Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Honey's Last Days...

A honey-ism of a different sort...this is my attempt to both honor her courage and spirit, yet also purge some of the darkness from her last days. I may never share this...but if I do, be forewarned there will be tears and sorrow....there is no happy ending. It's very much about human suffering and the remarkable capacities our bodies have to not only endure it but defy it.
It's about the love that binds us and allows us to make great sacrifices for each other...to bear helpless witness to the atrocities of disease...of age and of the realities that we will all one day face...death. In the end all of the things we accumulate, the degrees and honors we've earned are not what we will be remembered by. What remains is how you lived...who's life's did you touch and make better? Did you make a difference? 
These are the questions that my honey asked often...and with rare exception, she doubted her contributions. Doubt or no, she firmly believed that if you planted a seed; however small that it would blossom and in so doing cause a ripple effect impacting others that you would never meet. Her optimism was just one of the things that I loved about her. She always gave more than she took...at times to my annoyance. 
I've written of our last camping trip which we took a mere two weeks before her final day. Even then we both assumed we had many weeks, perhaps even months left. She was weak, only able to shuffle ten or fifteen feet at a time but still eating and drinking. A few days into our trip, she started to noticeably slur her words sometimes...we both knew this was trouble but she was determined to enjoy this time. We spoke of it late one evening and she told me bluntly.
“If I'm to die, then here is ok. I'm surrounded by my family and doing what I want.”
She'd held me while I'd sobbed...soothing me as best she could. When the tears tapered off, she'd handed me a Kleenex and kissed me very softly, telling me.
“It's ok boy.” 
It wasn't...not really but what else could we do? With few exceptions (she would vomit without warning) we had a great week. It was cool for her (75 degrees) so she kept her jacket on and had a blanket handy. I know it annoyed her...my honey has always loved being outside and in the sun. She pushed HARD and by Saturday morning she was exhausted. After eating lightly, it didn't take a lot of convincing to get her to lay down and take a nap, under one condition. I'd wake her up to help prepare dinner for my brother and his wife's anniversary dinner. 
My brother Joe and his wife Lisa are extraordinary people...twenty nine years together...under some of the most trying conditions. An amazing network of family...parents, grown children and life long friends...they all loved my girl and she them in return. My honey's exact words where, 
“I'll be DAMNED if Lisa is going to cook her own anniversary dinner!” I've been with my girl a while, so I saluted and said smartly. “YES MA'AM!” And so, with the help of Lisa's Mom, Tj and I cooked the majority of their dinner. Nobody left for McDonalds, so it must'a been ok. 
We went to bed early and said our goodbyes the next morning. She slept most of the way home (it's about five hours) but after a rest stop, which of course necessitated getting out her wheelchair and O2 tank, she asked me.
“Would you like me to drive a while?” She was quite serious. 
Smiling, I told her thank you but I'd be alright. After getting her back into the car and the gear stowed, I was sliding into the drivers seat and she taken my hand, squeezing it as hard as she was able to. When I'd looked at her, she'd smiled a little sadly before saying softly.
“I'm so sorry you're having to do everything.”
Gently returning her squeeze, I kissed her forehead and told her not to worry about such nonsense. My honey just nodded and sighed. As we pulled back onto the highway, she asked again.
“You want me to drive for a while?” Fighting tears, I'd squeezed her leg and told her I'd be ok. A few minutes later she was sound asleep...
Getting back home and unloading all of the equipment took some time, when everything was setup and ready I went and got my girl and we prepared to walk up the fourteen steps to the main living level. With my bad knees, (no cartilage in either one) the passage is painful more often than not. I'd offered to carry her up and of course she refused but it was apparent every step she took was a monumental effort for her. It took several rest breaks and about ten minutes or so but we went up, with me holding her waist from behind to steady her. At the top, she relented and let me get her wheeled walker so she could set on it and I could push her to the couch. 
Once I got her settled and had her some water and the assorted paraphernalia she kept on her little TV table, I plopped down in our big chair and as tired as I was, my girl was completely exhausted. Even so, she'd chided me about getting my knees fixed. It was an old argument but it brought a smile to my face which annoyed her. She'd said, “What's so funny?”
Chuckling, I got up and kissed her answering. “You are! My focus is YOU! My knee's will keep.”
Becoming whimsical, she'd stated. “I think that's the last time I'll beat you up those stairs.” 
I'd sat by her and we'd talked about our trip and the boy's upcoming arrival, then only four days away. I had no idea then of how quickly things would change...I believe my girl did or that she at least had a feeling of it. I didn't know that she'd elicited a promise from my sister in law...to make sure I wasn't alone when she passed.
She'd gotten several promises from me during our week away as well. One was that if it was possible, her boys not be there until the very end. She didn't want that to be their last memory of her. I think she hung on until she got that wish...stubborn until the end. 
I went to work that Monday and Tuesday evening but by Wednesday afternoon it was clear she needed a hospital style bed, so our hospice team made it happen. I cancelled her regular doctors appointment which was scheduled for Thursday morning over her protest. She wasn't upset over stopping the big shots she'd been getting once a month but she truly loved her physician and the staff and wanted to visit with them. I knew she'd be unable to make it back up the stairs....at least not without the real risk of her falling. Even as sick as she was, having my honey pissed at you wasn't any fun! 
