Why Me? Why Us?

There have been times over the years when I have said “Why me?” “Why us?” Why did this happen to us and not somebody else. Sometimes it just seems that no one else has the same misfortune. I know that isn’t true, and our situation could be much worse, so I don’t dwell for long. I thank God that it isn’t, and for the blessings He has given us.

A majority, if not all, of these events have been medical in nature. My health, and the health of my family. Severe allergies as a child, Crohn’s at the age of 29, which progressed at an alarming rate, cataracts at the age of 32, removal of my colon at the age of 33. Most recently, the Essential Thrombocythemia diagnosis at 42.

The last few years have been no exception to this question. It has floated in and out of my brain, off and on, for months, but after a few moments of self pity, I remind myself of our blessings. This time, though, it was the health of our children.

In 2014 my daughter was bullied, as I wrote about in the post titled, “Until the Scars Fade” (http://superfiveshanghai.com/2015/09/20/until-the-scars-fade/.) At the time, a number of the parents who learned how she attempted to cope were scared of her. They didn’t want their children to be around her. Their ignorance on mental health astounded me. These were well-educated individuals, who must have known that depression isn’t contagious. This is a 10 year old child we’re talking about. She was literally shunned. She had left for the school year and was being tutored, while receiving therapy, and I was encouraged NOT to bring her back for any school functions, so as not to upset other parents, while the bully continued in school with no repercussions.

It has taken two years to be able to take a deep breath. To feel like she is back on track to health. From the outside, it is not apparent. No one else would know what she has been through, and the resulting depression she experiences. No one would know the struggle it has been. As a parent, it has been stressful and heartbreaking. Why my baby girl? Why does she have to deal with this?

Last spring, my oldest son, who suffers from ADD, had some serious anxiety issues. This had never appeared to be a problem before, but it escalated quickly. He was working his first job, taking a few too many college classes, and the pressure and responsibility overwhelmed him. He has always been very independent, and doesn’t like to ask for help. Up until recently, he preferred that we didn’t. We knew he was skipping some classes, and calling in to work, and we had decided that it was time for him to learn the hard way. We had no idea it was due to anxiety until the end of the semester, when he finally told us. After four months of keeping it to himself, he finally released himself from carrying the burden alone. The semester was a bust, and he left his job, but we could, and would, help him.

He spent seven months after the failed-semester ended, in twice-a-week therapy, having medication adjusted, and spending hours and hours in his room. It was, once again, heartbreaking to see one of our children suffering. We spent most of 2015 worried that he might never come back up for air, while his therapist told us it would just take time. She had enough faith for all  of us. She was right. In November, he got a new job, and he started classes in January. He comes home from work happy and talkative, something we have rarely seen from our quiet boy. He goes to class, and has been getting high A’s. Once again, I feel like I can take a breath.

After the events of the last few years, I look for ways to spread awareness about mental illness, and mood disorders. I need to do more. Obviously, I have written about some of it in the blog. I hope that readers will share my posts to spread the word. My Facebook page, Sunrise Strong-Mood Disorder Awareness and Acceptance, is a another step, but it is not enough. As stress at home continues to decrease (fingers-crossed and a bunch of prayers), I hope to have time to find other ways to spread awareness. Maybe that’s why……..why it’s me, why it’s us.

“A Storm’s a Brewin'”

We have had a house guest this week. A nasty and violent visitor reeking havoc where it is not wanted. We have been free of its wrath for several years. I guess our time was up. Stomach flu, we abhor you.

Bill stayed home Tuesday, to keep tabs on me…..from a distance whenever possible. I had spent the night with the porcelain prince, and although he proved useful, I did not ask for, nor want, the date. It had been years since I had spent such time with him, and hope it’s years before we meet in this manner again.

Shortly after 9am, Bill came running to the bottom of the stairs in concern. The visitor was raging again. Loudly. Once he found me resting peacefully, he started searching for the source. The youngest child was at school, the sleeping, middle child,  was fine, and the oldest was at chemistry class….or not. Ethan had made it to school, taken a quiz, turned in a paper, and told his professor that he was ill and would have to make up the lab. He raced home at break-neck speed, pulled into the driveway, grabbed his bag, opened the car door, dropped down to the ground, and decorated the front lawn with his breakfast. He was driving my car.  Bonus points for keeping it outside. Number one child, was the second victim.

