Friday, December 19, 2014

Run, Forrest, Run!

I’ve started several blog posts over the last couple of months. I save them, but I never complete writing them. Why. Oh, I realize I’ve been busy since I’ve moved into my new house. Landscaping, painting…so many projects that have occupied my time as I’m trying to make this house a home for Jenni and I. But those are choices. Truth is, I’ve been running.

I had a conversation with my wise friend a couple of weeks ago.
Me: I've been running, Stac.
Stac: Do you need me to help you stop?
Stac: Maybe it's all a part of your journey?
Me: Yep. I think it is.

 While I run during the day, at night I’ve been dreaming about Jillian. Not like the dream over a year ago where she came to me. In that dream, she had something to tell me. I KNEW it was her. No words were spoken, but she looked into my eyes with such love and intensity. Her purpose with that visit was to let me know she was okay. Roll your eyes if you want to. I was allowed a glimpse into God’s window. I saw her, felt her, “spoke” to her.

My latest dreams have been different, just normal (whatever normal is) dreams where she is a part of them. My most recent dream was at her high school.. She called me to pick her up with the excuse that she wasn’t feeling well. We were both standing by the counter in the office while I got ready to sign her out. Her cheeks were flushed, but not with fever or illness. I could tell. She just wanted to be home. In my heart I’m conflicted. This kid isn’t sick, she just wants to come home. I struggled with making her remain at school. But then the realization struck me that Jillian was going to die on December 29, and “so what “if she stays home?

I was able to pick my battles in that moment. What if we all knew when our death date was? Would we treat each other differently? Would we mend those relationships, take that trip, make that call and spend time with someone ? I would like to think we would.

So whatever your fear is, whatever is stopping you from making a difference, whatever is making you run……my prayer for each of you is that you find Peace as you continue your journey, that you find your way back on an even path, and that we learn to do it right. We are all connected in some way, to everyone and everything. We only get one shot at this. Just one.

Even after I've fallen, even though I've been running, I want to enter His kingdom one day greeted by the words, "You’ve done good". 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Enter at Your Own Risk....

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. I love the cooler weather, the crisp air. I love to see the clouds heavy and low in the sky. I love the feel of the balmy breeze as it carries the scent of burning leaves. And I love Halloween.

But with Fall comes memories of the past few years. My dad died two years ago. Jillian’s birthday is coming up. Memories of seizures and sirens.

I had dinner with my mom last night. We were talking about grief, and how grieving is different for each person. We touched on how people, even family members, deal with someone who has suffered the loss of a loved one. “They don’t know what to say”. Or, “They don’t want to make you cry”. Or maybe, “They don’t want to say the wrong thing, so they say nothing”.  

I don’t know. I don’t get it. I don’t understand how the topic of death is so difficult. It’s a part of living, and we will all experience it. All of us are going to die someday. It’s the one certain thing in living. So, why aren’t we living our lives reaching out and caring for those that experience death and grief when it does strike? Why aren’t we learning more about the grieving process? Why do we put so many expectations on those who are actively grieving to move on, get over it, to act in a certain way. I think it’s cruel, selfish, and it makes me angry. And if it makes me angry, how many other people are struggling?  It takes a village, right?

There are many groups out there to support those who have lost a loved one. I think there should be more support groups dedicated to help people understand the grieving process. A group focused on helping the supporter of the griever as they navigate through the wild storms of grief. The sea of emotions, and the uncertainty of “what next”.  Friends and Family. Classes mandatory in high school. Family living, family dying. This topic isn’t going away.

And then…just like that, my thoughts head in another direction. I picture myself on a hard, cold examination table covered in white paper. I hear the doctor’s footsteps stop before my door. I hear the rustle of the clipboard as the doctor removes it from the wall, flipping pages as he reads over the findings. He walks in and sits down on the chair beside me. With a grave expression, he looks into my eyes. “I’m sorry, Susan. The diagnosis is conclusive. You have Grief”.

You have Cancer.
You have Grief.

OH! I have Grief! That explains it. The mumble, jumble, messed up tangle of emotions. The lack of focus and forgetfulness. The laughter, the tears. And that stupid, silly mask sitting on my bedside table waiting to be strapped on as I begin another day. So, it’s okay that Grief is all encompassing in its intensity. That it has several unusual symptoms, and there is no cure. Now I know what I’m dealing with.