I finally got her to relent by telling her I'd reschedule it after our oldest son arrived so he could help me. That calmed her down and I picked our son (David) up later that morning. Our youngest would arrive two days later, along with my brother, his wife and their daughter and her boyfriend. Since the plant I worked for was starting it's planned shutdown, I'd been scheduled to go to dayshift and stay until the 9th of July. Honey and I had a plan in place for this...it just didn't work out that way. 
Since there was family present, I worked that three day weekend..Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Each evening when I came home after my 12 hour shift, the changes were drastic. That evening, July the 2nd my honey seemed to be quickly fading. Her breathing was labored and she dozed in and out of consciousness. I called the hospice nurse and while we waited for them to arrive, both of our grown boys poured their hearts out to their mom...it was heart breaking and meaningful at the same time. When they had finished, I knelt down and tearfully began to whisper my own goodbyes...I'd barely started when she opened her eyes and looked at me directly, very clearly saying. “That'll be enough of that stuff!”
My mouth clicked shut with an audible snap. About that time the nurse showed up and my honey wanted to know what all the fuss was about...REALLY??
After taking her vitals and reassuring us that this was fairly normal but warning us that my girl could go at any time. The nurse left and we all sat around both stunned and bemused...while it might be normal medically, it was certainly not what we had been expecting. Our original plan was that I work until our boys flew out (the 4th & 5th ) and that we'd do a hospice transfer until I returned to nights. I cancelled all of that. Fortunately, my work was more than understanding when I told them Monday morning that I couldn't leave her anymore. 
Both of our boys wanted to extend their stays but my honey nixed that. She told them to get back to their fiance's. Each morning for the next two days my girl would ask who was still here...it was a checklist for her. My brother and his wife stayed. As did their daughter and her boyfriend until they were forced to leave on the fourth, along with our youngest son. Those two days were both difficult and amazing. Even though her speech was slurred and her body was failing (she could no longer sit up unassisted) the conversations she had with those that loved her are something I will always cherish. 
Her oncology doctor called her at home and spoke at length with her. She'd missed not seeing her at her scheduled appointment! When asked how she was doing, my girl had replied.
“I'm fine. How are YOU doing? Did you enjoy your vacation?” She'd remembered that her physician had told her she'd be on vacation for the two weeks before her appointment...incredible. When she was finished, honey said. “I love you too Amy.”
Taking the phone I could tell that her doctor was trying very hard to be professional but that she too was quite emotional. We spoke a few minutes and she told me she'd be conferring with her hospice physician first thing in the morning. 
My girl did a quite a few things that were in my opinion, pretty fantastic in hindsight. She would remember things that I or even all of us had forgotten. She made only one demand during this ordeal...she wanted a slushie. Cherry. Right now. This was later on Monday evening and while I was scratching my head trying to figure out WHERE to get a plain cherry slushie from (along with everyone else!) my girl shook her head in disbelief, telling us all.
“They have them in the movie theater.”
DUH! She was right! My wonderful niece, Alyssa went with her boyfriend Dan and got her one. To my delight and surprise, honey drank about a quarter of it. Sipping happily, she'd thanked them and questioned where they'd got it from. Bittersweet. 
I know that the hardest part (one of them anyway) was when she'd wake up and not remember what was wrong with her. She'd realize how weak she was and look at her arms and legs, panicking she'd exclaim. “What's WRONG with me?!” It would take me snuggling close and whispering lies to calm her....”You're ok babe...ssh....it's alright...I'm right here.” Eventually she'd drift back off...but it kept me awake for nearly three days.
After our youngest son had left along with our niece, late on the fourth. She'd asked again about who was still here and specifically when our oldest, David was leaving. I'd told her and she'd nodded, asking. “Where's Lisa.”
I replied. “She's here babe.” Another nod and she said “That's good then.” she'd drifted off mid nod and all I could do was weep. Lisa had pushed our big, overstuffed chair next to the bed and with few exceptions, I hadn't left it. Very early on the morning of the 5th, sometime between three and four, I remember my girls eyes opening abruptly and as they locked with mine she said very clearly.
“I apologize.” Moving inches from her face I'd asked her what she thought she had to apologize for and she'd replied. “For leaving you.” I'd kissed her softly and cried as she drifted away. It was the last thing she'd say to me. Our oldest son left late that day and he'd thought she was completely gone because she wasn't responsive...but I knew she was still there...deep inside herself, away from the pain and humiliation of her body. I could feel her...
I dozed off in the early morning hours of the 6th and I startled awake, jerking upright in my chair. Lisa was asleep in the recliner and my honey's breathing was irregular but steady...but I knew even before I smelled the urine that my dear baby had gone. She was home. I held her hand as the tears flowed...her body was still breathing, but that presence... her beacon...was gone. I don't know how long I sat there quietly sobbing but as the room got lighter I gained enough control to blow my nose and wake my dear sister in law. She knew...by my face...and because I think she too couldn't feel my girl's light any more. 
