New Way to be Human

Nov. 18 2004, my Mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. I started this blog to chronicle her journey. July 19, 2005 she gave her life in the battle. This blog is my place to process through the journey I walked along with her, and now my journey through grief. It's also a place to discuss the effects cancer has on the lives it touches--survivors and caregivers alike. I'm a Navy wife, a Mom, and my mother's daughter now and forever.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

We'll Have to Muddle Through Somehow

As posted at my other blog:

Even since I learned that the original lyrics of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" were something like, "Have yourself a merry little Christmas, It will be our last..." I've rather liked the song. (I am a little bit twisted you know). I like that Judy Garland allegedly insisted that they change the lyrics to something more hope-giving when it was originally sung in Meet Me in St. Louis.

This weekend, as the Christmas songs have been blaring over the airways more and more the song hit me anew in a fresh way. Especially the line, "Come next year, we all will be together If the Fates allow But till then we'll have to muddle through somehow So have yourself a merry little Christmas now."

I think muddling through is about all I'll be able to muster this year. I plan to muddle through with style, and grace, and spunk, and even joy, but it will be different than other Christmases in so many ways. Even different than last Christmas. Last Christmas I clung fiercely to the idea of Christmas being a light in the darkness. I'm clinging even tighter this year, because the darkness feels that much more overwhelming.But I know the light is there. I know that Christ is our light in the darkness...

So as I put up the Christmas tree, and listen to the carols, and remember special Mom memories, and miss Andy, and watch the wonder in my daughters face as she lays eyes on the Christmas tree for the first time I will hold on to that. And as I cry with tears of loneliness and missing, and wonder how I will get through my first Christmas without my mother... and how I will carry on the "Mom traditions," as I wish for Andy's arms, and real conversations with him, and long for his hand to hold, and to see the light in his eyes as he opens his gifts from Carolyn and I... Through the goods and the bads of the muddling, I will let the light shine in me, and in and through my life.

I will truly live and love this Christmas. Even if it hurts.

I will muddle through and hold onto the light. After all, I'm called to be a light-bearer myself.

So... here I go to muddle. I have lights to string on the tree and decorations to put up.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

When you sit around the table...

When you sit around the table this Thanksgiving holiday...
Take a slow, lingering look.
Really see the people seated around.
Remember why it is that you love them.
And be thankful for the ways they touched your life.
You don't know what seats might be empty next year.

When you bow your heads, and hold hands
To breathe a prayer of thanks
Squeeze extra tight before letting go.
You never know which hands you will be left
longing for next year.

And, as you sit and laugh and talk
About happenings past and present
Store up in your heart
The joy of those simple moments.
They slip away so fast
And you are left only with memories.

And if a chair is empty this year
Breathe a prayer of thanks
That you remembered to soak in the moments,
Squeeze the hand you now long for
And love fully in all the moments that you had...

Saturday, November 19, 2005


A year ago yesterday my husband got his first promotion. He had a little pinning on ceremony and I was feeling very proud. I called my Dad to glow at him, and found him to be very quiet. Very strained. When I asked what was going on, he wouldn't tell me. And then he said he needed to talk to me later when Andy was there with me. I knew something terrible was going on.

That's when we found out Mom had lung cancer, and when my world turned upside down, and when I started to relearn everything that I thought I knew about living and loving and even being me.

The thing is... After the initial shock, I really thought that we'd have a long fight ahead of us. One with a lot more triumphs. One with more good days. I really believed that Mom would still be here today. I thought she might be very sick... but I thought she'd be here. I always believed she'd see the mark of one year out. My Mom was the most stubborn, fiesty woman I have ever known and I really thought her ability to fight would carry her far. But the beast was just too strong.

She's not here. She didn't have good days after that one. Her last good day before the day she entered heaven was last October.