It has a name.

It’s real. It isn’t this elusive “thing” or emotion. It has real physical symptoms, and it effects the entire person. For a loooooooong time. To say I’m not disappointed in the lack of knowledge or awareness surrounding this subject would be a lie. I’m strong, yes. But I still hurt. And if by my peeling this grief thing off one bloody layer at a time, exposing it for what it is in the hopes that it touches someone along the way, well, good. I’ll get back to stomping on melanoma soon enough. Right now, I’ve got my own work to do.

If Grief had a ribbon, it would be the color of the rainbow, signifying HOPE. Hope as we move from mourning to Joy.

Because even in grief there is hope. We are Grief Warriors. Bad Ass Grief Warriors.

~embracing crabby

Monday, July 28, 2014

And the Journey Continues.....

Two weeks ago our pastor talked about the quote from Mary Oliver- “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” He mentioned it again yesterday. Thanks a lot. I can’t get that quote out of my mind. It keeps whispering to me, poking me, prodding me.

Well, I can say one thing I’ve learned with certainty. There are no plans. Goals, perhaps. The grieving mind is a slippery thing these days. I’m trying to figure that out too.

I was at an outdoor concert a couple of weeks ago, listening to blues music. The park was filled with people, young and old. As I sat watching the crowd, I see these individuals and realize they all have their “stuff”. Each one of them are living a life that extends to friends and family members. Well beyond what I can see. They too, could be grieving. Or sick. Maybe they just lost their job, or their home. Maybe their child is serving overseas. Maybe they are working through a divorce. Something. Anything.

I smile as I watch a young mother chasing her toddler as he runs back and forth across the grass. She patiently picks him up, plunks him down, and goes through the same exercise again and again. Exhausting for her, I’m sure. A young boy, full of energy. He reminds me of my own son, always in motion. What will he become?

 I watched the young girl to the right of me. She was about four years old, playing under the trees, surrounded by blooming Hosta’s. The stalks of flowers were taller than she was. This little mite had two sticks in her hands, keeping beat to the music with her imaginary drum set. She played the rock for over an hour, lost in herself.

That scene brought me back to my own childhood. I must have been close to the same age as the girl with the drum set. My grandmother had a back yard full of trees and wild blooming things. Ivy was everywhere, giving this small yard a jungle like appearance. As I gazed upward into the trees, I watched their leaves blowing and waving furiously. I could hear them whisper. To me. My aunt was leading me through the jungle, holding my hand. “ Do you see those leaves, Suzie? They are smiling and waving at you, telling you that they love you”. I believed her. And I never forgot that day.

What were the Hosta’s telling the precious young drummer girl? I hope she was filled with wonder and the promise of all things possible.

 I pray that I can continue to look at my one wild and precious life with open eyes, filled with wonder and awe. And to know that I’m not lost, like a ship in the night. But that I’m on my way.

 Love and peace~

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Twelve Steps in Helping...

Spending time in my yard has always been one of my favorite things. It’s my time to reflect and to problem solve. My weekend was spent doing just that. It was refreshing and healing. Just what I needed.
As I’m drinking my early morning coffee preparing for Monday and my week, I’m already tired. I get frustrated with myself when I have to work so hard to muster up the energy needed to be what I want to be. For me, and for everyone else. Tears roll down my cheeks and I think, “Oh, Great. Here we go again”. Grasping for my will and resolve, I think about Fear. I’m afraid. I try and push through it, but I’m afraid of my own weakness and vulnerability. People think I’m strong, I’m not.

With those thoughts, I began to read about grieving the loss of a child, just to reassure myself that I’m not being too hard on myself. I ran across the below article by Wiki. I have added my own thoughts in italics. My wish is to help others that are in a similar situation to feel better about themselves, and to know they are not alone.

Twelve Ways to Help a Grieving Parent

Remember that your help or support will be needed long term: It is going to take time.
As in long term, it may be a lifetime of support.

There will be false starts and setbacks: Be prepared for the emotional ups and downs with them. Your love and compassion is just what they need.   
Each day I wake up knowing this is a new day. I can be assaulted with sadness with no warning, and at any time. I was talking with my new neighbor the other day, and out of nowhere my throat tightened, and tears slipped down my face. It was difficult to feel so vulnerable. Ugh.