I called her nurse, who said she'd be on her way and then told Lisa that I had to clean her up and change the bedding. Being the strong woman she is, she refused to let me do that alone. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do...we both sobbed the entire time...that's love. That's sacrifice. She and her entire family have made so many of them for honey and I this past two years...it's something I can never repay but it won't be for lack of trying. Anyone who's gone through something like this knows the details and the reality. Bed sores. Changing and cleaning the one that you love most of all...
Shortly, her nurse arrived and took her vitals gently telling us that while we were most likely right in our feelings, that Tj's heart was still beating strong and while she hoped it wouldn't be a long struggle, it could be simply because of her relative youth and strength. I truly believe that hospice workers and the nurses in particular are among the most special and loving people you'll ever find. 
Around noon, my sweet sister-in-law along with my brother insisted I take a nap....I'd been up for quite a while and agreed under the premise that they'd wake me in four hours. I'd just laid down when Lisa knocked on the door and my heart leapt into my throat...cursing myself mentally, I flung the covers back as she entered the room and said. “It's not that...but I know you'd want to see this.”
We live in a condo. When you come up the stairs, there's the living room which is open to the kitchen. A short hallway has two bedrooms on the right and a bath on the left with a laundry room in between. Standing in the kitchen where three women I hadn't expected to see again. It was Tj's oncologist, her P.A and her head nurse...(not her hospice team) they were all tearfully there to say goodbye to my dear honey. I don't mention them by name on purpose...I wouldn't want any of them to get reprimanded. They came because they loved my girl...these dedicated professionals shed tears and hugged us all because they had come to love my sweet girl as she had loved and respected each of them. I'm still awed by it. I cried and of course thanked them for all that they had done...for all of their effort and heart. More evidence of those ripples my honey talked about so often.
They stayed much longer than I would've thought and when they'd gone my heart was lighter. It was a little after one when I laid back down...it seemed like my head had just touched the pillow when I heard the door open. It was Lisa and her face told me what I'd both dreaded and hoped for...it was a little after two pm. I came and stroked her face and kissed her forehead. I sat in my chair...taking her hand and waiting for her chest to rise. It never did. I thought I was cried out but I was wrong...after a while, I tearfully called her hospice nurse back and she came fairly quickly. Official time of death...2:35pm. 
More tears after the funeral home team arrived a short time later. They'd told me I might not want to watch and that they'd be as gentle as they could...I'd nodded and stayed. Until the end...even though it was late in the afternoon, our hospice team rushed to clear out all of the equipment and reminders. I called our boys and some relatives and friends. My sister in law was in overdrive...moving furniture...cleaning, anything to distract herself and stay busy. 
Within hours, those ripples my honey spoke of started returning in ways I'd never imagined. A young man (it would end up being TWO) that Tj and I had trained with but not seen in years, called from San Diego where he's station as a Marine SGT and told me he'd gotten approval for emergency leave. He'd be flying in Saturday morning. Even though he'd just returned from a 9 month deployment and had a family of his own...
Unknown even to him, his younger brother was making the 10+ hour drive and would arrive late Saturday evening...he too has a young family. They both planned on staying the week until I returned to work. They brokered no argument...they were coming. Period. 
Tj and I knew their father and mother and all the siblings trained with us. They'd lost their father (my best friend) to cancer 13 years ago. So...after having stayed much longer than we'd originally planned for, my brother and his wife returned to SD Friday afternoon under protest. I'd held them and thanked them but not only did they have a small business to run but a 12 year old son that needed them too. 
Jared (the first to arrive Saturday) accompanied me to pick up honeys cremated remains late that evening. As a veteran, honey also received a folded flag. She'd have been so very proud of the ramrod straight Marine that took it for her...the same young man that shed tears and held me as I sobbed at our vehicle...lost for long minutes in agony. I quite simply could not have done it without him. 
When his brother arrived some time later, the reunion was again tearful but I was also overwhelmed with joy at the simple and honest love being shown to me and my dear honey. For four days we shared stories, caught up with each other and grieved openly. Although they'd planned to stay the entire week, I was able to convince them to ride home (TN) together and surprise their mother. It would give the two of them some much needed brother time and allow Jared to fly back to his family and spend a few precious days recouping before returning to the grind of inspections that all units endure when returning from a deployment. 
While all of this was going on, three wonderful ladies that Tj was friends with sprang into action to setup and execute her memorial. Honey had been adamant about not having a traditional service. She wanted an outdoor gathering to celebrate her life in a casual manner. No dress clothes. Snacks and drinks, preferably a park so the kids could play. These terrific folks made that all happen. To Donna, Diane and Kim...thank you. 
She got want she wanted....as my honey usually did. Her passing drove home (to me) a point she'd always tried to lead me too...that if you love others and give of yourself without expecting or demanding in return, simply do it because its the right thing to do...then the right people will reciprocate. Maybe not to you but to another person in need, then that's a life worth living...
You were right babe...it's just the tiniest piece of why everybody loved my girl. Almost as much as me.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Honey's Eulogy

