- Peace for Shawn and I, for Kyle and Miranda and Braden and Connor, for our parents and siblings and nieces and nephews and inner circle friends watching and hurting as we go through this
- that God would keep soft our children's hearts toward Him through all the emotions of this hard journey
- strength and stamina; physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually
- that the cancer shrinks to gone, gone, gone!
- gentle side effects to this second round of chemo
- family unity, harmony, love, strength, joy, happiness
- anything else you feel God puts on your heart

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Choosing Joy

When Kristin was diagnosed with cancer on October 29, 2012, our family knew our lives would never be the same.  In an instant, our world as we knew it no longer existed.  Cancer snuck in and filled all the little empty spaces in our minds with fear, anxiety, dread, and weariness.  It did what is expected of it, and sucked the life right out of us.  That was in a split second.
 In the very next second we vowed that we would not allow these things to fill up the space in our hearts and minds. Instead, we chose hope, determination, laughter and even joy! We experienced moments of freedom and peace in the midst of this devastating blow, and moment by moment we put one foot in front of the other and carried on the way Kristin requested.  It was so hard, and the war in our hearts and minds did not let up.  There were no easy moments, every moment was a choice to either get up or give up.

Over Kristin’s 15 month battle, we often thought, ‘Wow, this is the hardest thing we have ever experienced’.  We had no idea that the hardest was yet to come. Kristin was determined that she would not give in to the absolute exhaustion and sadness and said often, ‘Satan get behind me’.  This was a phrase we all learned to say often.  When one of us was weary, another one would say the words out loud to give us strength, ‘Satan get behind us’.
Kristin was knocked down again and again and again, yet she managed to get up each time.  She got up and she fought harder than before! There were times when each of us shook our heads with disbelief. She blew us away with her determination, and we believed with her until the very end that she was going to survive cancer. I think it was her strength that now makes her death so hard.  She was a survivor. She was our hero.

The day before Kristin passed away, our cousin Derek came up to the hospital to give us hugs.  In the midst of his own grief, he reached out and there was wisdom in his embrace. He endured our questions over the mundane things, he let us torture him about his love life, he shared sacred moments of the loss of his father, and he exposed his heart and fresh grief through soft spoken words.  He shared something so huge with us that I haven’t been able to forget it.   We really hadn’t started to grieve the loss of our cousin, or our uncle, and yet our hearts were already so full of sadness. We knew that we couldn’t handle the loss that was coming.  But in his one simple sentence, I felt understood. Reassured maybe?
What he said painted a picture of my grief, and made me see it in a way that was less scary. You see... my sister had a HUGE personality.  Kristin wasn’t the sit back and smile across the room kinda girl!  She was a sit RIGHT beside you, put her hand on your knee and start up a conversation kinda girl!  She was loud, passionate, and a huge presence in our family.  I can admit that I happily took a back seat to Kristin.  I liked that she was our family spokesperson. Kristin liked being on center stage and I preferred to be behind the scenes! One thing we knew for sure was that when Kristin left us, she would leave a massive hole in our lives; a big, empty, scary crater.  No matter how hard I tried, I didn’t see how I was going to get through it, over it, around it, or past it! My gut told me that I could read every book in the bible, sing praises, and pray all day long.... but no amount of positive ‘filler’ would ever fill the hole.  I imagined that I could eat, drink, or sleep the days away.... but no amount of negative ‘filler’ could ever fill that hole.  There would always be the anxiety of that crater. What my cousin said to me truly changed the way I would look at that big empty hole in our lives. 

He said, ‘The person that leaves your life doesn’t leave a GIANT HOLE.  They leave a [insert name here] KRISTIN SHAPED HOLE.  You can try as hard as you want, but you will never be able to fill that hole.  It’s like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.’  I understood immediately, and it felt so good to visualize our emptiness this way. No person, place, or thing could ever take Kristin’s place.

The next day, Kristin left us.  We tried desperately (mostly subconsciously) to fill the ‘KRISTIN SHAPED HOLE’ with planning a funeral, food, work, activities.... staying busy, busy, busy!  But that hole remained empty.  Kristin is irreplaceable.  It will always be empty.  In a dark quiet moment, I realized that Derek had given me the permission to leave that hole empty. I am allowed to let that ‘Kristin shaped hole’ sit empty and there is a freedom in leaving it just the way it is. I’m allowed to go there and cry and yell into it when I need to, but there is a comfort in knowing that even if I try, I can’t fill it.   It’s not a scary crater anymore, and since I have changed the way I view it, I have noticed that it is filling with beautiful memories all on its own.  I can go and meet her there.... it’s where I can hear her voice and see her smile.   Are you struggling with honoring Kristin’s memory? Are you afraid you will forget her voice? Do you miss her smile?  I challenge you to stop trying to jam the square peg in the round hole. It’s Kristin shaped, only she can fill that hole.
 I know this paints a perfect and pretty picture of our grief (Kristin would say rainbows & unicorns!!).  Believe me, it’s not pretty.  We are overwhelmed every day with sadness, anger, and anxiety, and some moments we are just horrible to be around. Thankfully, we have all found tasks and routines in our day that enable us to keep moving on.  It’s very easy to get lost in work or activities, and it protects us from getting stuck in that dark place.  Just like Kristin said, ‘Satan get behind me’.  We still say it, cry it, yell it, and believe it.  Sometimes after work I get in my car and cry the entire way home. Sometimes I hide and listen to a video of Kristin on my phone over and over. We have been on a journey of faith and love, and although Kristin is not physically here, she still inspires us to be strong in our faith and to love one another.  Please continue to pray for us, and encourage us. We are all making the effort to choose joy and keep our dear Kristin's memory alive forever. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Monkey Love

I received a text from a friend on the evening before Kristin's funeral.  She really felt for my niece and nephews, and she asked if she could bring a little something for each of them before the funeral. Something to hang on to, something to cuddle, something that would bring them comfort that day and in the days to come.  She offered a small teddy bear or a monkey, but I knew immediately that a monkey would be perfect! What a thoughtful and caring gift.

If you've been following Kristin's blog, you will know that her sock monkey friend, 'LaLaLuna', brought great comfort on some of her most difficult days and also put a smile on her face when she was bored. LaLaLuna was a perfect distraction when Kristin needed to escape the reality of chemo, hospital visits....cancer. 

As you can see, LaLaLuna, as well as Kristin's kids, now have four beloved sock monkey friends to bring them comfort. 

Thank you Corrinna for thinking of the kids and bringing these special gifts on the day of their Mom's funeral. I know that they will cherish them always. You just never know when you need some monkey love!