Start by attending the funeral and any memorial service: It doesn’t matter what you need to cancel to be there. Making the effort to attend means a lot to the parents and shows them how much you care about their lost child, and that you are counted among those who intend to remember and aid the family in their time of loss. 
I spend time going through Jillian’s guestbook. I’m thankful for those that attended her visitation and service. I remember.

Be Practical: Grieving parents need space to grieve. You can help this by providing meals, offering to keep the garden tidy, cleaning the house, or running errands for them. Do the everyday mundane things that suddenly seem pointless to them. Stay in close contact; simply calling and visiting can be a huge source of practical support. 
Keeping things in order takes extreme effort, even now. Be gentle when I don’t feel like joining in on the fun. Fact is, I’m not superman/woman.

Do some research on the grieving process: Go online and read about what parents feel when they lose a child. Jump into forums and talk to other people about their feelings and the things that helped them through during the initial stages of their grief. Sites such as Compassionate Friends can be a good place to start.         Good advice. That way you’ll know, and spare me having to try and explain myself. Because more than likely, I won’t.

Expect the grief to increase not decrease. This is grief for life, even if one day it is becoming the perennial missing- part- of –the- heart type grief; it’s not something to “Get Over”. Accept that there is no time frame on grief. For now, it will continue to grow in magnitude and you are much needed as the grief overwhelms your friend or family member.
Be a shoulder to cry on, someone who will listen, someone who will not judge, and someone who will keep being there, no matter what. Accept that a bereaved parent will never, ever get over the loss of their child, but know in time, lots of time, they will get through it. 

Don’t ever tell the parent to “Get over it”, or “Get on with your life, your child would want you to.”
Never Say “You can always have more children”, if the parent is mourning the death of a baby or very young child. This is one of the most   insensitive things to say to a grieving parent. And grandchildren are no substitutes for lost adult children either; just don’t go down this avenue of platitudes.

One really good phrase is simply: “Tell me how you feel”. This lets the parent open up and talk in any direction wished. And to cry or scream if they want to as well.
 I’ll never “Get over it”. I learn to live with it. You may not want to hear that. That isn’t my issue.

Don’t try to mend things and don’t try to counsel or advise. Unless you’re professionally trained to handle grief, leave this part to the professionals. Your role is as someone who cares, listens, and respects the grieving parent. If you’re inclined to offer religious or personally based advice, be one hundred percent sure that it’s welcome.
Allow the parent to talk about their child.
Allow the parent to cry, scream, sob, and be angry. Simply allow them to feel all of their feelings. It’s their right.
If you don’t know what to say, say nothing, just listen. Saying nothing is better than saying something like, “He is in a better place”, He is with God now”, etc. If you feel better saying something, simply explain that you don’t know what to say if that’s what you’re feeling. It’s better to be honest than to bumble along and potentially make things worse.
Don’t force or overly encourage the parent to socialize, or return to work.
Never put them down or discourage them from seeking support online with other bereaved parents.
 When people say to me, “I don’t know what to say”, I smile. Of course you don’t. I don’t expect you to know. And it wouldn’t matter anyway. There are no words that will make it any different than it is. Just knowing you care is enough.

Never compare a child’s death with a non-child death of your own you’ve experienced: The loss of a child carries very different connotations from the loss of a parent, sibling, or friend. Parents will often tell you that they wish it could have been them instead of the child and this is a feeling that haunts them for many years. The pain after the loss of a child does differ from any other loss of a person you know and love; accept this and acknowledge it where needed.
Share your pain over the loss of their child, but remember your pain is nowhere near their pain unless you have lost a child yourself. There is no greater pain than the death of one’s child.
Never tell a bereaved parent you know how they feel or you understand because you probably do not.
Don’t compare the loss of your job, marriage, pet or grandparent to the loss of their child. 
This just shuts me down.

Don’t be afraid to talk about the child: Every parent wants to know their child is not forgotten. And listen to the parents when they want to talk about their child. Whether the child was young, or an adult, there will be many memories that the parents will want to talk about, as a way of bringing the child back into temporary existence.
If you talk about their child and they cry, it’s okay. Allow them their tears, and know that you didn’t hurt them.        
Jillian is one of my children. I love talking about my kids.