Honey's Eulogy

On July 6th 2017 my dearest honey's pain came to an end. I'm not sure how to put into word's what and who she was...to me, she was everything.

She'd battled cancer twice in the past five years. The first was breast cancer and she beat it rather quickly. After eleven months of treatments, she was declared 'cancer free.' We were given a little over two years of complete remission and during this time, we moved to Iowa to be closer to my family. My younger brother had suffered a series of strokes and we wanted to be closer to help him and his wife. While still four hours away, it was the best we could manage. As it turned out, it was his family that came to our needs when honey's cancer returned with a vengeance seven months after our move.

My sweet girl has always been a giver. She loved everyone and gave of herself freely, in time and resources. Her constant encouragement to others and genuine desire to see them succeed made her a beacon of hope. She was many things...a police officer, a fitness trainer and martial artist but mostly a loving mother to her two boys (and EVERY neighborhood kid they came in contact with!) and my best friend. We met in a dojo at a point that in each of our separate lives, there was chaos and discontent. It was not love at first sight...in fact for the first year of our association, she only came to try and knock my block off. I was her instructor and she didn't like me very much.

As I came to know her and witness the joy she coaxed from others, I was awed by the passion she had to help and trust those less fortunate, despite her own pain and deeply hidden sorrow. I couldn't help but fall in love with her. She later told me that I was an acquired taste...you got used to over time!

Her sense of humor and willingness to tackle new challenges served her well as she went back to college. Sadly, her illness prevented her from graduating by a mere three semesters. She was frustrated but rarely morose by anything for long.

She had just turned 49 and was training hard for her first fitness competition, which she planned on entering for her 50th birthday when the cancer returned. We first thought it was a training injury. Pain in her lower back, that was eventually diagnosed as a compression fracture caused by bone cancer. For the next 17 months she and her superb medical team aggressively treated this terrible disease but it kept mutating to new places and the cost on my dear honey was staggering. Throughout it all she pushed herself to the limits and beyond. Cancer may have taken my girl but it didn't win because she NEVER quit!

For all of her pain and misery, she gained a family that loved and cherished her...almost as much as me. As for all of our nearly eighteen years together, everyone loved my girl! She brought out the best in people and in me. She made me a better man and a better person by her shining example and unwavering courage. God has truly recalled a special angel...

As was her habit, long ago she left a note in my lunchbox ( Done with colored pencils) which I kept and framed. She thought I was silly but it struck a cord within me..it reads.
Good Morning my sweet man. :o) Thank you for letting me be me, even when it's hard.
I love you so much! That will NEVER change.
See you at the finish line in all our races....Your Loving Wife. :o)

I'll be along sweet baby...please be patient and wait for me.




Thursday, June 29, 2017

Time...

A sweet honey update....Our trip last week was a wonderful time spent with family, culminating with a four day camping trip. It was a bucket list check for my girl and she was simply ecstatic to have been able to enjoy this adventure. She ate well and had good energy for most of our time. By Saturday, she was forced to rest more and on our return Sunday, she slept for the majority of the day. This continued through Monday and I (we) simply assumed she'd overdone it a bit...we were right and simultaneously, wrong.

As the first of our grown children arrived Tuesday, it quickly became apparent that she'd taken a turn for the worse. She no longer has the strength to even cross the room with assistance. The effort required to simply to sit up and attend to her lungs and change her clothing leaves her breathless and panicky...a portable toilet was delivered and it takes all her strength to use it. An assault on her dignity and her pride...she still fights...so damn hard for every inch this insidious disease takes from her but it's becoming ever more costly. In pain...in torment...even her memories are beginning to be affected and this perhaps most of all, is the worst of it.

I am so incredibly proud of her. Awed by her tenacity and her strength and determination....by her capacity to love so fiercely and care so deeply that everyone she meets bask in that beacon of hope and optimism...and as selfishly as I want to cling to her...enough. I pray now only for enough time for her to see our other son, who flies in tomorrow and her family that is assembling this Sunday for her. Please God...give her this and release her from this torment. Enough.

