Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Its not about me..."

Thank you all for your encouraging words, prayers, and thoughtful comments over the past few days/weeks. You've all supported me and lifted me and helped me keep walking forward in faith on this journey of mine, and I am extremely grateful.  You all make a difference.

Sweet Sara was laid to rest yesterday wearing a t-shirt with the words "Its not about me" emblazoned on her chest, along with a pair of jeans. I came home from the Same Day Surgery Clinic in time to rest a bit, and then made my way to the computer for her service. I couldn't get the picture, but the music, the children crying occasionally in the background, Sara's beautiful voice singing Amazing Grace, and the sermon by the priest were all mingled together for a loving tribute of our girl. And true to her word of wanting a celebration, the last song played was "Oh Happy Day." Sara style, written all over it.

My grief bubble has become more transparent. Life is marching forward, and I am beginning to have moments of clarity once again.  This little guy, Crosby, has become the center of our world.  He has soulful puppy dog eyes with just a hint of naughtiness lingering on the edges.  We have a barrier at the top of the stairs so he won't wander off downstairs on us.  So when he disappeared on me the other day?  This was the last place I expected to find him... reclining on the sofa downstairs... the barrier?  Completely intact.  He merely takes a running leap and hurdles right over it it.   What were we thinking?

This is my friend from childhood, Lisa, on your far left (seated) and her knitting group in Alaska.  She just recently took the photo as they don't meet in the summer.  I am still touched every time I see someone out in public wearing my hockey lace bracelet.  Its pretty amazing to know that 6 months in to this fight, people still are so dedicated to me... even as far away as Alaska.    I couldn't be more honored. Thank you ladies, I swelled with joy upon seeing it.

My point and shoot camera can't really do this next one justice.  But for two years now, around the time of my Dad's birthday,  a monarch shows up in our yard.  Last year it was at my parent's house as we cleaned out Dad's things.  As I grabbed Dad's cane and walker, I noticed the ease in which the butterfly flew.  It dipped, it soared, it dive bombed us.  And the image of my Dad having the freedom to move and breathe again in Heaven brought me such comfort that day.  This year, not only was Dad on my mind, but seeing this in our front yard, reminded me of Sara and the freedom she would also gain in her heavenly home.  Maybe next year, there will be TWO butterflies in my yard.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Sweet Sara... one last gift...

AT my last chemo session in September, I dumped my chemo bag by accident and the contents scattered everywhere.  The gratitude journal, the very journal that Sara had sent me for my Birthday a couple of years ago, disappeared.  My nurse graciously helped me maneuver around my infusion line and iv pole and I got on the floor to see underneath the recliner... nothing.

The nurse then did the same to be sure.  But chemo room number 7 wasn't bringing me any luck that day.  So sadly, I called the next few days to see if it had turned up.  It hadn't.

Today, after a long morning of lab work and waiting and visiting Dr. Panwalkar I waited for an infusion room to open up.  I suddenly jumped out of my chair and rushed to the nurses station and in a rush of words asked if they had perhaps found a notebook/journal?

And the nurse reached over and held up... my journal!!  The one I pour out my gratitude in.  They just found it... yesterday.   How on earth it lay hidden for three weeks, only to be found the day before I had treatment is more than just coincidence to me.  

I ran my fingers over the opening lines of the journal...

"First it begins inside your heart.  Something moves.  Then opens.  Then frees itself.  And now you feel a rhythm breaking its long silence.  This is going to be good."

And as many have surmised, I can just see the hands of Sara written all over this journal being placed back in my hands again.  I delighted in filling the pages with gratitude today.

My sweet, precious friend, Gitz,  who is newly in her heavenly home, will be having a funeral service tomorrow.  If any of you are inclined, it will be webcast by the link down below, at 1:30 pm.  I am still on for surgery tomorrow and do not know if I will be home or not in time to see.  My heart aches knowing I long to be there, but Sara isn't really going to be there either... obviously she is already busy looking out for all of us.  Plus,  I can feel her love any time I choose to.  And today, I am choosing to love you, Sara Frankl, deep and wide.  

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rejoicing through tears

I stumble to the cupboard in search of filters to make the morning coffee, my eyes blurry with tears.  I search and search, this door, and that one.  I stop, turn around and suddenly know the filters are in the drawer, where they have always been.  

Thank you God, she is home!

I've been in this grief filled space before.  It distorts the dailyness of life, and if it weren't for the mundane chores we do mechanically every day, I don't know how I would otherwise function.

I long to rejoice for my Sara, in her new heavenly home.  And I do, but through my fresh veil of grief.

Thank you God for the gift of her life and the way she drove spirit-filled grace into her every moment here!