It was at this point that Bill and child number two started to bond in brotherhood, to protect their right to health.  The Clorox wipes and Lysol came out. Lines were drawn. We are here. You are there. Do not cross this line.  They went to the raw juice bar, and downed immunity ginger shots together, then questioned their sanity as the intense spice burned its way down to their bellies. They each had an extra large green juice chaser, cooling the flame,  and cleansing the body, in hopes of further protection. They swore their allegiance to health. They would not fall.

Yesterday, for whatever reason, after 24 hours of reprieve, it felt safe. I don’t know why I thought it was okay to take a deep breath, but I did. I continued washing the linens, towels, and bacteria-laden clothing, optimistic that a full family infection had been avoided. Unfortunately, as I walked past Brennan late in the afternoon, he angrily mumbled….”a storm’s a brewin,’ and I blame you.”  Dad walked in minutes later, pumped his fist in the air as he saw Brennan, still residing in the land of the living, and shouted “Solidarity, son! You’re still on the island!” He was answered with doubtful head shakes. As I write this, the second child is the third to go down.

There were only two left on the island. Father and daughter allied. Fist bumps ensued. Who would be the last family member standing? How long would they last? Realization hit. The allies became competitors.

At 3:12am, unusual activity is heard from the bathroom, and lights are being turned on. From a dark bedroom the sounds of the third child…..”Hey, Dad?! Are you off the island?! I imagine a fist pump may have taken place n that dark room. The fourth has succumbed. Survival of the fittest.

Carleigh is still going strong. I fear she may be dripping in germs, but she has a reading at mass today, and she has no signs of illness. May God protect her and her classmates from our unwanted visitor, and me from their parents, if things go awry.

 

 

A Letter to Our Adopted Christmas Family

I don’t know you, nor do you know me, but you have been heavy in my heart since I heard. This December, during a time that should be joyful and merry, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, you have lost a loved one. A mother, a daughter, a sister. It was sudden, and tragic, and my heart breaks for you.

She left you precious gifts, her two young sons, Jay, and Em. Since Jay is two years old, he may grow up with vague memories of his mama, but Em, at five months, will not. They will grow up knowing their mom, through your eyes, their loving family. They may never again feel their mom’s arms wrapped around them,  at least not on Earth, but they will have you, providing endless love and support.

I have had you on my mind constantly this last week. I have seen a picture of mom, Jay, and Em, and my heart breaks for those beautiful baby boys. For their grandma who has lost her daughter, and the rest of the family as well. Christmas will never be the same for you. I hope you can find peace knowing that she is safe in Heaven, and will be watching over the family from above.

You are beginning a journey that you never expected. It will take a level of strength that you may not even realize you possess. Those boys will not forget the sacrifice that you made in raising them, and you will say it was not  a sacrifice. It is what loving families do, and you could never imagine NOT doing it. Make no mistake, it is a sacrifice, but one you will love and cherish forever. Their mama would be proud of you, and can be at peace knowing her babies are in your hands..

When I heard from my friend, when I heard what had happened, I jumped at the chance to help. We, and several of our neighbors, buy gifts for families experiencing difficulties during the holidays. We have gotten together for breakfast on Christmas morning for years, and instead of exchanging gifts, we give to others.  It is one of my favorite December activities. I love the shopping trip, picking out things for children to open on Christmas morning, hoping to bring them smiles and joy. This year is different, though, it feels more personal, it hits closer to home, I suppose because my friend actually knew your loved one, and that it comes in the wake of a devastating accident. One that could happen to any one of us, at any moment.

It is a small act, I know it’s not much, but I hope it helps a little in this difficult time. I wish I could do more. I wish I could take away the pain you are feeling. I pray you find a few moments of happiness this Christmas, whether it’s watching the children open gifts, reminiscing about the good times with the boys’ mom, or merely being in the comforting company of family.

You are in the thoughts and prayers of many this holiday season. May God bless your family with peace and love this Christmas, and always.