My eldest son, David has been a pillar of strength...he has his mothers heart and her stubbornness. Like his father, he tries very hard not to let his mother see his tears...we've both failed at that on occasion this week. We have work to do...a hospital bed is being delivered today, so we've got to rearrange the living room to accommodate it. My honey loves to see the outdoors and the large sliding glass window will best allow that...we'll make it happen.

I thought I was beyond tears...but every still moment finds me wracked with them. Shaking uncontrollably for long moments of anguish...and rage at that which I cannot change. So....I write....when I can.

Thank you all for your prayers and support. It truly has been a blessing and a harbor for us both. I'll continue to add honey-ism's as I can...I have no idea of what comes next...I know the inevitable...but I'm just numb beyond that.

As always and ever...my indomitable honey, sends her love.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Honey-ism...Closet Combat

Reflecting this morning on our early years together as I watch my sweet girl sleep, I remember the morning when I came home early and unannounced from work. Honey and I had only been living together a short time then...maybe six months. I worked the night shift as a production worker in an automotive plant and she was a second shift police officer. We had one vehicle and 'hot swapped' every day with a mere thirty minutes to spare.
This was a difficult time for us financially and we were adjusting as a new family with all the baggage that comes with going through a divorce but we were happy and enthusiastic as most new couples tend to be. Then and as she has our entire marriage, my honey loved to sing when she was happy and has a beautiful voice...
There'd been a major breakdown at the plant, so they'd sent the entire shift home two hours early. A rarity but a welcome change in routine and for me with the long drive, particularly appreciated. I hadn't called for fear of waking her. It was one of her days off and I'd honestly just thought it'd be an opportunity for some extra snuggle time.
Entering the house, I could faintly hear honey's voice...singing. Coming into the kitchen the low hum and thump of the washing machine told me that she was doing laundry. For those following along, you remember that my girl has always been an early riser. She loves exercise and has been a fitness fanatic most of her adult life. Coming down the hall to our bedroom, her voice became more distinct and I could tell that she was in the closet. I grinned...instead of announcing myself, I'd thought...
I'm gonna SCARE her! 
Some of you will see where this if going...I'd been her martial arts instructor for nearly two years and she'd held a black belt before starting her training with me. A typical male brain fart...sneaking into our room, I spied her bent over in the closet pulling clothes from a basket to hang them. Tip toeing closer I quickly closed the gap and grabbing her on each side of her waist, I'd cried YAH!!!
Her reaction was immediate....and painful. Straightening, she'd executed a perfect spinning back fist to the left side of my head, followed by a back kick to the abdomen that knocked me completely out of the closet! Stunned I still noted her fierce expression as she turned to face me fully...and burst into laughter as she realized who it was standing there bewildered and swaying like an oak caught in a high wind. Between peals of glee, she'd rushed out to hug me exclaiming.
"It really WORKS!"
Needless to say, I'd never surprised my honey in that way again...even knuckle draggers learn...eventually! Her laugh has always been infectious and plentiful. Even throughout the past five years of cancer, she's managed to hang on to that...until recently.
These past few months have been horrific for her. Physically and mentally as this damn disease strips from her the abilities to do even daily task. Now with hospice care, we try not to worry about the little stuff. I'll get to the laundry and the housework...but my focus is on her. I want to hear that laughter and see that smile....more than anything. It happens occasionally. She hums sometimes and rarely, she'll sing at a whisper. I relish both.
Though diminished, my girls spirit still shines. She clings to hope and knows that for us all in the end, the love we share for each other and family is the one of the things that no disease can alter. Hoping to head to the water park today...time will tell but it won't be because she won't try!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Weekend Report...

A honey-ism and a weekend report...

We had a terrific four day weekend with my family is SD. While hectic, she had an absolute blast and loved spending time with everyone. We had some challenges. She was sick a few mornings but it passed quickly and my honey amazed me with her stamina and tenacity once again. Though unable to assist a lot with the plantings and yard work going on, she spent most of the weekend outdoors and walked more than I thought possible! While I was gone visiting my father, she tripped getting out of a chair on her flip flops and suffered a fall, (her feet and ankles are to swollen for any regular shoes) scrapping her head and much to her dismay, she needed help getting back up. Luckily, it was in the grass and she was quickly surrounded by family members that lovingly helped her and not only tended to her scrap but quickly figured out that oversized water shoes would be a better solution for her feet.

