What is this?

What is this? I don't really know, other then a continuation of my updates and writings that I was sharing previously on Caringbridge of this journey through cancer and now widowhood and single parenting.

Maybe it won't end up being anything at all, or maybe it will be a glimpse into my heart, my life, my current situation, my testimony.

Whatever it becomes, I am touched that you are interested.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A new year ahead

As we are about to enter a new year I have such mixed feelings.

Part of me is like, 'Good riddens year from hell'. But the moment that thought crosses my mind I am struck with the realization that this year didn't only bring indescribable heartache, it also brought indescribable love.

I don't want the year 2014 to always have this gut wrenching initial reaction. In reality it was bittersweet. It held the best and the worst moments of my life.

This year brought me the the greatest test my faith has ever seen. When everything in my world shook and fell, I discovered where I found my balance.

2014 brought both the first and the last memories of Brandon with our daughter. Dreams were realized, and dreams were shattered.

In it we made our final memories as husband and wife. It brought a new meaning to our vows we made over 8 years ago.

It showed me the strength in a 'village' of support, and humbled me by the love and selflessness of strangers, friends and family.

As I look ahead to 2015, I don't even consider coming up with a resolution this year. In years passed, successful resolutions were: to start recycling (2012), to continue making better environmental choices (2013), make better healthy choices (2014). But honestly, I just don't feel like giving myself any more challenges right now!

My Aunt suggested something she has been doing the past few years; choosing a word to inspire or direct your year. I like this idea.

Immediately the word PERSEVERE came to my mind. As I thought on it more I contemplated lots of other words, but this one just fits.

2015 will be a year of a lot of firsts. The first Wedding Anniversary, Valentine's Day, birthday, family vacation and so much more without Brandon. Aria's first steps, first birthday, and first words. Brandon's first Angelversary.

It's hard to face these events. But I'll do my best to focus on my word for this year ahead.

Persevere: to persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly.

Maybe you'll join me in also choosing a word for 2015? I'd love to know what will be guiding you this year! Share in the comments below.

I wish you all a safe New Years, God Bless.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Eternity

I'm not the me
that I used to be
Because I became we
When we joined in unity.


Your soul set free
And we is just me
Half of a whole, you see
Because you completed me.


Til death do us part, to me
Is only the worldly,
Because I will love thee
Through all of eternity.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Providing in Perfect Timing

I've mentioned God's perfect timing numerous times, and I want to finally explain a little how I have seen His provisions come at just the right time. Sometimes it was long before needed by preparing my heart or my situation for what was to come, and sometimes it was in the 11th hour as I barely held on to the hope. Other times it took a few steps or a few thousand steps away to look back and see just how perfect His timing was. It really makes me wonder how many things big and small have such significance, but we are just too close this side of Heaven to see the beauty and intricacy of His plan. I truly believe we are blessed when God gives us eyes to look upon something and clearly see His divine hands at work. And yet, if we take the time to really look - His fingerprints are often right there, clear as day.


I thought to write of all the instances I could recall since our journey with the big 'C' started, but it just got too long.


So Ill just start with the summer of 2011 once Brandon was in remission. It was only 3 short days before my health started struggling. It took 8 months and numerous doctors to get a lupus diagnosis, and the next 2+ years of medication trial and error to get the lupus somewhat 'under control'. But God's timing allowed me to be the caretaker for Brandon when he needed it, then for him to be mine when I needed it. Yeah, I could look at it from a different perspective, as I did for quite a while, and say, 'What the heck God?!? First cancer, now Lupus? Why have you forsaken me?!' But instead I now see how merciful He was to allow one, then the other - not both at once, if cancer and lupus were both going to happen regardless.


Not only did God give us that gift of timing, but he also gave us a gift of empathy for each other through our health challenges. We often said that in a sense, both of us having to struggle with chronic illness was a blessing in disguise that brought us closer as a couple. We both understood the difference between 'being tired' and 'fatigue'. We both had limitations on our daily lives that many others just can't understand - especially at our age. And we never got resentful toward the other because of what we no longer could do. Instead we embraced it and invested in a comfy family room that we spent a lot of our 'illness' days just cuddling in together.


As we prayed about starting a family, of course our greatest concern was of Brandon's cancer returning. Every couple of months we would reevaluate. Is it time? No, not yet. Then suddenly we both knew it was time. At two years cancer free, and with the doctor's feeling confident in his response to the treatment, we felt God giving us the confidence to start the next chapter of our lives. As my father-in-law had said, we had lived in fear of cancer for so long, we were like turtles finally poking our heads out of our protective shell. In November of 2013 we were overjoyed to find out we were expecting.


As I look back now, this is precisely when Brandon's health started concerning us more then it had in the previous 2 1/2 years. The weekend before I found out I was pregnant we actually had an ambulance ride and hospital admittance due to what we thought was Avastin related kidney issues. (Probably was even though tests were inconclusive at the time.) Had this happened just a month sooner, we likely would have put our family planning on hold. But God's timing is perfect, and we believe that His plan was for Aria to be in this world, and worked everything accordingly.


God allowed for Brandon's health issues to be a nuisance enough that we pursued answers, but not so much that Brandon could not take care of me during my high risk pregnancy. I needed A LOT of help, and Brandon lovingly took care of me.


I am quite independent and don't like to trouble other people for something I am fully capable of doing myself, so Brandon enjoyed me not resisting his 'silver platter treatment' for once in our relationship. I didn't argue when he wanted to drop me off at the door, or carry things for me, or make me a hot bath to soak in.


I got to a point from about 20 weeks on where I only had about 2 hours of the day that I could be on my feet due to the lupus pain and fatigue. During this time Brandon drove me everywhere, ran all errands and selflessly cared for me.


In the last 3 weeks of my pregnancy I got a burst of energy and all the sudden felt great. Yes, nesting - but I also believe God's timing. In this time Brandon was actively pursuing answers to his not feeling well and had lots of doctors appointments, labs and tests.


When I was almost 38 weeks pregnant we got that horrible phone call that the PET scan showed activity, and just 4 days later Aria came along. And again, timing. If we had gotten the news any earlier in my pregnancy we would have started chemo and that whole process that was the first domino being tipped and Brandon would have missed the birth of his daughter from being bedridden or hospitalized. But God allowed for us to have that experience together. It didn't have to be that way, but I believe He blessed us with that gift.


Was my labor and delivery perfect? Absolutely not. Brandon was checked into the ER for the first 4 hours of my labor. But God had put it on our hearts to hire a doula for my labor, even though I planned for an epidural. Many doulas work primarily with non medicated births. So when Brandon was admitted downstairs, I at least had our doula, a familiar face, with me and I was not alone.


Once Brandon was released and able to join me, I had already had the epidural and was feeling quite good. I again feel this was timing. In the condition that Brandon was in, I don't think he would have handled seeing me in that amount of pain very well. I kinda think God spared him that with all he was already enduring, considering that he almost passed out a couple years ago when I had blood drawn and became a human pin cushion for the nurse. This was after his full sleeve tattoo, numerous surgeries and chemo; he was no wuss. But to see me in any pain or discomfort nearly broke him.


For a first pregnancy I was very lucky, with being in labor only 7 1/2 hours. Not many women go into labor from their water breaking, as I did, and I consider myself blessed. With both of our illnesses and the stress we carried with the devastating news it sure was amazing that we were not also enduring 18-24 hours of labor.


At this time we also did not know definitively the extent of the cancer. Brandon was scheduled for his biopsies the day I went into labor, and they had to be rescheduled. I believe this was God's unique timing as well for two reasons. First, we were able to experience the birth of Aria with the hope still that it may just be inflammation or infection. Second, Brandon was quite sore after the biopsies and had to recover for a few days after. It would have really taken away from our birth experience if he was in that much discomfort during my labor.


