were both blessings is a lesson I can proudly boast that I've learned and will continue to hopefully embrace the rest of my life. Acceptance leads to peace. Peace leads to pure happiness. Happiness is God's will!
I will end this marathon of a post with something I wrote the Tuesday following Sicily's Angelversary. Before heading to church that morning I sat in the living room while listening, once again, as Kari Jobe sang to me and I wrote a long overdue description about Sicily. I sat with a pencil in hand and a Hello Kitty notebook in my lap. I wrote about who she was and what she meant to me. The rambling of words came very easily and I could've written a short book about her right then and there, but the clock forced me to keep it short. Here is the result:
Sicily Evelyn Zeka...
She was silly, sassy and sometimes sternly stoic.
She could aggravate your mind one minute with her stubbornness and on the turn of a dime melt away your resolve with her sweetness!
She was Sicily.
She understood what it meant to enjoy life and had explored many avenues on how to thoroughly do it and do it to the max.
She was cautiously carefree...a walking, hopping, running contradiction in action. An inherited trait from her mommy.
She was athletic and awkwardly agile...daddy's little sport in the making.
She fully lived life.
She could wrap people around her little finger once her self constructed wall of shy independence crumbled. Her beautiful natural smile beamed with solar blindness and her bubbly, goofy personality boiled over and flowed like lava from a Hawaiian volcano.
She could affect anyone on or near her path.
She shared the best runny nose Eskimo and eyelash-less butterfly kisses in the world. One of her favorite displays of affection was a face to face, nose to nose, forehead to forehead eye stare. Much humor was found in doing this as mommy's two eyes merged into one, as did hers. It never failed to produce a deep belly giggle from us both!
She was a stinker!
Her smile could brighten, and through hundreds of God given pictures, continues to brighten the gloomiest of dark times. The sound of her laughter, as it can only echo in my mind now, once vibrated and tickled my inner core.
She was and always will be our angel!
She had a purpose filled life...though one she couldn't possibly have fully understood herself, but those around her did, and continue to still.
She was a borrowed piece of heaven!
But the consequence of her death made me realize...aren't we all?
I love you Sicily Evelyn Zeka... “All the way to heaven!!!”
I miss you, Pocketful of Sunshine!
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of her, even if briefly, in our lives?