Within a few hours they had her new foot gear and met us at a local landmark. A beautiful water falls park that we so enjoyed. When I noticed the grass stain on her hat and asked if she'd fallen, I got the eye roll and the "I'm fine." standard answer...she'd added that her family had taken care of it, so I should quite 'mothering' her. :o) For my girl...this is HUGE. Here's a link to the park we visited.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4cTYphSu5I

If I could change just one aspect of my life, (aside from my honey's cancer) it would be to have gotten closer and more involved with my family sooner. We all have reason's...job's, geography or distance....but in hindsight, (which of course is EASY!) if you have a loving and supportive network of people in your life, whether by blood or not, MAKE THE EFFORT to be a part of it!

Yes, it's messy at times and can most certainly be maddening with scheduling and your own commitments but I believe and KNOW that in good times and bad, those memories are precious...and truly in the end; are all we and our loved ones have that cannot be taken away. It saddens me greatly that I deprived my own children of this...yes it would have meant leaving their friends behind BUT if I'd done it early....could'a, should'a, would'a!

Even though she hates it, we're getting a wheeled walker for my sweet girl this week...today in fact. The risk of falling is simply to great. We are going to the local waterpark this Thursday and plan to spend the afternoon floating on inner tubes and soaking in the wave pool. She worries about how much effort this involves...for me! Silly ol girl!! I'm just thrilled that we're GOING!! I told her that if she can stand to be with ME in a swimsuit publicly, everything else is easy! LOL!

Thanks to the efforts of my sister in law (We LOVE you Lisa!) and the kindness and generosity of so many people on the gofundme page she started, I'm able to take some extra time off from work and make more of these memories with and for my girl and our family. Thank you doesn't begin to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation to all of you.

We are back to draining her lungs daily and she does need her oxygen now more often than not. Today, she's been resting more but is still eating very well and other than some anxiety and fatigue is doing well. Her hair is slowly coming back...think G.I. Jane buzz cut! :o) Her smile and laugh are just as infectious as always...she has begun to pray aloud again...something she had stopping doing for some time. She gives thanks for her family...her friends and for all of the wonderful people who have shown her such great love and support. She gives thanks for what she is able to do...and simply ask for the best days she can have for as long as she can have them. She continues to amaze and inspire me...as do you all.

I'll get some pics of the water park adventure up ASAP. Honey sends her love as always...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A quick honey update....We've had to start draining her lungs again daily, which is dispiriting for her as we were going as long as six days. She's tired and I know this latest development makes her anxious. SO...I'm taking her to the lake today for a picnic lunch and to soak her toes!

This afternoon, we'll take in the new Wonder Woman movies and then I'm grilling her steaks with all the trimmings and some ice cold Corona! :o) Thanks to all of you terrific folks for the kind comments on my page and for supporting my girl! We are truly blessed by each of you and your thoughtfulness!

I hope everyone has a wonderful day!

Jim & Tj (A.K.A. honey!)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Ride In The Rain....