We had a few good days after Aria was born where Brandon was able to care for me and the baby, as a loving husband and father. He changed all her diapers for the first 3 days. For a few nights he also was able to help me as he had planned all along. When Aria woke to eat every 2-3 hours he would get her, hand her to me while I got myself situated, fill my water cup and make sure I had snacks next to the bed. After she was fed he would burp her, change her and swaddle her back up and put her to bed. He was so concerned for my recovery and keeping my lupus quiet he planned to do that as long as she was nursing through the night. I feel so blessed that God allowed us that time, if even just a couple of days to be parents together. I cherish those memories like gold. Oh what an amazing father he was.


Just days after returning home with Aria were the biopsies that left him unwell and unable to do much, and then the development of lots of symptoms leading up to that one and only chemo treatment.


During this God's timing also allowed my mom to be staying with us from the day after Aria was born through the week of the first treatment. Her help was so badly needed, and God knew that. As Brandon's family tended to him, my mom tended to me as I tended to our newborn.


Through each week, each new problem, each new level of care taking, God provided us all the perfect people at the perfect time.


God quite specifically timed my mom's multiple visits, including one arriving the day of Brandon's emergency surgery. The day we found out about the inoperable tumor. I didn't have to hear that news alone. I thank God for that.


When both of my parents came out once we moved to the hospice facility we thought we would only be there a week. But it ended up being twice that. Initially, my dad was going to come out after my mom due to work obligations, but my mom said she just knew he needed to be there right away. This again, was perfect timing. Though we all hoped that the miracle we prayed so desperately for would happen, arrangements still had to be made, we just hoped they wouldn't be needed. My dad was able to be my eyes and ears while out with my father-in-law, and just filter the needed decisions to me as I stayed by Brandon's bedside where he wanted me.


With a heavy heart I also think to the timing of Brandon's going Home. It was just as it was supposed to be. As much as I wanted to be by his side, in those 12 minutes I stepped away, he let go. I am thankful for that last gift Brandon gave to me, to not have to watch the life leave him. We had a beautiful last moment together that I will never forget. As someone told me, love held him back. He had to take that journey on his own. God knew.


As I look back over the big picture all

I can think is 'Oh how much God loves me!' He gave us so many blessings at the perfect time.


Many people have asked how I still have faith. How I can still trust God after He took a new father and devoted husband at just 33 years old. How I can call it 'Perfect Timing'.


Well, all I can say is it's HIS perfect timing. Obviously MY perfect timing would have played out with us raising two beautiful children together and dying in each other's arms in our 90's. But it's not up to me.


I guess I just trust in God's promises to us. And as I reflect back, I see how things could have been much, much worse.


The PET scan in February could have shown the recurrence. All this could have happened while I was pregnant. I could have had to bury my husband and then give birth without him to a daughter he never would meet. Aria could have had no pictures of her daddy holding her. It happens every day to people around the world.


I'm not saying that those people were not blessed-not at all. For whatever reason, that is God's plan for them and I'm sure He blesses them along their journey in unique ways to them. But for me, it just makes me feel grateful that I received the blessings I did among a terrible situation.


Things can pretty much always be worse. I guess that's how I'm making it through this, by focusing on my blessings and putting my trust in God to continue to provide what I NEED when I need it.


God has also given me a peace that this was always going to be the outcome. For almost 4 years I have agonized over 'What if we had just found it sooner? If we found it at Stage I, II or even III, we probably wouldn't be here.' But God had a plan. This always was it, even if we had caught it at Stage I. He gave me the gift of releasing those torturous 'what if's'.


There are so many other occurrences, big and small where things happened too perfectly to be considered simply coincidental. Often it was not something I could see in the moment. But having hindsight and taking the time to reflect on it has given me the ability to surrender this moment to God, knowing that though it may not always feel like it, He is always providing for our best interests in His perfect timing.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Field of Dreams

I sit here at our neighborhood park and playground. As I walked the familiar steps here I'm transported to a time long gone. Though, really, it wasn't so long ago, yet it feels like a lifetime away.

I sit on a bench overlooking a field where just months ago we sat and watched children playing in the grass, our hands resting on my belly feeling our daughter kicking, as if with excitement to join us in that dream.

Now, with Aria in the stroller and me on 'our' bench, I'm here today with tears streaming down my face as I realize that dream is gone. All my dreams look different now.  What was excitement looking upon this park, is now sadness.

Brandon and I also came to this bench as we processed the devastating results of the PET scan. And this open field was then images of daddy sitting on the bench, weak from treatment, but smiling with a heart full of gratitude at watching his girls laying in the grass. We were filled with fear and sadness, but hope for another remission and a chance to be a family.

Just weeks later I sat on this bench with Aria nestled in her infant carrier in the stroller as Brandon lay in a hospital bed. I knew then that I would soon be a widow and single mother, and I tried to envision what that would look like, just mother and daughter picking dandelions in the field. The thought that Brandon's heart was shattering thinking of the same. 

Too soon after that I walked with a friend to this bench when that fear had been realized. I cried as I let the hope of a different ending for our field of dreams slip through my fingers and drift away with the breeze. I held onto the hope of a miracle til the very end. So much so that as I walked back into the room that September 23rd and saw that Brandon's eyes had opened for the first time in over 36 hours my first thought was that my miracle was happening! He was waking up! God was bringing him back to us!

But then I quickly realized that instead he had opened his eyes to see Jesus, taking him home.
From this bench I can also look upon the hill with the cross, where the earthy vessel for Brandon's beautiful soul rests. I almost feel his presence more right here then anywhere else.

My tears will stain this place forever. I will always be taken back to the foot steps we took together along these sidewalks and the times we shared upon this seat. I don't know what this bench has in store for us in the future. Hopefully something beautiful. I like to think Brandon will see to it that it does.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

5 month / 10 week Update

Well, I made it through the first holiday.  In a way it was just another day. They all hurt without Brandon.


I'm glad Thanksgiving came first.  It's kinda like a baby-step into the holiday that's really going to hurt.  Brandon didn't care much about Thanksgiving, but oh how he loved Christmas.  He didn't really like turkey or ham or most of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes.  So it makes me really glad that last year I made a special beef tenderloin for him, hoping that it would become a new tradition, something for him to look forward to on Thanksgiving.  Who wouldn't want steak, mashed potatoes and brownies as tradition?!  And he did love it.  I'm so glad he had it that way once.


I sat in his seat at the table, just as I sleep on his side of the bed and sit on his spot on the sofa; because I can not bare to see these spaces without him.


My friend selflessly came from Florida to spend Thanksgiving in Colorado with me, sacrificing a holiday with her own out of state family.  How blessed am I?  Her presence was so needed this first time.  Additionally, countless friends extended an invitation for Aria and I to join them with their families for dinner.  I am so grateful that so many people care so much for me, making sure I do not feel alone or forgotten.


This was also Aria's first Thanksgiving.  Not that she really cared - milk is milk is milk, right? :)  But I put her in a cute little pumpkin top, and she sat in her swing as we all ate at my in-law's.


So far, the pamphlets are right - this gets harder, not easier.  Not that I expect to already be healing, more that it's hard to imagine that the pain continually gets worse and worse when it is already unbearable.  Yet it does.  As a dear friend of mine put it, "Ironically, the brain is wired to protect us from traumatic events. You're stuck in the weird grey that exists between your brain trying to protect you and it giving you passage to start healing."  And day by day my brain allows me to feel, process and attempt to accept this terrible reality.


I have started going to grief counseling.  I hope to make it a weekly occurrence once I get a firm child care schedule set.  It helps to be able to share the weird, random, and crazy thoughts and happenings with someone who can tell you that it's normal, and give advise on how to reconcile it in your head.


It's nice to know that loosing my car in nearly every parking lot is very normal for bereavement.  Suddenly not knowing where I am, even in familiar places, is nothing to stress over.  Forgetfulness, numbness, nightmares, only remembering the traumatic images - all normal right now.


I also have 2 widow support groups that I am becoming involved with.  So far, I'm the youngest in attendance, but I more or less expected that.  I look forward to getting to know the others.  My church once explained how we should go through life with one hand reaching ahead of us, holding on to those who have gone before us; and one hand extended behind, leading for those who will follow us.  Right now I really need those ahead of me, to give me hope that I will make it through this.  And someday I truly hope to be that for someone else who walks this difficult path.