 

 

 

 

I Have a Secret

I have a secret. It’s something that I’m pretty sure I’ve only told one other person before. In the worst of times; at my lowest. I feel like a burden to the ones I love.

I have always been one to get the job done. If it is mine to do, I will do it, and do it well. I don’t like to let people down. I am a list-maker (even if it is only in my head). I like things organized. I like finishing what I start, and that feeling of accomplishment when it’s done. I don’t like giving up control. After I left the working world, my job was household management and care. I was no longer contributing to the bank account, so it was important to me to take care of things at home. If I wasn’t doing that, I felt worthless.

Before I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, I had signs of the illness, but I ignored them. I made up reasons in my mind for them, rationalized what they could be from.  No one could tell, but Bill. He was the one I turned to for help, to pick up the slack when I was under the weather. In my head, I was letting him down. Passing the ball. It was just the beginning of a feeling of helplessness that I despised.

During the years when my Crohn’s was active, I relied on Bill to do a majority of the care givng, and household chores, all while holding a full-time job. I was an extra child. I could do almost nothing at home, required many trips to the doctor’s office and emergency room, and even had to count on him to administer some of my medical treatments. Things I never imagined I would have to ask him to do. It was awkward, embarrassing, humiliating. He handled it like a champ. He never flinched. All in the name of love, I guess.

As a result of, and probably as well as, this feeling, I never liked to talk about my Crohn’s symptoms, side effects, test results, or any other health related issue. I did not want to live a life based around discussions of my disease. I had no control over Crohn’s itself, but I did have control over what I filled my head, and heart with. Unfortunately, it is hard to avoid those topics when your face is blowing up from steroids, but your body is withering away. When you are depending on the care of loved ones, whether you like it or not. Talking about it, just reminded me of the burden I felt I was.

In the 13 years I have been in remission, I have been blessedly healthy. An occasional virus, a broken foot, but far and few between. I still find, however, that I can’t help but return to those thoughts. I am still very sensitive to the fear of being helpless, and dependent on others, and I don’t like to think about the possibility of my Crohn’s returning. At the mere mention of illness, or when a sniffle comes around, I jump on the defensive. I am not sick. I am not defective. I am not.

Recently, I had to undergo kidney stone surgery. It turns out, they are a side effect of my Crohn’s disease. The procedure was outpatient, so I thought that I would feel fine by the next day. Unfortunately, the recovery took longer than I expected, and after a week on the couch at home, I ended up in the hospital for a night. I had to rely heavily on Bill, and It all came flooding back. I constantly apologized. He did nothing to make me think I needed to, in fact, he told me to stop, but that burden feeling returned, if only for a short time.

Bill has always been there for me. He has taken care of every task that needed to be done, and has loved me through every bit of it. He has never questioned, complained, whined, or pouted. While I was worried about what I wasn’t doing, he was worried about whether I was going to survive. Whether I would live to see another day. When you think about it that way, it puts it all into perspective. We all have to rely on our loved ones, some more than others, but in the end they will do what they need to do, because they love us.

You are not a burden. You are not. You are LOVED.

 

What I learned from my Crohn’s Disease

Part III –  Repost for Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week. Spread the word.  Share to increase awareness. There is hope!

As I have said before, I have Crohn’s Disease. It has been in remission for 12 years, but from a year after my diagnosis in 1998 to August 2002, it was like a wildfire reeking havoc on my body.

I spent three years, from the summer of 1999 after Brennan was born, until my major surgery in 2002, fighting for my life. I didn’t realize it at the time. It snuck up on me in little increments, and before I knew it had overtaken my body. Specifically, my large intestine. I was on a severely restricted diet, and took handfuls of medication and vitamins. I was constantly in doctor’s offices, or emergency rooms. I had raging fevers, higher than you would think a person could survive. Higher than the kind that send parents into panics. I had a racing heart, even at rest, lost partial vision in my eyes, and fought a staph infection in my leg for a week in the hospital. I never had the stomach pains that many people with Crohn’s do, but I probably spent more time in the bathroom than the average person will spend in their lives. My weight went down to 88 pounds.