 I search through my emails for her words, that she'd brought to me often, to soothe, comfort, and anchor me...  She has been through so much, so often...  it isn't long and I find what I think she would say to me on a day such as this:

In Sara's own words:

"it's ok to be discouraged. 

it's part of the process, really... at least it is for me. 

because i find when i am most discouraged is when i most lean into Him the way i should. 

i am praying friend that you take this all to Him, that you lean into Him, that you hand it to Him and trust Him to love you through it..."  


"...just know it's ok to have moments when you don't feel the joy. 

it will come back, i promise. 

just let out the grief so you can make room for the joy to come back in..."

I think of these words as Rick performs his daily cleansing of the wound in my chest...

When the heart is cut or cracked or broken
Do not clutch it
Let the wound lie open
Let the wind from the good old sea
blow in to bathe the wound with salt
and let it sting.
Let a stray dog lick it
Let a bird fly in the hole and
sing a simple song
like a tiny bell and let it ring.  
~      Michael Leunig
 Thank you God, Sara is unbound, free.  Sara has left the condo!  She is breathing fully, without pain and in your arms Father, and her fathers.  Praise God!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Waiting to exhale...

 “Change is never easy, you fight to hold on, and you fight to let go.” – The Wonder Years

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” — Herman Hesse

I've been in a bubble, a mourning and grief filled space... just waiting to exhale.  But my sweet Sara lingers, for whatever purpose there is left to fulfill.  It isn't for me to question... only accept and work my way through it.  

So I watch my phone for updates, or fb, or my growing list of Gitz friends, that have come together because of her.  I sit in complete awe as her legacy plays out over the internet.  Her blog following has nearly doubled in the past week.  And the internet is alight with a Gitz glow, only a luminescent spirit such as hers could give off.  I feel the joy come through in those moments of clarity.  

I've been pouring through my emails with her.  Gmail tells me we have 100's of them.  I've discovered so many things.  Its like I've been reading a novel, a novel come to life, thats played out over the course of three years. From early on, I knew the "novel" would have a conclusion.  I knew it would end with a broken heart.  Mine.  I signed on anyway, loving her the way she allowed so many of us to do. Its been an epic read- I always knew it would be. 

But the biggest discovery I've made after going through hundreds of emails,  is that she has left me with everything I needed.  No words left unsaid, no questions unanswered.  She gave me all that I would need to move forward.  And so, slowly, I am trying to release her.  To let my breath out, exhale...  so I can  fill again... 

 In Sara's own words after my breast cancer diagnosis...

Oh, Vicky... 

if there is one thing I could encourage you to do is to allow yourself to really feel this. 

And then pick yourself back up, just like you're doing. 

I find I work through the moments so much better when I let myself feel the hurt or frustration or whatever as it comes and give myself a length of time to just be overwhelmed by it. 

It's a release of all that negative energy that you don't want to store up inside of you... think of it as letting it out to make room for all the strength Jesus is waiting to fill you with. 

I live by those kinds of imageries and letting it out so He can fill you is a good part of the process.


Dr. Bouton says I need one more surgery.  So on Wednesday next week he will close my wound and put a new drain in it to speed along the healing.  It should only take an hour and if it goes well I'll be back at home the same day.  But first, I need to have chemo on Tuesday.  

I long to go to Iowa for Sara's service, whatever the day will be...  Nobody wants to miss the epilogue to their favorite book, and god willing, neither do I...  

Monday, September 19, 2011


He would have turned 82 today.  Birthdays were always special to him, not for the presents, the ice cream, the cake- well okay, maybe yes for the cake.  It took me years to realize what he treasured the most was gathering the family to celebrate, and the rest was just superfluous to him.  We miss you Dad.

We were driving to the rink the other day and we saw a white car with an older gentlemen driver.  Thinking of Rick's dad I said "Colton, who does that remind you of ?" " He lit up and said "I see the white hair, Grandpa Willard?  Is he here?"  I had to laugh.  If there is a way to drive in heaven, that would be how I envisioned my dad.  Free, in his car, driving out of town to look at the crops and see how the harvest is going.

I've realized I don't remember him as sick, nearly as much as I do in his healthier more active years.  What a blessing to realize that not only is he free of his oxygen tank, his tubes, his walker, his cane and 13 pill bottles, but suddenly, I feel unshackled from his sickness too.

Happy Birthday Dad!  Its a beautiful sunny day, with just the right amount of crispness in the air to let us know the seasons are changing.  Not a day goes by that I don't think of you and we speak of you often.  I have a small favor to ask.  If you should happen to see this beautiful shining soul from my friend rising to heaven today would you be there to welcome her home too?  I'm ready for her to be unshackled too Dad.  She'll have a huge gathering meeting her there, and Dad, she's a Daddy's girl too.  Plus, I'd be willing to bet she'd eat cake too!  