This week and next week I am trying out some different local MOPS groups as well.  I really hope to find some fellowship with other moms in my neighborhood, and hopefully get some trusted referrals for part time in-home day cares or nannies.


So, yeah, I guess I would agree - I am an 'active' griever.  :) I need to stay busy.


And that leads me to the Aria part of the update!  She keeps me VERY busy.  Oh what a godsend she is.  I look at her and I just can not believe she is mine.  I watch her and have just the slightest understanding now how God loves His children so much.  And I see the special place in His heart that He has for young children.  Their innocence, their delight in learning, their complete reliance on their provider.


Maybe that last part is the key.  Complete reliance and helplessness.  Throwing up your hands and admitting that we need Him in every way.  I can say that I have never in my life completely surrendered everything to God and relied on Him to meet my every need, like an infant, until this season.  And allowing myself to trust Him, no matter what, has been a freeing experience.  It has not been easy, but I trust that He is sovereign, always.  Right now my eyes are on Heaven.  This life is my task, and Heaven is my accomplishment and reward.


Anyhow, back to Miss Aria.  She is just such a great baby.  Sleeping well, nursing well, and just too darn cute.  I think she may be starting to teethe. (Eeeek!)  I was hoping that wouldn't happen for a couple more months, but oh well.  I still think she is going to be an early walker and late talker.  She doesn't spend much time babbling, but always wants to be on the move.


She is the light of my life, my little side-kick and she and I will get through this together.


One day at a time, one tear at a time, one holiday at a time.


But with the presence of family and friends, and the prayers for strength and peace from so many-we made it through. Not without battle wounds, or without a tremendous sense of loss. But with God's promises held tightly in our white knuckled hands, we made it through.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

A homecoming update

I am a bit tired, so forgive my lack of 'finesse' in this post. It's been a busy week, and as much as I want to just lay in bed and watch a little tv and drift off to sleep, I want to send out a little update more. I know many have been praying for my transition back home and are genuinely concerned for how I am holding up. I know that if I don't do it now, as the little one is in bed asleep, it will probably be a while before I have the time to get anything written.


Well, I can say that I have put one foot in front of the other. That's an achievement.


I have moments where I just still can't believe that this has happened to my life, to my husband, to Aria's father. To a son, a brother, a friend. To Brandon. I have to sit and look at a picture and tell myself that I will never feel his hand hold mine again. I try to remember what that even felt like. It feels so long ago. I struggle to remember his voice and his mannerisms. I feel like it's all so foggy. I look at the pictures and I feel like I'm looking upon a life that was not my own.


I spend a lot of time just wondering what it would have been like to watch him being a father. I feel like even the best I can imagine would have paled in comparison to how he would have been in that role. This is where I get the most upset as I long to know that part of Brandon.


The rest of the time I guess I am just in survival mode. I move from task to task robotically. I try to stay distracted. This has not been too hard to do with the demands of caring for an infant alone, keeping up the house, running errands, taking care of all the aftermath of the past 5 months, transitioning back into work, researching part time child care options, finding and lining up support groups, attempting to find a few minutes each day to myself....blah, blah, blah, the list goes on.


Despite the challenges I guess I can say I am holding up better then I expected. Though I can take no credit of my own here. God has given me the strength of David vs. Goliath, at least that's what I felt I was up against in coming home.


Additionally, He has carried me from minute to minute through the support of so many people. I am continually blown away by the time, resources and thought that so many have selflessly given to me. I feel very unworthy. And I know you will say I shouldn't feel that way, but I can not even begin to express how much has been done for me.


Like I've said before, I have no idea what our loved ones in Heaven get to know about the happenings in this world, but I like to think that they now see the big picture and celebrate when God's promises come to pass. So with every single act of love you have shown me, I imagine Brandon rejoicing in a way our minds can not even comprehend for how God is using you to care for Aria and I, Brandon's most desperate prayer. Thank you for giving us that gift, all three of us.


I have been praying for God to open my heart to accept the love of being a mother. Please do not misunderstand this statement. I love our daughter; unconditionally and with my whole heart. But it's hard to express how difficult it is to experience such love and such pain at the same time. Every adorable little baby thing she does that melts my heart carries with it such pain that Brandon is not in these moments with us. Our minds are not equipped to balance such polarizing emotions. It has felt like my senses have been dulled so that I do not fully feel the heights of the joy so that I also don't completely feel the depths of the pain that accompany it.


Thankfully God has been answering that prayer and I have begun to find lasting joy and fulfillment without immediate pain and emptiness. Aria and I are becoming quite the team. She has no clue how much she is blessing my life in this time.


I have so many people continually checking on me. You have no idea the worth of your messages to me right now. I sincerely apologize that I have not been able to get back to everyone. Please know that I read most messages right away, and often they are just what I needed at that moment. To not feel forgotten or alone. I hope to respond as soon as I can, even though it's not nearly as soon as I would want it to be.


I need to get some rest, but thank you for your love and support. I think of the kindness of my family, friends, neighbors, strangers, ARFCOM family, Quakertown Community, Church Communities, CaringBridge Followers, friends of friends, and so many more DAILY. I am humbled and beyond gracious.


I'd like to end with a quick prayer request. Please pray that Aria adapts quickly to being comfortable with others again. My time away, though needed, has made her very attached to me.


Thank you and God bless!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The time has come

I sit here today doing my best to embrace constantly opposing feelings.


Since the beginning of October Aria and I have been staying in Pennsylvania with my parents. I didn't know if I would need to stay 3 weeks or 3 months, but I knew I needed the refuge of my family and time to process.


I woke this morning with excitement. For the first time in months I did not have disturbing and tormented nightmares all night long. So as I emerged from my sleep I woke in an alternate reality. I knew I was heading home to Colorado tomorrow, and my heart fluttered as I thought 'I can't wait to get home and see Brandon again!' as if I were just visiting without him. A couple blinks of my eyes then I'm suddenly overtaken with what feels like my heart stopping and my soul dropping to the floor. My breath falls short and my throat tightens as I yet again accept reality. I am going home to a life without Brandon. I now am overcome with dread.


The ridiculous part is that this happens over and over every day. However, it always seems most confusing first thing in the morning.


Why does my mind torment me like this? I imagine it's part of the 'process'. Maybe it's a coping mechanism, realizing the devastation a little bit at a time over and over because our hearts are not able to take it all at once.


I know that I need to return to our home, and start to rebuild my life piece by broken piece. The longer I put it off the longer I sit in this limbo of wondering how hard it is going to be.


I remember someone telling me that sometimes the anticipation of what is to come is worse then it coming to be.


Again opposing feelings. I highly doubt my worry is worse then my reality. I have only begun to think of the challenges that I now face between grief and single motherhood. But then God gives me peace as I do my best to rest in His word that every day His mercies are new (Lam 3:22-23) and '...do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.' (Matt 6:34). Or in short I guess you can say 'One day at a time'.


So maybe there is some truth to that statement because while worrying about what is to come I am carrying the weight of not only today's challenges, but tomorrow's as well.


Am I ready to face our home, full of memories and empty of my husband? Am I ready to take on single motherhood in a house alone? Am I ready to let the reality of my new normal set in?


No. I'll never be 'ready' for this. But I have to face it. I have to let the quiet pierce my heart and feel what I have been keeping at bay since June 27th.


So as I pack up my bags I feel anxious leaving the safety of my temporary respite, but relief in knowing that I am returning to the loving support of family and friends. I feel scared to take these steps into the unknown, but assured that the time has come to do so.


For when I am weak, then I am strong:


'But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.' 2 Cor 12:9-10


We so often misquote that scripture, I know I have. 'For when I am weak, He is strong'. No, He is ALWAYS strong. It's when I have nothing left and stop trying to do it myself, and allow the Spirit to take over in me, then I am strong, because He is reigning in me.

And truthfully, I have no choice but to continue to put my faith to the test, seek my strength from Him and trust God to guide and provide for my needs. Trust in uncertainty.