In the end of December 1999, after spending the holidays (which are crazy busy during NORMAL circumstances) at my grandmother’s and Bill’s grandfather’s viewings and funerals, I got what appeared to be the flu. It went on for a week or so, and didn’t seem to be getting better. As lay down for a nap one day, I said a prayer. I asked God to give me a sign. To let me know if I should go to the doctor after the New Year, or if it would go away on its own. When I woke up, I had little insect bite-like bumps all over my body. I will never forget that moment. We are a quietly religious family. I have always been a believer, but this was a pivotal moment in my life, my belief, and love of God. I spent the next two weeks in the hospital.

I remember, sometime in the second or third year of my Crohn’s, being exhausted. Tired of the constant battle. Laying on the bed, getting ready for another nap. I, again, said a prayer. I asked if I would be feeling better the next day, and begged that I would. Within a minute or two, and I kid you not, the phone rang a strange double ring. It reminded me of the way my phone at work rang when I was getting an interoffice call. When I picked it up, it was an operator recording. “I’m sorry, your request cannot be processed at this time. Please hang up and try again later.” I ran downstairs and asked Bill, who was sitting on the couch, if he had heard the phone ring. He said yes, but didn’t notice the weird ring. Another moment I will never forget. I am still quietly religious, but much more so. I believe. No one could ever tell me otherwise.

I fought having the surgery to remove my colon for a long time. I was too young to have an Ostomy bag. I was only in my early 30’s. How could I deal with that for my entire life?! I finally gave in to myself, it was my choice. I wanted to be there for my boys, and I was just too ill to be the mom I wanted to be. When the surgeon went in for my pre-op colonoscopy, he couldn’t even complete it due to the swelling. I had put the procedure off, and if it had been done sooner I’m sure they would have told me how dire the circumstances were. I’m glad I made the decision myself prior to that. I’m glad that I did it for the love of my family. In the end, it would turn out to be so much more than that.

That surgery saved my life. Literally. It was that bad. I can now eat anything I want, I take no medication for Crohn’s, and am back to a more-than-healthy weight. And I am LIVING. Living a life I wouldn’t be, if not for said surgery. I am living a life I would not be, if not for Crohn’s Disease.

I have learned to appreciate the little things that so many take for granted. The blue sky, white clouds, green trees. The contrast between them, and the beauty of it. The breeze. The birds. The smell of fresh air.

I have learned not to take my family and friends for granted, and to catch myself when I think that I am. To take care of them, as they took care of me. To love them with everything I have. To look to them for strength when I need it, and to give strength and support to them when they do.

I have traveled farther out of my comfort zone than I ever thought I would. If not for Crohn’s we would not have traveled abroad, adopted our daughter, or lived in China. Before Crohn’s my life was ruled by fear of the unknown. After Crohn’s, by the spirit of adventure, and a love of life.

I have walked on the Great Wall of China, and stood before the first emperor’s Terracotta Warriors. I have trekked through the rainforest in Langkawi, Malaysia, and floated through the mangroves. I have basked in the hope of longevity from the waterfall of the Pure Water Temple in Kyoto, Japan, and walked the Nightingale floors of Nijo’s Castle. I have explored the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, and traveled through the Mekong Delta. I have walked the beautiful beaches of Vietnam. I have zip-lined through the trees in Thailand, and fed an elephant bananas. Right into that giant mouth. I have been to the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea, and I have stood in North Korea, in the MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building.

Through my Crohn’s Disease I learned how to live. How to love. How to learn. But I’m not done. I have so much more to see, so much more to experience, so much more to love, thanks to my Crohn’s Disease.

Second Chances

Part II……  Repost in honor of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week. Share the  post, raise awareness.

The first thoughts that crossed my mind, while I was recovering in the hospital, were very basic. How do I dress now? Can I wear the same clothes, or will I have to wear overalls, or baggy dresses, for the rest of my life? Will the bag show if I wear jeans? Will I ever wear a bathing suit again? Will people know by looking at me? Am I going to have a perpetual bump on my front, right side? How do I take care of this new “appliance?” All of these things were a little scary for a 33 year old woman. It felt like these were things I shouldn’t have to worry about at my age; like I was robbed of some of my younger years.

