Category Archives: This Thing Called Life

Missing Her

Yesterday I watched a birthday video made for a friend of my parents. Towards the end of the video, my Grandmother appeared to give her birthday message.
Seeing her face, hearing her voice, took my breath away.
I began to cry.
I couldn’t stop crying.
And I’m crying again as I type this.
I’m going to write through it.
Writing. Crying. Crying. Writing.
I miss her.
I miss her voice, I miss her face. I miss her yelling at me. I miss her complaining about how technology is ruining the world. I miss her scolding me for not going to church. I miss her telling me I buy my daughter too many shoes. I miss calling her to ask for cooking advice. I miss her ABC soup. I miss talking to her while she knitted booties for kids in orphanages. I miss the way she used to answer the phone. I miss her telling me the story of how one time I got completely naked and ran through the sprinklers in her front yard. I miss her asking how Tony’s job was going. I miss her telling me how much my Grandpa loved me. I miss hearing her talk about how much her dad loved her.
I miss everything about her.
I’m angry that her last days on this earth were spent suffering with pain while cancer poisoned her insides. I’m angry that I didn’t know that the cancer would take her so quickly. I’m angry she suffered so greatly in her life, miscarrying twice, burying two adult children, and oh, so much more. I’m angry that her suffering would continue in the last days of her life.
Cancer? Really, God? My Grandma spent her entire life serving you, serving others. She was selfless in every sense of the word. She worked hard, every day of her life, caring for others, for a sick husband. She trusted in you, she loved you, she honored you. I never once heard her complain, NOT ONCE. She only spoke of your goodness, your mercy, your love. Even as the cancer was taking over her body and she was in obvious pain, she never once cursed your or questioned you. Well, I’m questioning you. I’m telling you that I don’t understand this “plan” my grandmother spoke. Why would you plan such an awful ending for your good and faithful servant? Help me understand.
The experience of watching my Grandmother die has changed me. One day, I’ll write about it because I need to write about it.
But for now, I need to remember her before the cancer, before she was bound to a chair and a hospital bed and a tank of oxygen.
Her kind soul.
Her loving hands.
Her beautiful voice.
Her wise words.
I don’t want to forget a single thing about her or the moments we shared while she was alive.
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A Birthday Wish for Cole– Will You Help?

Last night, a friend posted a link on twitter asking for help for a special little boy in her life. I clicked on the link and read this post.
Go read it. I’ll wait.
I cried. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all night.
Today, I read that post to my daughter. As I was reading it, I started to cry again. When I was finished, I looked at my daughter. She had tears in her eyes.
A few minutes later, she handed me this.
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I’ll be mailing it first thing tomorrow morning.
I hope you’ll take a few minutes to do the same and help make his last birthday the best birthday he ever had.
(Hurts to type that.)