Praying you home sweet girl!  I am faithfully praying you home... there are several "Fathers" waiting with open arms.  

Robin has written an achingly beautiful tribute to our sweet girl... please go check it out here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

"All will be put back right again..."

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.  Khalil Gibran

I shared this on our Gitzen Girl's fb page a short time ago and thought others would enjoy hearing about her vision as well.

"Laid my head down last night with your name on my lips, and woke with you coming first thing to my mind this morning. There was an amazing sunrise and felt the hand of God ever near. You shared with me once the message that "All will be put back right again!" This is my prayer for you... soon, sweet one, soon."

Five days after my own father passed away, July 5th, 2010, Sara's own dad died unexpectedly, July 9th, 2010.  The two of us shared an individual, yet shared journey of grief.  Yesterday I happened to remember an email she had sent some of us about a dream she had.  The message of the dream was essentially this... "All will be put back right again."  The date of the email?  September 14th, 2010.  One year ago to the day that Sara began her own journey toward her heavenly home, she had already experienced a glimpse of the heaven that awaited her.  

I'm seeking comfort in the clear vision she had of that heaven.  

And time marches on... I've had a bit of a set back.  I've been dealing with a small hole in my mastectomy incision that continues to drain.  This morning I awoke to discover it has become infected.  I'll be visiting the ever capable Dr. Bouton again this afternoon and anticipate some new stitches and perhaps some antibiotics :)  But I am resting in Sara's words she so graciously put in the header of my blog for me... "All shall be well."  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Our sweet Sara...

She burst onto the blogging scene with that cute white pup of hers (Riley) as her avatar.  I discovered she had started blogging at the same point as I had.  She was very witty, had such a way with words, and loved God with all her heart.

Our friendship was immediate and went deep very quickly.  Our connection grew as we shared stories from our past, or the difficulty in the day we had, or how funny Riley looked in his Halloween costumes.  And sometimes she'd take a blogging break when her breathing was bad and she was having pain and difficulty moving around.  But then she'd bounce back and I would get so excited to see that smiling face show up and be so relieved she was doing better again.  But she underplayed it all never wanting us to worry about her.

In the three years I have known her she taught me about grace in the face of illness.  She told me to always chose joy and to live with intention.  She sent me a handcrafted canvas with the words "It not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived. "  I think I treasure it most because it describes exactly the kind of person she is.

For someone who spent her days confined inside her condo due to her illness, Sara lived a BIG life, and scattered much.  She scattered faith, love, joy, encouragement, and wit.  For not having ever met her in person, she had a huge influence on me and my life.  I'm so glad I told her.  And recently too.  She wrote to me after I returned home from the hospital after the mastectomy and was never shy about telling you how much you meant to her.  So I told her how she has mentored me, and that I adored her and loved her and how much she meant to me.

Then last week my gratitude journal went missing.  And what I haven't shared about it, is that Sara sent it to me one Christmas for a surprise present.  So I have been doubly sad in having it drop from my sight.  I'll never know if it was meant as a sign or not.

It turns out the journal isn't the only thing missing...

Sara is also leaving us.

Today, Sara surrounded by her family, and hospice,  is making her heavenly journey homeward, as my heart is both rejoicing and breaking at the same time.  I don't think any of us could have known this last blog hiatus would be the last hiatus.  So the news has been hard to digest and process.  But what I do know is she will soon be with Our Father, and reunited with her father, and able to breathe deeply, sing loudly,  and do all the things her body no longer allowed her to do here on earth.

I miss her already.  I'm praying her home, will you help me?

Monday, September 12, 2011


My Grandma Held used to have a stack of old board games in her basement. The one I remember the most was one called "Kismet." I don't think we ever found the directions or even played it although it reminded me of Yahtzee. But what I do recall is that someone once told me that kismet means: fate or destiny.

Kismet is what I would call the way in which we suddenly have found ourselves as dog owners once again! Introducing... Crosby, formerly known as Kirby. A childhood friend who read about our failed dog rescue attempts generously contacted us about him. It seems that they have two puppies, and have been contemplating a change in lifestyle. Maybe we would be helping each other out? It didn't take much of a discussion on our part, Crosby is exactly what we had been looking for. He is definitely a busy little guy, but we happen to have a busy oldest boy who took to him instantly and the two of them have been partners in crime all weekend long.

So while the boys have been getting used to all things puppy, I have felt my energy drain.  My color has faded and I know my previously low blood counts, have plummeted once again.  I spent Sunday mostly in bed and hope to regain some strength for the upcoming week.  Its just me and this little cutie all day and I am so gonna need to be on top of my game!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Opening and closing...