I would truly appreciate your prayers for peace beyond understanding, strength to face each challenge that will come and to find hope in every day that will carry me to the next. Thank you, thank you, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

...Oh and prayers for good travels tomorrow. No fussy baby, and no travel delays or cancellations! (Thankfully my mom is traveling with Aria and I, and staying for a few days to get me settled back in.)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

4 month / 6 week Update

So many of you have invested in Aria and I's life that I wanted to try to do a monthly 'lifestyle' update on us. Aria's age is not only her milestone marker, but more or less notes the beginning of our new kind of normal.


4 months on the new path of parenting, and 6 weeks without Brandon-walking it as a young widow and single mother.


But God has blessed me greatly with Aria. Her little baby smiles make my heart melt. Though every smile, giggle and new development is bittersweet. Thankfully what does linger is the sweet part.


I believe God knows that I need rest at this time for my physical and emotional well being, and He has given me the gift of a baby who has been sleeping through the night since 7 weeks old. She continues to put herself to sleep in the evening, rest for 8 hours, wake to feed, then sleep again for 3 more hours before starting her day around 10am. And my goodness, she must be a lot like me and thrive in structure. During the day she tells me she's hungry within minutes of the 3 hour feeding schedule. It's unbelievable.


I am still nursing and have not had to supplement formula yet, though I have been given some breast milk from a dear friend whom I trust to help fill in the gaps.


Aria loves her bumbo style seat and really enjoys standing, with support of course. I'm afraid she is going to be an early walker! She reaches for and grabs things and is putting her pacifier in her mouth on her own now too.


I have to say that this part, from 3 months on, has been so amazing to watch her learning. I wish with every fiber in me that Brandon was with me to share in this joy. I find myself wanting to send him pictures of what she just did as if he was just out golfing and missed a brief moment of her cuteness.


As for me, I'm getting by. Surviving I guess.


Brandon was really the only person I broke down with. He was my support and my counselor, and now when I need him the most, he's gone. So all the times that I normally would take my thoughts to him instead I pray and write. I am learning to lean on God in a way I never have before. I know this is supposed to be a beautiful thing, and at times it truly is, but to be honest I'm not quite there yet. I'm human. I want the physical arms of my husband, but am learning to seek the spiritual arms of my Savior.


I find that I spend most my day in constant communication with God. Most often it's just asking Him to get me through the next part of the day. Give me the strength to keep going. Help me find true joy in my daughter. Thanking Him for each blessing I see. Telling Him I trust His plan for my life, even though right now I don't like it. Asking Him to help me believe when fear overtakes me. Thanking Him for loving me so much despite my sin. Asking for forgiveness for the horrible thoughts that cross your mind when in deep grief. Telling Him my fears and sharing with Him my sadness. I try so hard to remain in praise of Him. Keep my heart focused on His promises and on Heaven, and that this is just a small stroke in the big picture.


Then, when I have moments where I can get it out, I write. It seems to be the only way I can process reality and have an outlet for my thoughts. I found a journaling app for my phone that has been a great tool.


In it I write notes to Brandon. I tell him how much I miss him and of all the things that remind me of him. I tell him all about Aria, and how he would have been such a great dad.


I jot down the random mindless trails of thought that otherwise just spin in my head, gathering speed and intensity until I release them, an explosion of thoughts, fears, anxieties, what-if's and desperate prayers.


I write down memories. Now that we are not making new memories together, I am terrified to loose the old ones. It's a strange, strange feeling. Searching my memory for little details, trying to remember the sounds and smells. Like if I don't replay them over and over in my head, burn them into my memory and write them down, that they will be lost forever.


I think I will be what is called an 'active' griever. Soon I will be attempting to get involved with support groups of many kinds, if available child care allows. Most group settings are encouraged after your first 3 months of grief, once the initial 'shock' has set in.


I hear that 3-9 months after is often the hardest and loneliest for a widow. Reality sets in and you have to figure out how to navigate a world on your own that you once shared nearly 24/7 with another person. The bed is empty, the house is quiet. There is no scent of their soap and no arms to hold you tight anymore. It's all just gone.


I will continue therapy, hopefully both regular and grief specific. Being an introvert, I feel I have to figure out how I am grieving on my own first, then seek the help I think I need.


Your prayers are greatly appreciated for daily strength and peace, and that God directs me and makes possible for me to get the help I need. Of course prayers for Brandon's parents and brother in these matters as well, who are deep in their unique grief of this loss in which I can not put my own words to. And prayers for my parents who grieve the loss of a 'son' and grieve for the pain and the difficult road ahead for their daughter and granddaughter.


Whew, this post feels like a heavy one. But this is the truth of it. Some days are ok, most just plain suck. It will be a while before things will feel good again. But God is good. He never said it would be easy, just that He would be there. And He has not failed me.


Thank you for bearing the weight of my words and helping to carry me through this journey ahead. God bless you.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Hometown Glory!

I wanted to take a moment to write about the amazing benefit that my hometown friends organized for me this past Friday.


When I was told that there were a few people that wanted to do a fundraiser for Aria and I, I assumed that it would be maybe an online thing that would get forwarded around.


But oh how wrong I was!


My goodness, they rented a hall and had a team of 15-20 local friends organizing the event with spreadsheets & planning meetings.


Many individuals donated time, money, raffle gifts and services. Then local businesses, small and large, donated services, products and raffle gifts.


There was a WALL of food and beverages. Then there were T-Shirts for sale, music, product consultant tables, craft tables, balloon animals and face painting for kids and a caricature artist. There were probably nearly 50 items being raffled off; artwork, a Kindle Fire, full NYC weekend getaway package, baskets with hundreds of dollars of swag, sports tickets, cosmetics...you name it, it probably was there! Then additional games and activities.


Hundreds of people were in attendance. I was truly amazed not only by the support from my fellow classmates, but also from their families, friends and coworkers and from the local community.


It was wonderful seeing so many people I have not seen in so long. This definitely can show the positive side of social media. It was strangely awesome to not have actually spoken to some people in 13 years, but because I was let into their online life, I knew of their children and jobs and were able to pop right into easy conversation.


Quite a few people snagged me and introduced themselves and offered me their condolences as I dashed from here to there to try to chat with as many people as I could. Thank you to those who I met, and I'm so sorry if I didn't get to personally speak with each and every one of you!


Unfortunately, it was all a bit overwhelming for Aria and she would not let anyone hold her but me, so I definitely had some sore shoulders after that! But she hung in there, that was a lot of activity for her little baby eyes and ears.


While we were in the Nursing Facility Brandon had said, 'I have never felt so loved by so many people.' I wish I knew what words he would have to top that statement if he had been able to see the outcome of Friday's event too.


I don't know how much or if any of our earthly doings our loved ones are aware of in Heaven. I believe they longingly and with excitement anticipate our arrival to join them. We are not forgotten just because we remain on the other side of Heaven. So I like to think that God allows those that precede us to know of the blessings we receive, and how He is providing for us until we are reunited. If so, I can't even imagine the tears of joy Brandon shed knowing of such amazing community support and love shown to Aria and I, as he lived in the area for 8 years himself.


I know I am missing other very noteworthy details about Friday that I am going to kick myself for not mentioning. Forgive me, I am exhausted. :)


But once again, THANK YOU to everyone who came, donated and contributed. A HUGE thank you to the lovely group of ladies (and many of their men too!) that sacrificed so much of their time and efforts to make that evening such a huge success, bringing in about $8,000 that I am putting towards Aria's future, (as long as I can cover the medical bills otherwise).


And to top it off, they want to do it again next year! How blessed am I?!?!




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

This is Grief

A lot of my posts I wait to write until I am seeing things more optimistically or I have been inspired or am feeling lifted up.


I don't know what I am about to write, God just put it on my heart to write as I a sit in 'darkness' this time.


Many days I try to just focus on the fact that many people have told me how our story has impacted their lives. Inspired their marriage. Redefined their faith. This uplifts me in indescribable ways. It makes me feel there is purpose to this suffering.


If we get to walk this earth and effect the life of just one person, pointing them towards God, then in my eyes we have accomplished the meaning of life. If we get the chance to be used by God to touch many more, then we truly are blessed.


