Thursday, September 12, 2013

Red Raspberries....

So many thoughts of Jillian this past week. Oh, she is always right there on my mind. Never, ever, but a second away. But this week has been exceptionally emotional. It started Sunday in church.

Each Sunday while in church, my mind goes back to the first Sunday after Jillian’s death. I knew I should probably stay home from church that day,  but I went anyway. It was a week after she died. Immediately as the music began to play, the familiar lump rose in my throat. I could feel my eyes begin to well with tears. If I keep my eyes open and don’t blink, perhaps the tears won’t fall down my face. That didn’t work. Trying to sing around my swelling throat didn’t work either. I submitted to the tears as they silently slid down my cheeks and stood in silence listening to the singing around me. I don’t remember much after that, but sitting down I began to feel the heavy hand of grief as it threatened to suffocate me. I bolted out of church as the sobs had their way with me. I called my son Josh, who had been sitting next to me, begging him to take me home.

So as that memory still lingers each time I go to church, I have control over it. What I don’t have control over is the other memories that pop out of nowhere. This past Sunday I had a flashback to about a year ago.

Jillian started to display symptoms of growing tumors last summer. She was losing feeling in her left side and it was difficult for her to walk without assistance. She had  just completed her first round of chemo.  I slept in the room upstairs across from her room with a monitor so I could hear her if she needed help.

It was 5:00 am when I heard a loud crash and her cry, “Mama!”  I scrambled out of bed to find her wedged on the floor between the bed and the night stand. I have no idea how I mustered the strength to get her out of that tight spot and into bed, but I did.

Jillian rarely complained about her illness and the effects it was having on her body. She was used to having full control over her body. A well-oiled, athletic machine made for playing soccer. To see her cry, and to hear her plea, “Why is this happening to me now?” tore me in half. I gently stroked her face as the sobs subsided and she fell back to sleep.

That was the memory from last Sunday.

Monday the new Billboards were up and running. The Scars of Melanoma. Scar photos of melanoma warriors who are brave enough to share their battle wounds. Not because they relish the exposure,  but dedicated to educate the world that melanoma isn’t pretty.  Real people, real scars. What you don’t see on these billboards are their internal scars of fear and suffering. Those scars aren’t always easy to display.

I-196 .3 Mi E/O Chicago Drive SS/Facing East
M-6 .3 Mi E/O Kalamazoo Avenue SS/Facing West
US-131 950 ft N/O 28th St/Facing North

Wednesday, I received a post card in the mail addressed to Jillian. It was from a local tanning salon wishing Jillian a Happy Birthday and gifting her with free tanning. I realize it was a mass mailing, and unintentional on Tropi Tan’s part, but it was shocking just the same. And I really was okay, until I read the blog post by a fellow melanoma fighter Al Estep, who authors Black is the New Pink-Fight Melanoma. 

I plan to use this postcard as a tool to promote melanoma awareness. It’s upsetting to see how the tanning industry promotes health and good looks to a deadly killing machine.

“Laying out in the sun and tanning beds pretty much screwed me”- Jillian Hayes

Yesterday I was talking with my mom and she relayed a story to me. She had just returned from  my Dads gravesite to visit and to freshen up the flowers. A couple of rows away she spotted an older gentleman standing quietly. You have to know my mom. She makes friends where ever she goes. And if you’re lucky, the next time you meet her, you’ll be greeted with a plate full of cookies. The ultimate caregiver.

As she approached the gentleman, they began to talk. She learned that his wife had died within a week of my dad. They were both creative people, one being a painter, the other a photographer. They traveled the world together, sharing their lives . As they parted, saying  their good byes, the gentleman offered his hand to my mom. One hand contained two red raspberries. With each graveside visit, the gentleman would gently place a raspberry on his wife’s grave, as he partook of his own. Together they would enjoy the memories of their life together, sharing their raspberries.

Yes, the week has been an emotional one, filled with memories. Some are sweeter than others, but I’ll cherish every berry.