A honey-ism. 
A Ride In The Rain...
As honey and I began our relationship those many years ago, we began like many couples do that are either in or coming out of a failed marriage. Hesitantly...with baggage, preconceptions and expectations that were no doubt skewed by the desires of the heart. Add children into that mix and you have the potential for disaster...at the very LEAST, there's going to be some fairly severe adjustments for everyone involved. It's messy under the best circumstances. Period. 
Our first romantic moment was actually anti-climatic. It'd been storming for several days and as usual, I was spending a Sunday morning at the dojo trying to catch up on the paperwork and cleaning the facility. The school was closed and I clearly recall my mood as being bleak. I was going though a difficult divorce and felt like I'd failed...yes, it takes two to do that but it didn't change the way I felt. It was nearing noon and back then I was a smoker. As I was preparing to leave, finished for the day; I remember'd that I'd finished my last cigarette on my way in earlier...it deepened my annoyance. 
Scowling, I gathered my key's and heard a knock on the locked main glass door. I remember stopping and staying inside my office, hoping whoever it was would realize that the closed sign meant just that...I wasn't in the right frame of mind for a prospective client. A few seconds passed and just as I'd begun to hope my ploy had succeeded came another serious of knocks...more of an insistent banging. Grumbling obscenities under my breath, I headed to the door and reaching it; saw my honey huddled close to the building to try and avoid the steady drizzle.
Unlocking the door, I ushered her in greeting her but adding that I was just about to leave. Tj had nodded, clearly nervous (unusual for her) and smiling had blurted. “I was just sort'a driving around and saw your car here...I thought maybe...that...uhm...you'd like to get some lunch?” She'd smiled again as she finished but I could tell she was clearly not in her comfort zone. As I mulled it over, thinking more about getting that smoke ( I never smoked at the school or in front of students) than anything else, she quickly added. “You don't HAVE too! It's not a big deal or anything...” 
Chuckling because I'd never seen her uncertain about anything before, I'd started to answer but she misinterpreted my reaction as a rejection and started to hurriedly excuse herself. I placed a hand on her shoulder as she started to turn away, saying. “Whoa! Lunch would be great!” Meeting her gaze, I'd grinned, adding that I did need to make a quick stop first for my nicotine habit.
She'd just bought her very first new vehicle a few months before. A white Isuzu Rodeo...(which years later would become our oldest son's first car.) she was very proud of it and honey was not a smoker. I'd assumed we'd just take both vehicles so she surprised me by stating. “Tell you what...why don't we just take my car and I'll bring you back. We can get your smokes but I'd rather you not light up in it. Is that ok?”
As we stood looking at one another, I still recall something in my mind sensing that she wanted...or rather needed to tell me something that was important to her. Shrugging, I'd accepted adding that I could smoke after we ate. Back then, smoking in restaurants was acceptable. I no longer remember exactly where we ate but I do know it was typical to what we have done most of our relationship. Honey had a healthier, sensible meal...fish and a salad and I had red meat and potatoes in some fashion or another! LOL! Our conversation was light...work, the school, kids and some good natured ribbing about my eating habits and smoking. The rain had picked up and we both talked about how we enjoyed driving in it. The smell...the rhythmic thump of the wipers and especially the sound it on the metal roof. 
Hurrying back to her SUV, we both got in damp and a little chilled. Grinning broadly, she's asked if I wanted to go for a ride and I'd quickly agreed. Being a sheriffs deputy, honey knew all the backroads and this is were we drove. In the winding roads of the Tennessee countryside, traffic was light and after a while, we came to an abandoned gas station out in the middle of nowhere. The rain was coming down in a torrent...pounding the vehicle and blotting out visibility. Pulling in, she'd parked and we both just sat listening to the drumming deluge. Lightning flashed, illuminating the sky as thunder rumbled and boomed in it's passage. 
Haltingly...she'd broached the subject of her past. Telling me a little about her upbringing and some of the tragedies she'd endured. Her feelings of inadequacy...guilt...rage...all of these things came tumbling out. She'd cried..gripping the steering wheel in a iron grip...great soul wrenching sobs that had her shuddering. As I leaned across the seat, I gently pried her hands from the steering wheel and held her...it was all I could do. She was mumbling apologies...embarrassed at her loss of control. I'd heard only bit's and pieces but enough to know that she was in agony...seared by a torment that she usually kept hidden from the world. 
Almost in sync with the storm, as the rain slackened, her sobbing subsided. I could smell her damp hair and the light perfume that she wore. Pulling away from me she'd sniffed, rummaging for a tissue in the doors panel. What little mascara she wore was in ruins...blowing her nose and clearing her throat, she'd again turned toward me and mumbled apologies...a final flash of lightning close by illuminate us both in it's brilliance, the crashing boom loud enough to startle each of us. In that moment, I saw her as I suspect she'd rarely let anyone see her...vulnerable, with a sorrow that was achingly deep. 
Reaching across to wipe away a tear with my thumb, I'd kissed her. Softly...tenderly. It was a brief kiss but as I leaned back I saw her eyes open with surprise and even a little shock. My mind instantly roared into self recriminations...what had I done! I'd certainly breached my role as an instructor and mentor! Shit!! Idiot...now you've done it! 
As all of that raced through me, I started to pull away...sputtering what I'm sure was inarticulate nonsense...when she reached out and pulled me back, returning my kiss with one of her own. It was passionate and full of need, lasting sweet long minutes before we parted; each breathless and full of desire. There'd been no groping...but it's intensity had been unlike anything I'd ever experienced. I was lost in her eyes and wanted more but instead she hugged me fiercely, whispering into my ear that she was sorry before abruptly letting me go and putting the vehicle into gear, heading back towards town. 
It was still drizzling...and I couldn't help but watch her as she focused on the road. I'd asked if she was ok and she'd simply nodded. I'd apologized and she vigorously shook her head, mumbling that it was her fault...she'd been stupid. Although I asked several more questions and tried reassuring her that she wasn't guilty of anything, I got no further response. In time we arrived back to my own vehicle and I remember the swirl of confused emotions that I know we both were feeling...we had ignited a spark but neither of us had any idea what to do with it. 
As I opened my door to get out, she took my hand and squeezed. Locking eyes with me, her's had misted and she said simply. “Thank you.” I squeezed back, replying in kind before getting out and watching her drive away. I really doubted I'd ever see her again...but even then I'd known. 
She'd taken my heart with her that day in the rain.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Honey Update...

My sweet girl 14 months ago in training for a 50+ competition....For those following along, you'll know a lot has changed for us these past months. My honey has been battling multiple types of cancer with a courage and vigor that have been truly amazing to behold. There is no quit in her.

Unfortunately three weeks ago, the choice was taken from her. The chemo treatments (after another long ten day stay) had beaten her immune system and body into a state that was no longer sustainable. The decision was made to focus on quality instead of quantity of life...it was the most difficult day of this process thus far.

