I am Greatly, Deeply Happy that Greatly, Deeply is Here!

Greatly, DeeplyToday is a very special day. I feel the same joy today as I do every time one of my books hits the digital bookshelves, but this is a little different. If my previous books were my babies, then today is the end of my surrogate pregnancy with my friend Ben’s book, Greatly, Deeply.

My friend Ben Morrell was only 31 when he died from an extremely rare and aggressive cancer. It was a six year battle for him, a battle that took him from Seattle to Colorado to Houston and back home to Seattle. He and his wife married just five months before Wes and I did, my husband grew up with them in the church we go to. Ben was a really neat guy, and his wife is at least five different kinds of wonderful.

A month before his death, Ben sent out a call for help on Facebook. He needed help turning his six years’ worth of blog posts into a book. It was important to him that his legacy be secure, that the way God used his life and his cancer reach people far beyond the scope of his blog.

Given my writing expertise (ha!) and willingness to commit to the project, I volunteered to see the project through. It took me and a small team four months to comb through over 250,000 words. I prayerfully read through every single blog post he wrote during his battle with cancer, hand selecting the posts that told the story he wanted to tell. Ben’s wife Lisa and I exchanged countless emails to make sure we got this thing right.

He passed away in May of this year, months before the project was even close to being done. I really felt like I failed him. I know there was no human way I could have finished the project before his passing, but I really wanted him to be able to hold the book in his hands. To rest assured that it was done, delivered into the world and the hands and minds of the people who needed it.

It’s done now, though. This project dominated my mind and work for five months, but now it’s done and it’s BEAUTIFUL. This book changed my life. It changed my faith. It’ll keep reverberating echoes throughout my soul until it’s my turn to peek behind the curtain of this life. I can’t wait to tell Ben how proud I am of him.

If you’re looking for a book that will challenge your notion of what it is to believe in God when you’re suffering, you need to read this book. If you, or someone you know, is having a rough time and needs hope that threatens to set your heart on fire, you need to read this book. If you, or someone you know, is battling cancer, you need to read this book.

It was a pleasure working on this project, I feel blessed to have been able to bring it into the world. I can’t wait to see how it changes lives.

We Lit the Night

On Saturday, Wes, Aidan, and I strapped on our walking shoes and high-tailed it to Green Lake (in Seattle), where we joined what must have been hundreds of other people to Light the Night.  The Light the Night walk is a walk against blood cancers (like leukemia and lymphoma) and we walked in honor of my Dad.

We had the very great pleasure of walking with my Dad’s biological family.  My Dad was adopted as an infant, and a little over ten years ago his biological family found him.  They live in Washington state, and he flew up to meet them and they got to know and love each other until my Dad passed away last year.

All of us got together on Saturday night, hoisted illuminated balloons in the air, and set out at twilight to walk 2.8 miles in memory of my Dad.  We were surrounded by families and teams, everyone walking and holding an illuminated balloon in different colors signifying whether they were supporters, patients, or they’d lost someone.

We all walked around the lake, and as the night grew darker the balloons and the moon were the only illumination.  All around us was happy chatter, and it was staggering to see how many people had come out to raise money and support blood cancer research.

Along the walk they had posters of the people who had passed away, and when we came to the one that had my Dad’s picture on it we all stopped.  I’m having a hard time explaining how it felt to see his picture there.  It was moving, and all of us were emotional to see him there.

As we walked away, it felt like my Dad was there with us.  Like he was on the walk with us.  And it made  me smile, because even though lymphoma ultimately defeated my Dad’s body I still maintain that it never got the best of him.  Still though, if we can help raise money to find a cure for lymphoma, I sure wouldn’t mind pushing lymphoma down a well and leaving it there, you know?

Maudlin Day

Dad and ErikaToday is, well, quite frankly today is a day I’ve been dreading for a while.  It’s the one year anniversary of the day my Dad passed away, and I’ve been dreading it because it feels like it should be the end of my grieving period.