Don’t just disappear: This can be the ultimate letdown for a grieving parent, to lose someone who was once a friend, a rock. The concern you feel at not knowing what to say or do is nothing compared to the pain, sadness and loneliness the grieving parent experiences. It’s better to put your foot inot it and apologize than to just fade away and cease to be a resource your friend can count on.
Remember the parent on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, they are still a parent.
Remember the child’s birthday. Send a card saying that you remember their child.
Remember the child’s date of death. Send a think of you card, call them, share good memories about their child, and listen.
Enough said.

Give them space: As well as letting them know you’re there for them, also accept that the bereaved parent may want to seclude themselves. Be wise to signals of distress about having you around and gently withdraw, still letting them know that you’re there for them whenever they need you, just a call or text away.
It's complicated. The kindest thing you can do it to be gentle and not to have any expectations.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Slow Down.....

It’s been a long, hard winter. Finally spring is here and on a fast track toward summer. The sun is shining, flowers are blooming. Nature has been busy. Life becomes busy.

As I sit with my morning coffee, I reflect on where I’ve been, and where I’m going. I’m happy that our family is moving forward little by little. But then I ask myself the question, am I really moving “forward”, or am I just moving? 

We lost another young man to Melanoma on Tuesday. Matt was the same age as my oldest son. It’s difficult for me to hear the stories of people fighting so hard against this disease. It hurts me when I hear someone else has died because of it.

Do I hide from the pain, cover my ears, close my eyes? Should I just avoid it? I could, I suppose. And those questions lead me to yet another. Why would I? For whose benefit?

 And that drops me smack dab ( where did that phrase come from?)  into the questions I’ve been skirting around for a while now. Why are we here, and what do we do with our time here on Earth?

As I move sideways, Matt's family has come to a screeching halt. While families are planning vacations, there is someone not far planning a funeral. We have one shot at this life.

I believe we are here to serve one another. To help. Make that phone call to the friend who is in an ongoing battle with cancer. Drop a note to the person whose life has taken an unexpected turn. The one who is going through a divorce. The person who just lost their job. The one who buried a loved one. They need you.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Unlikely Events...

There are many events in our lives that hold importance. Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day.....

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. An event. Our melanoma community has been busy blasting social media with stories of warriors, information on skin safety, new advancements in research and more. I see it fitting that I close out this month with Jillian.

You’ve heard the story. A story of a young girl, still in her teens loving life, and enjoying summer. One pesky mole on her back that just needed to be cut out. Melanoma? What’s that? That mole led up to several events in our family, and it ended Jillian’s life.

I’ve heard the comments, “ She’s too young. It just isn’t fair. Why”? I’m not questioning “why”. I’m not shaking my fist at God, asking Him how he could allow this could happen to such a vibrant young girl. I have questions about what the greater meaning of life is, however. And as we limp along this new road without Jillian, I’ll keep my eyes open looking for answers and opportunities to make it better.

In the meantime, events like Melanoma Awareness Month will be acknowledged. And if just one life is saved through sharing Jillian’s story, I’m okay with that. Well, sort of. J

Next week, in honor of our beloved Jillian, this billboard will be displayed in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“Laying out and tanning beds, pretty much screwed me”- Jillian Hayes


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Changing Colors...

So here we are again. May, Melanoma Awareness Month. I marvel at how life moves forward, pulling us along with the current even as we sputter and splash our way through. Some days we feel as if we are drowning as the tenacles of despair fight to pull us down into the dark abyss. Other days we are blessed with glimpses of brilliant light just beyond the banks. Like the reach of a child, bathed in sweet smiles, waiting with open arms.

Life has changed drastically for our family this past year. We are learning to live our life without Jillian. I’m learning to live with the images of her last year on earth. Those memories are becoming less horrific for me, and  are slowly being replaced with her true essence.

I’ve lived through the death of my dad, and an untimely divorce. I moved from my home, my place of solitude. I’m beginning a year of new memories.

And it’s good! I’m learning to view my life as a huge, evolving canvas. I’m not the artist, God is. But I get to choose the colors. I prefer the bright colors of spring, rather than the greys of winter. I know there will be dark hues on my pallet, but they’ll be mixed with pastels, giving the artwork more depth.