We've been home a little over three weeks now and she's still struggling to eat anything solid. The lingering effects of treatments can last for as long as 10-12 weeks...time which she feels is being wasted still being sick and unable to do the 'normal' things that she so desperately wants too. The mouth and throat sore are healed and next week they'll likely remove the PIC in her arm.

The hospice team has been truly wonderful. They are an amazing group of loving and caring folks. Many of you here and our friends and family have also been a source of constant support and inspiration for both of us and I sincerely thank each and everyone of you. I know that my replies are often delayed and if I've missed someone, I apologize. The days seem to blur...it's not intentional.

The most difficult part has been watching the one I love the most, slowly be diminished both physically and spiritually. It's like staring at the sun as it slowly sets in the horizon...she's becoming less communicative and interested in the world around her. I'm told this is normal. I accept that...but it sears my soul to bear witness to the dimming of such a bright and beautiful beacon of hope and tenacity. Her kind and loving light is still there...but it's beginning to flicker as if caught in a strong wind.

She prefers now to sleep on the couch...a perplexity that I couldn't understand until a friend of her's told me that her greatest fear was of passing in her sleep and me waking to find her next to me...still...even now...she worries of me first. I think and believe that we are still far from there...but I could be wrong. Please God...let me be right...just this once.

And so....this will be my last sad post. I will instead be posting "honeyism's" from now on. Tales of our journey before this low point...of who she is and why I love her so very much...It won't be fitness stuff....so this forum may not be the right venue but follow along if you wish...unfriend me if you don't. It ain't that hard.

As always, my girls sends her thanks and much love to you all. Her eyes still sparkle in delight at your comments and your own personal victories. She is still prayerful for those facing their own struggles and heartache. As I mentioned...there's no quit in her.

As she so often told her own fitness and martial arts students...DON'T CHEAT YOU! Do your best and never worry about how other's perceive you...they don't live YOUR life and haven't the slightest clue of what you're capable of...be happy with who and where you are as long as your moving it forward, it's ALL good!

Yes dear...


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Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Honey Update...

A honey update...She had a visit from a furry friend yesterday and enjoyed it immensely! :o) At six days out of the hospital, she is feeling a bit better physically. Eating is still challenging but the sores in her mouth and on her lips are nearly gone. Her throat seems to be healing the slowest and there are still periods of nausea and vomiting. Improving...but in small degrees.

The most difficult challenge so far had been the spiritual one. Adjusting to the idea of hospice care has been a stark reminder of the limitations of mortality. It's been disheartening for both of us. I think the even at her sickest, she always felt that she was 'fighting' the damnable cancer...for her, the cessation of chemo feels like quitting. She knows intellectually that isn't the case but it FEELS like it! After 14 months, I understand her weariness...but it hurts my heart to see her so melancholy.

Our hospice nurse has been terrific and is slowly making a personal connection with my honey. I marvel at the ability of such special people to dedicate themselves to helping (and I dare say, loving) other's facing such daunting challenges every day. It's a rare talent indeed.

We sat down and made a list of all the things cancer cannot do...
1. It cannot stop love.
2. It cannot diminish character.
3. It cannot crush spirit.
4. It cannot stop friendships or family.
5. It cannot change or alter the essence of WHO YOU ARE!

While I know that we will have periods of darkness and moments of despair, I am continually inspired by the members of my family and friends from around the world and all over the country that support us with words of encouragement and acts of kindness and generosity. They send cards, goofy electronic stickers and personal messages that bring smiles and outright laughter to both of us. My dear sweet SIL actually started a fund raiser a few days ago...an act of love that initially made honey and I uncomfortable but one that undeniably was done out of concern and love. SO...I am going to share it here as some of you have suggested. Please do NOT feel obligated in any way! I do this out of respect to my sister in law....we love you Lisa.

Thank you isn't even close to being enough to everyone that's helped us along the way...just know that your thoughtful and loving comments mean more than we can ever repay.

My dear honey continues to meet each day head on...we try to wring out as much joy as we can from each moment...sometimes to my sweet girl's annoyance! :o) Yes...I CAN be quite the pain in her butt! I told her that she should have read the fine print in our marriage contract...WOOHOO! :o)

I'm going to try to start posting, at least weekly some "honey-ism's." Tidbits about our life together and lesson's learned along the way. I'll try to keep most of them light...and hopefully give you a glimpse into some of the why's that I think my girl is so wonderful! Follow along if you'd like..I know it's not related to her health and I may get some negative feedback. So be it. If it becomes an issue, I'll move it exclusively to my blog.

Here's wishing all of you a fantastic day and a wonderful rest of the week! Honey as always, send hugs and kisses and continues to pray for those whom are also facing hardships and family issues. Much love to y'all!

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