Looking Up, Letting Go

When my Grandpa passed away, the family decided it was best that my Grandma sell her house and move in with my parents. When I spoke to her about the possibility of moving in with my mother, she expressed hesitation.
“I don’t want to be a burden to your mother. My mother lived with me for years before she died and I know how hard it was to take care of her. I don’t want to put that burden on your mom.”
That’s how my Grandma was. She never wanted to burden anyone in any way. She just wanted to take care of everyone and make sure everyone else was happy. I can honestly say I never once heard her complain about her life or hardships. And believe me, she had many.
She did end up moving in with my mother and it was the best decision she could have ever made. She had an amazing three years. She started attending my parents church, she made many friends– spent her day visiting people from the church, holding bible studies at my mom’s house and even visiting convalescent homes to minister to the people there.
Everyone loved having my Grandma around.
But no one loved her more than her grandchildren.
Any time Gabby would spend time at my mom’s house, the first thing she would do was run to her Oma’s room. She would lay on the bed while my Grandma knitted. My Grandma would tell her stories– mostly about when I was a little girl. My mom said she wouldn’t leave her room. She loved being around her, listening to her stories, or singing her songs.
The day before my Grandma passed away from cancer,we spent the entire day with her, in her bedroom. She wasn’t awake, but we explained to the kids that she could hear what they were saying. So, they sang songs to her, drew pictures for her, they told her their favorite memories with her. It was heartbreaking, beautiful.
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After Oma passed away, I sat Gabby down to tell her the news.
I expected her to burst into tears, but she didn’t.
“I feel so sad, but I don’t feel any tears, mommy.”
I told her that she didn’t have to cry. That Oma knew she loved her and that’s all that mattered. ‘
***
A couple of days ago, Gabby climbed into bed with me early in the morning. She buried her face into my chest and started to cry.
“What’s wrong, baby girl?”
“I miss Oma so much!”
I held her close to me and cried with her.
The past few days, there is a sadness in her eyes. More than a month has passed and the reality is finally sinking in. She will never see her Oma again. And she misses her deeply.
Last night, she told me that she was going to write a letter to Oma, just like she did for Opa. She asked me how to spell Oma’s last name because she wanted to be sure that God knew which Wilma the letter was for when he gave it to her in heaven.
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She asked if we could send the letter to heaven with balloons. I told her we absolutely could and would.
After school this afternoon, we stopped by a local party supply store and I let her pick out five balloons. She carefully chose each balloon.
“I want a black and white polka dot one because it looks like a shirt she used to wear to church. I want some with hearts because hearts stand for love and I loved her…”
When we returned home, we got the letter and headed outside.
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We took a walk to the horse trails.
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She found the spot where she wanted to let the balloons go.
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Before she let go, she said a few heartfelt words to Oma. Then, she looked up to the sky and just let go.
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I knelt down to hug her as we watched the balloons float away. She held onto me as we watched. As we walked away, we both kept our eyes glued to the sky. I held her hand and we walked slowly back home.
I told her that what she had done for her Oma truly touched my heart.
She looked at me and said these exact words.
“Mom, I just had to let go. I had to do it for my own freedom. Now, I feel entire joy!”
When we arrived home, she sat down in the driveway and watched until she couldn’t see the balloons anymore.
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My Grandma, June 14, 1922- November 14, 2011

My grandmother passed away early Monday morning. I have so much to say about the experience of losing her, but I’m having a hard time putting those thoughts into the written word at the moment. So for now, I listen to her sweet voice, just days before she died, and my heart breaks and rejoices at the same time. She is gone from this earth, but she is exactly where she wanted to be.
Rest in peace, dear Grandma.

(The voice recording was taken just a couple of weeks before she passed away– she knew she was dying of cancer.)

One Life Nears the End as Another Just Begins

In July, my beautiful, vibrant, independent, strong, mentally sharp Grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer that had spread to her liver.
In August, she was put on hospice care and took her off of all of her medications for diabetes and other health issues.
In September, a hospital bed was delivered to my mom’s house. The goal is to make sure she’s as comfortable as possible in her last days.
She now spends her days sleeping, unable to walk without assistance. She coughs all day, a constant reminder that her liver has enlarged and things are going downhill quickly.
The other day I went to visit her. I sat on her bed while she sang hymns and told me she’s unafraid of death. I fought back the tears as she spoke. Until she said this.
“I haven’t missed your Grandfather much since he passed away, but lately, I’ve been missing him. And when I go to sleep at night, I feel his arms wrapped tightly around me.”
Those words were too much for my heart to handle.
My Grandparents were everything to me when I was a child and continued to be a strong and meaningful presence in my life in adulthood. Three years ago I lost my Grandfather and very soon, I will lose my Grandmother. I will be left on this earth without my Grandpa, without my Grandma. I know that’s how life works, but it’s still difficult. And I hate that my Grandma is losing her life in this awful, cruel way.
***
Earlier this week, I had the honor of witnessing Grandma meet her Great- Grandson. She held him in her arms and spoke words of love and wisdom to him. She could only hold him for a brief moment due to her weakness and pain, but that moment will live in my heart for the rest of my life.
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I can’t wait to show this photo to my nephew when he’s old enough and tell him the story of this moment.

Attitude of Gratitude is So Much Better Than an Attitude of Wanting to Punch Things and Say Really Bad Words.