I have spent most of my days this past month since Brandon has been gone focusing on Heaven. Reading scripture and stories, imagining what Brandon is seeing and doing. Consuming my thoughts with his joy, not my pain. Knowing that he is eagerly anticipating my arrival someday.


With a daughter to raise on my own, I have been trying so incredibly hard to find joy in the day amid the emptiness in my heart. Find more 'sweet' in every bittersweet moment. Show her laughter and smiles, and interact with her when all I want to do is sleep the days away in a dreamless slumber.


But no matter how hard you try, there are just days that none of it works. Days that you can't wait til the sun has set and you can count yet another day behind you, and one closer to that glorious reunion. Days that thoughts of Heaven only magnify the misery of this life. Days that no words of encouragement can penetrate the cloud of depression and fear that has clung to your innermost being.


Today was one of those days. For no reason at all. It isn't an anniversary or holiday. Nothing in particular 'set me off'. It's just another day without my husband.


So, I'll remind myself that every day His mercies are new, and hope that tomorrow I'll better receive His blessings.


This is grief.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A note from myself

As I lay in bed, unable to sleep I decided to poke through my notes and delete old grocery lists and to-do lists.


I came across this note from January 10th, the beginning of my second trimester:


"Tonight I was absently thinking about the new chapter that lies ahead of Brandon and I. Lord willing, one kiddo in July and hopefully another in a few years. My mind trailed off to this dream future I was imagining, then all of the sudden I was hit with the dreadful thought of 'reality'. My mind spun off to all the 'what if's': What if Cancer comes back? What would that look like with a child? What if I am a single mother? What if my Mom's cancer progresses soon? What if my lupus gets worse and I can't care for my family? What if it all happens at once?


I started to panic and wonder if this desire to start a family was foolish b/c all of this is very possible. Why would I dare to dream of that life?


And all the sudden I just felt this wave of calm come over me and I realized that if I lived in that fear until the day that any or all of it happens, I would be robbing myself of the joy in today. Yes, we need to be aware of the reality of our situations, but it does us no good to live in that and steal the opportunity for us to be hopeful of the possibilities in our lives. God will provide and He has a plan, no matter how much I worry now.


I have enjoyed dreaming of our future and how I hope it looks."


Wow - that one took my breath away. It's funny how your own words can minister to your heart sometimes. God gave me that wave of calm and the thought to jot it down at 1:52 am on January 10th, probably knowing that not too far off I would need this reminder of His love. I needed that tonight and wanted to share, maybe someone else needs that reminder right now too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Decisions...decisions

Well, reality is starting to set in. As I take baby steps towards my new path in life, I realize more and more how difficult this journey is going to be.


I keep praying 'God, I just don't want to. I'm sorry, but I don't. You have gotten me this far, and I have to trust that you will allow the pieces to come together to help me through this next part. Help me to believe when the fear and pain are too much and I start to doubt.'


I still need to do a post about God's perfect timing, it's just going to take me some time to write that one. Time that I have not had.


But because He had aligned so many things to meet my needs in such a perfect way in all this mess, though I get scared and doubt because I can not see how, I still have faith that He will continue provide for me.


Please pray that God gives me much wisdom and guidance with many difficult decisions I will have to make. I ask that you specifically pray for my living situation as those decisions are some of the first that need to be addressed.


Do I look for a roommate? What does that look like with an infant? Who would want to come into this situation? Do I need to sell our home? Can I even take care of a single family house with an infant? These are just the beginnings of the questions that are spinning in my mind.


Despite these questions I have to say that I am incredibly grateful to the generosity of so many people to the fundraisers for us. Because of you I don't have to rush this major decision, and have some resources to bridge the gap of a single income for a couple of months as I put the pieces of my life back together. I am trusting God implicitly to provide for this, deliver me the right person or situation, as I am pretty confident I can not afford it on my own. But, truly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for giving me the peace of mind that I don't have to settle for whatever immediate resolution I could find and take time to pray and wait for God.


I apologize if this post is scatterbrained, been trying to get the prayer request out there for days now.


Thank you for your prayers for wisdom, guidance and mercy for me. ♥️

Saturday, October 11, 2014

How to 'be' around me

'I don't know what to say or do' is what I have heard often. Honestly, neither do I. This is completely foreign to us both then.


I have tried to put myself in your shoes. Yup, it would suck to be you around me too. Probably feels like walking on egg shells, afraid to say the wrong thing, bring up the wrong topic, wondering if it's ok to laugh?


So I thought I would just share my thoughts at this stage of grief. I hear it changes often as you get through the 'phases'. Maybe they are unique to me, or maybe I can be a voice for others too. I don't know.


So, I'll start off what what NOT to say or do:


-Please don't use harsh terms like: dead, dying, grave and such. I can't handle them yet. Passed away, resting place...these are softer words on open wounds.


-Please don't tell me how difficult this is for you. I don't have the strength to comfort you right now. Share with me your hurt and sadness, but at the same time please recognize that there are few others who will experience the same level of loss as I am experiencing in Brandon's passing. I need to cry with you, but not be your shoulder to cry on yet.


-Don't worry too much. I put my foot in my mouth more then anyone I know, so if you feel you may have 'offended' me or said something stupid, oh well, you're human. This is hard for all of us. I don't expect perfection. It's the blatantly oblivious and habitually ignorant ones that hurt.


-When I am crying or very upset (and I realize this is more unique to me), please don't hug me. A quick squeeze of my hand, pat on the shoulder, or short acknowledgement of my hurt is all I can take. Just sit with me, hand me a tissue or cry with me. I know it may be awkward for you, I truly am sorry, it's not my intention, but I'm just not a hugger when I'm upset.


-When I tear up, which is often, and at the strangest things, don't ask me if I'm ok. I'm not. Someday I will be, but it's not going to be anytime soon. Again, just sit with me, hand me a tissue or tear up with me. I may share what got me all salty or I may just keep it to myself.



What TO do or say around me:

-Just try to be yourself. You are in my life because I love you, and I know your heart, and I know this sucks for all of us. Especially for those willing to be around me, a shadow of who I used to be, at such a crappy time.


-Tell me what's going on in your life; the good, bad and ugly, but just be sensitive to what is going on in mine. Please use perspective when discussing the trials you are facing. If you had just lost your other half, and are now facing single mother and widowhood at 31, would you want to hear the term 'My life is so hard right now' about things not quite as finite as death? I'll be honest and say I have thought many times 'I wish that was my problem.' By no means do I want our friendship to become a one way road, but for a period of time I may be moving slowly with hazard lights on. I do acknowledge what you are struggling with as real and difficult, but please just consider sharing it with me in an empathetic way.


-Don't be afraid to laugh and joke around. I need distraction from grief. Brandon would never want me wallowing and refusing to find some joy within loss.


-Forgive me if I am absentminded or not focused. My head is still spinning, my world has just crashed down, and the person who stabilized me is gone. It takes an amazing level of brain power to make myself do anything, then add being a new mother to it all. I am in the ultimate survival mode. And it breaks my heart when I realize I forgot to ask how so-and-so is recovering or how that event turned out. You know I care very much, and I hate feeling self-centered and out of touch with what is going on in my friend's lives. It is still very important to me.


-Go ahead and make some decisions for me. And if you don't know, ask someone close to me if they think this or that would be helpful. I can't decide if I am able to shower today or not, so my head spins when faced with decisions. I have accepted so much help and I feel like I am a burden and inconveniencing everyone at this point. If it's on your heart to 'do' something (within reason) :) , go for it. I thank you.


-When in doubt, just ask flat out. You know I'm a very direct and honest person (to a fault sometimes!), so just ask. I'll tell you the truth, and hopefully with grace. :)


We will get through this together.


I hope this does not come off as anything but an expression of honesty with the intention of helping you help me, as many have voiced a desire to know how to do. And this may change, and when it does you know I'll be sure to let you know! Brandon always loved that he didn't have to read between the lines with me. :)


Thank you for taking this journey with me, and extending me such love, support and grace as I navigate my new normal.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Walk by Faith

Yesterday was two weeks since Brandon passed away. Gosh it feels like so much longer. The ache gets worse every day. I don't know at what point it starts getting better, not worse. From what I hear it will be a long time.