We spent Labor Day at the lake in cool weather.  Nolan was still determined to enjoy one last ride on the  jet ski, but he shivered the whole way.  I spent the day cleaning and bossing the boys around when I needed help with shaking out rugs, and sweeping and mopping floors, etc.  Its closing time...

... and its opening time.  School started!  It was a frantic morning getting the boys off while I prepared to go to Roger Maris for my 8th round of chemo.  Colton was all smiles.  He showered and picked out his clothes the night before.  He eats breakfast at school so he was ready within minutes of getting up.  Third grade this year,  how did that happen? 

Nolan put off everything for yesterday morning... then he panicked.  "Mom, do you remember where my locker is?  Where are my clothes?  Can you make me some breakfast?  Oh, the bus just went by... I'm riding bike to school..."  Fifth grade, and he is on autopilot cruising through his last year of Elementary school...  crazy to see that last line I just typed...

I flipped my "chemo" bag over by accident yesterday.  Notebooks, pens, all my bottles of pills, my Gin-Gins, all went flying.  I had to maneuver my iv pole around without pulling on the needle sticking out of my chest and try to retrieve all of my stuff.  Sadly, as I unpacked my bag this morning, I discovered my gratitude journal missing.  The clinic is on the look out for it... I feel so lost without it already.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

... in the balance...

A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life. William Arthur Ward

I warned the boys about the ball going into the lake, off the shed roof, into the neighbors flowers, and down into the fire pit.  I should know better.  Next time I'll add, getting stuck up high in the tree wedged between two sticks!  Only my boys could achieve this result.  It took the marshmallow roasting stick to poke it out it out of the tree.  

I think the ball is pretty symbolic of our crazy week coming up.  School starts tomorrow!  And while the boys are off at their first day, I'll be getting lab work done, seeing Dr. Panwalkar and then having chemo.  Our perch may be a bit precarious and a little "up in the air," but we're hangin' in there for the duration... and our sense of humor is completely intact! Sometimes you just have to laugh... 

Friday, September 2, 2011

being 11...

People ask me all the time how the kids are doing and I answer they are doing well.  And they are.  But  after spending 3 months with them all day, I have a better sense that I am not the only one touched by cancer.  Its just more subtle with the boys, and they don't always have words to articulate how it makes them feel.

We laughed at Colton the other day.  His comment was, "well I don't get to do anything cause mom is sick in bed every day..."  We had to laugh, because its simply not true.  We teased him about all the things we've done and he had to admit that might have been an exaggeration.  But I do get that is how he perceives me.

And Nolan?

Being 11 hasn't been easy on him.  We've tried unsuccessfully several times now to rescue a golden retriever.  The organization warned us that the young dogs go fast.  Every time we've inquired about just corresponding with a foster family, we've been told that dog is spoken for already.  Nolan gets his hopes up so high- theres been Jack, Susie, Gunner, and Booster as of late.  All spoken for.  We were a step closer with Jack than we've been with the other dogs- our family's file made it to the foster family to review.  But it was rejected because they felt Jack needed a fence.   Nolan sobbed.   He had already picked out the spot where Jack was going to sleep, next to his bed of course.  I know he just desperately wants that unconditional bond of love with a pet that he misses.

He has such a big heart.  His emotions can be so intense sometimes and anger flashes at times when he is covering up for how hurt he is.  Its later that he verbalizes how filled with remorse he is over his words, and how defeated he feels.

He's been camping out on our bedroom floor at night.  He waits till we are asleep and then sneaks quietly in with his pillow and blanket.   He has turned down going to 3 birthday parties this summer, and two sleep overs. He doesn't want to leave my side.  Its all I can do to convince him to go play at one or two friends houses on occasion.  But he either can't stay long or his friends can't play at all and I see how sad it makes him, but he'll tell me its okay, he just wants to be close to home and check on me anyways.   He is 11 sometimes, sometimes 30.

So we're bonding- this togetherness of him and I.  I see how very Tween he really is.  He and his Dad built this form for stick handling.  He is out in the garage every day with his stick and a ball weaving it in and out.  He is creating discipline.   He has also gotten strong enough to help Rick do some demo at my mom's old house.  He swung the hammer like a pro and stuck with it all day.  He has grown a ton this summer and is long and lean.  But I still find the little boy in him.  I'll find him making a team out of his stuffed animals and turning the basement into a baseball field.  The couch cushions double for bases and his stuffed animals get a work out around those bases.  

He is excited for 5th grade.  Many of his friends are in his class this year and he has such a fun teacher again. And then I see that smile fill his face when he speaks of seeing his friends every day at school... and I am hopeful for him.  For us.  Cancer is leaving its mark on both of us- our hearts just continue to expand together. 

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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