Earlier today I wrote a very long post in which I ranted about All of The Things That Are Going Wrong in My Life Right Now. Believe me, there are so many things! It’s supposed to be a SUPER! HAPPY! TIME! (My husband started a new job today! A new job that he’s been needing for almost two years!) I’m supposed to feel joy and relief and gratitude. Instead, things are falling apart all around me.
However, since writing that post, neighbors have offered to help give my children rides to and from school. Old friends have offered to loan us a vehicle. Family members have stepped up to help (without being asked.)
My baby brother became a dad.
The anger and injustice I’ve felt is slowly melting away with each act of kindness from a friend, neighbor and family member. I’m reminded that even in the worst of times, I am surrounded by goodness, by kindness, by love.
Now, if only I could figure out a way to use all of that goodness to get my van to work again so I can go see my nephew, that would be awesome.

Forever

My sister’s father in law had a wind chime made for every dog he ever owned. He was an avid dog lover. Just before he passed away from cancer last month, his wife had a wind chime made with his name and put it with those of all of his dogs. He was able to see it before he passed away.
Yesterday after his memorial service, I snapped a photo of the back of the wind chime with his name on it. Such a moving tribute, I think.
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In Loving Memory

My niece has been playing soccer for several years now. My sister’s father and mother in law, my niece’s grandparents, would come to her games every weekend to watch and cheer her on.
On Friday morning, after a long and rough battle with cancer, my niece’s grandfather passed away. My niece was devastated. She had a game the following afternoon. I got a text message from my sister that night.
“S has a game tomorrow. They’re going to dedicate the game to her grandpa.”
My family went to watch the game. We arrived a few minutes late. My sister told me that before the game started, the team did a chant and then both teams had a moment of silence in honor of my niece’s grandpa.
I was in awe of my sister’s mother in law, who had come just a day after the love of her life had passed away, to cheer her granddaughter on, just like she had done with her husband weekend after weekend.
The game was amazing– they won the game 4-0. After the game was over, my niece’s grandma ran over to the sideline to give the girl’s high fives. As she walked away, the entire team ran over to her and wrapped their arms around her. She held them tightly and told them how much her husband loved to watch them play. Everyone stood on the sidelines, watching this most wonderful, heartbreaking moment. Some had tears in their eyes. Some had the biggest smiles on their faces.
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I was completely blown away by the kindness and compassion these young girls showed to a woman who had just lost the love of her life to cancer and also to their teammate, my niece. It was one of the most touching moments I’ve witnessed in my life.
Rest in peace, Dennis. It was an honor to know you.

The Sorry It Didn’t Work Out Show

I’ve watched The Biggest Loser since the first episode aired. I fell deeply in TV Love with Bob Harper. Everything about him is wonderful. He’s compassionate, strong, smart. He’s hot, sexy, super hot and also VERY HOT.
Do you remember when you were a teenager and you were in love with a celebrity (or a professional athlete named Orel Hershiser) and you would day dream of meeting them and you’d be like “if they only got to know me, they would totally love me and we would be best friends!” That’s kind of how I feel about Trainer Bob.
I want to meet that man. I imagine if I ever had the chance, I’d tell him about my weight loss and struggles with my health (because nothing says “I’m a Fun Girl” like “let me tell you about my thyroid problems!”) There would be laughing, hugging, possibly some making out, errr, I mean WORKING OUT. He’d like me so much he’d totally follow me follow me on Twitter.
Last month while I was at BlogHer, I saw people tweeting about having breakfast with Trainer Bob. My heart sank. TRAINER BOB WAS AT BLOGHER. I could have signed up to have breakfast with him and work out with him. Somehow, I had missed that this was happening and now it was too late. I was devastated. (I work for BlogHer, how did I miss this?!)
I took my sadness to Facebook. Some people were all “Oh, I’m so sorry! That sucks!” While other people were like “You’re gonna hate me, but I got to meet him, take a picture with him, do Yoga with him, laugh with him and generally have the best time with him.”
It hurt, man. How would I ever get over missing out on my one chance to meet Trainer Bob?
September 8th, 2011 I received a message on Facebook. It basically went like this:

“Hey Yvonne. How do you feel about being on a TV show. You know Nate Berkus, the cute guy that used to be on Oprah all of the time? Well, we have Bob Harper and we need to do a field shoot with Bob in LA. It would be a kitchen intervention. He would come to your house and make over your kitchen cabinets. Thoughts?”