I've started looking into things to help me through. Books and support groups. Bereavement counseling. Guides for widows and single mothers. Yet another set of vocabulary I never wanted to be familiar with.


I have never in my life had to COMPLETELY walk by faith before. A lot of times it seems we only do when we have no other choice left. It's a scary yet magical experience. But as I look back over these past 3 1/2 months of walking by faith alone, I can say without a doubt that God was right there walking with me. He provided for my needs in His absolute perfect timing. (That's a whole different post sometime).


In this walk I have many moments where fear overtakes me. How I am going to be a single mother with Lupus? How do I be a fun parent? Brandon was the one who could be silly and carefree, and I am the disciplinarian. How will I learn to be both for Aria? How do I go on without Brandon's love and support? How do I live the majority of my life without him? These fears circle my mind constantly. The littlest things, a picture on FB, a commercial of a daddy and daughter, a love song, all start a domino effect of fear, reality, pain, sorrow, envy, anger, confusion. But I try to always end on Faith.


So far it's been challenging. Sometimes I have immediate peace for the future. Sometimes I have to work for it. I have to remind myself of all the ways God has already provided for me and how much worse this situation could have been, but God loves me so much and he met my needs in every way and will not stop now. He has a special heart for widows and orphans. I have to remain strong in faith and hope in that.


Brandon always said we have little control over our situation, but we have complete control over our actions and reactions to our situation. It all comes down to perspective.


And the perspective I have to constantly choose is to walk by faith. It's terrifying to surrender the map you drew up of your life and give it to God. But the magical part is when you can look back at what you just came through and see where God aligned everything just perfectly. Often at the last minute and in no way how you would have done it, but perfect nonetheless.


So when those fears consume me the only choice I have is to surrender them and put one foot in front of the other down His path, not mine. It's one of the hardest things I've had to do, and I sometimes wander off on my own, but God has always led me back.


Please pray for continued strength and peace and the ability to walk by faith. I truly believe that I am hanging on by your prayers that are carrying me through.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Not where I belong

My parents and I went up to the burial site today. It was a beautiful sunny day, unlike the day of his service. The warm breeze blew through the memorial site, giving good reason for the area's name 'Whispering Pines'. It was so serene.

Fittingly, Building 429's song 'Where I belong' played on the radio on the mile and a half drive up Mt Lindo.











Lyrics:








'Sometimes it feels like I'm watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I'm breathing but am I alive
I won't keep searching for answers that aren't here to find


All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I'm lost in the current of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance holding me.

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus

This is not where I belong

When the earth shakes I wanna be found in You

When the lights fade I wanna be found in You'

It's a shame that it takes tragedy often to get one to that perspective. When we feel an earthly loss so great the only thing we can do is look forward to completing our own job here on earth to get to the other side. The eternal side. The side with no more pain and no more suffering. The only thing we'll loose there is our sin and all the baggage that comes with it. Knowing this calms my heart.


Despite this peace, I expect this to get harder, not easier.


As I hit a golf ball into the trees at the site today it hit me that the last time I swung a golf club we were in ignorant bliss, together, having no idea what turmoil lay ahead of us.


I wish so bad I can go back to those days where all our dreams lay ahead of us and not be in this reality of crushed dreams and bittersweet moments with our daughter.


I feel like I am just trudging through life, collecting the days without Brandon in a trash bag that I am dragging behind me. And yet, as I mourn death, I am also embracing the fascinating new life in Aria. It's so hard to toggle between these emotions.
This is not where I belong. I have clung to this truth to get me through so far. I feel numb to the world right now. Nothing matters much other then the people in it.
God has given me unimaginable strength and peace throughout this whole ordeal. Even now, though I am walking around in a numb fog, I have peace. I can't explain it. And the only credit I can take is for receiving it. None of this is of me. It is all of your prayers and God hearing those prayers and giving me grace and mercy.





So I remind myself yet again 'One day at a time', and try to remember that God made me for this purpose. I will somehow get through, but ultimately, this is not where I belong. And that gives me hope.

Cherished

I'm grateful that Brandon and I truly did not take each other for granted. Yeah, we disagreed sometimes, rolled our eyes at stupid things the other did and didn't always make the best use of our time together. But we told each other daily things we were appreciative of in each other. And not in a forced way, but authentically.


If one word could sum up how Brandon made me feel it would be cherished.


To him I was everything he needed on this earth and he would do nearly anything to make me feel loved and happy.


Oh how he loved golf, but he always said he loved it most when I was there sharing the experience with him. Driving the cart, taking videos of his swing, or hitting a bucket with him at the range.


He would call me 5 minutes after I left the house to tell me something he just saw the cat do and had to share with me, about a great idea he just had, or about a funny post on Arfcom.


He researched extensively to find only the best for me; best coffee for the espresso maker, best earphones for the gym, best dessert places in Denver, best app for breast feeding.


He made the bed every morning. Not because he cared if the sheets were tucked, but because he knew it made me happy. I never asked him to do it, and he never complained about doing it, he just did it.


More often then not he still opened the car door for me after 8 1/2 years of marriage.


He sucked it up and went with me for the hours and hours of registering for the baby, researching every major product we put on the list, insisting on certain items over others, because his baby girl would only have the best and the safest.


He knew my limits better then I did. When I was pushing myself too hard he would make me rest to keep the lupus at bay.


He told me how beautiful I was to him. Every day. Multiple times a day.


He delighted in providing for me, protecting me and making me happy. He cherished me.


I'm so grateful I can write these memories down and not be wishing I had told him thank you. I did, often. He knew how much I appreciated all he did for me. And I know without a doubt how how fulfilled he also was in our marriage.


I hope our daughter settles for nothing less in a man then her daddy was. It was always his plan to show her how she should be treated by men by her seeing how he treated me. And he was so excited for daddy-daughter dates.


My dad says he had never worried about my well being with Brandon, and that says a lot as my dad is a worrier for his only child.


I miss everything about Brandon. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Because no matter how angry it would make me to have two open milk jugs in the fridge or how many toothpicks I had to pick up off the floor, I loved all of him, completely. And I am so thankful that he always knew that...


Take a moment every day to acknowledge something you are thankful for in your spouse. No matter how silly it may seem, or even how hard it may be to find some days, that little act can leave an impact forever.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A huge thank you

As the days monotonously pass I am at a loss for words. I'm not quite sure what I have to share. But God has put it on my heart to continue to share our journey and many of you have encouraged me to continue writing updates, so I will do my best.


I want to thank you all for your support. I was amazed at how many people came to Brandon's Memorial Service and was repeatedly blown away at the sight of quite a few people who took the time to come and honor Brandon's life that I never would have expected. I'm sorry I did not get a chance to greet each of you before or after the service. If you didn't sign the guest book, and I didn't get to say hello, please send me a message so I know you were there.


I'm so grateful that Brandon's parents arranged the live streaming. There were so many who could not physically attend, but with over 3,000 views I know how far Brandon's life has reached. And thank you all for sticking with us through all 2 1/2 hours of it! Though it was long, I am glad that so much of the impact of Brandon's life was able to be shared, and that was only a small handful of the people who would have loved the opportunity to speak. I only wish we could have incorporated a short intermission!


I'm quite nervous to watch the service video as I didn't know that the camera would be on our faces at all, and I can't imagine how many of my awkward crying faces you all had to see. But can you believe that Aria made it through the entire service?!? She is such a good baby.


It rained and was cold and windy up at the burial site, over 8000 feet in altitude. A one lane dirt road winds up Mount Lindo to where Brandon's earthly body is laid to rest. There could not be a more perfect place for him. The road up is reminiscent of the roads we drove on camping trips, and there is a view of snow capped Mount Evans from the site. I'll share with you part of the description:


The beauty of it is that our home is nearby, and Brandon commented to me practically weekly about how much he loved being able to see that illuminated cross so near our house and know the love story it represented. And now I know that all I have to do is look upon that cross and know where he is, both in body and in spirit.