I miss my Mom so badly tonight. I spent time today with some friends from high school, and I'd love to sit tonight and talk to her about that--about how we've all changed. A year ago I thought that I'd be able to do a thing like that. She's already missed Carolyn crawling, sitting up, pulling up, and cruising. She's not here to talk to when I miss Andy, or to discuss episodes of West Wing with, or to scream at the T.V. during a Steeler's game. I thought she'd still be doing all those things.

But I was wrong.

That makes me feel angry, and sad, and grieved, and defeated.

My Mom should be here. I should be planning for Thanksgiving with her. She should be spoiling Carolyn, giving people hell, laughing, playing trivial pursuit, going to the river boat, giving me advice (solicited or otherwise) about Mommying, and keeping Dad on his toes.

We've been robbed of so very much.

I HATE the beast, Lung Cancer.

I know there are folks in blogland reading this who themselves, are struggling with cancer. Don't let this post discourage you. Let it make you mad. Put on your boxing gloves and fight like Hell. Fight for good days, fight to live every moment, fight to make the number of those moments vast and expansive. Fight for hope. And know that I will be here fighting with you.

Cancer is a thief. A destroyer. An ugly, cruel entity.

We can't let it win.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


One of the emotions I didn't expect to see in the grief literature I've read was 'fear,' but I find that I do indeed have it.

Since Mom died... Actually since Mom got sick, I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. I worry about something happening to Carolyn, or something happening to me and what that would mean for Carolyn. I worry about Dad every time he has a cough or a sniffle. I worry about natural and unnatural disasters. And of course I worry about my husband.

Changes are afoot for him so I feel fear especially strongly tonight.

When I am trying to make myself snap out of my funks I often say "It could be worse. So many others have it worse." But what follows sometimes is: What if worse happens?

I'm not sitting around cowering, or out building a bomb shelter or anything.

But I would be lying if I said that I was exempt from this 'fear' emotion.

I must admit it's not one of my favorites.

Friday, November 04, 2005

VERY bad day so far

It's a day of a little self-pity, a little despair, and one horrible nightmare.

As I went to sleep last night, I was thinking about how on the one hand, it was really no big deal that pastor-guy hadn't shown up... I could logically understand it. I know he is busy. I know he is human. No big deal. But it seemed like deep in the recesses of me I had this feeling of, "It was damn hard even jumping out on that limb... and now it's been cut away??" and also some feelings that maybe I am not meant to have support right now. Maybe right now is my season to muddle through darkness alone. I really don't like that thought, but if that is what the season is, I guess I will eventually learn to accept it. (Though I do note that there are a few people, most notably my dear friend, Becca, who will and do help carry the burden. And I AM grateful.)

So I don't know if my thoughts along those lines contributed to the nightmare I had this morning, or if it came straight from the cold I'm fighting... but it was a doozy.

I'll spare you the gory details, but essentially Mom was alive, but sick. It was this time of year. Someone had put up the Christmas tree without me and I was FURIOUS because I knew this would be my LAST Christmas tree with Mom. I ripped down the Christmas tree and ran to my room to cry, and while there was confronted with an evil woman. I knew if I destroyed this evil woman Mom would live and my husband would not have to go to scary places, so I clawed at her, and spoke words that were supposed to make her go away and indeed she was destroyed (incidentally... Somehow or another she was made into ginger-snap cookies... mildly comical I suppose).

I woke up, gasping, and frightened, and did the typical mental assessment to be sure that the nightmare would not be true. I thought of Carolyn and smiled and my brain said, "Everything is ok." Then, through the fog, I thought some more and realized with horror that in my nightmare Mom was alive, I was going into the holiday season with her, and husband was going to be in safe places (after all, I had destroyed the evil woman). In my real life Mom is dead, I am facing a holiday season without Mom that looks more and more complicated, sad, and lonely, and my husband IS going to scary places.

It was horrible. Real life is supposed to be better than your nightmares.... But today my real life is decidedly worse than my nightmare.