After I picked myself up off of the floor (because I passed out from EXCITEMENT.) I composed myself and wrote back something like “I love Bob, I love Nate, I’m totally interested. Call me!”
Later that day, I was on the phone with a producer from The Nate Show. We talked about how much I love Bob, about how little grocery shopping I’ve been doing lately and how I could really use Bob’s help. She asked me to send my address, the number to my landlord so we could get permission to shoot and to send a photo of myself and of my house.
I called my husband and was like “YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO ME NEXT WEEK!”
I spoke to the producer again and she said that since I was having trouble finding the time to shop for groceries, she thought it would be great if Bob took me shopping for groceries, so could I please send her the name and number of grocery stores in my area so they could get permission to shoot there?
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I can’t even begin to put into words how exciting this felt to me. Not only was I going to meet Trainer Bob, but he was going to be IN MY HOUSE. And we were going to go grocery shopping together! Things like this don’t ever happen to me. How did I get so lucky?
It was Friday (my 40th birthday!) and the shoot was supposed to happen the following Wednesday (yesterday.) I was a little bit nervous that Bob was going to see my humble little rental home, but then I remembered this was going to be on The Nate Show and do you know what Nate is famous for? DECORATING HOUSES. Here’s the thing– I’m horrible at decorating. Like, the absolute worst. So, I kind of just don’t do it. I do have a few pictures of my family hanging on the wall, but not much else. I panicked! I could not let The Nate Show FILM MY SADLY DECORATED HOME. So, I made a few trips to buy a few things to hang on the wall and to place on my shelves to make my place look a little less sad. We replaced old frames, repainted a wall in the family room, bought some new decorative pieces to hang in the kitchen. We also planted some new flowers in the front yard.
I waited all day Monday for confirmation that they were able to work things out with Bob’s schedule and that we’d be filming on Wednesday.
Finally, the email appeared in my in box.
Subject Line: Nate Show

Hi Yvonne,
Thank you so very much for all of your cooperation and patience. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it work with Bob’s schedule.
BUT, we’d love to stay in touch with you & figure out a segment in a future show that makes sense—would you be up for that? And it could be a segment about home renovation too—is there a room you are having an issue with?

Heart? Broken.
I wrote back, thanked her for trying to make it work.
And then? I cried. I did. I know, it’s dumb. It’s not the end of the world! But, once again, I allowed myself to believe that something good was going to happen to me and once again, things didn’t work out. Story of my life.
A couple of days have passed since I got the news and I’m fine now. I mean, it totally sucks that I thought I was going to meet Trainer Bob and I didn’t meet Trainer Bob. It sucks so much. But, it’s NOT the end of the world. It’s just the end of my I’m Going to Meet Trainer Bob Someday Fantasy.

This Week. Man.

I’m looking forward to the coming week but at the same time, I’m dreading it.
It’s going to be one filled with milestones for my children. There will be ceremonies. Parties. Grad night. Trips to amusement parks.
This is one of the most thrilling, exciting times for my oldest child.
This one of the most emotionally challenging times for me as his mother.
Monday: The last day my oldest child will ever attend high school. The day Ethan will take his last field trip as an 8th grader.
Tuesday: Andrew’s Senior Breakfast in the morning. Andrew’s high school graduation in the evening. (Hold me. Tell me it’s going to be okay.)
Wednesday: Andrew will graduate from Law Enforcement Academy. He will graduate as a Sargent.
Thursday: Ethan’s promotion from junior high to high school ceremony. Gabby will celebrate her last day of 1st grade and officially be a 2nd grader. Later that evening, Andrew will be boarding a bus for Grad night at Six Flags.
Friday: I lay in bed and wonder DID ALL OF THESE THINGS REALLY HAPPEN? What happened to my little babies? WHY IS TIME SUCH AN ASSHOLE?
Saturday: It’s party time. Graduation party time.
My brain hurts just thinking about how much there is to do, how many tears will be shed, how much rejoicing is to be had. How much everything is about to change.
I’ve been thinking of all of the ways that life will be different after this week– In little ways. In big ways. While I was doing laundry this morning, I realized that this summer, I will only be school shopping for two kids instead of three. It’s these little realizations that hurt the heart.
In spite of the sadness that I feel, there is great joy bubbling deep within and I know that it will rise to the surface as I hear my son’s name called on graduation day.
I just hope I get through this week. It’s going to take a lot of coffee and possibly quite a few glasses of wine.