I want to take a moment to say thank you to all who donated to Aria's Hope Chest in lieu of flowers. We are going to open her a bank account this week and 100% of what was given will start an investment for her future that you all have given to her and I, and to Brandon.


Once all the medical bills, nursing facility costs, funeral expenses and service fees are paid, I hope to be able to contribute a portion of what is left of the fundraisers to her account as well.


As I look at that looming list of financial responsibilities my heart aches with gratitude that they are that, responsibilities, not burdens, thanks to everyone that selflessly has given to us. Thank you to each and every one of you that has given the priceless gift of immediate financial peace to me. Not only have you relieved a huge worry from me, but you have also taken some of the weight of worry for Aria and I from my parents and Brandon's parents and brother. But most importantly you gave that gift of assurance to Brandon in his final days. He was able to release that concern, that heavy burden, and concentrate on the beautiful things of this world. You will never know how deeply your gifts have reached.


Your prayers for strength have been heard and multiplied. God is sustaining me in ways I never could imagine. He remains faithful, and I am doing my best to remain hopeful.


Thank you for continuing to walk this path with me, and forgive me for the choppiness of this post. I have been trying to get the time to update for days now and my brain is still quite foggy.

"As you look to the west of Denver in the foothills in the evening, you will see the Olinger Mount Lindo Cross illuminated. The cross on Mount Lindo began as a gesture of love between two people in the early 1940's. Francis Van Derbur once owned the land at Mount Lindo. He decided he would put a light at the top of the mountain so his wife, Pearl, would be able to see where he would rest after he died. the Cross began construction in 1963, and was lit for the first time on Easter morning in 1964. It is the largest electrically lighted cross in this country, possibly in the world. The cross measures 393 feet vertically and 254 feet horizontally. It can be seen from a distance of 80 miles."


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lifted up

I have been surrounded constantly by close friends and family. We have laughed together, we have cried together. What a blessing they all have been. It's in the silence and the redundancy that it hurts the most.

Grief is a strange thing. It comes at the oddest times sometimes. Like when a huge spider was crawling on the floor, and I instinctually jump on the sofa, laughing as everyone was trying to locate it. Matt came to the rescue, and once it was 'taken care of' it just hit me like a ton of bricks, I'm gonna have to kill my own spiders now.

Thank you all for your comments and messages. They have ministered to my heart. There are two in particular regarding Brandon's passing alone that have been such comfort to me. As USJET (from ar15.com) said in his comment regarding the passing of his father and Brandon alone, 'As you saw with Brandon, love held them back. They needed to be alone to take that walk.' So beautifully said USJET, thank you. And a friend's mother who worked in hospice, assuring me that it is not uncommon at all for some to wait until they are alone. Maybe that's why God put it on my heart to share those details, because he knew that these words would bring me such comfort.

From those near who can physically be my strength to those afar who's words and prayers have lifted me up, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
As we ate dinner last night on the deck in fellowship with friends and family it was so bittersweet. Some of our closest friends rallying together in support of our family and of each other, but missing one important person. I wanted him sitting there beside me so badly. But oh how good it feels to be surrounded by so much love right now.

From laughter to pain so quickly. This happens over and over all day long. You don't realize exactly how entwined your life is with your spouse until they are gone. Everything has his fingerprints on it. Everything changes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Well done my good and faithful servant

As most of you know, Brandon went to be with Jesus today. I lay here, completely exhausted, and unable to sleep, on his side of the bed. One of my best friends lays next to me.


The events of today just keep spinning in my mind. I can't believe this is real.


I have gone back and forth about what details to share, and what to treasure as only my own. Ultimately, there was a beauty to Brandon's passing that God is telling me to share.


We had worship music on, one of my favorite playlists. I had just finished showering and getting dressed and went to Brandon's bedside. How Great Thou Art by Carrie Underwood was playing.


This song has significance to us, and I felt lead to quietly sing along with it to Brandon as I held his hand. He always loved hearing me singing. (Not only is love blind, but it must be deaf too.)


Tears streamed down my face when the song was over as I quietly told him how much I loved him, and how grateful I am for the life we shared together . I reassured him that because of the love he showed to others, that Aria and I are so loved and supported that he did not have to worry about us. I told him that God will take care of us. I kissed his forehead and went to the other room.


A few minutes later I stepped out in the hall with my dad to make a phone call about having the oxygen and wheelchair picked up from the house. As I walked back in to get a pen, still on the phone and with my dad behind me, I noticed something was different.


I dashed to the bed, hastily hanging up the phone and tossing it, only to find that Brandon had passed. I lost it, angry at myself that I wasn't there. I had hardly left the room in two weeks, how could this happen?! My mom and Matt with Aria rushed into the room.


I was so upset that I was not holding his hand as he completed his calling here on earth. I am his wife, I needed to be with him for this, and I wasn't. I was on a stupid phone call.


Then suddenly I was filled with peace about it. This is how it was supposed to be. This was God's plan. This is how Brandon wanted it.


I truly believe that Brandon, selfless to his last moment, let go when he knew no one was in the room. He did not want us to experience those last moments which can be so difficult to see. Instead, we saw him at peace.


Friends and family surrounded us almost immediately. I have not had to think about anything, and I'm so grateful for that as I am in a daze. Halcyon Hospice took care of all the details, the faculty at Heritage Club cried with us.


My heart aches in a way I can not even describe, and I know the reality has not yet even set in.


Waking tomorrow will be difficult to say the least.


I go to bed tonight with an emptiness to my core. Yet, I have peace in this moment.


This path feels impossible, but I do know that God will guide me and carry me. He has provided for me through all of this, and many keep reminding me that He has a special heart for orphans and widows, and He will faithfully see me though the difficult journey ahead.


It is going to be the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I know I will get mad. I will feel forgotten. I will hate having to put one foot in front of the other. My miracle didn't happen. I will have to continue to live one day at a time, and trust God's plan.


Please continue to pray for us all as we face our tomorrow's without Brandon.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The latest & Fundraiser Details

I'm not quite sure what to update at this point.  Things have declined dramatically in the past 36 hours.  The nurses say his heart is strong despite all the other complications, which is why he is hanging on with all he has.  Not only is his heart strong physically, but also emotionally.  He is so dedicated to this life God has given him here.
 
As his breathing became strained last night I tried to calm his spirit, telling him that it's ok to let go.  His brow furrowed and he said with such heartache, 'I don't want to.'  My heart shattered to pieces.  I tried again this afternoon to reassure him that Aria and I are being bathed in love and support and we will be ok.  He weakly begged me not to make him talk about it.  So I won't.

I want so badly to calm his mind, talk to him of the beauty that Heaven will be, and not to be afraid because there will be no pain, only Glory.  I want to remind him of his own words to me a month ago, that the best that we experience here is only a glimpse of the greatness that God has for us in eternity.

Anytime he briefly opens his eyes he searches for me.  I scoot my bed up next to his at night so it feels as if we are in the same bed again.  Last night he woke many times only to say, 'Sweetie...I love you so much', and go back to sleep. 

Please pray for his continued comfort and for God to bring him home gracefully and peacefully.  I have not given up my prayer for a miracle, but I am coming to terms that I don't think it is in God's plan.  Pray for our strength as well, these next days will be the hardest yet.

Quite a few of you have asked about all the different fund raisers that many have put together on our behalf, so I thought to share them and links to them all in one place:

Giveforward organized by Abbey & Justin Pikul, and Jess and Steve Cordova:
https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/srh5/brandon-s-journey-with-the-big-c-

Lifting the Hayslips Beef & Beer in Quakertown by many High School friends:
Details: https://www.facebook.com/events/967129176647547/
Donation: https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_flow&SESSION=F0hrEsu2-Je7lgow-POQgALjWFzyPd_z5SIerLGjn...

Younique Makeup Fundraiser (4 days left) organized by Kelly Prince:
https://www.youniqueproducts.com/Fiberlashaddict/party/574490/view

Thirty-One Accessories Fundraiser by Michelle Stoneback:
https://www.mythirtyone.com/shop/catalog.aspx?eventId=E4956025&from=DIRECTLINK&verify=true&extern=tr...