One thing hasn’t changed. My passion for awareness and education to Melanoma. The black of this disease is the frame to my canvas. But I’m stepping through, and appreciating my Makers hand, as he paints a marvelous masterpiece for me and my family.

I’ve been blessed to have met so many beautiful people throughout my journey. The next billboard is focusing on our Caregivers. The people behind the scenes. The other half to melanoma. The ones with broken hearts learning to live with their own cancer diagnosis, but in a different way.

The below billboard will be displayed in Grand Rapids Michigan. That’s FOUR  separate locations. How’s that for getting LOUD?

*May 5- June 1
I-I96 .3 mi E/O Chicago Drive SS/Facing E.

*June 2-June 29
US-131 .5 mi S/O West River Drive WS/Facing S
*Two Bonus Locations yest to be determined
May 5-June 29

My prayer is two-fold. Learn all you can about Melanoma, tanning beds and the sun. If you have just a tiny tickler of doubt, do your research. Educate yourselves. And then share what you've learned.

You may just avoid having to live with the Black on your own canvas.
~Peace and so much love...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Taking Time....

After many prayers, much thought and consideration, I have decided to step back from social media for a while. My house has been sold, and we begin a new chapter in our lives.

 As we make the move to our new house in April, I need to place my focus on my family and the work involved with making our new house a home.

I will continue to work behind the scenes with the JillianHayes Foundation, and I will post our activities surrounding Melanoma Awareness.

The billboard for Caregivers has been paid for, thanks to all of your generous donations.THANK YOU for all of your help involved to make this happen! I will continue to accept photos through March 31. The billboard will be displayed sometime in May for Melanoma Awareness month. I'll post the dates and locations once I get that ironed out with the billboard company.

I’m not gone for long,  just taking some time needed to move through some important transitions. I can be reached via email at

Thank you everyone for your continued love and support.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I'm Tired. I Advocate. I Stand. Together....

I don’t know how this stuff happens, but it does. As I prepare for my day, God puts things in my head. My heart begins to race, my hands start to shake. I’m brought to a place that can’t be ignored. He won’t let it go.

Seriously, I’ve learned to listen.  

As I read though some of the posts on face book this morning, I discover that two more people have died from this disease. And this is just from people I’ve been in contact with though the melanoma community. One person dies in the US from melanoma every hour. Every hour! And lives are changed forever. Melanoma not only effects the person holding the cancer card, it effects those around them too. Their family, their friends. The caregivers. From that first heart stopping phone call forward, life switches gears abruptly for the rest of their lives. 

I am currently working on a billboard targeted toward young people that use tanning beds in preparation for spring break and prom. The nagging thought today was that I need to do a billboard that focuses on caregivers. People that didn’t know the dangers of tanning before their loved ones were diagnosed. People that know now, but wish they would have known before that dreaded call.

These billboards cost money. I have been funding these billboards with the jewelry I was making. With everything that has happened in the last year, I have taken a break from making anything. I’m currently in the process of finding a new home, and I’ll be moving in April. Something had to give. So…I am asking for help. If you think this is a good idea for a billboard, please donate. There is a “donate” button on this blog page, and every dollar helps. If you would like to show the world that melanoma touches everyone involved, please send your photo to

 Melanoma Awareness

We Know Now. Do YOU?

Thank you melanoma warriors. Thank you caregivers. Thank you family and friends. We WILL make a difference.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Standing United with the AAD.....

Last evening, several amazing people, along with myself, were invited to participate in a conference call with the American Academy of Dermatology to discuss their upcoming plans for May, Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

As some of you remember from last year, the Academy’s Spot Orange campaign evoked high emotion. Let me rephrase that. We were livid. Appalled that orange was promoted as the color for melanoma cancer, and not the traditional melanoma cancer color, black. We embrace black.

The Academy responded to our concerns last night with “flying colors”.

“We are proud to say that we will be dedicating Melanoma Monday and the first week of May to melanoma awareness. We will support the melanoma community’s efforts to raise awareness with the color black by looking for opportunities to retweet and “like” your social media posts. Our call to action will be promoting a potentially life-changing behavior of early detection- how to SPOT Skin Cancer. We look forward to being a united front in educating the public about melanoma and other skin cancers”.

We all have the same goal. We all want to save lives, and we all want a cure for this devastating disease. Together, we really DO make a difference.