When he passed away, so many people said and did such sweet things for me and my brother.  Some sent flowers, some brought food, some sent cards.  One of the cards someone sent me said something that’s stuck with me.  It said, more or less:

“The first year is the worst, because it’s filled with all those firsts without that person.  Gradually, though, you’ll feel the sadness subsumed by the happy memories you built together, and thinking of the person you lost starts making you smile rather than cry.”

This person, Wes’ uncle in fact, is more or less correct.  The first year was hard, and there are very few days that go by where I don’t hold Aidan close and smell his little baby head and ache because my Dad won’t ever get to meet his grandson.  But, I don’t spend nearly as much time crying as I used to, and in fact can now share stories and memories of my Dad without misting up.

For example, while on vacation it was massively windy and my nieces and I, together with their parents, dashed outside to fly kites.  As those brightly colored kites took to the sky, it reminded me forcibly of how my Dad used to fly kites with me and my brother on the beach.  I smiled at those memories while my kite took to the sky.

Me and DadStill, as happy as I am to coexist peacefully with my memories once again, I’ve been dreading this day.  While I know intellectually that I’m only one day farther away from the last time I saw him than I was yesterday, now that it’s officially been a year since the last time I saw him, that day feels a lot farther away.  Does that make sense?

It’s just hard for me to get used to the idea that as time inexorably marches on I’m only going to get farther away from him.  It’s just feels disloyal somehow, to be moving on.  I know that’s silly, and that it would be unhealthy to hold onto my grief, but I’m loyal to a fault and have never been the kind of person who lets go gracefully.

My little brother, Nick, is one the left with our Dad in the middle and Wes on the right.

My little brother, Nick, is on the left with our Dad in the middle and Wes on the right.

So that’s where I’m at.  Wes has been forewarned that this was going to be a maudlin day, so he’s prepared to come home bearing pizza and cupcakes, and then to turn a blind eye while I eat my weight in said pizza and cupcakes.  I called my brother a couple days ago, and we shared some memories and generally agreed that we wish he was still here but that we were glad he isn’t suffering any more.

My little brother is an awesome fellow, actually.  You guys would like him.  He’s getting married in October, so Wes and I will take Aidan on his first plane ride and watch my little brother tie the knot.  Even though Dad won’t be there, I plan to say to my brother what our Dad said to me right before he walked me down the aisle.

And that’s how life will go on.  My brother and I will be there for each other, our spouses and families will be there for us, and we’ll keep being a family.  My Dad would be proud, I think.

Weekend Win!

Aidan at the farmer's market. Of course, Aidan was far more interested in his tasty knuckles than in the fresh local produce.

Aidan at the farmer's market. Of course, Aidan was far more interested in his tasty knuckles than in the fresh local produce.

Can I just say that my husband is awesome?  I can, can’t I?  Because if I can’t, then why the heck am I paying to host this blog?  Down with censorship!

Jeeze, easily distracted much?

All distractedness aside, Wes is awesome.  We spent some seriously fun time together as a family this weekend and it was bliss.  On Friday we decided to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in honor of my late father.

My Dad loved Cinco de Mayo (he was a phenomenal cook, and his favorite kind of food to make was Mexican food) and he also loved The Big Lebowski (he loved that movie so much that at his request we carried his ashes around in a coffee can until we could spread them in the ocean), so we whipped up some White Russians and tamales and had a fan-freaking-tastic evening.

Yes, I cried at the end of the movie, and cried even more when we watched the slideshow of his life my aunts made for his memorial.  But, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to cry because you miss someone you love.  It felt nice to spend an evening enjoying the things he enjoyed, and I’m really glad Wes was willing to share it with me.

On Saturday we took Aidan to the local farmer’s market for the first time.  I don’t know what the farmer’s markets are like in your area, but ours is pretty fantastic.  Lots of fun, food, and festivity.