Once I returned home, however, I discovered all the positive results of the surgery. I required no more medication to control my disease. It was finally in remission. I didn’t have to know the  location of each public restroom before entering a store or restaurant. The innumerable foods that I hadn’t been able to eat for four years were ecstatically served to me by my mother who was such a blessing and a help during those years.  I could easily hide the Ostomy bag. I didn’t have to dress differently, and if I didn’t choose to tell someone, they had no idea that I was any different then them. Finally, my kids. I could be there for my kids. I could help at school, take them to the park,  and play with them, without having to do it while lying on the couch.

Over time, I realized how strong this experience had made me. If someone had asked me if I could go back in time and change things; if I had never had Crohn’s at all, would I do it?  The answer was “NO!” Crohn’s made me who I am today. If not for this disease, I would not love life, the little things and big, in the way that I do now. I would not notice God’s beauty in so many everyday ways, and appreciate them on a daily basis. I would not have stepped out of my box to do things that I was not comfortable with, but I did……..things I never thought I would be able to do.

The People of Paris, and the World, Unite

The people of France woke up on Friday morning expecting a day like any other. They went to work, shopped for groceries, cared for children. Maybe there was a wedding, a birth, a milestone; an event that made it a little more special than the average. They could not have predicted the day would end with a vicious attack on their country. Monsters who abhor freedom, peace, Christianity, and the West as a whole, terrorizing Paris. Invaders, shaking it to its core.

We all know what happen, so I am not going to rehash it. The attackers are not worth my time, nor do they deserve attention. The people of Paris, and the compassionate world, are what this is about. People who came together in a time of need, a time of tragedy, as one big family.  Supporting France, and its citizens. Just as the world responded to the attacks of 9-11-2001, they have united.

As the events transpired in Paris, its citizens helped others in need, opening their doors to victims, offering safety and comforting one another.  Taxis turned their meters off and offered free rides home,  strangers drove stranded pedestrians home, sometimes all the way across town. Things we would not do in times of peace, change during events like this, times when the frailty of life is all too apparent. When everyone becomes a friend to another. When the world around us is, suddenly, a much smaller place.

Around the world, social media lit up with photographs, and drawings, condolences, and prayers. The lights on the Pearl Tower in Shanghai changed to the colors of the flag of France, as did Sydney’s iconic Opera House. One World Trade Center in New York lit its spire in support as well, the epitome of proof that we survived, and Paris will as well. They won’t beat us. The monsters say we are their enemys, but we are bigger and stronger, and we have united.

As tragic as times like this are, I am encouraged by the way the citizens of the world not only unite, but remember their manners, and spread a little more love. People take notice of the humanity around them. They step out of their own routines, out of their stresses or troubles, and help others. Courtesy and thoughtfulness, which often lack in peaceful times, suddenly return. People smile, and acknowledge one another when passing on the street. They hold doors for others, or wave a hand to thank the driver behind them for letting them in. They donate money or items, to help those in need. Things that still happen on a daily basis, but much less often than they used to.

As I have grown older, I have taken notice, and adjusted my behavior to make sure that I don’t disappear into the problems of my own little world. I have taught my children to be constantly vigilant of others. Always be kind, and never take it for granted. Nothing is guaranteed in this life. You never know when you are going to need the help of a stranger, and you should give as much as you would like to receive in return. If it is not returned, you have still given your all to the world around you. You’ve been the best version of you. These are the little things in life, that are really quite large. They unite us. If light can come out of the darkness of tragedy, I hope it comes in the form of human kindness and love in everyone’s everyday life.

Please pray for the people of Paris. For safety, comfort, and healing. For those who died, and their families. For the spirit and hope of a brighter future, free of monsters who seek to destroy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can They See Us From Heaven?

Over the last week, my heart has broken over and over again, as I think of my dear friend, who just lost her son. As a mother, I cannot imagine having to deal with such a tragedy.  I feel like she is on my mind almost every minute.  I check her Facebook page several times a day, to see how she’s doing, and what others are doing in support for her. I can’t help it. That’s how I’ve always been. I  want to help people. But where is the line between concerned friend, and creepy Facebook stalker, and have I breached it? Are others who are close to her, also consumed with her grief?