ThomasTypographix Artwork by Erika Thomas:
Digital download: https://www.etsy.com/listing/204097994/brandon-hayslip-special-edition-my-grace?ref=shop_home_active...
Faith Art Canvas: https://www.etsy.com/listing/203417933/brandon-hayslip-special-edition-david?ref=shop_home_active_4
Grace Art Canvas: https://www.etsy.com/listing/203417933/brandon-hayslip-special-edition-david?ref=shop_home_active_4

Geissele Special Edition Trigger: (Picture is in photos on caringbridge)
Details: Geissele Super Select Fire Trigger that has a picture of Brandon and Christina laser engraved on it. There are 51 triggers and all are serialized. 00 and 01 are going to Brandon. The rest Geissele will donate to those Arfcommers who will send in to Geissele a check or money order made out to Christina. Geissele will then forward all the checks and MO onto Christina. 

The donation amount is $250 (retail on the SSF is $320 so its a deal!). Geissele will pay for shipping and include cool Geissele swag. I ask that when you get your trigger you take a picture of it and share on FB, Instagram, Arfcom, etc with a link to the Hayslip Family's donation site. This will help get even more donations for the Hayslip's. 

Just call into the shop (610) 272-2060 and ask for Kelsey. She will be taking your name and address and reserving a serial number for you.

There was also a raffle on ar15.com, but it has been completed and was tremendously successful!

Wow, when I look at all of this I am truly humbled and so incredibly grateful.  Thank you to everyone that has been a part of these fundraisers, organizing and donating!  God Bless you all!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Joy in Pain

God gave me this thought to rest in today and I wanted to share it, as it is really calming my heart for the moment:


With every image of this battle that I fear I won't forget, I strengthen myself against the pain it causes me, knowing that though it hurts me to the core, it is ministering true love to Brandon in his time of need. Giving love far outweighs the pain I take on in serving my husband. True love is selfless, and this is where I get to bless Brandon. As Jesus took the pain of the cross out of love for us, Lord, let the love that was shown outshine the pain I feel. Let it overcome and encompass the hurt, and fill me with joy. Amen.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ignorant Bliss

My heart hurts today. I feel like my hope bubble has popped. The reality is setting in.


Brandon is sleeping mostly now. This afternoon he woke numerous times in a row and could see me in the sitting room talking. I went to him immediately each time. After the third time I asked him what he needed, and he asked me what was wrong. (He could see my East Coast attitude coming out). I told him nothing was wrong, and he wouldn't accept that. I told him it was nothing he needed to worry about. He got quiet and I asked him if he was ok, and he said 'As long as it really is nothing I have to worry about.' My precious Brandon, always protecting me and worrying about me - even now. He has been resting peacefully since.


I think God has relieved him of most of the burden of this situation mentally. When he asks what's going on I just tell him we are at a recovery facility from his surgery. There are moments where he has said something that insinuates that he knows, but more times it seems he doesn't. But Brandon being who he is, has always internalized his worries, so I don't really know - and I would never ask. The handful of times I have had to answer his questions and deliver the news again already have been enough. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.


I have been reading a book written by a friend of Brandon's cousin, who lost her husband to cancer at 29, leaving behind her and 4 kids, the youngest being a newborn, and it is truly ministering to my heart. I feel so alone, like no one can possibly understand what I am facing ahead. That I am going to be a burden on those around me as I pick up the pieces of my life. But reading about her journey and knowing that she made it through is giving me the hope I need. It seems impossible right now. I am scared of the pain ahead and how long it will last. But God got her through, and I know He will carry me too. I just know it won't be easy. But I have Aria depending on me, and I can not let her down. And God will not let me down.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Roller Coaster Ride

I keep praying for a miracle. I feel the need to give God options. I think this is very normal. Of course I start with complete earthly healing: from kidney failure, membranous nephropathy, cancer, blood clot and gastroporesis. Then I start with the options of 'or at least healing from this and that' because we can deal with the others. What a mind numbing process it is.


Lately I've just been praying praises and asking God to hear the unspoken cries of my heart for healing because I just can't pray them anymore. They have become robotic pleas from a heartbroken wife.


A miracle doesn't mean Brandon would necessarily jump out of bed and head out to golf, though it's no impossibility for God. But a miracle could also be a long road of slow recovery allowing for further treatment.


There are days when my hopes rise. Recently the swelling has been getting better. It still fluctuates easily, but it hasn't gotten worse in a while. It tickles your hopes. There are days when there are signs that point to any day now, then the next those signs are gone. I keep wanting Brandon to brush his teeth before bed to avoid dental issues because I have so much hope for a miracle and don't want him to need root canals. Its a little maddening.


The hospice team has been surprised on a few occasions to see him so weak, nearly unable to speak- only nodding or shaking his head, then the next day nibbling on bacon and drinking some orange juice with more light in his eyes and conversing lightly. His breathing seems so labored one day, then more at ease the next.


They say that though there are so many complications his heart is strong and though he may not be saying it, is likely having a hard home letting go because he has so much to live for. When we returned home from the hospital weeks ago he was ready to go to our heavenly home. He was so tired of the 9 week long fight that just got worse and worse. However, now that his pain is managed he has changed his tune. But I don't know how much is clear thinking as the heavy medications and kidney toxins can present confusion which we have seen. Though the times of clarity are more then confusion, and they are priceless. Aria by far produces the most smiles and responses from Brandon.


Please continue to pray for a miracle. I keep hoping that soon we can tuck away all the memorial service plans, and save the cemetery plot for 50 years from now. Be able to tell Brandon that we chose the spot by the lit up cross on the foothill near our house, the cross he always loved to see on our drive home. Please God....


We all continue to thank you for your support and following our journey.


Prayers for continued comfort for Brandon, miraculous healing, and supernatural strength for all of us who need to be Brandon's strength and positive light.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Love Multiplies

This is such a strange process. Nothing about this is easy. Sit and wait and watch.


Now that we seem to have his discomfort managed, I'll take any minute I can get with him. I have hardly left his side. The other day I popped out to the store briefly and received a text that Brandon said he missed me. So I cut it short and came back and when Brandon woke he told me he missed me and asked me not to leave for that long again. That's my hunnie. <3


Brandon's cousin Matt has stayed here every night so that I also am not alone, helping to keep Brandon comfortable, then family keeps us all company throughout the day and evening.


Aria has been able to spend a couple nights here too, which has been nice. Thankfully she is just such a content baby and sleeps through the night, we aren't disturbing anyone.


I am incredibly thankful for the numerous people who have literally put their life on hold to walk us through this. A cousin who has selflessly given weeks of his life away from his family. A girlfriend who has done the same, flying back and forth at a moments notice, cleaning and organizing our house without direction. A best friend who has flown a red eye flight from Colorado and gone straight from the airport to work after staying the weekend with us at the facility, all the while coordinating food drop offs, cleaning and visitors from afar. My parents who have been back and forth from Pennsylvania to Colorado more times in the past two months then they have in two years and have taken care of Aria overnights. Brandon's parents and brother who have been by our side or on call 24/7 for help, errands and handling tedious logistics.


Close friends just sitting with us and chatting to pass the time by and get occasional chuckles out of Brandon. Friends, family friends, church friends dropping off meals, care packages and baby clothes, sending messages of prayers and encouragement.


Hometown friends organizing a wonderful fundraiser event with dancing and raffles and kids activities in late October.


Forum buddies, whom we have never met, arranging what started out as a simple single item raffle, which has exploded into a huge prize list and over 800 raffle tickets. Coordinating prize packages from donors all over the United States and offering much of their personal time coordinating all the details, receiving the checks, answering questions and I'm sure many details I don't even know about.


A wonderful trigger company donating the special edition triggers with our picture on it, and all the amazing supporters that purchased them.


And that's just scratching the surface of the help and support we have had.


I wish I had words greater then thank you. Please know how much your support has meant, and know that it has lifted us up more then you will ever know. I know God is going to use this experience for a greater good and the love you have shown us will multiply and be given to others in need, and God gives me comfort that that is the best thank you I can give.