We bought some fresh asparagus, potatoes, and English toffee, and then stopped by Costco to buy some crab-stuffed salmon.  Wes then proceeded to make me a special Mother’s Day dinner the likes of which has not been seen this side of a 5-star restaurant.  De-LISH!

Of course Sunday was Mother’s Day, and it was a lovely time.  Wes gave me an incredibly thoughtful gift and I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you what it is: A silver ring with an amethyst (Aidan’s birthstone).  I wear it on my right ring finger and it looks perfect there.  Such a thoughtful gift!  Now I have a ring to celebrate the day I became a wife (my wedding ring) and a ring for the day I became a mother.

Now it’s Monday.  And I’m kinda sad.  It was such a fun weekend, why did it have to go and end?

(St)wrung Out

I’ve kind of dropped off the grid the last couple days.  Sorry about that, it’s not really typical for me to skip posting two days in a row (unless I’m traveling or it’s the weekend).  We’ve just been dealing with some stuff over here at Casa de Mitchell and there’s not been much left in me to type out.

Doc hurt his leg (y’know, the bad one) getting into the bathtub for bath time on Sunday.  This is not atypical, jumping into the tub has always been a strain on his legs and hips.

He followed up the mild injury by taking a bad fall while trying to make it up the stairs.  This compounded the problem, changed it from a limp to a disability.

We kept him in his crate all day Monday and yesterday, letting him out for stretches, water, and bathroom breaks, but he struggles.  A lot.  The wood floors are challenging for him, and he’s so scared of slipping on them that he just stands in fear and refuses to walk on them.

His other back leg is in no great shape either, and the strain of supporting the weight of his back end on its own leads it to shake and tremble before betraying him and making him fall.

Wes and I spent half an hour trying to coax Doc out of his crate last night.  We wanted to take him out to the bathroom one more time before bed, but he wouldn’t stand up for us.  We tried enticing him out of his crate with treats and peanut butter but he wouldn’t.  He was more scared of falling than he was desirous of peanut butter.

We finally had to dismantle his crate around him so that Wes could lift him out from above and help him make it outside.  We’re keeping him out in his kennel now because the floor there is concrete and not slippery at all.

This whole episode has really thrown me off my game.  It tears me to pieces to see him struggling like this.  It’s not like this all the time, which is why we haven’t put him down yet, but knowing that this kind of injury is always just a bad run up the stairs away, well, quite honestly it makes me not want to do this anymore.

I’m not sure whether this makes me a bad person, or a bad pet owner.  Is it wrong to say I’m tired of watching my dog struggle?

Wes says Doc’s quality of life is normally very good, that he still plays with his toys and eats and gets affection.  I can’t quite see it that way.  When I look at Doc, I see a dog who loves being with his people but who otherwise has nothing else to look forward to in life.

I see a dog whose opportunities to run, play with other dogs, fetch, and swim were taken away by a freak leg injury that happened when he was less than a year old.  Yeah, he’s still happy to be around us but that’s the only thing in life he’s able to enjoy anymore.  The best it gets for him would barely even register for other dogs.

Especially coming off watching my Dad’s health decline, hating the cancer for every pleasure it took away from him until the only thing he could do that brought him enjoyment was use the computer and watch TV, I just feel spent.  Doc got injured right around when my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, so their health declines have thus far been eerily matched.

I really do wonder if it makes me a bad person for not wanting to do this anymore with my dog.  My heart, still so tender and raw and pained, rebels at the prospect of watching Doc get marginally better again, better enough to hobble around anyway, only to know with sick certainty that his next injury is simply a matter of time.

Wes argues that until Doc doesn’t want to live anymore we should continue to keep him as safe as possible, and that we’ll know he no longer wants to live because he’ll grow lethargic, unwilling to play, and unwilling to eat.

I argue that there’s only so much I can take, and there’s only so long I can keep watching my dog struggle to do normal things.  Like stand up.

Does this make me a bad person?