In the past, my daughter has been in circumstances similar to what Adam endured. It is because of this, that she feels connected to him. The day of the funeral she expressed sadness that she did not know him, and therefore, could not help him in his darkest days. She asked me if he could see and hear us, and I told her it’s possible. Maybe he even knows of their connection. I would like to think that is part of the reason for the rainbow I saw on the day of the funeral. She desperately wishes she could have told him that things would get better. There was light in his future, even if  he didn’t see it yet. Seek help. Don’t be afraid. Have hope.

Shortly after our conversation, I went upstairs to take a shower. As I have said, Adam and his family have been constantly on my mind. I started wondering if he, or any friend or loved one in Heaven, COULD see and hear us. This was followed by the realization that I hoped NOT in the shower, or other awkward moments for that matter. Heebie Jeebies commence. This thought reminded me of when my oldest son was three years old. He walked into the bathroom while I was taking a bath, looked me straight in the eye and said….”Grandpa Dave is watching you.”  For many years, and countless times, we have told that story, assuming he was referring to my “very much alive” father-in-law, in some unexplainable yet very creepy, toddler moment. It had never occurred to me, until now, sixteen years later, that my grandfather’s name, on my mom’s side, was “David.” He passed away before I was a twinkle in my parents’ eyes, before they were married, and even before my dad entered into my mother’s life. Because of this, I don’t often think of him, or his name. Once again, but in that wide-eyed, “I see dead people” kind of way….heebie jeebies.

I hope my grandfather is watching over us, and if Adam is keeping an eye on my baby girl, I’m all in,  but unless there’s an emergency, can you keep it on the other side of the bathroom door, please?!

 

The Death of a Son, The Death of a Star

In the early morning, before the sun rises, a mother should feel like her children are safe. They are home,  protected from the perils of the outside world. She would never expect to wake to find her child, gone forever.

Early this week, I learned that a longtime friend lost her baby.  His father lost his only son. Their teenage child  took his own life, and now they will never see him grow up, go to college, get married, have his own children, change the world. A sister has lost her big brother. She will no longer have him to look up to, get advice from, be protected by.

It was a beautiful, warm, and sunny fall day, and it should not have started with the death of a child. How dare the world keep moving; people eating, sleeping, laughing, dancing.  This family has lost a child, and it feels like everything should stop, if just for a day. Of course, that’s not possible. People die everyday, but at times like this, when someone close to you is grieving, and you are grieving for them, it feels like it should. It’s so much worse when it is a child.

I never knew Adam, but I wish I had. I have learned that he was an extremely bright and talented boy. He was full of life. A friend to everyone. He could play just about any instrument he picked up, and was very involved in his community theatre program. He  knew more about any given topic, than many adults. Nothing went unquestioned. It was his endless quest to learn about the world, and dream of a better tomorrow.

As with many highly intelligent people, Adam was quirky, and thus tended to be bullied at school. He had been depressed for quite some time, and I’m sure the bullying was wearing on him. His family and friends were trying to help him through these tough times, but sometimes it’s hard to get through to someone who thinks they can handle it themselves. He was a compassionate soul, who wanted to spend his time uplifting, and helping, others. He loved to make people laugh.  He brought light to so many lives, while silently, his grew darker. He wanted to be strong, and self-sufficient, but he didn’t have the tools to deal with something so dark and cruel.

The despair overwhelmed him, and he couldn’t see the light. He couldn’t figure out how to climb out of the dark hole of pain he found himself in. On Monday of this week, a child took his own life. He would never have wanted to hurt his family, he was beyond the point of realizing what the aftermath would be like for his loved ones. His pain was a thick, black fog. Overtaking him little by little until he was lost.