I'm so blessed to be a part of this melanoma community. A place of passion, dedication, support and love. 


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Siblings: The Forgotten Mourner.....

I love winter. I love the way the snow insulates and buffers my world. Today as I’m thinking about winter and the icy roads, the sidewalks filled with snow, I’m reminded of an old friend. I met Michael as I was working in my yard many years ago. I had just purchased my home and I was anxious to put my stamp on it. One summer day, while I was digging and clearing dirt for a pond, I stood up to admire my mess. I noticed a young man and his dog passing by. I must have smiled at him because he turned his wheelchair around and drove up my driveway. We started talking, his beautiful Golden being the ice breaker. His dog was still a pup, full of boundless energy. They didn’t stay long, they needed to finish their walk.

The next day, Michael and his dog were back. We talked about my pond and I told him how I was struggling to get it level. He lit right up, eager to help me.  He suggested places I could arrange the rocks around the outside of the pond. He helped me build up the waterfall. I loved having him around giving me his input and direction. We became fast friends, soon learning about each other’s lives. . He shared how he became paralyzed. At the age of 14, he dove into a neighbors pool and broke his neck.  He was around 30 or so when I met him.

One day it was particularly hot as we worked together. I suggested taking a break so we could get some water for the dog, and a glass of ice water for the two of us. I placed the dog dish on the ground, and handed him his water. He just looked at me. It never dawned on me that he couldn’t move his arms and grab the water for himself. I gently placed the glass to his lips, and waited for his direction. He tilted his head back, and I followed, waiting for him to swallow. Together, along with his beloved pup, we shared our glass of ice water. Michael ended up moving to Florida not long after that summer. He wanted to be in an environment where there wasn’t any snow. A place where he could move around easier. We lost contact after he moved, and I haven’t been able to locate him. I miss him.

My thoughts of winter, Michael and my children all intertwine. I’ve been learning a lot about the types of grieving, the processes and stages. I know what it’s like as a mother to lose her daughter. I needed to learn more about the impact on my children. What is it like to lose a sibling?

The Forgotten Mourner

The loss of a sibling is a devastating life event. When a sibling dies, the world changes in a heartbeat. Oftentimes when such a loss occurs, others fail to recognize that the surviving sibling faces emotional battles on many fronts while working through the loss. Largely ignored, surviving siblings are often referred to as the “forgotten mourners.”

Siblings who play a major part in each other's lives are essential to each other. Adult siblings eventually expect the loss of aging parents, the only other people who have been an integral part of their lives since birth, but they do not expect to lose their siblings early; as a result, when a sibling dies, the surviving sibling may experience a longer period of shock and disbelief.

The Loss of History

Each family has its own special history and the shared bonds that are a part of that history. When a sibling dies, the bonds are shattered, and the history forever has a void that cannot be filled. As they grow, children develop certain characteristics and talents. Brothers and sisters tend to complement each other by developing a balance of interests in different areas. However, surviving siblings will need to redefine their roles in the absence of this relationship.

The Loss of Future

When a sibling dies, all future special occasions will be forever changed. There will be no more shared birthday celebrations, anniversaries, or holidays. There will be no telephone calls telling of the birth of a new nephew or niece. The sharing of life’s unique and special events will never again take place.

Understanding from Others

Society often encourages bereaved individuals to feel guilty for grieving too long. This failure to receive validation of their grief can cause siblings to hide their feelings, causing a type of depression with which they may struggle for many years.
If the surviving sibling is married, stress may also be introduced into the spousal relationship. Individuals grieve differently, and the spouse may be bewildered and even unsympathetic that this loss is causing so much sorrow in their own family. This situation may provoke comments such as, “Why are you so upset? You haven’t been close to your family for years.” While this may sound reasonable, the emotions of grief and mourning are seldom reasonable—or even rational. Spouses may need to be told how they can be supportive. One woman simply asked her husband for a hug whenever she felt especially sad about the death of her sister.

When your sibling dies, you lose a part of your past, your present, and your future. Because of this tremendous loss, it is important that everyone work together to ease the path toward healing.

Grief is real. Grief has physical qualities. Don’t assume the griever is able to take that drink of ice water just because the oozing wound isn’t visible. It’s there.