I was so stunned and weepy after the nightmare that it took me a bit more gumption to get out of bed and decide that I wanted to go ahead and get ready to go to the Mommy Group that I've been looking forward to attending all week. So I started to get ready, and my darling girl BURST into tears because in order to get a shower I had to leave her in her swing... And she stayed hysterical for the whole rest of the morning making it impossible to get either of us ready to go... So... Here I am blogging instead. This seemed just insult to injury. The whole week has been like that. I was SO looking forward to this week. Monday I started a new Bible Study, Wednesday I was going to go out with Becca and her husband, Yesterday I was supposed to meet with pastor-guy, and today I was going to go to Mommy group. All of these things made me HAPPY to think about.

The Bible Study was disappointing (I'll give it 3 more tries, but the first visit was disappointing), Wednesday I got terribly sick with a cold and wasn't able to go out with Becca and her husband, Thursday pastor-guy didn't show, and today I can't do Mommy group. All VERY small things.... But in the context of really struggling and being DESPERATE right now for things to go right it just seems so awful.

Please don't lecture me about counting my blessing. I am. I do. Every day. Every day I try to go to sleep more Grateful about things in my life than sad. Every second I am trying to see the brighter things. Every moment I am trying so hard to maintain blasted perpective.

But Right now I just feel like wailing that "IT's NOT FAIR!!!!!!" Nightmares shouldn't be better than reality. My husband should be here with me. My mother should never have gotten cancer. I shouldn't have to feel SO alone. And I should be able to have good, fun things happen in my life without it being a fluke or mistake of nature.

There is one more hope... I've been looking forward to a wedding that I'm going to this weekend for Months... I am excited. But Now I am terrified that I won't be able to go or it will end up being horrible.

So I know that overall, this shows far more pessimism that even my normal posts here. I know it sounds like a colassal whine. But I think I am entitled a few of those now and again. Perspective, and gratefulness, and the cultivating of joy even while I feel sorrow will be back soon.

For right now I'm just going to be angry and sad and pitiful.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I Guess One Tissue Will Have to be Enough....

I had an appointment to visit with Pastor-guy today... At least I thought I did....

Turns out, it's not an incredible ego-booster to be stood-up by a pastor.

No big deal... Though I am a little bummed about it. I'd been taking mental notes all week about new things I wanted to verbally process.

I'm sure he had a very good reason for not being there--not the least of which being that he didn't have his datebook with him last week when we made the appointment.

It just makes me feel like I am probably back to going it alone in the vast wilderness of my current emotional situation.

I will survive.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sweet Oblivion

One year ago I would step outside my door and smell the warm scent of wood-burning and pine trees. Andy and I took trips to Island towns and ate at mediocre restaurants. I was sick with the yuck that wouldn't let go. I was feeling really pregnant. I was starting to show. I was worrying about the family invading our house for Thanksgiving.

One year ago, I talked to my Mom on the phone almost every day. I called her for help with recipes. I called her to tell about my ultrasound, and the pregnancy, and all of doctor's appointments, and to complain about aches and pains and frustrations that come with expecting a child. She sounded tired and a little worried, but overall ok.

One year ago this last weekend was my Mom's last good day.

One year ago I was finding a hotel for Mom and Dad to stay in when they came to visit us for Thanksgiving. I was checking in with Mom to see when they were coming, and if they were still driving.

One year ago we were starting to make plans about Mom and Dad coming to be with us when the baby was born. We were looking into long-term lodging. We were imagining a month of them being around. I was wondering if I would start to feel suffocated with my Mother hovering....

One year ago, when I looked ahead to this year, I saw myself spending the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's here with my folks so they could enjoy their grand-daughter.

One year ago... The word Cancer had NOTHING to do with my mother.

One year ago we were oblivious of the beast that would soon take over our lives.

One year ago happiness and joy looked a whole lot different.

It's no wonder I don't recognize my life some days.