As I stood in front of poster boards full of pictures of Adam, I saw so much light and life in him. It is hard to fathom having him there one day, and gone the next. How do you continue on after your child has died? Are all of those wonderful memories enough? I know for me, the belief in Heaven comforts me. Hoping that he has found his younger brother, and grandparents that passed before him. I am usually too uncomfortable to approach the deceased at a funeral home. I pray for them from afar, but not this time. I had a chat with Adam during the visitation. I told him that I hoped he had found peace, and that I wished he could have found another way. I asked him to watch over his sister and parents, to protect his family.

This morning, on my way to the funeral, a rainbow stretched across the expressway, on a beautiful, sunny day, with a spattering of raindrops on my windshield from one tiny cloud in the sky. I fumbled with my phone for a bit trying to get a picture. It seemed to remain in the sky for longer than it  should, until I finally got a few shots. I put down my phone, looked up, and it was gone. I thanked Adam, and God. I have no doubt that rainbow was from him.

As the funeral started, in the auditorium which I imagine his plays were performed, a place where he most likely found reprieve from his sadness, I looked back to a standing-room-only crowd. It was full of students, parents, teachers, friends, family, and maybe even some who knew neither him, or his family. Strangers come together in a small community like his, especially when a child dies so tragically, and unexpectedly. As the music began, chills ran down my spine. It was “Over the Rainbow”  by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. I later learned It was his favorite song. He loved to listen to the song, and then play it on his ukulele, interchanging over and over again. I get it. You’re watching. Well played, Adam, well played.

Crazy Lucky

I am crazy lucky.

I have three beautiful, smart, kind, loving, funny, and sometimes difficult,  children. They talk back, whine, fight, and complain. They give, share, hug, snuggle, teach, laugh, and smile. I wouldn’t change a bit of it. God has blessed me with, and trusted me to raise, three of His creations. I am crazy lucky.

I have a handsome, loving, intelligent, thoughtful, goofy, gentlemanly,  and sometimes frustrating, husband. There are times I think he must have ear plugs in. He is moderately forgetful, and definitely procrastinates. He opens my car door, holds my hand, including when we go to sleep at night, and spoils me rotten on my birthday. I’ll take it all. God has blessed me with the most amazing man. I am crazy lucky.

Thirteen years ago, I was severely ill, but I cheated death.  I never even thought death was possible, until the threat was over. Crohn’s disease, as I discussed in a post earlier this year, tried to kill me. It failed miserably. It may have taken a few physical parts of me, but it GAVE me lessons that were far more important. Appreciation. Love. Insight, to live happy, and grateful. In fact, it gave me life. Although I will always have it, I have been in remission ever since. God blessed me with the opportunity to make the most of my life, and I do. I have a love of life that I never would have had, if not for Crohn’s disease.  I am crazy lucky.

My family and I have been given opportunities that many are not. Adventures that I would have never taken advantage of, before my illness. We lived in, and travelled all over, China for four years. We’ve had family vacations in Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Macau. My children took week-long school trips. Camped on, and hiked, unrestored sections of the Great Wall to see the sunrise. Excavated archaeological sites in Gansu province for dinosaur, and dinosaur-aged, fossils, and brought them home in handfuls, wrapped in paper towels.  Swim meets in Taiwan, and drama workshops in Manila. Finally, a girls’ weekend in South Korea. The DMZ, palaces, Korean BBQ, shopping, and a show. Thirty-six hours for a friend and I, before we moved back to the U.S. I have friends all over the world, literally. God blessed us with experiences, relationships, and memories that we could have never imagined. I am crazy lucky.

The kids and I returned from China six months before Bill, as I had been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. It is a myeloproliferarive disorder, called Essential Thrombocythemia. It causes high platelets,  and requires that I take a chemo pill every day. It will always require treatment. It does not go away. It is fairly controllable though, and it is only a pill or two, along with frequent blood tests. The chances I will live a normal life span are fairly high. So, once again, God has blessed me. I am crazy lucky.

I am not alone. We all have ups and downs in life. Illness. Death. Job loss. Weddings, new babies, or an unexpected promotion. We have good days, and bad. It is how we choose to deal with those times, and what we take away from them, that matters. I choose to live my life with gratitude and happiness. I try to be the best I can be, and enjoy my time on Earth with every part of my being. I love my life. God has blessed me in many ways. I am crazy lucky!