 Jillian’s sister, Jenni, posted this on her face book yesterday. It says it all:

"the reality is you will grieve forever. you will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. you will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. you will be whole again but you will never be the same again. nor should you be the same nor should you want to

I love you, kids. And I’m real proud of you all.

~ Peace

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Door Number Three...

Turn off the TV. Shut down the computer, the IPad, your phone. Close your eyes.  Now breathe. In with the good, out with the bad. Free your mind of all distractions. Breathe. Again. Again……

My all- time favorite Bible verse: “ Be still and know that I am God”. Being still doesn’t just happen. I have to allow it to happen. I have to remember that I need create stillness. And when I do, I’m never disappointed. I hear you, God.

I’ve been busy these last few months. Busy grieving. Busy fighting for my grief. By allowing myself to grieve, I’ve put my awareness activities on the back burner. For a variety of reasons, really. Mainly because I have needed to give myself the time and the latitude to work and process through this dismal jungle. But now, I need to make a choice. Am I going to continue with my melanoma awareness involvement like I did while Jillian was still with us, or am I going to slow down, or possibly stop? By continuing my involvement with melanoma and all it entails, is this helping me, or hurting me? Good questions.

While pondering these questions after dinner last night, I came home to an email from a melanoma caregiver. This woman has become very special to me. It is scan week, and she needed to talk. I remember vividly scan week. Scan day. Result day. It’s awful. You try to be positive and tell yourself you can’t wait until you get to hear the good news. That works. For about two seconds.

Your heart is doing flip flops. Your hands shake. Your mouth is dry. You try and read the results from the doctors face as he walks in the room. If he smiles and jokes, it’s good news. If he beats around this bush and talks about everything other than why you’re sitting in that hard backed chair, it’s bad news. FEAR. I will never forget those days, and my heart hurts for my melanoma friends. They will be living with scan weeks forever.  I think about Jillian and her fears and emotions during scan week. What were her fears as she was faced with a melanoma cancer diagnosis? Did she run from life because of it, or did she run with life in spite of it? I already know the answer.

Staying away from the pulse of melanoma isn’t going to take the pain of losing Jillian away for me. It will always be there. You just wouldn’t hear about it as often. I’ve read somewhere that there are three ways people deal with their grief. Some talk about their loved ones often. Some don’t talk about their loss much at all. Others become activists and try to keep their loved ones memory alive. None of them are right, none of them are wrong. They just are. And I’ve decided. I’m door number three.

Life doesn’t necessarily have to be easy. But I believe it does need purpose. So bear with me as I stumble and fall, and laugh with Jillian when she hauls me up. Again and again.

Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight.

I hear you, God.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

At Least It's Not Raining.....

Today is my Mom’s birthday. We took her out for dinner last night to celebrate her years (she’d shoot me if I mentioned how many). We shared a great evening filled with much laughter and love.

 I was thinking about my mom as I woke up this morning and was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. The older I get, the clearer I see how we are a product of our upbringing. I’ve been so blessed. I was raised as the middle child in a middle class family. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but I didn’t know it then. What I did know was that I was raised with an abundance of love. An overflowing amount of love.

My parents have always been deeply involved in my life, and the lives of my children. My mom was my travel buddy on soccer tournaments for Jillian, and gymnastic tournaments for Jennie.  She helped me tremendously when I was a single mom raising four kids alone. One adventure in particular has stuck with our family throughout the years.

While I stayed home with the other kids, my mom offered to drive Joshua to his evening gun safety class about 10 miles away. It was still light outside as they headed to the school where the class was held, but it had turned dark by the time class was over and they left for home. My mom wasn’t familiar with the route and they got lost. Those were the days before smart phones and GPS devices. So here’s my mom, driving on a dark country road in her sporty Mazda,  lost with a twelve year old kid sitting next to her.

I wasn’t there for the exchange between grandma and grandson as they made their way back safe and sound, giggling and in one piece. But I’ve been thankful ever since for the gift my mom gave Josh that night.

As they were trying to find their way home in the dark, lost, and perhaps a little scared,  my mom turned to Josh in reassurance and said, “At least it’s not raining”. That’s my mom. It never rains.

So the joke in our family when we are faced with difficult situations has become a mantra. At Least It's Not Raining.

Thank you Mom, for teaching me and my children that even if it does rain for us, an umbrella is always nearby. And if there is a storm…. shelter is but a prayer away.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.